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.

Dissension in the Court: April 2010

The following are selected decisions promulgated by the High Court in April 2010 where at least one Justice felt compelled to express his or her dissent from the decision penned by the ponente.  In this episode, we have three main events—the last of which was an awaited rematch—that coincidentally, and quite timely, all somehow relate to elections.

Once again, let’s get ready to rumble.

1.              Legislative Redistricting (Perez vs. Carpio and Carpio-Morales)

The provisions of the Constitution that are at issue in Aquino III (aka, “Noynoy” or the uncle of Baby James) and Robredo vs. Comelec are:

ARTICLE VI

The Legislative Department

x     x     x

SECTION 5. (1) The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two hundred and fifty members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative districts apportioned among the provinces, cities, and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio, and those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations.

(2) The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the party list. For three consecutive terms after the ratification of this Constitution, one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.

(3) Each legislative district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact and adjacent territory. Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one representative.

(4) Within three years following the return of every census, the Congress shall make a reapportionment of legislative districts based on the standards provided in this section. (underscoring supplied)

Prior to the enactment of Republic Act 9716 (RA 9716), Camarines Sur was divided into 4 legislative districts with each district having an estimated population of more than 250,000 people.  RA 9716 reconfigured the legislative districts in Camarines Sur so that there became 5 legislative districts with one of such districts having a population of less than 250,000.

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April 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

COA; powers. The 1987 Constitution has made the COA the guardian of public funds, vesting it with broad powers over all accounts pertaining to government revenue and expenditures and the uses of public funds and property including the exclusive authority to define the scope of its audit and examination, establish the techniques and methods for such review, and promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations.  Section 11, Chapter 4, Subtitle B, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 echoes this constitutional mandate given to COA.

In light of these express provisions of law granting respondent COA its power and authority, we have previously ruled that its exercise of its general audit power is among the constitutional mechanisms that give life to the check and balance system inherent in our form of government. Furthermore, we have also declared that COA is endowed with enough latitude to determine, prevent and disallow irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant or unconscionable expenditures of government funds.

Based on the foregoing discussion and due to the lack or absence of any law or jurisprudence saying otherwise, we rule that, in resolving cases brought before it on appeal, respondent COA is not required to limit its review only to the grounds relied upon by a government agency’s auditor with respect to disallowing certain disbursements of public funds.  In consonance with its general audit power, respondent COA is not merely legally permitted, but is also duty-bound to make its own assessment of the merits of the disallowed disbursement and not simply restrict itself to reviewing the validity of the ground relied upon by the auditor of the government agency concerned.  To hold otherwise would render COA’s vital constitutional power unduly limited and thereby useless and ineffective.  Ramon R. Yap vs. Commission on Audit, G.R. No. 158562, April 23, 2010.

Freedom of expression; LGBT group.  Under our system of laws, every group has the right to promote its agenda and attempt to persuade society of the validity of its position through normal democratic means. It is in the public square that deeply held convictions and differing opinions should be distilled and deliberated upon.

The OSG argues that since there has been neither prior restraint nor subsequent punishment imposed on Ang Ladlad, and its members have not been deprived of their right to voluntarily associate, then there has been no restriction on their freedom of expression or association.

The OSG fails to recall that petitioner has, in fact, established its qualifications to participate in the party-list system, and – as advanced by the OSG itself – the moral objection offered by the COMELEC was not a limitation imposed by law. To the extent, therefore, that the petitioner has been precluded, because of COMELEC’s action, from publicly expressing its views as a political party and participating on an equal basis in the political process with other equally-qualified party-list candidates, we find that there has, indeed, been a transgression of petitioner’s fundamental rights. Ang Ladlad LGBT Party vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190582, April 8, 2010.

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July 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected July 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on political law:

Constitutional Law

Double positions. The office of the Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross is not a government office or an office in a government-owned or controlled corporation for purposes of the prohibition in Section 13, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, which provides: “No Senator or Member of the House of Representatives may hold any other office or employment in the Government, or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations or their subsidiaries, during his term without forfeiting his seat. Neither shall he be appointed to any office which may have been created or the emoluments thereof increased during the term for which he was elected.”  Dante Liban, et al. vs. Richard J. Gordon, G.R. No. 175352, July 15, 2009.

Illegal search. Even assuming that petitioner or any lawful occupant of the house was not present when the search was conducted, the search was done in the presence of at least two witnesses of sufficient age and discretion residing in the same locality. Manalo was the barangay chairman of the place while Velasco was petitioner’s employee. Petitioner herself signed the certification of orderly search when she arrived at her residence. Clearly, the requirements of Section 8, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court were complied with by the police authorities who conducted the search. Further, petitioner failed to substantiate her allegation that she was just forced to sign the search warrant, inventory receipt, and the certificate of orderly search. In fact, the records show that she signed these documents together with three other persons, including the barangay chairman who could have duly noted if petitioner was really forced to sign the documents against her will.

Articles which are the product of unreasonable searches and seizures are inadmissible as evidence pursuant to Article III, Section 3(2) of the Constitution. However, in this case, the Supreme Court sustained the validity of the search conducted in petitioner’s residence and, thus, the articles seized during the search are admissible in evidence against petitioner.  Rosario Panuncio  vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 165678, July 17, 2009.

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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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