May 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected May 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law.

Constitutional Law

Declaration of unconstitutionality; doctrine of operative fact.  An unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is inoperative as if it has not been passed at all.  The doctrine of operative fact is an exception this rule.  It applies as a matter of equity and fair play, and nullifies the effects of an unconstitutional law by recognizing that the existence of a statute prior to a determination of unconstitutionality is an operative fact and may have consequences that cannot always be ignored. It applies when a declaration of unconstitutionality will impose an undue burden on those who have relied on the invalid law.  The doctrine cannot be applied to this case, as to hold otherwise would be iniquitous to petitioner who was illegally dismissed from employment and would allow his employer to profit from a violation of an unconstitutional provision of law.  Claudio S. Yap v. Thenamaris Ship’s Management and Intermare Maritime Agencies, Inc., G.R. No. 179532. May 30, 2011.

Judicial review; review of executive policy.  Petitioner here seeks judicial review of a question of Executive policy, which the Court ruled is outside its jurisdiction.  Despite the definition of judicial power under Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution, the determination of where, as between two possible routes, to construct a road extension is not within the province of courts.  Such determination belongs exclusively to the Executive branch.  Barangay Captain Beda Torrecampo v. Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, et al., G.R. No. 188296. May 30, 2011.

Administrative Law; Public Officers

Administrative cases; due process.  Petitioners argue that they were denied due process because their order of dismissal was not accompanied by any justification from the Board of Directors of Philippine Estates Authority, which merely relied on the findings of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission.  The Court dismissed this argument on the basis that petitioners were given the opportunity to be heard in the course of PAGC’s investigation.  The essence of due process in administrative proceedings is the opportunity to explain one’s side or seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of, and to submit any evidence a party may have in support of his defense. The demands of due process are sufficiently met when the parties are given the opportunity to be heard before judgment is rendered.  Petitioners here actively participated in the proceedings before PAGC where they were afforded the opportunity to explain their actions through their memoranda.  The essence of due process is the right to be heard and this evidently was afforded to them.  Theron V. Lacson v. The Hon. Executive Secretary, et al./Jaime R. Millan and Bernardo T. Viray v. The Hon. Executive Secretary, et al., G.R. No. 165399 & 165475/G.R. No. 165404 & 165489. May 30, 2011.

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February 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected February 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law.

Constitutional Law

Administrative cases; right to be presumed innocent. The trial court was correct in declaring that respondents had the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. This means that an employee who has a pending administrative case filed against him is given the benefit of the doubt and is considered innocent until the contrary is proven. In this case, respondents were placed under preventive suspension for 90 days from 23 May 2002 to 21 August 2002. After serving the period of their preventive suspension and without the administrative case being finally resolved, respondents should have been reinstated and entitled to the grant of step increment. The Board of Trustees of the Government Service Insurance System, et al. v. Albert M. Velasco, et al. G.R. No. 170463, February 2, 2011.

Equal Protection; valid classification. Petitioners argue that there is no substantial distinction between municipalities with pending cityhood bills in the 11th Congress and municipalities that did not have pending bills, such that the mere pendency of a cityhood bill in the 11th Congress is not a material difference to distinguish one municipality from another for the purpose of the income requirement. The SC held that the purpose of the enactment of R.A. No 9009 was merely to stop the “mad rush of municipalities wanting to be converted into cities” and the apprehension that before long the country will be a country of cities and without municipalities. It found that the imposition of the P100 million average annual income requirement for the creation of component cities was arbitrarily made as there was no evidence or empirical data, such as inflation rates, to support the choice of this amount.  The imposition of a very high income requirement of P100 million, increased from P20 million, was simply to make it extremely difficult for municipalities to become component cities. The SC also found that substantial distinction lies in the capacity and viability of respondent municipalities to become component cities of their respective provinces.  Congress, by enacting the Cityhood Laws, recognized this capacity and viability of respondent municipalities to become the State’s partners in accelerating economic growth and development in the provincial regions, which is the very thrust of the LGC, manifested by the pendency of their cityhood bills during the 11th Congress and their relentless pursuit for cityhood up to the present. League of Cities of the Phil. etc., et al. v. COMELEC, et al./League of Cities of the Phil. etc., et al. v. COMELEC, et al./League of Cities of the Phil. etc., et al. v. COMELEC, et al. G.R. No. 176951/G.R. No. 177499/G.R. No. 178056, February 15, 2011.

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December 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected December 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law.

Emancipation patent; issuance. Following are the steps in transferring land to a tenant-tiller under Presidential Decree No. 27: (a) identification of tenant, landowner, and the land covered; (b) land survey and sketching of portion actually cultivated by the tenant to determine parcel size, boundaries, and possible land use; (c) issuance of Certificate of Land Transfer; (d) valuation of the land for purposes of computing the amortization; (e) amortization payments of the tenant-tiller over a 15-year period; and (f) issuance of Emancipation Patent.  In this case, there is no evidence that these steps were followed. There are several supporting documents that the tenant-farmer must submit before he can receive the Emancipation Patent. The Supreme Court found that majority of these supporting documents is lacking. Hence, it was improper for the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board to order the issuance of the Emancipation Patent in favor of respondent. There was also no sufficient evidence to prove that respondent has fully paid the value of the land. Full payment of just compensation is required prior to issuance of Emancipation Patents. Renato Reyes, represented by Ramon Reyes vs Leopoldo Barrios, G.R. No. 172841, December 15, 2010.

Equal protection clause; concept.  The Court here struck down Executive Order No. 1 (which created the Truth Commission) for violating the equal protection clause.  The clear mandate of the Truth Commission is to investigate and find out the truth “concerning the reported cases of graft and corruption during the previous administrationonly. The intent to single out the previous administration was plain, patent and manifest.  According to the Court, the Arroyo administration is a member of a class, that is, the class of past administrations.  It is not a class of its own. Not to include in the Commission’s mandate past administrations similarly situated constitutes arbitrariness, which the equal protection clause cannot sanction.  Although Section 17 gives the President discretion to expand the scope of investigations of the Commission so as to include acts of graft and corruption committed in other past administrations, it does not guarantee that they would be covered in the future.  This expanded mandate of the Commission will still depend on the discretion of the President.  If he decides not to include them, the provision would be meaningless. Louis “Barok” C. Biraogo vs. The Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 / Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, et al. vs. Exec. Sec. Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., et al., G.R. No. 192935 & G.R. No. 19303, December 7, 2010.

Judicial review; requisites. Judicial review requires the following: (1) an actual case or controversy calling for the exercise of judicial power; (2) the person challenging the act must have the standing to question the validity of the act or issuance; (3) the question of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the issue of constitutionality must be the very subject matter of the case. As to standing, the Court here held that petitioners, who are legislators, met the requirement as they are questioning the constitutionality of Executive Order No. 1 creating the Truth Commission on the basis that the latter’s mandate constitutes usurpation of the power of the Congress.  However, with regard to the petitioner who is questioning EO No. 1 as a taxpayer, the Court held that he had no standing since he has not shown that he sustained, or is in danger of sustaining, any personal and direct injury attributable to the implementation of that EO.  The Court took cognizance of the case as the matter involved was of transcendental importance.  Louis “Barok” C. Biraogo vs. The Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 / Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, et al. vs. Exec. Sec. Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., et al., G.R. No. 192935 & G.R. No. 19303, December 7, 2010.

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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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January 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Eminent domain;  prompt payment of just compensation. The concept of just compensation contemplates  just and timely payment; it embraces not only the correct determination of the amount to be paid to the landowner, but also the payment of the land within a reasonable time from its taking. Without prompt payment, compensation cannot, as Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals instructs, be considered “just,” for the owner is made to suffer the consequence of being immediately deprived of his land while being made to wait for years before actually receiving the amount necessary to cope with his loss.  Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board and Heirs of Vicente Adaza, Heirs of Romeo Adaza, Heirs of Cesar Adaza, represented by Russel Adaza, G.R. No. 183279, January 25, 2010.

Judicial review; creation of city. On the OSG’s contention that Congress’ choice of means to comply with the population requirement in the creation of a legislative district is non-justiciable, suffice it to say that questions calling for judicial determination of compliance with constitutional standards by other branches of the government are fundamentally justiciable. The resolution of such questions falls within the checking function of this Court under the 1987 Constitution to determine whether there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.

Even under the 1935 Constitution, this Court had already ruled, “The overwhelming weight of authority is that district apportionment laws are subject to review by the courts.” Compliance with constitutional standards on the creation of legislative districts is important because the “aim of legislative apportionment is ‘to equalize population and voting power among districts.’”  Victorino Aldaba, et al. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 188078, January 25, 2010.

Local government;  creation of city. RA 9591 is unconstitutional for being violative of Section 5(3), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and Section 3 of the Ordinance appended to the 1987 Constitution.

The 1987 Constitution requires that for a city to have a legislative district, the city must have “a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand.” The only issue here is whether the City of Malolos has a population of at least 250,000, whether actual or projected, for the purpose of creating a legislative district for the City of Malolos in time for the 10 May 2010 elections. If not, then RA 9591 creating a legislative district in the City of Malolos is unconstitutional.

There is no official record that the population of the City of Malolos will be at least 250,000, actual or projected, prior to the 10 May 2010 elections, the immediately following election after the supposed attainment of such population. Thus, the City of Malolos is not qualified to have a legislative district of its own under Section 5(3), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and Section 3 of the Ordinance appended to the 1987 Constitution.  Victorino Aldaba, et al. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 188078, January 25, 2010.
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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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