March 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected March 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law:

Constitutional Law

Constitutionality; justiciable controversy. Courts will not assume jurisdiction over a constitutional question unless the following requisites are satisfied: (1) there must be an actual case calling for the exercise of judicial review; (2) the question before the court must be ripe for adjudication; (3) the person challenging the validity of the act must have standing to do so; (4) the question of constitutionality must have been raised at the earliest opportunity and (5) the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota of the case.

Respondents aver that the first three requisites are absent in this case. According to them, there is no actual case calling for the exercise of judicial power and it is not yet ripe for adjudication.

An actual case or controversy involves a conflict of legal rights or an assertion of opposite legal claims which is susceptible of judicial resolution as distinguished from a hypothetical or abstract difference or dispute. On the other hand, a question is considered ripe for adjudication when the act being challenged has a direct adverse effect on the individual challenging it.

Contrary to respondents’ assertion, we do not have to wait until petitioner’s members have shut down their operations as a result of the MCIT or CWT. The assailed provisions are already being implemented. As we stated in Didipio Earth-Savers’ Multi-Purpose Association, Incorporated (DESAMA) v. Gozun: “By the mere enactment of the questioned law or the approval of the challenged act, the dispute is said to have ripened into a judicial controversy even without any other overt act. Indeed, even a singular violation of the Constitution and/or the law is enough to awaken judicial duty.”

If the assailed provisions are indeed unconstitutional, there is no better time than the present to settle such question once and for all.  Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations, Inc. Vs. The Hon. Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, et al., G.R. No. 160756, March 9, 2010.

Constitutionality; justiciable controversy. We hold that the petitions set forth an actual case or controversy that is ripe for judicial determination. The reality is that the JBC already commenced the proceedings for the selection of the nominees to be included in a short list to be submitted to the President for consideration of which of them will succeed Chief Justice Puno as the next Chief Justice. Although the position is not yet vacant, the fact that the JBC began the process of nomination pursuant to its rules and practices, although it has yet to decide whether to submit the list of nominees to the incumbent outgoing President or to the next President, makes the situation ripe for judicial determination, because the next steps are the public interview of the candidates, the preparation of the short list of candidates, and the “interview of constitutional experts, as may be needed.”

A part of the question to be reviewed by the Court is whether the JBC properly initiated the process, there being an insistence from some of the oppositors-intervenors that the JBC could only do so once the vacancy has occurred (that is, after May 17, 2010). Another part is, of course, whether the JBC may resume its process until the short list is prepared, in view of the provision of Section 4(1), Article VIII, which unqualifiedly requires the President to appoint one from the short list to fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court (be it the Chief Justice or an Associate Justice) within 90 days from the occurrence of the vacancy.

The ripeness of the controversy for judicial determination may not be doubted. The challenges to the authority of the JBC to open the process of nomination and to continue the process until the submission of the list of nominees; the insistence of some of the petitioners to compel the JBC through mandamus to submit the short list to the incumbent President; the counter-insistence of the intervenors to prohibit the JBC from submitting the short list to the incumbent President on the ground that said list should be submitted instead to the next President; the strong position that the incumbent President is already prohibited under Section 15, Article VII from making any appointments, including those to the Judiciary, starting on May 10, 2010 until June 30, 2010; and the contrary position that the incumbent President is not so prohibited are only some of the real issues for determination. All such issues establish the ripeness of the controversy, considering that for some the short list must be submitted before the vacancy actually occurs by May 17, 2010. The outcome will not be an abstraction, or a merely hypothetical exercise. The resolution of the controversy will surely settle – with finality – the nagging questions that are preventing the JBC from moving on with the process that it already began, or that are reasons persuading the JBC to desist from the rest of the process.   Arturo M. De Castro vs. Judicial and Bar Council, et al., G.R. No. 191002, G.R. No. 191032, G.R. No. 191057, A.M. No. 10-2-5-SC, G.R. No. 191149, G.R. No. 191342, March 17, 2010.

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Dissension in the Court: March 2010

Every so often, the members of the Supreme Court, whether sitting in division or En Banc, are unable to arrive at a unanimous position. In those cases, as it is in a boxing match, the Honorable Justices have sometimes been forced to come in from different corners to slug it out.

The following are selected decisions promulgated by the High Court in March 2010 where at least one Justice felt compelled to express his or her dissent from the decision penned by the ponente and the summaries below highlight some issues involved in those cases where the Justices differed in their opinions. Let’s get ready to rumble.

THE UNDERCARDS

1. Mutuality and Conventional Compensation (Peralta vs. Carpio)

In conventional compensation, is it required that the parties be mutual creditors and debtors of each other?

The essential facts in United Planters Sugar Milling Company, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals that are relevant to that query are as follows:

(a)      United Planters Sugar Milling Company, Inc. (UPSUMCO) obtained several loans from Philippine National Bank (PNB).

(b)     To secure UPSUMCO’s obligations to PNB, among other things, UPSUMCO granted PNB contractual rights to set-off against UPSUMCO’s outstanding obligations, moneys of UPSUMCO on deposit with PNB.

(c)     PNB subsequently assigned to the Asset Privatization Trust (APT) all of its “rights, title and interest over UPSUMCO.”

(d)     Following UPSUMCO’s default, moneys in UPSUMCO’s deposit accounts with PNB were applied, without UPSUMCO’s knowledge, against UPSUMCO’s outstanding obligations under the takeoff loans and the operational loans.

As ponente for the majority decision, in denying UPSUMCO’s Motion for Reconsideration, Justice Diosdado Peralta affirmed the earlier decision of the Supreme Court where it upheld the set-off against the UPSUMCO deposit accounts held by PNB to satisfy obligations owed to APT:

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Religious Speech or Indecent Speech?

On August 10, 2004, at around 10:00 p.m., petitioner Eliseo Soriano, as host of the program Ang Dating Daan, aired on UNTV 37, made the following remarks:

Lehitimong anak ng demonyo; sinungaling;

 Gago ka talaga Michael, masahol ka pa sa putang babae o di ba. Yung putang babae ang gumagana lang doon yung ibaba, [dito] kay Michael ang gumagana ang itaas, o di ba! O, masahol pa sa putang babae yan. Sabi ng lola ko masahol pa sa putang babae yan. Sobra ang kasinungalingan ng mga demonyong ito.

Two days later, several members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) filed affidavit complaints with the MTCRB. The MTRCB sent petitioner a notice of the hearing on August 16, 2004 in relation to the alleged use of some cuss words in the August 10, 2004 episode of Ang Dating Daan.

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