February 2012 Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law.

Constitutional Law

Autonomous Region; plebiscite requirement. Section 18, Article X of the Constitution provides that “the creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose.”  The Supreme Court interpreted this to mean that only amendments to, or revisions of, the Organic Act constitutionally-essential to the creation of autonomous regions – i.e., those aspects specifically mentioned in the Constitution which Congress must provide for in the Organic Act– require ratification through a plebiscite.   While it agrees with the petitioners’ underlying premise that sovereignty ultimately resides with the people, it disagrees that this legal reality necessitates compliance with the plebiscite requirement for all amendments to RA No. 9054. For if we were to go by the petitioners’ interpretation of Section 18, Article X of the Constitution that all amendments to the Organic Act have to undergo the plebiscite requirement before becoming effective, this would lead to impractical and illogical results – hampering the ARMM’s progress by impeding Congress from enacting laws that timely address problems as they arise in the region, as well as weighing down the ARMM government with the costs that unavoidably follow the holding of a plebiscite. Also, Sec. 3 of R.A. No. 10153 cannot be seen as changing the basic structure of the ARMM regional government. On the contrary, this provision clearly preserves the basic structure of the ARMM regional government when it recognizes the offices of the ARMM regional government and directs the OICs who shall temporarily assume these offices to “perform the functions pertaining to the said offices.” Datu Michael Abas Kida, etc., et al. vs. Senate of the Phil., etc., et al./Basari D. Mapupuno vs. Sixto Brillantes, etc., et al./Rep. Edcel C. Lagman vs. Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., etc., et al./Almarin Centi Tillah, et al. vs. The Commission on Elections, etc., et al./Atty. Romulo B. Macalintal vs. Commission on Elections, et al./Luis “Barok” Biraogo, G.R. No. 196271, February 28, 2012.

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January 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected January 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law:

Constitutional Law

Bill of Rights; Rights under custodial investigation. As found by the Court of Appeals, (1) there is no evidence of compulsion or duress or violence on the person of Nagares; (2) Nagares did not complain to the officers administering the oath during the taking of his sworn statement; (3) he did not file any criminal or administrative complaint against his alleged malefactors for maltreatment; (4) no marks of violence were observed on his body; and (5) he did not have himself examined by a physician to support his claim. Moreover, appellant’s confession is replete with details, which, according to the SC, made it highly improbable that it was not voluntarily given. Further, the records show that Nagares was duly assisted by an effective and independent counsel during the custodial investigation in the NBI. As found by the Court of Appeals, after Nagares was informed of his constitutional rights, he was asked by Atty. Esmeralda E. Galang whether he accepts her as counsel. During the trial, Atty. Galang testified on the extent of her assistance. According to her, she thoroughly explained to Nagares his constitutional rights, advised him not to answer matters he did not know, and if he did not want to answer any question, he may inform Atty. Galang who would be the one to relay his refusal to the NBI agents. She was also present during the entire investigation. Thus, the SC held that there was no duress or violence imposed on the person of Nagares during the custodial investigation and that Nagares was duly assisted by an independent counsel during such investigation in the NBI. People of the Philippines vs. Rodolfo Capitle and Arutor Nagares, G.R. No. 175330, January 12, 2010.

Bill of Rights; Double jeopardy. As a rule, a judgment of acquittal cannot be reconsidered because it places the accused under double jeopardy. On occasions, however, a motion for reconsideration after an acquittal is possible.  But the grounds are exceptional and narrow as when the court that absolved the accused gravely abused its discretion, resulting in loss of jurisdiction, or when a mistrial has occurred. In any of such cases, the State may assail the decision by special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65. Here, although complainant Vizconde invoked the exceptions, he was not able to bring his pleas for reconsideration under such exceptions. Complainant Vizconde cited the decision in Galman v. Sandiganbayan as authority that the Court can set aside the acquittal of the accused in the present case.  But the Court observed that the government proved in Galman that the prosecution was deprived of due process since the judgment of acquittal in that case was “dictated, coerced and scripted.”  It was a sham trial.  In this case, however, Vizconde does not allege that the Court held a sham review of the decision of the CA.  He has made out no case that the Court held a phony deliberation such that the seven Justices who voted to acquit the accused, the four who dissented, and the four who inhibited themselves did not really go through the process. Antonio Lejano vs. People of the Philippines / People of the Philippines vs. Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, et al., G.R. No. 176389/G.R. No. 176864. January 18, 2011.

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September 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Constitutionality; Presidential Proclamation 310; inalienable lands.  The Court declared as unconstitutional Presidential Proclamation 310, which took 670 hectares from petitioner’s registered lands for distribution to indigenous peoples and cultural communities, on the basis that such lands are inalienable, being part of the functions of an educational institution.  It did not matter that it was President Arroyo who, in this case, attempted by proclamation to appropriate the lands for distribution to indigenous peoples and cultural communities.  The lands by their character have become inalienable from the moment President Garcia dedicated them for petitioner’s use in scientific and technological research in the field of agriculture.  They have ceased to be alienable public lands.  Central Mindanao University, etc. vs. The Hon. Executive Secretary, et al. G.R. No. 184869, September 21, 2010.

Constitutionality; Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 2000.  The Court dismissed petitioners’ argument that Republic Act No. 8762, known as the Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 200, violates the mandate of the 1987 Constitution for the State to develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos.  The provisions of Article II of the 1987 Constitution, the declarations of principles and state policies, are not self-executing.  Legislative failure to pursue such policies cannot give rise to a cause of action in the courts.  Further, while Section 19, Article II of the 1987 Constitution requires the development of a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipino entrepreneurs, it does not impose a policy of Filipino monopoly of the economic environment.  The objective is simply to prohibit foreign powers or interests from maneuvering our economic policies and ensure that Filipinos are given preference in all areas of development.  The 1987 Constitution takes into account the realities of the outside world as it requires the pursuit of a trade policy that serves the general welfare and utilizes all forms and arrangements of exchange on the basis of equality and reciprocity; and speaks of industries which are competitive in both domestic and foreign markets as well as of the protection of Filipino enterprises against unfair foreign competition and trade practices.  Thus, while the Constitution mandates a bias in favor of Filipino goods, services, labor and enterprises, it also recognizes the need for business exchange with the rest of the world on the bases of equality and reciprocity and limits protection of Filipino enterprises only against foreign competition and trade practices that are unfair.  In other words, the 1987 Constitution does not rule out the entry of foreign investments, goods, and services. While it does not encourage their unlimited entry into the country, it does not prohibit them either.  In fact, it allows an exchange on the basis of equality and reciprocity, frowning only on foreign competition that is unfair. The key, as in all economies in the world, is to strike a balance between protecting local businesses and allowing the entry of foreign investments and services.  More important, Section 10, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution gives Congress the discretion to reserve to Filipinos certain areas of investments upon the recommendation of the National Economic and Development Authority and when the national interest requires.  Thus, Congress can determine what policy to pass and when to pass it depending on the economic exigencies.  It can enact laws allowing the entry of foreigners into certain industries not reserved by the Constitution to Filipino citizens.  In this case, Congress has decided to open certain areas of the retail trade business to foreign investments instead of reserving them exclusively to Filipino citizens.

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February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Equal protection;  requisites. The equal protection clause does not require the universal application of the laws to all persons or things without distinction. What it simply requires is equality among equals as determined according to a valid classification. The test developed by jurisprudence here and yonder is that of reasonableness, which has four requisites:

(1) The classification rests on substantial distinctions;

(2) It is germane to the purposes of the law;

(3) It is not limited to existing conditions only; and

(4) It applies equally to all members of the same class.

The assailed Decision readily acknowledged that these deemed-resigned provisions satisfy the first, third and fourth requisites of reasonableness. It, however, proffers the dubious conclusion that the differential treatment of appointive officials vis-à-vis elected officials is not germane to the purpose of the law.  Eleazar P. Quinto and Gerino A. Tolentino, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189698, February 22, 2010.

Expropriation;  private use.  It is well settled that the taking of private property by the Government’s power of eminent domain is subject to two mandatory requirements: (1) that it is for a particular public purpose; and (2) that just compensation be paid to the property owner. These requirements partake of the nature of implied conditions that should be complied with to enable the condemnor to keep the property expropriated.

More particularly, with respect to the element of public use, the expropriator should commit to use the property pursuant to the purpose stated in the petition for expropriation filed, failing which, it should file another petition for the new purpose. If not, it is then incumbent upon the expropriator to return the said property to its private owner, if the latter desires to reacquire the same. Otherwise, the judgment of expropriation suffers an intrinsic flaw, as it would lack one indispensable element for the proper exercise of the power of eminent domain, namely, the particular public purpose for which the property will be devoted. Accordingly, the private property owner would be denied due process of law, and the judgment would violate the property owner’s right to justice, fairness, and equity.

In light of these premises, we now expressly hold that the taking of private property, consequent to the Government’s exercise of its power of eminent domain, is always subject to the condition that the property be devoted to the specific public purpose for which it was taken. Corollarily, if this particular purpose or intent is not initiated or not at all pursued, and is peremptorily abandoned, then the former owners, if they so desire, may seek the reversion of the property, subject to the return of the amount of just compensation received. In such a case, the exercise of the power of eminent domain has become improper for lack of the required factual justification.  Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) and Air Transportation Office (ATO) vs. Bernardo Lozada, et al., G.R. No. 176625, February 25, 2010.

Gerrymandering; meaning. “Gerrymandering” is a term employed to describe an apportionment of representative districts so contrived as to give an unfair advantage to the party in power. Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, defined “gerrymandering” as the formation of one legislative district out of separate territories for the purpose of favoring a candidate or a party. The Constitution proscribes gerrymandering, as it mandates each legislative district to comprise, as far as practicable, a contiguous, compact and adjacent territory.

As stated by the Office of the Solicitor General, the Province of Dinagat Islands consists of one island and about 47 islets closely situated together, without the inclusion of separate territories. It is an unsubstantiated allegation that the province was created to favor Congresswoman Glenda Ecleo-Villaroman.  Rodolfo G. Navarro, et al. vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 180050, February 10, 2010.

House of Representative Electoral Tribunal (HRET);  jurisdiction. The HRET has jurisdiction over the question of qualifications of petitioners Abayon and Palparan as nominees of Aangat Tayo and Bantay party-list organizations, respectively, who took the seats at the House of Representatives that such organizations won in the 2007 elections.

Section 17, Article VI of the Constitution provides that the HRET shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to, among other things, the qualifications of the members of the House of Representatives. Since party-list nominees are “elected members” of the House of Representatives no less than the district representatives are, the HRET has jurisdiction to hear and pass upon their qualifications. By analogy with the cases of district representatives, once the party or organization of the party-list nominee has been proclaimed and the nominee has taken his oath and assumed office as member of the House of Representatives, the COMELEC’s jurisdiction over election contests relating to his qualifications ends and the HRET’s own jurisdiction begins.  Electoral Tribunal, et al. /Congressman Jovito S. Palparan, Jr. vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), et al., G.R. No. 189466/G.R. No. 189506,. February 11, 2010.

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Command responsibility for criminal acts of subordinates

Can a military commander be held liable for the criminal acts of his subordinates?

The Supreme Court touched on that issue in Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010. However, that case did not provide a venue for the Supreme Court to provide a definitive ruling on the matter.

The case involved a petition for a writ of amparo filed against the President, the Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), among others.  The petition was originally filed with the Supreme Court, which referred the case to the Court of Appeals.  The Court of Appeals eventually dropped the President as a respondent (based on presidential immunity from suit during her term).

The Court of Appeals also ordered the dismissal of the case against the AFP Chief and the PNP Chief. According to the Court of Appeals, AFP Chief Gen. Esperon and PNP Chief P/Dir. Gen. Razon were included as respondents on the theory that they, as commanders, were responsible for the unlawful acts allegedly committed by their subordinates against petitioners. According to the Court of Appeals, “the privilege of the writ of amparo must be denied as against Gen. Esperon and P/Dir. Gen. Razon for the simple reason that petitioners have not presented evidence showing that those who allegedly abducted and illegally detained Lourdes and later threatened her and her family were, in fact, members of the military or the police force.” The Court of Appeals hinted that the two generals would have been accountable for the abduction and threats if the actual malefactors were members of the AFP or PNP.

The Supreme Court discussed the current status of Philippine law regarding command responsibility for criminal acts of subordinates:

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June 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected June 2009 decisions of the Philippine Supreme Court on political and related laws.

Constitutional Law

Immunity from suit. The rule that a state may not be sued without its consent is embodied in Section 3, Article XVI of the 1987 Constitution and has been an established principle that antedates the Constitution. It is a universally recognized principle of international law that exempts a state and its organs from the jurisdiction of another state. The principle is based on the very essence of sovereignty, and on the practical ground that there can be no legal right as against the authority that makes the law on which the right depends. It also rests on reasons of public policy — that public service would be hindered, and the public endangered, if the sovereign authority could be subjected to law suits at the instance of every citizen and, consequently, controlled in the uses and dispositions of the means required for the proper administration of the government.

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April 2009 Decisions on Constitutional and Related Laws

Here are selected April 2009 decisions of the Supreme Court on constitutional and related laws:

Constitutional Law

Administrative regulation; void. Executive Order No. 566, which grants the CHED the power to regulate review center, is unconstitutional as it expands Republic Act No. 7722,. The CHED’s coverage under RA 7722 is limited to public and private institutions of higher education and degree-granting programs in all public and private post-secondary educational institutions.  EO 566 directed the CHED to formulate a framework for the regulation of review centers and similar entities.    A review center is not an institution of higher learning as contemplated by RA 7722.  It does not offer a degree-granting program that would put it under the jurisdiction of the CHED. Review Center Associations of the Philippines vs. Executive Secretatry Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 180046,  April 2, 2009.

Agrarian reform; coverage. For the parcels of land subject of this petition to come within the coverage of P.D. No. 27, it is necessary to determine whether the land is agricultural. Here, the subject parcels of land cannot be considered as within the ambit of P.D. No. 27 considering that the subject lots were reclassified by the DAR Secretary as suited for residential, commercial, industrial or other urban purposes way before petitioner filed a petition for emancipation under P.D. No. 27.  Laureano V. Hermoso, et al. vs. Heirs of Antonio Francia and Petra Francia, G.R. No. 166748,  April 24, 2009.

Compensation. Officers who in good faith have discharged the duties pertaining to their office are legally entitled to the compensation attached to the office for the services they actually rendered. Although the present petition must inevitably be dismissed on a technicality that serves as penalty for the pernicious practice of forum shopping, the Court nevertheless cannot countenance the refund of the compensation differential corresponding to petitioner’s tenure as HEDF head with the upgraded rank of Director III, since she had actually rendered services in the office with the elevated grade for that period.  Alicia D. Tagaro vs. Ester A. Garcia, etc.,G.R. No. 173931, April 2, 2009.

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