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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October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Bill of Rights; Presumption of Innocence. In this case, the so-called frame-up was virtually pure allegation bereft of credible proof. The narration of the police officer who implemented the search warrant was found, after trial and appellate review, as the true story. It is on firmer ground than the self-serving statement of the accused-appellant of frame-up.  The defense cannot solely rely upon the constitutional presumption of innocence for, while it is constitutional, the presumption is not conclusive.  Notably, the accused-appellant herself stated in her brief that “no proof was proffered by the accused-appellant of the police officers’ alleged ill motive.” Stated otherwise, the narration of the incident by law enforcers, buttressed by the presumption that they have regularly performed their duties in the absence of convincing proof to the contrary, must be given weight. People of the Philippines vs. Olive Rubio Mamaril. G.R. No. 171980, October 6, 2010.

Bill of Rights; Probable Cause. There is no general formula or fixed rule for the determination of probable cause since the same must be decided in light of the conditions obtaining in given situations and its existence depends to a large degree upon the findings or opinion of the judge conducting the examination. It is presumed that a judicial function has been regularly performed, absent a showing to the contrary. The defense’s reliance of the quoted testimony of the police officer alone, without any other evidence to show that there was indeed lack of personal knowledge, is insufficient to overturn the finding of the trial court.  The accused-appellant, having failed to present substantial rebuttal evidence to defeat the presumption of regularity of duty of the issuing judge, cannot not be sustained by the Court. People of the Philippines vs. Olive Rubio Mamaril. G.R. No. 171980, October 6, 2010.

Constitutionality; Actual Controversy; Standing to Sue.  The power of judicial review can only be exercised in connection with a bona fide controversy involving a statute, its implementation or a government action.  Without such controversy, courts will decline to pass upon constitutional issues through advisory opinions, bereft as they are of authority to resolve hypothetical or moot questions.  The limitation on the power of judicial review to actual cases and controversies defines the role assigned to the judiciary in a tripartite allocation of power, to assure that the courts will not intrude into areas committed to the other branches of government.  But even with the presence of an actual case or controversy, the Court may refuse judicial review unless the constitutional question or the assailed illegal government act is brought before it by a party who possesses locus standi or the standing to challenge it.  To have standing, one must establish that he has a “personal and substantial interest in the case such that he has sustained, or will sustain, direct injury as a result of its enforcement.”  Particularly, he must show that (1) he has suffered some actual or threatened injury as a result of the allegedly illegal conduct of the government; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action; and (3) the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable action.

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August 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Civil Service Commission; jurisdiction. The civil service encompasses all branches and agencies of the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters, like the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), or those created by special law. Thus, GSIS employees are part of the civil service system and are subject to the law and to the circulars, rules and regulations issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) on discipline, attendance and general terms and conditions of employment. The CSC has jurisdiction to hear and decide disciplinary cases against erring employees. Winston F. Garcia vs. Mario I. Molina, et al./Winston F. Garcia vs. Mario I. Molina, et al., G.R. No. 157383/G.R. No. 174137, August 18, 2010.

Double compensation. Section 8, Article IX-B of the Constitution provides that no elective or appointive public officer or employee shall receive additional, double or indirect compensation, unless specifically authorized by law, nor accept without the consent of the Congress, any present emolument, office or title of any kind from any foreign government.  Pensions and gratuities shall not be considered as additional, double or indirect compensation. This provision, however, does not apply to the present case as there was no double compensation to the petitioners. The questioned resolutions of the Monetary Board are valid corporate acts of petitioners that became the bases for granting them additional monthly representation and transportation allowance (RATA), as members of the Board of Directors of Philippine International Convention Center Inc. (PICCI), a government corporation whose sole stockholder is the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). RATA is distinct from salary as a form of compensation.  Unlike salary which is paid for services rendered, RATA is a form of allowance intended to defray expenses deemed unavoidable in the discharge of office.  Hence, RATA is paid only to certain officials who, by the nature of their offices, incur representation and transportation expenses.  Indeed, aside from the RATA that they have been receiving from the BSP, the grant of RATA to each of the petitioners for every board meeting they attended, in their capacity as members of the Board of Directors of PICCI, in addition to their per diem, does not violate the constitutional proscription against double compensation. Gabriel C. Singson, et al. vs. Commission on Audit, G.R. No. 159355, August 9, 2010.

Eminent domain; voluntary agreement by landowner. Where the landowner agrees voluntarily to the taking of his property by the government for public use, he thereby waives his right to the institution of a formal expropriation proceeding covering such property. Failure for a long time of the owner to question the lack of expropriation proceedings covering a property that the government had taken constitutes a waiver of his right to gain back possession. The landowner’s remedy in such case is an action for the payment of just compensation, not ejectment. Here, the Court of Appeals erred in ordering the eviction of petitioner from the property that it has held as government school site for more than 50 years. The evidence on record shows that the respondents intended to cede the property to the City Government of Lipa permanently. In fact, they allowed the city to declare the property in its name for tax purposes. And when they sought to have the bigger lot subdivided, the respondents earmarked a specific portion for the City Government of Lipa. Under the circumstances, it may be assumed that the respondents had agreed to transfer ownership of the land to the government, whether to the City Government of Lipa or to the Republic of the Philippines, but the parties never formalized and documented such transfer. Consequently, petitioner should be deemed entitled to possession pending the respondents’ formal transfer of ownership to it upon payment of just compensation. Republic of the Philippines vs. Primo Mendoza and Maria Lucero, G.R. No. 185091, August 8, 2010.

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June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Administrative cases; quantum of evidence.  In administrative cases, the quantum of evidence necessary to find an individual administratively liable is substantial evidence.  Substantial evidence does not necessarily mean preponderant proof as required in ordinary civil cases, but such kind of relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion or evidence commonly accepted by reasonably prudent men in the conduct of their affairs.  The evidence upon which respondent’s administrative liability would be anchored lacked that degree of certainty required in administrative cases, because the two separate audits conducted by the Commission on Audit yielded conflicting results.  Evidence of shortage in respondent’s cash and accounts, as alleged in the first audit report, is imperative to hold him liable.  In this case, the evidence against respondent could not be relied upon, because the second audit report, which was favorable to him, necessarily puts into question the reliability of the initial audit findings.  Whether the zero balance as appearing in the second audit report was correct or inadvertently indicated, the credibility and accuracy of the two audit reports were already tarnished.  Even in administrative cases, a degree of moral certainty is necessary to support a finding of liability.  Office of the Ombudsman (Visayas) vs. Rodolfo Zaldarriaga, G.R. No. 175349, June 22, 2010.

Agrarian cases; just compensation.  The taking of property under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) is a government exercise of the power of eminent domain.  Since the determination of just compensation in eminent domain proceedings is a judicial function, a court proceeding to fix just compensation cannot be made to depend on the existence of, and is considered separate and independent from, an administrative case of a similar nature.  Thus, the filing by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) of a new petition for judicial determination of just compensation after the dismissal without prejudice of another LBP-initiated court proceeding on the same issue cannot be regarded as barred by the filing of the latter proceeding beyond the 15-day period prescribed under Rule XIII, Section 11 of the Rules of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB). Although the formula for fixing just compensation found in Section 17 of the CARL may be justly adopted in certain cases, it is by no means the only formula that the court may adopt in determining just compensation. Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Fortune Savings and Loan Association, Inc., represented by Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, G.R. No. 177511, June 29, 2010.

Due process; local autonomy; police power. Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Administrative Order No. 01-02, as amended, which sets out rules on land use conversion, does not violate the due process clause, because in providing administrative and criminal penalties, the Secretary of Agrarian Reform simply implements the provisions of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law and the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, both of which provide penalties for illegal land conversion. Contrary to petitioner’s assertions, the penalties provided under DAR AO No. 01-02 are imposed upon the illegal or premature conversion of lands within DAR’s jurisdiction.

In providing that reclassification of agricultural lands by local government units (LGUs) shall be subject to the requirements of, and procedures for, land use conversion, including DAR approval or clearance, DAR AO No. 01-02 did not violate the autonomy of the LGUs. The power of LGUs to reclassify agricultural lands is not absolute, and the Local Government Code recognizes the authority of DAR to approve conversion of agricultural lands. DAR Memorandum No. 88, which temporarily suspended the processing and approval of all land use conversion applications, is a valid exercise of police power, as it was issued upon the instruction of the President in order to address the unabated conversion of prime agricultural lands for real estate development because of the worsening rice shortage in the country at that time. Such measure was made in order to ensure that there are enough agricultural lands in which rice cultivation and production may be carried into. Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations, Inc. vs. The Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 183409, June 18, 2010.

May 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Agrarian reform; coverage.  Lands acquired by the National Housing Authority for resettlement purposes or housing development are exempt from the coverage of agrarian reform laws.  Such acquisition converts the land by operation of law from agricultural to residential.  The National Housing Authority is not bound to pay disturbance compensation to any tenant in possession of the purchased land. National Housing Authority vs. Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, et al., G.R. No. 175200, May 4, 2010.

Agrarian reform; just compensation.  In computing just compensation for rice lands tenanted as of October 21, 1972, the grant of 6% yearly interest under DAR Administrative Order No. 13, Series of 1994, as amended, must be reckoned from October 21, 1972 up to the time of actual payment of the compensation, and not only up to the time the Land Bank of the Philippines approves payment of the compensation and deposits the amount in the name of the landowner, considering that release of such deposit is still subject to compliance with documentary requirements.  The concept of just compensation embraces not only the correct determination of the amount to be paid to the owner of the land, but also payment within a reasonable time from its taking.  Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Domingo and Mamerto Soriano, G.R. No. 180772 & G.R. No. 180776, May 6, 2010.

Commission on Elections; registration of party coalition.  Comelec may not, through a resolution setting the deadline for registration of political parties, differentiate between political parties, on the one hand, and political organizations and coalitions, on the other.  There is no substantial distinction among these entities germane to the act of registration that would justify creating distinctions among them in terms of deadlines.  Thus, Comelec Resolution No. 8646, dated July 14, 2009, which sets August 17, 2009 as the deadline for filing petitions for registration of political parties, without mentioning political organizations and coalitions, should be understood as covering the latter entities as well.  A petition for registration as a political coalition filed beyond that deadline is time-barred, and the Comelec resolution granting that petition constitutes grave abuse of discretion.

Political coalitions, even if composed of registered political parties, need to register separately in accordance with established norms and procedures, if they are to be recognized as such and be given the benefits accorded by law to registered coalitions. Registered political parties carry a different legal personality from that of the coalition they may wish to establish with other registered parties.  If parties want to coalesce with one another without the formal registration of their coalition, they can do so on their own in the exercise of their and their members’ democratic freedom of choice, but they cannot receive official recognition for their coalition.  Liberal Party, etc. et al. vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 191771, May 6, 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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November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on remedial law:

Action;  forum shopping. Petitioners Espiritu, et al. point out that the certificate of non-forum shopping that respondents KPE and Petron attached to the petition they filed with the Court of Appeals was inadequate, having been signed only by Petron, through Atty. Cruz.

But, while procedural requirements such as that of submittal of a certificate of non-forum shopping cannot be totally disregarded, they may be deemed substantially complied with under justifiable circumstances. One of these circumstances is where the petitioners filed a collective action in which they share a common interest in its subject matter or raise a common cause of action. In such a case, the certification by one of the petitioners may be deemed sufficient.

Here, KPE and Petron shared a common cause of action against petitioners Espiritu, et al., namely, the violation of their proprietary rights with respect to the use of Gasul tanks and trademark. Furthermore, Atty. Cruz said in his certification that he was executing it “for and on behalf of the Corporation, and co-petitioner Carmen J. Doloiras.” Thus, the object of the requirement – to ensure that a party takes no recourse to multiple forums – was substantially achieved. Besides, the failure of KPE to sign the certificate of non-forum shopping does not render the petition defective with respect to Petron which signed it through Atty. Cruz. The Court of Appeals, therefore, acted correctly in giving due course to the petition before it.  Manuel C. Espiritu, Jr., et al. vs. Petron Corporation, et al., G.R. No. 170891, November 24, 2009.

Action;  real party in interest. As the successor-in-interest of the late Arsenio E. Concepcion and co-owner of the subject property, respondent Nenita S. Concepcion is entitled to prosecute the ejectment case not only in a representative capacity, but as a real party-in-interest. Article 487 of the Civil Code states, “Any one of the co-owners may bring an action in ejectment.” Hence, assuming that respondent failed to submit the proper documents showing her capacity to sue in a representative capacity for the estate of her deceased husband, the Court, in the interest of speedy disposition of cases, may deem her capacitated to prosecute the ejectment case as a real party-in-interest being a co-owner of the subject property considering that the trial court has jurisdiction over the subject matter and has also acquired jurisdiction over the parties, including respondent Nenita S. Concepcion.  Angelina S. Soriente, et al. vs. The Estate of the late Arsenio E. Concepcion, etc., G.R. No. 160239, November 25, 2009.

Appeal; locus standi. Petitioners correctly argue that the Credit Cooperative has no locus standi on appeal, since it failed to file a notice of appeal to the RTC’s September 14, 1999 Decision granting the motion for summary judgment. It was only the Union which appealed the case through a notice of appeal filed by its counsel, Atty. Luciano R. Caraang (Atty. Caraang). There is also no showing that Atty. Caraang represented both the Union and the Credit Cooperative in filing such notice of appeal. In fact, the Credit Cooperative did not deny its failure to file an appeal; however, it argued that it filed with the Court of Appeals an appellant’s brief in compliance with the appellate court’s directive to submit one. Suffice it to state that the Court of Appeals’ directive for the Credit Cooperative to file its brief did not clothe the Credit Cooperative with locus standi on appeal. The purpose of the filing of the brief is merely to present, in coherent and concise form, the points and questions in controversy, and by fair argument on the facts and law of the case, to assist the court in arriving at a just and proper conclusion. The Court of Appeals may have ordered the Credit Cooperative to submit its brief to enable it to properly dispose of the case on appeal. However, in the Credit Cooperative’s brief, not only did it ask for the reversal of the Summary Judgment but also prayed for the return of its garnished funds. This cannot be allowed. It would be grave error to grant the relief prayed for without violating the well-settled rule that a party who does not appeal from the decision may not obtain any affirmative relief from the appellate court other than what he has obtained from the lower court, if any, whose decision is brought up on appeal.

The rule is clear that no modification of judgment could be granted to a party who did not appeal.   Jose Feliciano Loy, et al. vs. San Miguel Corporation Employees Union-Philippine Transport and General Workers Organization (SMCEU-PTGWO), et al., G.R. No. 164886, November 24, 2009.

Arbitration;  third parties. We agree with the CA ruling that the BPPA arbitration clause does not apply to the present case since third parties are involved. Any judgment or ruling to be rendered by the panel of arbitrators will be useless if third parties are included in the case, since the arbitral ruling will not bind them; they are not parties to the arbitration agreement. In the present case, DOLE included as parties the spouses Abujos and Oribanex since they are necessary parties, i.e., they were directly involved in the BPPA violation DOLE alleged, and their participation are indispensable for a complete resolution of the dispute. To require the spouses Abujos and Oribanex to submit themselves to arbitration and to abide by whatever judgment or ruling the panel of arbitrators shall make is legally untenable; no law and no agreement made with their participation can compel them to submit to arbitration.  Stanfilco Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative vs. DOLE Philippines, Inc. (Stanfilco Division), Oribanex Services, Inc., Spouses Elly and Myrna Abujos, G.R. No. 154048, November 27, 2009.

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