November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Civil Service Commission; jurisdiction. TThe Civil Service Commission (CSC) Caraga has jurisdiction to conduct the preliminary investigation of a possible administrative case of dishonesty against PO1 Capablanca for alleged CSP examination irregularity.

The CSC, as the central personnel agency of the Government, is mandated to establish a career service, to strengthen the merit and rewards system, and to adopt measures to promote morale, efficiency and integrity in the civil service. The civil service embraces all branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities, and agencies of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters. Specifically, Section 91 of Republic Act (RA) No. 6975 (1990) or the “Department of Interior and Local Government Act of 1990” provides that the “Civil Service Law and its implementing rules and regulations shall apply to all personnel of the Department,” to which herein petitioner belongs.

Section 12 of Executive Order (EO) No. 292 or the “Administrative Code of 1987,” enumerates the powers and functions of the CSC. In addition, Section 28, Rule XIV of the Omnibus Civil Service Rules and Regulations specifically confers upon the CSC the authority to take cognizance over any irregularities or anomalies connected with the examinations. To carry out this mandate, the CSC issued Resolution No. 991936, or the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, empowering its Regional Offices to take cognizance of cases involving CSC examination anomalies.

Based on the foregoing, it is clear that the CSC acted within its jurisdiction when it initiated the conduct of a preliminary investigation on the alleged civil service examination irregularity committed by the petitioner. Eugenio S. Capablanca vs. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 179370, November 18, 2009.

Civil Service Commission; jurisdiction. It has already been settled in Cruz v. Civil Service Commission that the appellate power of the CSC will only apply when the subject of the administrative cases filed against erring employees is in connection with the duties and functions of their office, and not in cases where the acts of complainant arose from cheating in the civil service examinations.  Eugenio S. Capablanca vs. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 179370, November 18, 2009.

Constitutionality;  equal protection. The equal protection guarantee under the Constitution is found under its Section 2, Article III, which provides: “Nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” Essentially, the equality guaranteed under this clause is equality under the same conditions and among persons similarly situated. It is equality among equals, not similarity of treatment of persons who are different from one another on the basis of substantial distinctions related to the objective of the law; when things or persons are different in facts or circumstances, they may be treated differently in law.

Appreciation of how the constitutional equality provision applies inevitably leads to the conclusion that no basis exists in the present case for an equal protection challenge. The law can treat barangay officials differently from other local elective officials because the Constitution itself provides a significant distinction between these elective officials with respect to length of term and term limitation. The clear distinction, expressed in the Constitution itself, is that while the Constitution provides for a three-year term and three-term limit for local elective officials, it left the length of term and the application of the three-term limit or any form of term limitation for determination by Congress through legislation. Not only does this disparate treatment recognize substantial distinctions, it recognizes as well that the Constitution itself allows a non-uniform treatment. No equal protection violation can exist under these conditions.

From another perspective, we see no reason to apply the equal protection clause as a standard because the challenged proviso did not result in any differential treatment between barangay officials and all other elective officials. This conclusion proceeds from our ruling on the retroactivity issue that the challenged proviso does not involve any retroactive application.  Commission on Elections vs. Conrado Cruz, et al., G.R. No. 186616, November 20, 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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February 2009 Decisions on Constitutional Law and Administrative Law

Here are some of the decisions promulgated by the Supreme Court in February 2009 on constitutional law and administrative law.

Administrative Law

1.  Administrative liability.  It is a fundamental principle in the law on public officers that administrative liability is separate from and independent of criminal liability. A simple act or omission can give rise to criminal, civil or administrative liability, each independently of the others. This is known as the “threefold liability rule.” Thus, absolution from a criminal charge is not a bar to an administrative prosecution, and vice-versa. The dismissal of the administrative cases against the petitioners will not necessarily result in the dismissal of the criminal complaints filed against them.  Eleno T. Regidor, Jr. et al. Vs. People of the Philippines, et al. G.R. No. 166086-92, February 13, 2009.

2. Reorganization.  A reorganization “involves the reduction of personnel, consolidation of offices, or abolition thereof by reason of economy or redundancy of functions.” It alters the existing structure of government offices or units therein, including the lines of control, authority and responsibility between them to make the bureaucracy more responsive to the needs of the public clientele as authorized by law. It could result in the loss of one’s position through removal or abolition of an office. For a reorganization for the purpose of economy or to make the bureaucracy more efficient to be valid, however, it must pass the test of good faith, otherwise it is void ab initio. In the case at bar, petitioner claims that there has been a drastic reduction of plantilla positions in the new staffing pattern in order to address the local government unit’s gaping budgetary deficit. Thus, he states that in the municipal treasurer’s office and waterworks operations unit where respondents were previously assigned, only 11 new positions were created out of the previous 35 which had been abolished; and that the new staffing pattern had 98 positions only, as compared with the old which had 129. The CSC, however, highlighted the recreation of six (6) casual positions for clerk II and utility worker I, which positions were previously held by respondents Marivic, Cantor, Asor and Enciso.  Petitioner inexplicably never disputed this finding nor proferred any proof that the new positions do not perform the same or substantially the same functions as those of the abolished. Nowhere in the records does it appear that these recreated positions were first offered to respondents. The appointment of casuals to these recreated positions violates R.A. 6656.   Pan vs. Pena, G.R. No. 174244, February 13, 2009.

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