Constitutional Law, Political Law

Ocampo v. Enriquez G.R. No. 225973, November 08, 2016 Actual Case or Controversy, Locus Standi, Hierarchy of Courts, Doctrine of Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies, with former C.J. Sereno’s Dissenting Opinion

FACTS:

Public respondent Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana issued a Memorandum to the public respondent Chief of Staff of the AFP, General Ricardo R. Visaya, regarding the interment of Marcos at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani (LNMB) in reference to the Verbal Order of President Duterte.

Respondent AFP Rear Admiral Ernesto C. Enriquez issued directives to the Philippine Army (PA) Commanding General for the Funeral Honors and Service to former President Marcos.

Dissatisfied with the said issuance, the following were filed by petitioners:

1. Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition filed by Saturnino Ocampo and several others, in their capacities as human rights advocates or human rights violations victims as defined under Section 3 (c) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10368 (Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013).

2. Petition for Certiorari-in-Intervention filed by Rene A.V. Saguisag, Sr. and his son, as members of the Bar and human rights lawyers, and his grandchild.

3. Petition for Prohibition filed by Representative Edcel C. Lagman, in his personal capacity, as member of the House of Representatives and as Honorary Chairperson of Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND), a duly-registered corporation and organization of victims and families of enforced disappearance, mostly during the martial law regime of the former President Marcos, and several others, in their official capacities as duly-elected Congressmen of the House of Representatives of the Philippines.

4. Petition for Prohibition filed by Loretta Ann Pargas-Rosales, former Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, and several others, suing as victims of State-sanctioned human rights violations during the martial law regime of Marcos.

5. Petition for Mandamus and Prohibition filed by Heherson T. Alvarez, former Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, who fought to oust the dictatorship of Marcos, and several others, as concerned Filipino citizens and taxpayers.

6. Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition filed by Zaira Patricia B. Baniaga and several others, as concerned Filipino citizens and taxpayers.

7. Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition filed by Algamar A. Latiph, former Chairperson of the Regional Human Rights Commission, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, by himself and on behalf of the Moro who are victims of human rights during the martial law regime of Marcos.

8. Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition filed by Leila M. De Lima as member of the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines, public official and concerned citizen.

ISSUES:

1. Whether President Duterte’s determination to have the remains of Marcos interred at the LNMB poses a justiciable controversy.

2. Whether petitioners have locus standi to file the instant petitions.

3. Whether petitioners violated the doctrines of exhaustion of administrative remedies and hierarchy of courts.

4. Whether the Issuance and implementation of the assailed memorandum and directive violate the Constitution, domestic and international laws.

RULING:

Justiciable controversy

It is well settled that no question involving the constitutionality or validity of a law or governmental act may be heard and decided by the Court unless the following requisites for judicial inquiry are present:

(a) there must be an actual case or controversy calling for the exercise of judicial power;

(b) the person challenging the act must have the standing to question the validity of the subject act or issuance;

(c) the question of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest opportunity; and

(d) the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota of the case.

In this case, the absence of the first two requisites, which are the most essential, renders the discussion of the last two superfluous.

An “actual case or controversy” is one which involves a conflict of legal rights, an assertion of opposite legal claims, susceptible of judicial resolution as distinguished from a hypothetical or abstract difference or dispute.

Moreover, the limitation on the power of judicial review to actual cases and controversies carries the assurance that the courts will not intrude into areas committed to the other branches of government. Those areas pertain to questions which, under the Constitution, are to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the legislative or executive branch of the government.cralawred As they are concerned with questions of policy and issues dependent upon the wisdom, not legality of a particular measure, political questions used to be beyond the ambit of judicial review.

The Court agrees with the OSG that President Duterte’s decision to have the remains of Marcos interred at the LNMB involves a political question that is not a justiciable controversy.

In the exercise of his powers under the Constitution and E.O. No. 292 (Administrative Code of 1987) to allow the interment of Marcos at the LNMB, which is a land of the public domain devoted for national military cemetery and military shrine purposes, President Duterte decided a question of policy based on his wisdom that it shall promote national healing and forgiveness.

Locus standi

Locus standi, a right of appearance in a court of justice on a given question, requires that a party alleges such personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.

Unless a person has sustained or is in imminent danger of sustaining an injury as a result of an act complained of, such proper party has no standing.

Petitioners, who filed their respective petitions for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, in their capacities as citizens, human rights violations victims, legislators, members of the Bar and taxpayers, have no legal standing to file such petitions because they failed to show that they have suffered or will suffer direct and personal injury as a result of the interment of Marcos at the LNMB.

Taxpayers have been allowed to sue where there is a claim that public funds are illegally disbursed or that public money is being deflected to any improper purpose, or that public funds are wasted through the enforcement of an invalid or unconstitutional law. In this case, what is essentially being assailed is the wisdom behind the decision of the President to proceed with the interment of Marcos at the LNMB. As taxpayers, petitioners merely claim illegal disbursement of public funds, without showing that Marcos is disqualified to be interred at the LNMB by either express or implied provision of the Constitution, the laws or jurisprudence.

As concerned citizens, petitioners are also required to substantiate that the issues raised are of transcendental importance, of overreaching significance to society, or of paramount public interest.

Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

Under the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies, before a party is allowed to seek the intervention of the court, one should have availed first of all the means of administrative processes available. If resort to a remedy within the administrative machinery can still be made by giving the administrative officer concerned every opportunity to decide on a matter that comes within his jurisdiction, then such remedy should be exhausted first before the court’s judicial power can be sought.

For reasons of comity and convenience, courts of justice shy away from a dispute until the system of administrative redress has been completed and complied with, so as to give the administrative agency concerned every opportunity to correct its error and dispose of the case.

While there are exceptions to the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies, petitioners failed to prove the presence of any of those exceptions.

Hierarchy of Courts

In the same vein, while direct resort to the Court through petitions for the extraordinary writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus are allowed under exceptional cases, which are lacking in this case, petitioners cannot simply brush aside the doctrine of hierarchy of courts that requires such petitions to be filed first with the proper RTC. The RTC is not just a trier of facts, but can also resolve questions of law in the exercise of its original and concurrent jurisdiction over petitions for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, and has the power to issue restraining order and injunction when proven necessary.

Constitutionality

The President’s decision to bury Marcos at the LNMB is in accordance with the Constitution, the law or jurisprudence.

Petitioners argue that the burial of Marcos at the LNMB should not be allowed because it has the effect of not just rewriting history as to the Filipino people’s act of revolting against an authoritarian ruler but also condoning the abuses committed during the Martial Law, thereby violating the letter and spirit of the 1987 Constitution, which is a “post-dictatorship charter” and a “human rights constitution.” For them, the ratification of the Constitution serves as a clear condemnation of Marcos’ alleged “heroism.” To support their case, petitioners invoke Sections 2, 11, 13, 23, 26, 27 and 28 of Article II, Sec. 17 of Art. VII, Sec. 3(2) of Art. XIV, Sec. 1 of Art. XI, and Sec. 26 of Art. XVII of the Constitution.

There is no merit to the contention.

As the OSG logically reasoned out, while the Constitution is a product of our collective history as a people, its entirety should not be interpreted as providing guiding principles to just about anything remotely related to the Martial Law period such as the proposed Marcos burial at the LNMB.

Tañada v. Angara already ruled that the provisions in Article II of the Constitution are not self-executing. Thus:

By its very title, Article II of the Constitution is a “declaration of principles and state policies.” The counterpart of this article in the 1935 Constitution is called the “basic political creed of the nation” by Dean Vicente Sinco. These principles in Article II are not intended to be self-executing principles ready for enforcement through the courts. They are used by the judiciary as aids or as guides in the exercise of its power of judicial review, and by the legislature in its enactment of laws.

As held in the leading case of Kilosbayan, Incorporated vs. Morato, the principles and state policies enumerated in Article II x x x are not “self-executing provisions, the disregard of which can give rise to a cause of action in the courts. They do not embody judicially enforceable constitutional rights but guidelines for legislation.”

xxx

The petitions must be dismissed.

1 thought on “Ocampo v. Enriquez G.R. No. 225973, November 08, 2016 Actual Case or Controversy, Locus Standi, Hierarchy of Courts, Doctrine of Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies, with former C.J. Sereno’s Dissenting Opinion

  1. DISSENTING OPINION
    Former C.J. Sereno
    The 1987 Constitution is the embodiment of the Filipino nations’ enduring values, which this Court must zealously protect.

    Countless times, this Court has said in so many words that the 1987 Constitution embodies the Filipinos’ enduring values. The protection of those values has consequently become the duty of the Court. That this is the legal standard by which to measure whether it has properly comported itself in its constitutional role has been declared in various fashions by the Court itself.

    See, for example, how this Court articulated its duty to protect the environment, women, children, labor, the indigenous people, and consistently, those who have been or are in danger of being deprived of their human rights.

    Note the power that the Constitution vests in the Court to actively promulgate rules for the protection of human rights, and how the Court in turn described this duty when it promulgated the writs of kalikasan, habeas data, and amparo.

    Any conclusion in this case that betrays a lack of enthusiasm on the part of this Court to protect the cherished values of the Constitution would be a judicial calamity. That the Judiciary is designed to be passive relative to the “active” nature of the political departments is a given. But when called upon to discharge its relatively passive role, the post-1986 Supreme Court has shown zealousness in the protection of constitutional rights, a zealousness that has been its hallmark from then up to now. It cannot, in the year 2016, be reticent in asserting this brand of protective activism.

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