Political Law

Sandoval Notes – Political Law Part III Executive Department – Powers of the President

  1. Ma. Evelyn S. Abeja was a municipal mayor. She ran for reelection but lost. Before she vacated her office, though, she extended permanent appointments to fourteen new employees of the municipal government. The incoming mayor, upon assuming office, recalled said appointments contending that these were “midnight appointments” and, therefore, prohibited under Sec. 15, Art. VII of the 1987 Constitution. Should the act of the new mayor of recalling said appointments on the aforestated ground be sustained?

 

Held: The records reveal that when the petitioner brought the matter of recalling the appointments of the fourteen (14) private respondents before the CSC, the only reason he cited to justify his action was that these were “midnight appointments” that are forbidden under Article VII, Section 15 of the Constitution. However, the CSC ruled, and correctly so, that the said prohibition applies only to presidential appointments. In truth and in fact, there is no law that prohibits local elective officials from making appointments during the last days of his or her tenure. (De Rama v. Court of Appeals (353 SCRA 94, Feb. 28, 2001, En Banc [Ynares-Santiago])

 

 

  1. Distinguish the President’s power to call out the armed forces as their Commander-in-Chief in order to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion, from his power to proclaim martial and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Explain why the former is not subject to judicial review while the latter two are.

 

Held: There is a clear textual commitment under the Constitution to bestow on the President full discretionary power to call out the armed forces and to determine the necessity for the exercise of such power. Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution, which embodies the powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief, provides in part:

 

The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.

 

The full discretionary power of the President to determine the factual basis for the   exercise of the calling out power is also implied and further reinforced in the rest of Section 18, Article VII x x x.

 

Under the foregoing provisions, Congress may revoke such proclamations (of martial law) or suspension (of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus) and the Court may review the sufficiency of the factual basis thereof. However, there is no such equivalent provision dealing with the revocation or review of the President’s action to call out the armed forces. The distinction places the calling out power in a different category from the power to declare martial law and the power to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, otherwise, the framers of the Constitution would have simply lumped together the three powers and provided for their revocation and review without any qualification. Expressio unios est exclusio alterius. X x x. That the intent of the Constitution is exactly what its letter says, i.e., that the power to call is fully discretionary to the President, is extant in the deliberation of the Constitutional Commission x x x.

 

The reason for the difference in the treatment of the aforementioned powers highlights the intent to grant the President the widest leeway and broadest discretion in using the power to call out because it is considered as the lesser and more benign power compared to the power to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and the power to impose martial law, both of which involve the curtailment and suppression of certain basic civil rights and individual freedoms, and thus necessitating safeguards by Congress and review by this Court.

 

Moreover, under Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution, in the exercise of the power to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or to impose martial law, two conditions must concur: (1) there must be an actual invasion or rebellion and, (2) public safety must require it. These conditions are not required in the case of the power to call out the armed forces. The only criterion is that “whenever it becomes necessary,” the President may call the armed forces “to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.” The implication is that the President is given full discretion and wide latitude in the exercise of the power to call as compared to the two other powers.

 

If the petitioner fails, by way of proof, to support the assertion that the President acted without factual basis, then this Court cannot undertake an independent investigation beyond the pleadings. The factual necessity of calling out the armed forces is not easily quantifiable and cannot be objectively established since matters considered for satisfying the same is a combination of several factors which are not always accessible to the courts. Besides the absence of textual standards that the court may use to judge necessity, information necessary to arrive at such judgment might also prove unmanageable for the courts. Certain pertinent information might be difficult to verify, or wholly unavailable to the courts. In many instances, the evidence upon which the President might decide that there is a need to call out the armed forces may be of a nature not constituting technical proof.

 

On the other hand, the President as Commander-in-Chief has a vast intelligence network to gather information, some of which may be classified as highly confidential or affecting the security of the state. In the exercise of the power to call, on-the-spot decisions may be imperatively necessary in emergency situations to avert great loss of human lives and mass destruction of property. Indeed, the decision to call out the military to prevent or suppress lawless violence must be done swiftly and decisively if it were to have any effect at all. Such a scenario is not farfetched when we consider the present situation in Mindanao, where the insurgency problem could spill over the other parts of the country. The determination of the necessity for the calling out power if subjected to unfettered judicial scrutiny could be a veritable prescription for disaster, as such power may be unduly straitjacketed by an injunction or a temporary restraining order every time it is exercised.

 

Thus, it is the unclouded intent of the Constitution to vest upon the President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, full discretion to call forth the military when in his judgment it is necessary to do so in order to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. Unless the petitioner can show that the exercise of such discretion was gravely abused, the President’s exercise of judgment deserves to be accorded respect from this Court. (Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Hon. Ronaldo B. Zamora, G.R. No. 141284, Aug. 15, 2000, En Banc [Kapunan])

 

  1. By issuing a TRO on the date convicted rapist Leo Echegaray is to be executed by lethal injection, the Supreme Court was criticized on the ground, among others, that it encroached on the power of the President to grant reprieve under Section 19, Article VII, 1987 Constitution. Justify the SC’s act.

 

Held: Section 19, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution is simply the source of power of the President to grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons and remit fines and forfeitures after conviction by final judgment. This provision, however, cannot be interpreted as denying the power of courts to control the enforcement of their decisions after the finality. In truth, an accused who has been convicted by final judgment still possesses collateral rights and these rights can be claimed in the appropriate courts. For instance, a death convict who becomes insane after his final conviction cannot be executed while in a state of insanity (See Article 79 of the Revised Penal Code). The suspension of such a death sentence is undisputably an exercise of judicial power. It is not usurpation of the presidential power of reprieve though its effect is the same – the temporary suspension of the execution of the death convict. In the same vein, it cannot be denied that Congress can at any time amend R.A. No. 7659 by reducing the penalty of death to life imprisonment. The effect of such an amendment is like that of commutation of sentence. But by no stretch of the imagination can the exercise by Congress of its plenary power to amend laws be considered as a violation of the President’s power to commute final sentences of conviction. The powers of the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary to save the life of a death convict do not exclude each other for the simple reason that there is no higher right than the right to life. (Echegaray v. Secretary of Justice, 301 SCRA 96, Jan. 19, 1999, En Banc [Puno])

 

  1. Discuss the nature of a conditional pardon. Is its grant or revocation by the President subject to judicial review?

 

Held: A conditional pardon is in the nature of a contract between the sovereign power or the Chief Executive and the convicted criminal to the effect that the former will release the latter subject to the condition that if he does not comply with the terms of the pardon, he will be recommitted to prison to serve the unexpired portion of the sentence or an additional one (Alvarez v. Director of Prisons, 80 Phil. 50). By the pardonee’s consent to the terms stipulated in this contract, the pardonee has thereby placed himself under the supervision of the Chief Executive or his delegate who is duty-bound to see to it that the pardonee complies with the terms and conditions of the pardon. Under Section 64(i) of the Revised Administrative Code, the Chief Executive is authorized to order “the arrest and re-incarceration of any such person who, in his judgment, shall fail to comply with the condition, or conditions of his pardon, parole, or suspension of sentence.” It is now a well-entrenched rule in this jurisdiction that this exercise of presidential judgment is beyond judicial scrutiny. The determination of the violation of the conditional pardon rests exclusively in the sound judgment of the Chief Executive, and the pardonee, having consented to place his liberty on conditional pardon upon the judgment of the power that has granted it, cannot invoke the aid of the courts, however erroneous the findings may be upon which his recommitment was ordered.

 

It matters not that the pardonee has allegedly been acquitted in two of the three criminal cases filed against him subsequent to his conditional pardon, and that the third remains pending for thirteen (13) years in apparent violation of his right to a speedy trial.

 

Ultimately, solely vested in the Chief Executive, who in the first place was the exclusive author of the conditional pardon and of its revocation, is the corollary prerogative to reinstate the pardon if in his own judgment, the acquittal of the pardonee from the subsequent charges filed against him, warrants the same. Courts have no authority to interfere with the grant by the President of a pardon to a convicted criminal. It has been our fortified ruling that a final judicial pronouncement as to the guilt of a pardonee is not a requirement for the President to determine whether or not there has been a breach of the terms of a conditional pardon. There is likewise nil a basis for the courts to effectuate the reinstatement of a conditional pardon revoked by the President in the exercise of powers undisputably solely and absolutely in his office. (In Re: Wilfredo Sumulong Torres, 251 SCRA 709, Dec. 29, 1995 [Hermosisima])

 

  1. Who has the power to ratify a treaty?

 

Held: In our jurisdiction, the power to ratify is vested in the President and not, as commonly believed, in the legislature. The role of the Senate is limited only to giving or withholding its consent, or concurrence, to the ratification. (BAYAN [Bagong Alyansang Makabayan] v. Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, G.R. No. 138570, Oct. 10, 2000, En Banc [Buena])

 

  1. What is the power of impoundment of the President? What are its principal sources?

 

Held: Impoundment refers to the refusal of the President, for whatever reason, to spend funds made available by Congress. It is the failure to spend or obligate budget authority of any type.

 

Proponents of impoundment have invoked at least three principal sources of the authority of the President. Foremost is the authority to impound given to him either expressly or impliedly by Congress. Second is the executive power drawn from the President’s role as Commander-in-Chief. Third is the Faithful Execution Clause.

 

The proponents insist that a faithful execution of the laws requires that the President desist from implementing the law if doing so would prejudice public interest. An example given is when through efficient and prudent management of a project, substantial savings are made. In such a case, it is sheer folly to expect the President to spend the entire amount budgeted in the law. (PHILCONSA v. Enriquez, 235 SCRA 506, Aug. 9, 1994 [Quiason])

 

  1. Distinguish the President’s power of general supervision over local governments from his control power.

 

            Held: On many occasions in the past, this Court has had the opportunity to distinguish the power of supervision from the power of control. In Taule v. Santos (200 SCRA 512 [1991]), we held that the Chief Executive wielded no more authority than that of checking whether a local government or the officers thereof perform their duties as provided by statutory enactments. He cannot interfere with local governments provided that the same or its officers act within the scope of their authority. Supervisory power, when contrasted with control, is the power of mere oversight over an inferior body; it does not include any restraining authority over such body (Ibid.). Officers in control lay down the rules in the doing of an act. If they are not followed, it is discretionary on his part to order the act undone or redone by his subordinate or he may even decide to do it himself. Supervision does not cover such authority. Supervising officers merely see to it that the rules are followed, but he himself does not lay down such rules, nor does he have the discretion to modify or replace them. If the rules are not observed, he may order the work done or re-done to conform to the prescribed rules. He cannot prescribe his own manner for the doing of the act (Drilon v. Lim, supra, 142). (Bito-Onon v. Fernandez, 350 SCRA 732, Jan. 31, 2001, 3rd Div. [Gonzaga-Reyes])

 

  1. Is the absence of a recommendation of the Secretary of Justice to the President fatal to the appointment of respondent as prosecutor?

 

Held: This question would x x x pivot on the proper understanding of the provision of the Revised Administrative Code of 1987 (Book IV, Title III, Chapter II, Section 9) to the effect that –

 

“All provincial and city prosecutors and their assistants shall be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Secretary.”

 

Petitioners contend that an appointment of a provincial prosecutor mandatorily requires a prior recommendation of the Secretary of Justice endorsing the intended appointment citing, by analogy, the case of San Juan v. CSC (196 SCRA 69) x x x.

 

When the Constitution or the law clothes the President with the power to appoint a subordinate officer, such conferment must be understood as necessarily carrying with it an ample discretion of whom to appoint. It should be here pertinent to state that the President is the head of government whose authority includes the power of control over all “executive departments, bureaus and offices.” Control means the authority of an empowered officer to alter or modify, or even nullify or set aside, what a subordinate officer has done in the performance of his duties, as well as to substitute the judgment of the latter, as and when the former deems it to be appropriate. Expressed in another way, the President has the power to assume directly the functions of an executive department, bureau and office. It can accordingly be inferred therefrom that the President can interfere in the exercise of discretion of officials under him or altogether ignore their recommendations.

 

It is the considered view of the Court, given the above disquisition, that the phrase “upon recommendation of the Secretary,” found in Section 9, Chapter II, Title III, Book IV, of the Revised Administrative Code, should be interpreted, as it is normally so understood, to be a mere advise, exhortation or indorsement, which is essentially persuasive in character and not binding or obligatory upon the party to whom it is made. The recommendation is here nothing really more than advisory in nature. The President, being the head of the Executive Department, could very well disregard or do away with the action of the departments, bureaus or offices even in the exercise of discretionary authority, and in so opting, he cannot be said as having acted beyond the scope of his authority.

 

The doctrine in San Juan, relied upon by petitioners, is tangential. While the tenor of the legal provision in Executive Order No. 112 has some similarity with the provision in the 1987 Administrative Code in question, it is to be pointed out, however, that San Juan (196 SCRA 69), in construing the law, has distinctively given stress to the constitutional mandate on local autonomy; x x x. The Court there has explained that the President merely exercises general supervision over local government units and local officials (Section 4, Article X, Constitution); hence, in the appointment of a Provincial Budget Officer, the executive department, through the Secretary of Budget and Management, indeed had to share the questioned power with the local government.

 

In the instant case, the recommendation of the Secretary of Justice and the appointment of the President are acts of the Executive Department itself, and there is no sharing of power to speak of, the latter being deemed for all intents and purposes as being merely an extension of the personality of the President. (Bermudez v. Executive Secretary Ruben Torres, G.R. No. 131429, Aug. 4, 1999, 3rd Div. [Vitug])

 

  1. Discuss the three distinct powers of the President under Section 18, Art. VII of the 1987 Constitution. Are they subject to judicial review, or are they political questions?

 

Ans.: There are three distinct powers of the President under Sec. 18, Art. VII of the Constitution, to wit: 1) her calling out power, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; 2) her martial law power; and 3) her power to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

 

Her martial law power and her power to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus are subject to judicial review as expressly provided under Sec. 18, Art. VII of the 1987 Constitution because these two are the greater powers, compared with her calling out power, as they involve the curtailment and suppression of certain basic civil rights and individual freedoms (IBP v. Zamora, G.R. No. 141284, Aug. 15, 2000, En Banc [Kapunan]).

 

Her calling out power is a political question and not subject to judicial power as this is the lesser and more benign of the three powers under Sec. 18, Art. VII of the 1987 Constitution (IBP v. Zamora, G.R. No. 141284, Aug. 15, 2000, En Banc [Kapunan]). It is a question in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated by the Constitution to the President, as their Commander-in-Chief, to call out the armed forces whenever she deems it necessary in order to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, or rebellion. To subject such calling out power to unfettered judicial scrutiny could be a veritable prescription for disaster as such power may be unduly straitjacketed by an injunction or a TRO every time it is exercised.

 

Unless it can be shown that the exercise of such discretion to call out the armed forces was gravely abused, the President’s exercise of judgment deserves to be accorded respect from the Court. And the burden to show that the President gravely abused her discretion in calling out the armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, or rebellion, lies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.