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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December 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Tax Law

Here are selected December 2009 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on tax law:

National Internal Revenue Code

Tax refund;  nature.   It is settled that tax refunds are in the nature of tax exemptions.  Laws granting exemptions are construed strictissimi juris against the taxpayer and liberally in favor of the taxing authority.  Where the taxpayer claims a refund, the CTA as a court of record is required to conduct a formal trial (trial de novo) to prove every minute aspect of the claim.  Kepco Philippines Corporation vs. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, G.R. No. 179356, December 14, 2009.

VAT; input VAT  on capital goods. For petitioner’s purchases of domestic goods and services to be considered as “capital goods or properties,” three requisites must concur. First, the useful life of goods or properties must exceed one year; second, said goods or properties are treated as depreciable assets under Section 34 (f) and; third, the goods or properties must be used directly or indirectly in the production or sale of taxable goods and services.

From petitioner’s evidence, the account vouchers specifically indicate that the disallowed purchases were recorded under inventory accounts, instead of depreciable accounts. That petitioner failed to indicate under its fixed assets or depreciable assets account, goods and services allegedly purchased pursuant to the rehabilitation and maintenance of Malaya Power Plant Complex, militates against its claim for refund. As correctly found by the CTA, the goods or properties must be recorded and treated as depreciable assets under Section 34 (F) of the NIRC. Kepco Philippines Corporation vs. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, G.R. No. 179356, December 14, 2009.

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Legalese 2009 (Week 44)

Legalese

improperly accumulated earnings tax –  tax imposed on corporations for improper or unreasonable accumulation of profits or surplus. It is not lieu of, but in addition to, the regular corporate income tax (Law on Income Taxation, p. 396 [2009]).

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August 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law, Tax Law and Labor Law

Here are selected August 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on commercial law, tax law and labor law:

Commercial Law

Insurance; insurable interest. Insurable interest is one of the most basic and essential requirements in an insurance contract. In general, an insurable interest is that interest which a person is deemed to have in the subject matter insured, where he has a relation or connection with or concern in it, such that the person will derive pecuniary benefit or advantage from the preservation of the subject matter insured and will suffer pecuniary loss or damage from its destruction, termination, or injury by the happening of the event insured against. The existence of an insurable interest gives a person the legal right to insure the subject matter of the policy of insurance. Section 10 of the Insurance Code indeed provides that every person has an insurable interest in his own life. Section 19 of the same code also states that an interest in the life or health of a person insured must exist when the insurance takes effect, but need not exist thereafter or when the loss occurs.  Violeta R. Lalican vs. The Insular Life Assurance Company Limited, as represented by the President Vicente R. AvilonG.R. No. 183526, August 25, 2009.

Insurance; reinstatement. To reinstate a policy means to restore the same to premium-paying status after it has been permitted to lapse. Both the Policy Contract and the Application for Reinstatement provide for specific conditions for the reinstatement of a lapsed policy. In the instant case, Eulogio’s death rendered impossible full compliance with the conditions for reinstatement of Policy No. 9011992. True, Eulogio, before his death, managed to file his Application for Reinstatement and deposit the amount for payment of his overdue premiums and interests thereon with Malaluan; but Policy No. 9011992 could only be considered reinstated after the Application for Reinstatement had been processed and approved by Insular Life during Eulogio’s lifetime and good health.

Eulogio’s death, just hours after filing his Application for Reinstatement and depositing his payment for overdue premiums and interests with Malaluan, does not constitute a special circumstance that can persuade this Court to already consider Policy No. 9011992 reinstated. Said circumstance cannot override the clear and express provisions of the Policy Contract and Application for Reinstatement, and operate to remove the prerogative of Insular Life thereunder to approve or disapprove the Application for Reinstatement. Even though the Court commiserates with Violeta, as the tragic and fateful turn of events leaves her practically empty-handed, the Court cannot arbitrarily burden Insular Life with the payment of proceeds on a lapsed insurance policy. Justice and fairness must equally apply to all parties to a case. Courts are not permitted to make contracts for the parties. The function and duty of the courts consist simply in enforcing and carrying out the contracts actually made.  Violeta R. Lalican vs. The Insular Life Assurance Company Limited, as represented by the President Vicente R. AvilonG.R. No. 183526, August 25, 2009.

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August 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional law

Congress; legislative immunity.  The immunity Senator Santiago claims is rooted primarily on the provision of Article VI, Section 11 of the Constitution.

As American jurisprudence puts it, this legislative privilege is founded upon long experience and arises as a means of perpetuating inviolate the functioning process of the legislative department. Without parliamentary immunity, parliament, or its equivalent, would degenerate into a polite and ineffective debating forum. Legislators are immune from deterrents to the uninhibited discharge of their legislative duties, not for their private indulgence, but for the public good. The privilege would be of little value if they could be subjected to the cost and inconvenience and distractions of a trial upon a conclusion of the pleader, or to the hazard of a judgment against them based upon a judge’s speculation as to the motives.

This Court is aware of the need and has in fact been in the forefront in upholding the institution of parliamentary immunity and promotion of free speech. Neither has the Court lost sight of the importance of the legislative and oversight functions of the Congress that enable this representative body to look diligently into every affair of government, investigate and denounce anomalies, and talk about how the country and its citizens are being served. Courts do not interfere with the legislature or its members in the manner they perform their functions in the legislative floor or in committee rooms. Any claim of an unworthy purpose or of the falsity and mala fides of the statement uttered by the member of the Congress does not destroy the privilege. The disciplinary authority of the assembly and the voters, not the courts, can properly discourage or correct such abuses committed in the name of parliamentary immunity.

For the above reasons, the plea of Senator Santiago for the dismissal of the complaint for disbarment or disciplinary action is well taken. Indeed, her privilege speech is not actionable criminally or in a disciplinary proceeding under the Rules of Court. It is felt, however, that this could not be the last word on the matter. Antero J. Pobre vs. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, A.C. No. 7399. August 25, 2009.

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