Political Law

Sandoval Notes – Political Law Part III Executive Department 1

The Executive Department


  1. What are the limitations on the veto power of the President?


Held: The act of the Executive in vetoing the particular provisions is an exercise of a constitutionally vested power. But even as the Constitution grants the power, it also provides limitations to its exercise. The veto power is not absolute.


X x x


The OSG is correct when it states that the Executive must veto a bill in its entirety or not at all. He or she cannot act like an editor crossing out specific lines, provisions, or paragraphs in a bill that he or she dislikes. In the exercise of the veto power, it is generally all or nothing. However, when it comes to appropriation, revenue or tariff bills, the Administration needs the money to run the machinery of government and it can not veto the entire bill even if it may contain objectionable features. The President is, therefore, compelled to approve into law the entire bill, including its undesirable parts. It is for this reason that the Constitution has wisely provided the “item veto power” to avoid inexpedient riders being attached to an indispensable appropriation or revenue measure.


The Constitution provides that only a particular item or items may be vetoed. The power to disapprove any item or items in an appropriate bill does not grant the authority to veto a part of an item and to approve the remaining portion of the same item. (Gonzales v. Macaraig, Jr., 191 SCRA 452, 464 [1990]) (Bengzon v. Drilon, 208 SCRA 133, 143-145, April 15, 1992, En Banc [Gutierrez])


  1. Distinguish an “item” from a “provision” in relation to the veto power of the President.


Held: The terms item and provision in budgetary legislation and practice are concededly different. An item in a bill refers to the particulars, the details, the distinct and severable parts x x x of the bill (Bengzon, supra, at 916). It is an indivisible sum of money dedicated to a stated purpose (Commonwealth v. Dodson, 11 S.E., 2d 120, 124, 125, etc., 176 Va. 281). The United States Supreme Court, in the case of Bengzon v. Secretary of Justice (299 U.S. 410, 414, 57 Ct 252, 81 L. Ed., 312) declared “that an item” of an appropriation bill obviously means an item which in itself is a specific appropriation of money, not some general provision of law, which happens to be put into an appropriation bill. (Bengzon v. Drilon, 208 SCRA 133, 143-145, April 15, 1992, En Banc [Gutierrez])


  1. May the President veto a law? May she veto a decision of the SC which has long become final and executory?


Held: We need no lengthy justifications or citations of authorities to declare that no President may veto the provisions of a law enacted thirty-five (35) years before his or her term of office. Neither may the President set aside or reverse a final and executory judgment of this Court through the exercise of the veto power. (Bengzon v. Drilon, 208 SCRA 133, 143-145, April 15, 1992, En Banc [Gutierrez])


  1. Did former President Estrada resign as President or should be considered resigned as of January 20, 2001 when President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took her oath as the 14th President of the Republic?


Held: Resignation x x x is a factual question and its elements are beyond quibble: there must be an intent to resign and the intent must be coupled by acts of relinquishment. The validity of a resignation is not governed by any formal requirement as to form. It can be oral. It can be written. It can be express. It can be implied. As long as the resignation is clear, it must be given legal effect.


In the cases at bar, the facts show that petitioner did not write any formal letter of resignation before he evacuated Malacanang Palace in the afternoon of January 20, 2001 after the oath-taking of respondent Arroyo. Consequently, whether or not petitioner resigned has to be determined from his acts and omissions before, during and after January 20, 2001 or by the totality of prior, contemporaneous and posterior facts and circumstantial evidence bearing a material relevance on the issue.


Using this totality test, we hold that petitioner resigned as President.


X x x


In sum, we hold that the resignation of the petitioner cannot be doubted. It was confirmed by his leaving Malacanang. In the press release containing his final statement, (1) he acknowledged the oath-taking of the respondent as President of the Republic albeit with reservation about its legality; (2) he emphasized he was leaving the Palace, the seat of the presidency, for the sake of peace and in order to begin the healing process of our nation. He did not say he was leaving the Palace due to any kind of inability and that he was going to re-assume the presidency as soon as the disability disappears; (3) he expressed his gratitude to the people for the opportunity to serve them. Without doubt, he was referring to the past opportunity given him to serve the people as President; (4) he assured that he will not shirk from any future challenge that may come ahead on the same service of our country. Petitioner’s reference is to a future challenge after occupying the office of the president which he has given up; and (5) he called on his supporters to join him in the promotion of a constructive national spirit of reconciliation and solidarity. Certainly, the national spirit of reconciliation and solidarity could not be attained if he did not give up the presidency. The press release was petitioner’s valedictory, his final act of farewell. His presidency is now in the past tense. (Estrada v. Desierto, G.R. Nos. 146710-15, March 2, 2001, en Banc [Puno])


  1. Discuss our legal history on executive immunity.


Held: The doctrine of executive immunity in this jurisdiction emerged as a case law.   In the 1910 case of Forbes, etc. v. Chuoco Tiaco and Crossfield (16 Phil. 534 [1910]), the respondent Tiaco, a Chinese citizen, sued petitioner W. Cameron Forbes, Governor-General of the Philippine Islands, J.E. Harding and C.R. Trowbridge, Chief of Police and Chief of the Secret Service of the City of Manila, respectively, for damages for allegedly conspiring to deport him to China. In granting a writ of prohibition, this Court, speaking thru Mr. Justice Johnson, held:


“The principle of nonliability x x x does not mean that the judiciary has no authority to touch the acts of the Governor-General; that he may, under cover of his office, do what he will, unimpeded and unrestrained. Such a construction would mean that tyranny, under the guise of the execution of the law, could walk defiantly abroad, destroying rights of person and of property, wholly free from interference of courts or legislatures. This does not mean, either, that a person injured by the executive authority by an act unjustifiable under the law has no remedy, but must submit in silence. On the contrary, it means, simply, that the Governor-General, like the judges of the courts and the members of the Legislature, may not be personally mulcted in civil damages for the consequences of an act executed in the performance of his official duties. The judiciary has full power to, and will, when the matter is properly presented to it and the occasion justly warrants it, declare an act of the Governor-General illegal and void and place as nearly as possible in status quo any person who has been deprived his liberty or his property by such act. This remedy is assured to every person, however humble or of whatever country, when his personal or property rights have been invaded, even by the highest authority of the state. The thing which the judiciary can not do is mulct the Governor-General personally in damages which result from the performance of his official duty, any more than it can a member of the Philippine Commission or the Philippine Assembly. Public policy forbids it.


Neither does this principle of nonliability mean that the chief executive may not be personally sued at all in relation to acts which he claims to perform as such official. On the contrary, it clearly appears from the discussion heretofore had, particularly that portion which touched the liability of judges and drew an analogy between such liability and that of the Governor-General, that the latter is liable when he acts in a case so plainly outside of his power and authority that he can not be said to have exercised discretion in determining whether or not he had the right to act. What is held here is that he will be protected from personal liability for damages not only when he acts within his authority, but also when he is without authority, provided he actually used discretion and judgment, that is, the judicial faculty, in determining whether he had authority to act or not. In other words, he is entitled to protection in determining the question of his authority. If he decide wrongly, he is still protected provided the question of his authority was one over which two men, reasonably qualified for that position, might honestly differ; but he is not protected if the lack of authority to act is so plain that two such men could not honestly differ over its determination. In such case, he acts, not as Governor-General but as a private individual, and, as such, must answer for the consequences of his act.”


Mr. Justice Johnson underscored the consequences if the Chief Executive was not granted immunity from suit, viz: “x x x. Action upon important matters of state delayed; the time and substance of the chief executive spent in wrangling litigation; disrespect engendered for the person of one of the highest officials of the State and for the office he occupies; a tendency to unrest and disorder; resulting in a way, in a distrust as to the integrity of government itself.”


Our 1935 Constitution took effect but it did not contain any specific provision on executive immunity. Then came the tumult of the martial law years under the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos and the 1973 Constitution was born. In 1981, it was amended and one of the amendments involved executive immunity. Section 17, Article VII stated:


“The President shall be immune from suit during his tenure. Thereafter, no suit whatsoever shall lie for official acts done by him or by others pursuant to his specific orders during his tenure.


The immunities herein provided shall apply to the incumbent President referred to in Article XVII of this Constitution.”


In his second Vicente G. Sinco Professorial Chair Lecture entitled, “Presidential Immunity And All The King’s Men: The Law Of Privilege As A Defense To Actions For Damages,” (62 Phil. L.J. 113 [1987]) petitioner’s learned counsel, former Dean of the UP College of Law, Atty. Pacifico Agabin, brightened the modifications effected by this constitutional amendment on the existing law on executive privilege. To quote his disquisition:


“In the Philippines though, we sought to do the American one better by enlarging and fortifying the absolute immunity concept. First, we extended it to shield the President not only from civil claims but also from criminal cases and other claims. Second, we enlarged its scope so that it would cover even acts of the President outside the scope of official duties. And third, we broadened its coverage so as to include not only the President but also other persons, be they government officials or private individuals, who acted upon orders of the President. It can be said that at that point most of us were suffering from AIDS (or absolute immunity defense syndrome).”


The Opposition in the then Batasang Pambansa sought the repeal of this Marcosian concept of executive immunity in the 1973 Constitution. The move was led by then Member of Parliament, now Secretary of Finance, Alberto Romulo, who argued that the after incumbency immunity granted to President Marcos violated the principle that a public office is a public trust. He denounced the immunity as a return to the anachronism “the king can do no wrong.” The effort failed.


The 1973 Constitution ceased to exist when President Marcos was ousted from office by the People Power revolution in 1986. When the 1987 Constitution was crafted, its framers did not reenact the executive immunity provision of the 1973 Constitution. X x x (Estrada v. Desierto, G.R. Nos. 146710-15, March 2, 2001, en Banc [Puno])


  1. Can former President Estrada still be prosecuted criminally considering that he was not convicted in the impeachment proceedings against him?


Held: We reject his argument that he cannot be prosecuted for the reason that he must first be convicted in the impeachment proceedings. The impeachment trial of petitioner Estrada was aborted by the walkout of the prosecutors and by the events that led to his loss of the presidency. Indeed, on February 7, 2001, the Senate passed Senate Resolution No. 83 “Recognizing that the Impeachment Court is Functus Officio.” Since the Impeachment Court is now functus officio, it is untenable for petitioner to demand that he should first be impeached and then convicted before he can be prosecuted. The plea if granted, would put a perpetual bar against his prosecution. Such a submission has nothing to commend itself for it will place him in a better situation than a non-sitting President who has not been subjected to impeachment proceedings and yet can be the object of a criminal prosecution. To be sure, the debates in the Constitutional Commission make it clear that when impeachment proceedings have become moot due to the resignation of the President, the proper criminal and civil cases may already be filed against him x x x.


This is in accord with our ruling in In Re: Saturnino Bermudez (145 SCRA 160 [1986]) that “incumbent Presidents are immune from suit or from being brought to court during the period of their incumbency and tenure” but not beyond. Considering the peculiar circumstance that the impeachment process against the petitioner has been aborted and thereafter he lost the presidency, petitioner Estrada cannot demand as a condition sine qua non to his criminal prosecution before the Ombudsman that he be convicted in the impeachment proceedings. (Estrada v. Desierto, G.R. Nos. 146710-15, Mar. 2, 2001, en Banc [Puno])

  1. State the reason why not all appointments made by the President under the 1987 Constitution will no longer require confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.


Held: The aforecited provision (Section 16, Article VII) of the Constitution has been the subject of several cases on the issue of the restrictive function of the Commission on Appointments with respect to the appointing power of the President. This Court touched upon the historical antecedent of the said provision in the case of Sarmiento III v. Mison (156 SCRA 549) in which it was ratiocinated upon that Section 16 of Article VII of the 1987 Constitution requiring confirmation by the Commission on Appointments of certain appointments issued by the President contemplates a system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government. Experience showed that when almost all presidential appointments required the consent of the Commission on Appointments, as was the case under the 1935 Constitution, the commission became a venue of “horse trading” and similar malpractices. On the other hand, placing absolute power to make appointments in the President with hardly any check by the legislature, as what happened under the 1973 Constitution, leads to abuse of such power. Thus was perceived the need to establish a “middle ground” between the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions. The framers of the 1987 Constitution deemed it imperative to subject certain high positions in the government to the power of confirmation of the Commission on Appointments and to allow other positions within the exclusive appointing power of the President. (Manalo v. Sistoza, 312 SCRA 239, Aug. 11, 1999, En Banc [Purisima])


  1. Enumerate the groups of officers who are to be appointed by the President under Section 16, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, and identify those officers whose appointments shall require confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.


Held: Conformably, as consistently interpreted and ruled in the leading case of Sarmiento III v. Mison (Ibid.), and in the subsequent cases of Bautista v. Salonga (172 SCRA 160), Quintos-Deles v. Constitutional Commission (177 SCRA 259), and Calderon v. Carale (208 SCRA 254), under Section 16, Article VII, of the Constitution, there are four groups of officers of the government to be appointed by the President:


First, the heads of the executive departments, ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, officers of the armed forces from the rank of colonel or naval captain, and other officers whose appointments are vested in him in this Constitution;


Second, all other officers of the Government whose appointments are not otherwise provided for by law;


Third, those whom the President may be authorized by law to appoint;


Fourth, officers lower in rank whose appointments the Congress may by law vest in the President alone.


It is well-settled that only presidential appointees belonging to the first group require the confirmation by the Commission on Appointments. (Manalo v. Sistoza, 312 SCRA 239, Aug. 11, 1999, En Banc [Purisima])


  1. Under Republic Act 6975 (the DILG Act of 1990), the Director General, Deputy Director General, and other top officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) shall be appointed by the President and their appointments shall require confirmation by the Commission on Appointments. Respondent Sistoza was appointed Director General of the PNP but he refused to submit his appointment papers to the Commission on Appointments for confirmation contending that his appointment shall no longer require confirmation despite the express provision of the law requiring such confirmation. Should his contention be upheld?


Held: It is well-settled that only presidential appointees belonging to the first group (enumerated under the first sentence of Section 16, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution) require the confirmation by the Commission on Appointments. The appointments of respondent officers who are not within the first category, need not be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments. As held in the case of Tarrosa v. Singson (232 SCRA 553), Congress cannot by law expand the power of confirmation of the Commission on Appointments and require confirmation of appointments of other government officials not mentioned in the first sentence of Section 16 of Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.


Consequently, unconstitutional are Sections 26 and 31 of Republic Act 6975 which empower the Commission on Appointments to confirm the appointments of public officials whose appointments are not required by the Constitution to be confirmed. x x x. (Manalo v. Sistoza, 312 SCRA 239, Aug. 11, 1999, En Banc [Purisima])


  1. Will it be correct to argue that since the Philippine National Police is akin to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, therefore, the appointments of police officers whose rank is equal to that of colonel or naval captain will require confirmation by the Commission on Appointments?


Held: This contention is x x x untenable. The Philippine National Police is separate and distinct from the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The Constitution, no less, sets forth the distinction. Under Section 4 of Article XVI of the 1987 Constitution,


“The Armed Forces of the Philippines shall be composed of a citizen armed force which shall undergo military training and service, as may be provided by law. It shall keep a regular force necessary for the security of the State.”


On the other hand, Section 6 of the same Article of the Constitution ordains that:


“The State shall establish and maintain one police force, which shall be national in scope and civilian in character to be administered and controlled by a national police commission. The authority of local executives over the police units in their jurisdiction shall be provided by law.”


To so distinguish the police force from the armed forces, Congress enacted Republic Act 6975 x x x.


Thereunder, the police force is different from and independent of the armed forces and the ranks in the military are not similar to those in the Philippine National Police. Thus, directors and chief superintendents of the PNP x x x do not fall under the first category of presidential appointees requiring confirmation by the Commission on Appointments. (Manalo v. Sistoza, 312 SCRA 239, Aug. 11, 1999, En Banc [Purisima])

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