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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Dissension in the Court: September 2010

The following is a decision promulgated by the High Court in September 2010 where at least one Justice felt compelled to express his or her dissent from the decision penned by the ponente.

1. Guilty or Not Guilty (Villarama vs. Carpio and Abad)

The consolidated cases of Lenido Lumanog, et al. vs. People of the Philippines, Cesar Fortuna vs. People of the Philippines and People of the Philippines vs. SPO2 Cesar Fortuna y Abudo, et al., involved the criminal trials and proceedings arising from the macabre ambush-slaying of Colonel Rolando N. Abadilla done in broad daylight in the morning of June 13, 1996.

In the course of police investigations, certain persons were at various stages, identified as suspects (both through sworn statements as well as at police line-ups), apprehended, subjected to custodial investigation and charged in court.

Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr. went to great lengths to detail the facts of the case, the rulings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals, the evidence for the prosecution and defense and the arguments posited to the Supreme Court by each side.  Although the ponencia touches upon many important aspects of criminal law and procedure, one of the focal constitutional issues discussed in the decision revolved around the rights of the accused during custodial investigation, particularly the right to counsel.

In the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, Article III, Section 12 provides:

Sec. 12 (1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.

x     x     x

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or section 17 hereof (right against self-incrimination) shall be inadmissible in evidence against him.

x     x     x

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March 2009 Decisions on Constitutional and Related Laws

Here are selected March 2009 decisions on constitutional and related laws:

Administrative Law

Bidding. During the preliminary examination stage, the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) checks whether all the required documents were submitted by the eligible bidders. Note should be taken of the fact that the technical specifications of the product bidded out is among the documentary requirements evaluated by the BAC during the preliminary examination stage. At this point, therefore, the BAC should have already discovered that the technical specifications of Audio Visual’s document camera differed from the bid specifications in at least three (3) respects, namely: the 15 frames/second frame rate, the weight specification, and the power supply requirement. Using the non-discretionary criteria laid out in R.A. No. 9184 and IRR-A, therefore, the BAC should have rated Audio Visual’s bid as “failed” instead of “passed.” Commission on Audit, etc. vs. Link Worth International Inc., G.R. No. 184173, March 13, 2009.

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