Constitutional Law, Political Law

Salonga v. Cruz-Pano G.R. No. L-59524 February 18, 1985 Symbolic Function of the Supreme Court

FACTS:

A rash of bombings occurred in the Metro Manila area in the months of August, September and October of 1980.

On September 6, 1980, an explosion in his room at the YMCA building in Manila led to the arrest of the injured Victor Burns Lovely, Jr., an American citizen. 

Found in Lovely’s possession were several pictures taken at the birthday party of former Congressman Raul Daza held at the latter’s residence in a Los Angeles suburb. 

Petitioner Jovito R. Salonga and his wife were among those whose likenesses appeared in the group pictures together with other guests, including Lovely.

Mr. Lovely and his two brothers, Romeo and Baltazar were charged with subversion, illegal possession of explosives, and damage to property.

Several bombs have again exploded, including one at Rustan’s Supermarket in Makati, also at three big hotels in Metro Manila.

On October 19, 1980, minutes after the President had finished delivering his speech at the PICC, a small bomb exploded. 

Within the next twenty-four hours, arrest, search, and seizure orders (ASSOs) were issued against persons who were apparently implicated by Victor Lovely in the series of bombings in Metro Manila. One of them was herein petitioner. 

Victor Lovely offered himself to be a “state witness” and in his letter to the President, he stated that he will reveal everything he knows about the bombings.

Petitioner was placed under custody and detention of the law enforcers. He was then transferred to an isolation room without windows in an army prison camp at Fort Bonifacio, and was later placed on house arrest for humanitarian consideration.

The counsel for petitioner filed a motion to dismiss the charges against petitioner for failure of the prosecution to establish a prima facie case against him.

On December 2, 1981, the respondent judge denied the motion. 

On January 4, 1982, he issued a resolution ordering the filing of an information for violation of the Revised Anti-Subversion Act, as amended, against forty (40) people, including herein petitioner.

The aforementioned resolutions of the respondent judge are now the subject of the petition.

ISSUE:

Discuss the symbolic function of the  Supreme Court.

RULING:

On January 18, 1985, respondent Judge Rodolfo Ortiz granted the motion of respondent City Fiscal Sergio Apostol to drop the subversion case against the petitioner.

The petition is DISMISSED for having become moot and academic.

Recent developments in this case serve to focus attention on a not too well known aspect of the Supreme Court’s functions.

The setting aside or declaring void, in proper cases, of intrusions of State authority into areas reserved by the Bill of Rights for the individual as constitutionally protected spheres where even the awesome powers of Government may not enter at will is not the totality of the Court’s functions.

The Court also has the duty to formulate guiding and controlling constitutional principles, precepts, doctrines, or rules. It has the symbolic function of educating the bench and bar on the extent of protection given by constitutional guarantees.

In the habeas corpus case of Aquino, Jr., v. Enrile, 59 SCRA 183), during the pendency of the case, 26 petitioners were released from custody and one withdrew his petition. The sole remaining petitioner was facing charges of murder, subversion, and illegal possession of firearms. The fact that the petition was moot and academic did not prevent this Court in the exercise of its symbolic function from promulgating one of the most voluminous decisions ever printed in the Reports.

In this case, the respondents agree with our earlier finding that the prosecution evidence miserably fails to establish a prima facie case against the petitioner, either as a co-conspirator of a destabilization plan to overthrow the government or as an officer or leader of any subversive organization. They have taken the initiative of dropping the charges against the petitioner. We reiterate the rule, however, that this Court will not validate the filing of an information based on the kind of evidence against the petitioner found in the records.

In dela Camara v. Enage (41 SCRA 1), the petitioner who questioned a P1,195,200.00 bail bond as excessive and, therefore, constitutionally void, escaped from the provincial jail while his petition was pending. The petition became moot because of his escape but we nonetheless rendered a decision and stated:

The fact that the case is moot and academic should not preclude this Tribunal from setting forth in language clear and unmistakable, the obligation of fidelity on the part of lower court judges to the unequivocal command of the Constitution that excessive bail shall not be required.

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