Political Law

Sandoval Notes – Political Law Part IV The Judiciary

The Judicial Department


  1. What are the requisites before the Court can exercise the power of judicial review?


Held: 1. The time-tested standards for the exercise of judicial review are: (1) the existence of an appropriate case; (2) an interest personal and substantial by the party raising the constitutional question; (3) the plea that the function be exercised at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the necessity that the constitutional question be passed upon in order to decide the case (Separate Opinion, Kapunan, J., in Isagani Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, et al., G.R. No. 135385, Dec. 6, 2000, En Banc).


  1. When questions of constitutional significance are raised, the Court can exercise its power of judicial review only if the following requisites are complied with, namely: (1) the existence of an actual and appropriate case; (2) a personal and substantial interest of the party raising the constitutional question; (3) the exercise of judicial review is pleaded at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the constitutional question is the lis mota of the case. (Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Hon. Ronaldo B. Zamora, G.R. No. 141284, Aug. 15, 2000, En Banc [Kapunan])


  1. What is an “actual case or controversy”?


Held: An “actual case or controversy” means an existing case or controversy which is both ripe for resolution and susceptible of judicial determination, and that which is not conjectural or anticipatory, or that which seeks to resolve hypothetical or feigned constitutional problems. A petition raising a constitutional question does not present an “actual controversy,” unless it alleges a legal right or power. Moreover, it must show that a conflict of rights exists, for inherent in the term “controversy” is the presence of opposing views or contentions. Otherwise, the Court will be forced to resolve issues which remain unfocused because they lack such concreteness provided when a question emerges precisely framed from a clash of adversary arguments exploring every aspect of a multi-faceted situation embracing conflicting and demanding interests. The controversy must also be justiciable; that is, it must be susceptible of judicial determination. (Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Hon. Ronaldo B. Zamora, G.R. No. 141284, Aug. 15, 2000, En Banc [Kapunan])


  1. Petitioners Isagani Cruz and Cesar Europa brought a suit for prohibition and mandamus as citizens and taxpayers, assailing the constitutionality of certain provisions of Republic Act No. 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA), and its Implementing Rules and Regulations. A preliminary issue resolved by the SC was whether the petition presents an actual controversy.


Held: Courts can only decide actual controversies, not hypothetical questions or cases. The threshold issue, therefore, is whether an “appropriate case” exists for the exercise of judicial review in the present case.


X x x


In the case at bar, there exists a live controversy involving a clash of legal rights. A law has been enacted, and the Implementing Rules and Regulations approved. Money has been appropriated and the government agencies concerned have been directed to implement the statute. It cannot be successfully maintained that we should await the adverse consequences of the law in order to consider the controversy actual and ripe for judicial resolution. It is precisely the contention of the petitioners that the law, on its face, constitutes an unconstitutional abdication of State ownership over lands of the public domain and other natural resources. Moreover, when the State machinery is set into motion to implement an alleged unconstitutional statute, this Court possesses sufficient authority to resolve and prevent imminent injury and violation of the constitutional process. (Separate Opinion, Kapunan, J., in Isagani Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, et al., G.R. No. 135385, Dec. 6, 2000, En Banc)


  1. What is the meaning of “legal standing” or locus standi?


Held: “Legal standing” or locus standi has been defined as a personal and substantial interest in the case such that the party has sustained or will sustain direct injury as a result of the governmental act that is being challenged. The term “interest” means a material interest, an interest in issue affected by the decree, as distinguished from mere interest in the question involved, or a mere incidental interest. The gist of the question of standing is whether 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.” (Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Hon. Ronaldo B. Zamora, G.R. No. 141284, Aug. 15, 2000)


In addition to the existence of an actual case or controversy, a person who assails the validity of a statute must have a personal and substantial interest in the case, such that, he has sustained, or will sustain, a direct injury as a result of its enforcement. Evidently, the rights asserted by petitioners as citizens and taxpayers are held in common by all the citizens, the violation of which may result only in a “generalized grievance”. Yet, in a sense, all citizen’s and taxpayer’s suits are efforts to air generalized grievances about the conduct of government and the allocation of power. (Separate Opinion, Kapunan, J., in Isagani Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, et al., G.R. No. 135385, Dec. 6, 2000, En Banc)


  1. Asserting itself as the official organization of Filipino lawyers tasked with the bounden duty to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) filed a petition before the SC questioning the validity of the order of the President commanding the deployment and utilization of the Philippine Marines to assist the Philippine National Police (PNP) in law enforcement by joining the latter in visibility patrols around the metropolis. The Solicitor General questioned the legal standing of the IBP to file the petition? Resolve.


Held: In the case at bar, the IBP primarily anchors its standing on its alleged responsibility to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution. Apart from this declaration, however, the IBP asserts no other basis in support of its locus standi. The mere invocation by the IBP of its duty to preserve the rule of law and nothing more, while undoubtedly true, is not sufficient to clothe it with standing in this case. This is too general an interest which is shared by other groups and the whole citizenry. Based on the standards above-stated, the IBP has failed to present a specific and substantial interest in the resolution of the case. Its fundamental purpose which, under Section 2, Rule 139-A of the Rules of Court, is to elevate the standards of the law profession and to improve the administration of justice is alien to, and cannot be affected by the deployment of the Marines. x x x Moreover, the IBP x x x has not shown any specific injury which it has suffered or may suffer by virtue of the questioned governmental act. Indeed, none of its members, whom the IBP purportedly represents, has sustained any form of injury as a result of the operation of the joint visibility patrols. Neither is it alleged that any of its members has been arrested or that their civil liberties have been violated by the deployment of the Marines. What the IBP projects as injurious is the supposed “militarization” of law enforcement which might threaten Philippine democratic institutions and may cause more harm than good in the long run. Not only is the presumed “injury” not personal in character, it is likewise too vague, highly speculative and uncertain to satisfy the requirement of standing. Since petitioner has not successfully established a direct and personal injury as a consequence of the questioned act, it does not possess the personality to assail the validity of the deployment of the Marines. This Court, however, does not categorically rule that the IBP has absolutely no standing to raise constitutional issues now or in the future. The IBP must, by way of allegations and proof, satisfy this Court that it has sufficient stake to obtain judicial resolution of the controversy. (Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Hon. Ronaldo B. Zamora, G.R. No. 141284, Aug. 15, 2000, En Banc [Kapunan])


  1. Considering the lack of requisite standing of the IBP to file the petition questioning the validity of the order of the President to deploy and utilize the Philippine Marines to assist the PNP in law enforcement, may the Court still properly take cognizance of the case?


Held: Having stated the foregoing, it must be emphasized that this Court has the discretion to take cognizance of a suit which does not satisfy the requirement of legal standing when paramount interest is involved. In not a few cases, the Court has adopted a liberal attitude on the locus standi of a petitioner where the petitioner is able to craft an issue of transcendental significance to the people. Thus, when the issues raised are of paramount importance to the public, the Court may brush aside technicalities of procedure. In this case, a reading of the petition shows that the IBP has advanced constitutional issues which deserve the attention of this Court in view of their seriousness, novelty and weight as precedents. Moreover, because peace and order are under constant threat and lawless violence occurs in increasing tempo, undoubtedly aggravated by the Mindanao insurgency problem, the legal controversy raised in the petition almost certainly will not go away. It will stare us in the face again. It, therefore, behooves the Court to relax the rules on standing and to resolve the issue now, rather than later. (Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Hon. Ronaldo B. Zamora, G.R. No. 141284, Aug. 15, 2000)


  1. What are the requisites for the proper exercise of the power of judicial review? Illustrative case.


            Held: Respondents assert that the petition fails to satisfy all the four requisites before this Court may exercise its power of judicial review in constitutional cases. Out of respect for the acts of the Executive department, which is co-equal with this Court, respondents urge this Court to refrain from reviewing the constitutionality of the ad interim appointments issued by the President to Benipayo, Borra and Tuason unless all the four requisites are present. X x x


Respondents argue that the second, third and fourth requisites are absent in this case. Respondents maintain that petitioner does not have a personal and substantial interest in the case because she has not sustained a direct injury as a result of the ad interim appointments of Benipayo, Borra and Tuason and their assumption of office. Respondents point out that petitioner does not claim to be lawfully entitled to any of the positions assumed by Benipayo, Borra or Tuason. Neither does petitioner claim to be directly injured by the appointments of these three respondents.


Respondents also contend that petitioner failed to question the constitutionality of the ad interim appointments at the earliest opportunity. Petitioner filed the petition only on August 3, 2001 despite the fact that the ad interim appointments of Benipayo, Borra and Tuason were issued as early as March 22, 2001. Moreover, the petition was filed after the third time that these three respondents were issued ad interim appointments.


Respondents insist that the real issue in this case is the legality of petitioner’s reassignment from the EID to the Law Department. Consequently, the constitutionality of the ad interim appointments is not the lis mota of this case.


We are not persuaded.


Benipayo reassigned petitioner from the EID, where she was Acting Director, to the Law Department, where she was placed on detail. Respondents claim that the reassignment was “pursuant to x x x Benipayo’s authority as Chairman of the Commission on Elections, and as the Commission’s Chief Executive Officer.” Evidently, respondents’ anchor the legality of petitioner’s reassignment on Benipayo’s authority as Chairman of the COMELEC. The real issue then turns on whether or not Benipayo is the lawful Chairman of the COMELEC. Even if petitioner is only an Acting director of the EID, her reassignment is without legal basis if Benipayo is not the lawful COMELEC Chairman, an office created by the Constitution.


On the other hand, if Benipayo is the lawful COMELEC Chairman because he assumed office in accordance with the Constitution, then petitioner’s reassignment is legal and she has no cause to complain provided the reassignment is in accordance with the Civil Service Law. Clearly, petitioner has a personal and material stake in the resolution of the constitutionality of Benipayo’s assumption of office. Petitioner’s personal and substantial injury, if Benipayo is not the lawful COMELEC Chairman, clothes her with the requisite locus standi to raise the constitutional issue in this petition.


Respondents harp on petitioner’s belated act of questioning the constitutionality of the ad interim appointments of Benipayo, Borra and Tuason. Petitioner filed the instant petition only on August 3, 2001, when the first ad interim appointments were issued as early as March 22, 2001. However, it is not the date of filing of the petition that determines whether the constitutional issue was raised at the earliest opportunity. The earliest opportunity to raise a constitutional issue is to raise it in the pleadings before a competent court that can resolve the same, such that, “if it is not raised in the pleadings, it cannot be considered on appeal.” (Joaquin G. Bernas, The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: A Commentary, p. 858 [1996], citing People v. Vera, 65 Phil. 56 [1937]). Petitioner questioned the constitutionality of the ad interim appointments of Benipayo, Borra and Tuason when she filed her petition before this Court, which is the earliest opportunity for pleading the constitutional issue before a competent body. Furthermore, this Court may determine, in the exercise of sound discretion, the time when a constitutional issue may be passed upon (Ibid., citing Sotto v. Commission on Elections, 76 Phil. 516 [1946]). There is no doubt petitioner raised the constitutional issue on time.


Moreover, the legality of petitioner’s reassignment hinges on the constitutionality of Benipayo’s ad interim appointment and assumption of office. Unless the constitutionality of Benipayo’s ad interim appointment and assumption of office is resolved, the legality of petitioner’s reassignment from the EID to the Law Department cannot be determined. Clearly, the lis mota of this case is the very constitutional issue raised by petitioner.


In any event, the issue raised by petitioner is of paramount importance to the public. The legality of the directives and decisions made by the COMELEC in the conduct of the May 14, 2001 national elections may be put in doubt if the constitutional issue raised by petitioner is left unresolved. In keeping with this Court’s duty to determine whether other agencies of government have remained within the limits of the Constitution and have not abused the discretion given them, this Court may even brush aside technicalities of procedure and resolve any constitutional issue raised (Ople v. Torres, 293 SCRA 1412 [1998]; others omitted). Here the petitioner has complied with all the requisite technicalities. Moreover, public interest requires the resolution of the constitutional issue raised by petitioner. (Matibag v. Benipayo, 380 SCRA 49, April 2, 2002, En Banc [Carpio])


  1. What is the meaning of “justiciable controversy” as requisite for the proper exercise of the power of judicial review? Illustrative case.


            Held: From a reading of the records it appears to us that the petition was prematurely filed. Under the undisputed facts there is as yet no justiciable controversy for the court to resolve and the petition should have been dismissed by the appellate court on this ground.


We gather from the allegations of the petition and that of the petitioner’s memorandum that the alleged application for certificate of ancestral land claim (CALC) filed by the heirs of Carantes under the assailed DENR special orders has not been granted nor the CALC applied for, issued. The DENR is still processing the application of the heirs of Carantes for a certificate of ancestral land claim, which the DENR may or may not grant. It is evident that the adverse legal interests involved in this case are the competing claims of the petitioners and that of the heirs of Carantes to possess a common portion of a piece of land. As the undisputed facts stand there is no justiciable controversy between the petitioners and the respondents as there is no actual or imminent violation of the petitioners’ asserted right to possess the land by reason of the implementation of the questioned administrative issuance.


A justiciable controversy has been defined as, “a definite and concrete dispute touching on the legal relations of parties having adverse legal interests” (Sinco, Philippine Political Law, 1962 ed., quoting from the U.S. Declaratory Judgment Act of 1934, p. 360) which may be resolved by a court of law through the application of a law (Macasiano v. National Housing Authority, 224 SCRA 238 [1993]; Bernas, The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: A Commentary, Vol. II, 1988 ed., pp. 274-275). Courts have no judicial power to review cases involving political questions and as a rule, will desist from taking cognizance of speculative or hypothetical cases, advisory opinions and in cases that has become moot (Cruz, Philippine Political Law, 1998 ed., p. 257-259). Subject to certain well-defined exceptions (Solicitor-General v. MMA, December 11, 1991, 204 SCRA 837; Dumlao v. Comelec, 95 SCRA 392 [1980]) courts will not touch an issue involving the validity of a law unless there has been a governmental act accomplished or performed that has a direct adverse effect on the legal right of the person contesting its validity (Tan v. Macapagal, 43 SCRA 678 [1972]). In the case of PACU v. Secretary of Education (97 Phil. 806 [1955]) the petition contesting the validity of a regulation issued by the Secretary of Education requiring private schools to secure a permit to operate was dismissed on the ground that all the petitioners have permits and are actually operating under the same. The petitioners questioned the regulation because of the possibility that the permit might be denied them in the future. This Court held that there was no justiciable controversy because the petitioners suffered no wrong by the implementation of the questioned regulation and therefore, they are not entitled to relief. A mere apprehension that the Secretary of Education will withdraw the permit does not amount to justiciable controversy. The questioned regulation in the PACU case may be questioned by a private school whose permit to operate has been revoked or one whose application therefore has been denied (Bernas, supra.).


This Court cannot rule on the basis of petitioners’ speculation that the DENR will approve the application of the heirs of Carantes. There must be an actual governmental act which directly causes or will imminently cause injury to the alleged legal right of the petitioner to possess the land before the jurisdiction of this Court may be invoked. There is no showing that the petitioners were being evicted from the land by the heirs of Carantes under orders from the DENR. The petitioners’ allegation that certain documents from the DENR were shown to them by the heirs of Carantes to justify eviction is vague, and it would appear that the petitioners did not verify if indeed the respondent DENR or its officers authorized the attempted eviction. Suffice it to say that by the petitioners’ own admission that the respondents are still processing and have not approved the application of the heirs of Carantes, the petitioners alleged right to possess the land is not violated nor is in imminent danger of being violated, as the DENR may or may not approve Carantes’ application. Until such time, the petitioners are simply speculating that they might be evicted from the premises at some future time. Borrowing from the pronouncements of this Court in the PACU case, “They (the petitioners) have suffered no wrong under the terms of the law – and, naturally need no relief in the form they now seek to obtain.” (PACU, supra, at p. 810) If indeed the heirs of Carantes are trying to enter the land and disturbing the petitioners’ possession thereof even without prior approval by the DENR of the claim of the heirs of Carantes, the case is simply one of forcible entry. (Cutaran v. DENR, 350 SCRA 697, Jan. 31, 2001, 3rd Div. [Gonzaga-Reyes])


  1. Should the Court still resolve the case despite that the issue has already become moot and academic? Exception.


Held: Neither do we agree that merely because a plebiscite had already been held in the case of the proposed Barangay Napico, the petition of the Municipality of Cainta has already been rendered moot and academic. The issue raised by the Municipality of Cainta in its petition before the COMELEC against the holding of the plebiscite for the creation of Barangay Napico are still pending determination before the Antipolo Regional Trial Court.


In Tan v. Commission on Elections (G.R. No. 73155, 142 SCRA 727, 741-742 [1986]), we struck down the moot and academic argument as follows –


“Considering that the legality of the plebiscite itself is challenged for non-compliance with constitutional requisites, the fact that such plebiscite had been held and a new province proclaimed and its officials appointed, the case before Us cannot truly be viewed as already moot and academic. Continuation of the existence of this newly proclaimed province which petitioners strongly profess to have been illegally born, deserves to be inquired into by this Tribunal so that, if indeed, illegality attaches to its creation, the commission of that error should not provide the very excuse for perpetration of such wrong. For this Court to yield to the respondents’ urging that, as there has been fait accompli, then this Court should passively accept and accede to the prevailing situation is an unacceptable suggestion. Dismissal of the instant petition, as respondents so propose is a proposition fraught with mischief. Respondents’ submission will create a dangerous precedent. Should this Court decline now to perform its duty of interpreting and indicating what the law is and should be, this might tempt again those who strut about in the corridors of power to recklessly and with ulterior motives, create, merge, divide and/or alter the boundaries of political subdivisions, either brazenly or stealthily, confident that this Court will abstain from entertaining future challenges to their acts if they manage to bring about a fait accompli.

(City of Pasig v. COMELEC, 314 SCRA 179, Sept. 10, 1999, En Banc [Ynares-Santiago])


  1. On May 1, 2001, President Macapagal-Arroyo, faced by an “angry and violent mob armed with explosives, firearms, bladed weapons, clubs, stones and other deadly weapons” assaulting and attempting to break into Malacanang, issued Proclamation No. 38 declaring that there was a state of rebellion in the National Capital Region. She likewise issued General Order No. 1 directing the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to suppress the rebellion in the National Capital Region. Warrantless arrests of several alleged leaders and promoters of the “rebellion” were thereafter effected. Hence, several petitions were filed before the SC assailing the declaration of State of Rebellion by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the warrantless arrests allegedly effected by virtue thereof.


Held: All the foregoing petitions assail the declaration of state of rebellion by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the warrantless arrests allegedly effected by virtue thereof, as having no basis both in fact and in law. Significantly, on May 6, 2001, President Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the lifting of the declaration of a “state of rebellion” in Metro Manila. Accordingly, the instant petitions have been rendered moot and academic. As to petitioners’ claim that the proclamation of a “state of rebellion” is being used by the authorities to justify warrantless arrests, the Secretary of Justice denies that it has issued a particular order to arrest specific persons in connection with the “rebellion.” He states that what is extant are general instructions to law enforcement officers and military agencies to implement Proclamation No. 38. x x x With this declaration, petitioners’ apprehensions as to warrantless arrests should be laid to rest.   (Lacson v. Perez, 357 SCRA 756, May 10, 2001, En Banc [Melo])


  1. When is an action considered “moot”? May the court still resolve the case once it has become moot and academic?


Held: 1. It is alleged by respondent that, with respect to the PCCR [Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reform], this case has become moot and academic. We agree.


An action is considered “moot” when it no longer presents a justiciable controversy because the issues involved have become academic or dead. Under E.O. No. 43, the PCCR was instructed to complete its task on or before June 30, 1999. However, on February 19, 1999, the President issued Executive Order No. 70 (E.O. No. 70), which extended the time frame for the completion of the commission’s work x x x. The PCCR submitted its recommendations to the President on December 20, 1999 and was dissolved by the President on the same day. It had likewise spent the funds allocated to it. Thus, the PCCR has ceased to exist, having lost its raison d’être. Subsequent events have overtaken the petition and the Court has nothing left to resolve.


The staleness of the issue before us is made more manifest by the impossibility of granting the relief prayed for by petitioner. Basically, petitioner asks this Court to enjoin the PCCR from acting as such. Clearly, prohibition is an inappropriate remedy since the body sought to be enjoined no longer exists. It is well-established that prohibition is a preventive remedy and does not lie to restrain an act that is already fait accompli. At this point, any ruling regarding the PCCR would simply be in the nature of an advisory opinion, which is definitely beyond the permissible scope of judicial power. (Gonzales v. Narvasa, 337 SCRA 733, Aug. 14, 2000, En Banc [Gonzaga-Reyes])


  1. The petition which was filed by private respondents before the trial court sought the issuance of a writ of mandamus, to command petitioners to admit them for enrolment. Taking into account the admission of private respondents that they have finished their Nursing course at the Lanting College of Nursing even before the promulgation of the questioned decision, this case has clearly been overtaken by events and should therefore be dismissed. However, the case of Eastern Broadcasting Corporation (DYRE) v. Dans, etc., et al., G.R. No. 59329, July 19, 1985, 137 SCRA 628 is the authority for the view that “even if a case were moot and academic, a statement of the governing principle is appropriate in the resolution of dismissal for the guidance not only of the parties but of others similarly situated.” We shall adhere to this view and proceed to dwell on the merits of this petition. (University of San Agustin, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 230 SCRA 761, 770, March 7, 1994 [Nocon])


  1. In connection with the May 11, 1998 elections, the COMELEC issued a resolution prohibiting the conduct of exit polls on the ground, among others, that it might cause disorder and confusion considering the randomness of selecting interviewees, which further makes the exit polls unreliable. The constitutionality of this resolution was challenged by ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation as violative of freedom of expression. The Solicitor General contends that the petition has been rendered moot and academic because the May 11, 1998 election has already been held and done with and, therefore, there is no longer any actual controversy to be resolved. Resolve.


Held: While the assailed Resolution referred specifically to the May 11, 1998 election, its implications on the people’s fundamental freedom of expression transcend the past election. The holding of periodic elections is a basic feature of our democratic government. By its very nature, exit polling is tied up with elections. To set aside the resolution of the issue now will only postpone a task that could well crop up again in future elections.


In any event, in Salonga v. Cruz Pano (134 SCRA 438, 463, Feb. 18, 1985), the Court had occasion to reiterate that it “also has the duty to formulate guiding and controlling constitutional principles, precepts, doctrines, or rules. It has the symbolic function of educating bench and bar on the extent of protection given by constitutional guarantees.” Since the fundamental freedoms of speech and of the press are being invoked here, we have resolved to settle, for the guidance of posterity, whether they likewise protect the holding of exit polls and the dissemination of data derived therefrom. (ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 133486, Jan. 28, 2000, En Banc [Panganiban])


  1. Discuss the nature of a taxpayer’s suit. When may it be allowed?


Held: 1. Petitioner and respondents agree that to constitute a taxpayer’s suit, two requisites must be met, namely, that public funds are disbursed by a political subdivision or instrumentality and in doing so, a law is violated or some irregularity is committed, and that the petitioner is directly affected by the alleged ultra vires act. The same pronouncement was made in Kilosbayan, Inc. v. Guingona, Jr., (232 SCRA 110 [1994], where the Court also reiterated its liberal stance in entertaining so-called taxpayer’s suits, especially when important issues are involved. A closer examination of the facts of this case would readily demonstrate that petitioner’s standing should not even be made an issue here, “since standing is a concept in constitutional law and here no constitutional question is actually involved.”


In the case at bar, disbursement of public funds was only made in 1975 when the Province bought the lands from Ortigas at P110.00 per square meter in line with the objectives of P.D. 674. Petitioner never referred to such purchase as an illegal disbursement of public funds but focused on the alleged fraudulent reconveyance of said property to Ortigas because the price paid was lower than the prevailing market value of neighboring lots. The first requirement, therefore, which would make this petition a taxpayer’s suit is absent. The only remaining justification for petitioner to be allowed to pursue this action is whether it is, or would be, directly affected by the act complained of. As we stated in Kilosbayan, Inc. v. Morato (supra.),


“Standing is a special concern in constitutional law because in some cases suits are brought not by parties who have been personally injured by the operation of a law or by official action taken, but by concerned citizens, taxpayers or voters who actually sue in the public interest. Hence the question in standing is whether such parties have ‘alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.’ (Citing Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 7l. Ed. 2d 633 [1962])”


Undeniably, as a taxpayer, petitioner would somehow be adversely affected by an illegal use of public money. When, however, no such unlawful spending has been shown, as in the case at bar, petitioner, even as a taxpayer, cannot question the transaction validly executed by and between the Province and Ortigas for the simple reason that it is not privy to said contract. In other words, petitioner has absolutely no cause of action, and consequently no locus standi, in the instant case. (The Anti-Graft League of the Philippines, Inc. v. San Juan, 260 SCRA 250, 253-255, Aug. 1, 1996, En Banc [Romero])


  1. A taxpayer is deemed to have the standing to raise a constitutional issue when it is established that public funds have been disbursed in alleged contravention of the law or the Constitution. Thus, a taxpayer’s action is properly brought only when there is an exercise by Congress of its taxing or spending power (Flast v. Cohen, 392 US 83, 20 L Ed 2d 947, 88 S Ct 1942). This was our ruling in a recent case wherein petitioners Telecommunications and Broadcast Attorneys of the Philippines (TELEBAP) and GMA Network, Inc. questioned the validity of Section 92 of B.P. Blg. 881 (otherwise known as the “Omnibus Election Code”) requiring radio and television stations to give free air time to the Commission on Elections during the campaign period (Telecommunications and Broadcast Attorneys of the Philippines, Inc. v. Commission on Elections, 289 SCRA 337 [1998]). The Court held that petitioner TELEBAP did not have any interest as a taxpayer since the assailed law did not involve the taxing or spending power of Congress.


Many other rulings have premised the grant or denial of standing to taxpayers upon whether or not the case involved a disbursement of public funds by the legislature. In Sanidad v. Commission on Elections (73 SCRA 333 [1976]), the petitioners therein were allowed to bring a taxpayer’s suit to question several presidential decrees promulgated by then President Marcos in his legislative capacity calling for a national referendum, with the Court explaining that –


X x x [i]t is now an ancient rule that the valid source of a statute – Presidential Decrees are of such nature – may be contested by one who will sustain a direct injury as a result of its enforcement. At the instance of taxpayers, laws providing for the disbursement of public funds may be enjoined, upon the theory that the expenditure of public funds by an officer of the State for the purpose of executing an unconstitutional act constitutes a misapplication of such funds. The breadth of Presidential Decree No. 991 carries an appropriation of Five Million Pesos for the effective implementation of its purposes. Presidential Decree No. 1031 appropriates the sum of Eight Million Pesos to carry out its provisions. The interest of the aforenamed petitioners as taxpayers in the lawful expenditure of these amounts of public money sufficiently clothes them with that personality to litigate the validity of the Decrees appropriating said funds x x x.


In still another case, the Court held that petitioners – the Philippine Constitution Association, Inc., a non-profit civic organization – had standing as taxpayers to question the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 3836 insofar as it provides for retirement gratuity and commutation of vacation and sick leaves to Senators and Representatives and to the elective officials of both houses of Congress (Philippine Constitution Association, Inc. v. Gimenez, 15 SCRA 479 [1965]). And in Pascual v. Secretary of Public Works (110 Phil. 331 [1960]), the Court allowed petitioner to maintain a taxpayer’s suit assailing the constitutional soundness of Republic Act No. 920 appropriating P85,000 for the construction, repair and improvement of feeder roads within private property. All these cases involved the disbursement of public funds by means of a law.


Meanwhile, in Bugnay Construction and Development Corporation v. Laron (176 SCRA 251 [1989]), the Court declared that the trial court was wrong in allowing respondent Ravanzo to bring an action for injunction in his capacity as a taxpayer in order to question the legality of the contract of lease covering the public market entered into between the City of Dagupan and petitioner. The Court declared that Ravanzo did not possess the requisite standing to bring such taxpayer’s suit since “[o]n its face, and there is no evidence to the contrary, the lease contract entered into between petitioner and the City shows that no public funds have been or will be used in the construction of the market building.”


Coming now to the instant case, it is readily apparent that there is no exercise by Congress of its taxing or spending power. The PCCR was created by the President by virtue of E.O. No. 43, as amended by E.O. No. 70. Under Section 7 of E.O. No. 43, the amount of P3 million is “appropriated” for its operational expenses “to be sourced from the funds of the Office of the President.” x x x. The appropriations for the PCCR were authorized by the President, not by Congress. In fact, there was no appropriation at all. “In a strict sense, appropriation has been defied ‘as nothing more than the legislative authorization prescribed by the Constitution that money may be paid out of the Treasury,’ while appropriation made by law refers to ‘the act of the legislature setting apart or assigning to a particular use a certain sum to be used in the payment of debt or dues from the State to its creditors.’” The funds used for the PCCR were taken from funds intended for the Office of the President, in the exercise of the Chief Executive’s power to transfer funds pursuant to Section 25 (5) of Article VI of the Constitution.


In the final analysis, it must be stressed that the Court retains the power to decide whether or not it will entertain a taxpayer’s suit. In the case at bar, there being no exercise by Congress of its taxing or spending power, petitioner cannot be allowed to question the creation of the PCCR in his capacity as a taxpayer, but rather, he must establish that he has a “personal and substantial interest in the case and that he has sustained or will sustain direct injury as a result of its enforcement.” In other words, petitioner must show that he is a real party in interest – that he will stand to be benefited or injured by the judgment or that he will be entitled to the avails of the suit. Nowhere in his pleadings does petitioner presume to make such a representation. (Gonzales v. Narvasa, 337 SCRA 733, Aug. 14, 2000, En Banc [Gonzaga-Reyes])


  1. What is a justiciable controversy? What are political questions?


Held: As a general proposition, a controversy is justiciable if it refers to a matter which is appropriate for court review. It pertains to issues which are inherently susceptible of being decided on grounds recognized by law. Nevertheless, the Court does not automatically assume jurisdiction over actual constitutional cases brought before it even in instances that are ripe for resolution. One class of cases wherein the Court hesitates to rule on are “political questions.” The reason is that political questions are concerned with issues dependent upon the wisdom, not the legality, of a particular act or measure being assailed. Moreover, the political question being a function of the separation of powers, the courts will not normally interfere with the workings of another co-equal branch unless the case shows a clear need for the courts to step in to uphold the law and the Constitution.


As Tanada v. Angara (103 Phil. 1051 [1957]) puts it, political questions refer “to those 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 government.” Thus, if an issue is clearly identified by the text of the Constitution as matters for discretionary action by a particular branch of government or to the people themselves then it is held to be a political question. In the classic formulation of Justice Brennan in Baker v. Carr (369 U.S. 186, 82 S Ct. 691, 7 L. Ed. 663, 678 [1962]), “[p]rominent on the surface of any case held to involve a political question is found a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department; or a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it; or the impossibility of deciding without an initial policy determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial discretion; or the impossibility of a court’s undertaking independent resolution without expressing lack of the respect due coordinate branches of government; or an unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made; or the potentiality of embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements by various departments on the one question.”


The 1987 Constitution expands the concept of judicial review by providing that “(T)he Judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law. Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.” (Article VIII, Sec. 1 of the 1987 Constitution) Under this definition, the Court cannot agree x x x that the issue involved is a political question beyond the jurisdiction of this Court to review. When the grant of power is qualified, conditional or subject to limitations, the issue of whether the prescribed qualifications or conditions have been met or the limitations respected, is justiciable – the problem being one of legality or validity, not its wisdom. Moreover, the jurisdiction to delimit constitutional boundaries has been given to this Court. When political questions are involved, the Constitution limits the determination as to whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the official whose action is being questioned.


By grave abuse of discretion is meant simply capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment that is patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion or hostility. Under this definition, a court is without power to directly decide matters over which full discretionary authority has been delegated. But while this Court has no power to substitute its judgment for that of Congress or of the President, it may look into the question of whether such exercise has been made in grave abuse of discretion. A showing that plenary power is granted either department of government may not be an obstacle to judicial inquiry, for the improvident exercise or abuse thereof may give rise to justiciable controversy. (Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Hon. Ronaldo B. Zamora, G.R. No. 141284, Aug. 15, 2000, En Banc [Kapunan])


  1. Is the legitimacy of the assumption to the Presidency of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo a political question and, therefore, not subject to judicial review? Distinguish EDSA People Power I from EDSA People Power II.


Held: Respondents rely on the case of Lawyers League for a Better Philippines and/or Oliver A. Lozano v. President Corazon C. Aquino, et al. and related cases to support their thesis that since the cases at bar involve the legitimacy of the government of respondent Arroyo, ergo, they present a political question. A more cerebral reading of the cited cases will show that they are inapplicable. In the cited cases, we held that the government of former President Aquino was the result of a successful revolution by the sovereign people, albeit a peaceful one. No less than the Freedom Constitution declared that the Aquino government was installed through a direct exercise of the power of the Filipino people “in defiance of the provisions of the 1973 Constitution, as amended.” It is familiar learning that the legitimacy of a government sired by a successful revolution by people power is beyond judicial scrutiny for that government automatically orbits out of the constitutional loop. In checkered contrast, the government of respondent Arroyo is not revolutionary in character. The oath that she took at the EDSA Shrine is the oath under the 1987 Constitution. In her oath, she categorically swore to preserve and defend the 1987 Constitution. Indeed, she has stressed that she is discharging the powers of the presidency under the authority of the 1987 Constitution.


In fine, the legal distinction between EDSA People Power I and EDSA People Power II is clear. EDSA I involves the exercise of the people power of revolution which overthrows the whole government. EDSA II is an exercise of people power of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly to petition the government for redress of grievances which only affected the office of the President. EDSA I is extra constitutional and the legitimacy of the new government that resulted from it cannot be the subject of judicial review, but EDSA II is intra constitutional and the resignation of the sitting President that it caused and the succession of the Vice President as President are subject to judicial review. EDSA I presented a political question; EDSA II involves legal questions. X x x


Needless to state, the cases at bar pose legal and not political questions. The principal issues for resolution require the proper interpretation of certain provisions in the 1987 Constitution, notably Section 1 of Article II, and Section 8 of Article VII, and the allocation of governmental powers under Section 11 of Article VII. The issues likewise call for a ruling on the scope of presidential immunity from suit. They also involve the correct calibration of the right of petitioner against prejudicial publicity. As early as the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison (1 Cranch [5 US] 137, L Ed 60 [1803]), the doctrine has been laid down that “it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is x x x.” Thus, respondent’s invocation of the doctrine of political question is but a foray in the dark. (Joseph E. Estrada v. Aniano Desierto, G.R. Nos. 146710-15, March 2, 2001, En Banc [Puno])


  1. Is 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 subject to judicial review, or is it a political question? Clarify.


Held: When the President calls the armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion, he necessarily exercises a discretionary power solely vested in his wisdom. This is clear from the intent of the framers and from the text of the Constitution itself. The Court, thus, cannot be called upon to overrule the President’s wisdom or substitute its own. However, this does not prevent an examination of whether such power was exercised within permissible constitutional limits or whether it was exercised in a manner constituting grave abuse of discretion. In view of the constitutional intent to give the President full discretionary power to determine the necessity of calling out the armed forces, it is incumbent upon the petitioner to show that the President’s decision is totally bereft of factual basis. The present petition fails to discharge such heavy burden as there is no evidence to support the assertion that there exists no justification for calling out the armed forces. There is, likewise, no evidence to support the proposition that grave abuse was committed because the power to call was exercised in such a manner as to violate the constitutional provision on civilian supremacy over the military. In the performance of this Court’s duty of “purposeful hesitation” before declaring an act of another branch as unconstitutional, only where such grave abuse of discretion is clearly shown shall the Court interfere with the President’s judgment. To doubt is to sustain. (Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Hon. Ronaldo B. Zamora, G.R. No. 141284, Aug. 15, 2000, En Banc [Kapunan])


  1. Do lower courts have jurisdiction to consider the constitutionality of a law? If so, how should they act in the exercise of this jurisdiction?


Held: We stress at the outset that the lower court had jurisdiction to consider the constitutionality of Section 187, this authority being embraced in the general definition of the judicial power to determine what are the valid and binding laws by the criterion of their conformity to the fundamental law. Specifically, BP 129 vests in the regional trial courts jurisdiction over all civil cases in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation (Sec. 19[1]), even as the accused in a criminal action has the right to question in his defense the constitutionality of a law he is charged with violating and of the proceedings taken against him, particularly as they contravene the Bill of Rights. Moreover, Article VIII, Section 5(2), of the Constitution vests in the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction over final judgments and orders of lower courts in all cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question.


In the exercise of this jurisdiction, lower courts are advised to act with the utmost circumspection, bearing in mind the consequences of a declaration of unconstitutionality upon the stability of laws, no less than on the doctrine of separation of powers. As the questioned act is usually the handiwork of the legislative or the executive departments, or both, it will be prudent for such courts, if only out of a becoming modesty, to defer to the higher judgment of this Court in the consideration of its validity, which is better determined after a thorough deliberation by a collegiate body and with the concurrence of the majority of those who participated in its discussion (Art. VIII, Sec. 4[2], Constitution) (Drilon v. Lim, 235 SCRA 135, 139-140, Aug. 4, 1994, En Banc [Cruz])


  1. What cases are to be heard by the Supreme Court en banc?


Held: Under Supreme Court Circular No. 2-89, dated February 7, 1989, as amended by the Resolution of November 18, 1993:


X x x, the following are considered en banc cases:


  • Cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement, law, executive order, or presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question;
  • Criminal cases in which the appealed decision imposes the death penalty;
  • Cases raising novel questions of law;
  • Cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;
  • Cases involving decisions, resolutions or orders of the Civil Service Commission, Commission on Elections, and Commission on Audit;
  • Cases where the penalty to be imposed is the dismissal of a judge, officer or employee of the judiciary, disbarment of a lawyer, or either the suspension of any of them for a period of more than one (1) year or a fine exceeding P10,000.00 or both;
  • Cases where a doctrine or principle laid down by the court en banc or in division may be modified or reversed;
  • Cases assigned to a division which in the opinion of at least three (3) members thereof merit the attention of the court en banc and are acceptable to a majority of the actual membership of the court en banc; and
  • All other cases as the court en banc by a majority of its actual membership may deem of sufficient importance to merit its attention.

(Firestone Ceramics, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 334 SCRA 465, 471-472, June 28, 2000, En Banc [Purisima])


  1. What is fiscal autonomy? The fiscal autonomy clause?


Held: As envisioned in the Constitution, the fiscal autonomy enjoyed by the Judiciary, the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Audit, the Commission on Elections, and the Office of the Ombudsman contemplates a guarantee of full flexibility to allocate and utilize their resources with the wisdom and dispatch that their needs require. It recognizes the power and authority to levy, assess and collect fees, fix rates of compensation not exceeding the highest rates authorized by law for compensation and pay plans of the government and allocate and disburse such sums as may be provided by law or prescribed by them in the course of the discharge of their functions.


Fiscal autonomy means freedom from outside control. The Judiciary, the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman must have the independence and flexibility needed in the discharge of their constitutional duties. The imposition of restrictions and constraints on the manner the independent constitutional offices allocate and utilize the funds appropriated for their operations is anathema to fiscal autonomy and violative not only of the express mandate of the Constitution but especially as regards the Supreme Court, of the independence and separation of powers upon which the entire fabric of our constitutional system is based. (Bengzon v. Drilon, 208 SCRA 133, April 15, 1992, En Banc [Gutierrez])


  1. May the Ombudsman validly entertain criminal charges against a judge of the regional trial court in connection with his handling of cases before the court.


Held: Petitioner criticizes the jurisprudence (Maceda v. Vasquez, 221 SCRA 464 [1993] and Dolalas v. Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao, 265 SCRA 818 [1996]) cited by the Office of the Ombudsman as erroneous and not applicable to his complaint. He insists that since his complaint involved a criminal charge against a judge, it was within the authority of the Ombudsman not the Supreme Court to resolve whether a crime was committed and the judge prosecuted therefor.


The petition can not succeed.


X x x


We agree with the Solicitor General that the Ombudsman committed no grave abuse of discretion warranting the writs prayed for. The issues have been settled in the case of In Re: Joaquin Borromeo (241 SCRA 408, 460 [1995]). There, we laid down the rule that before a civil or criminal action against a judge for a violation of Arts. 204 and 205 (knowingly rendering an unjust judgment or order) can be entertained, there must first be “a final and authoritative judicial declaration” that the decision or order in question is indeed “unjust.” The pronouncement may result from either:


  • an action of certiorari or prohibition in a higher court impugning the validity of the judgment; or
  • an administrative proceeding in the Supreme Court against the judge precisely for promulgating an unjust judgment or order.


Likewise, the determination of whether a judge has maliciously delayed the disposition of the case is also an exclusive judicial function (In Re: Borromeo, supra, at 461).


“To repeat, no other entity or official of the government, not the prosecution or investigation service of any other branch, not any functionary thereof, has competence to review a judicial order or decision – whether final and executory or not – and pronounce it erroneous so as to lay the basis for a criminal or administrative complaint for rendering an unjust judgment or order. That prerogative belongs to the courts alone.


This having been said, we find that the Ombudsman acted in accordance with law and jurisprudence when he referred the cases against Judge Pelayo to the Supreme Court for appropriate action. (De Vera v. Pelayo, 335 SCRA 281, July 6, 2000, 1st Div. [Pardo])


  1. Discuss the validity of “Memorandum Decisions.”

Held: 1. The constitutional mandate that no decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based does not preclude the validity of “memorandum decisions” which adopt by reference the findings of fact and conclusions of law contained in the decisions of inferior tribunals. X x x


Hence, even in this jurisdiction, incorporation by reference is allowed if only to avoid the cumbersome reproduction of the decision of the lower courts, or portions thereof, in the decisions of the higher court (Francisco v. Permskul, 173SCRA 324, 333). This is particularly true when the decision sought to be incorporated is a lengthy and thorough discussion of the facts and conclusions arrived at x x x. (Oil and Natural Gas Commission v. Court of Appeals, 293 SCRA 26, July 23, 1998 [Martinez])


  1. We have sustained decisions of lower courts as having substantially or sufficiently complied with the constitutional injunction notwithstanding the laconic and terse manner in which they were written and even if “there [was left] much to be desired in terms of [their] clarity, coherence and comprehensibility” provided that they eventually set out the facts and the law on which they were based, as when they stated the legal qualifications of the offense constituted by the facts proved, the modifying circumstances, the participation of the accused, the penalty imposed and the civil liability; or discussed the facts comprising the elements of the offense that was charged in the information, and accordingly rendered a verdict and imposed the corresponding penalty; or quoted the facts narrated in the prosecution’s memorandum but made their own findings and assessment of evidence, before finally agreeing with the prosecution’s evaluation of the case.


We have also sanctioned the use of memorandum decisions (In Francisco v. Permskul, 173 SCRA 324, 333 [1989], the Court described “[t]he distinctive features of a memorandum decision are, first, it is rendered by an appellate court, second, it incorporates by reference the findings of fact or the conclusions of law contained in the decision, order, or ruling under review. Most likely, the purpose is to affirm the decision, although it is not impossible that the approval of the findings of facts by the lower court may lead to a different conclusion of law by the higher court. At any rate, the reason for allowing the incorporation by reference is evidently to avoid the cumbersome reproduction of the decision of the lower court, or portions thereof, in the decision of the higher court. The idea is to avoid having to repeat in the body of the latter decision the findings or conclusions of the lower court since they are being approved or adopted anyway.), a specie of succinctly written decisions by appellate courts in accordance with the provisions of Section 40, B.P. Blg. 129 on the grounds of expediency, practicality, convenience and docket status of our courts. We have also declared that memorandum decisions comply with the constitutional mandate.


In Francisco v. Permskul, however, we laid the conditions for the validity of memorandum decisions, thus:


The memorandum decision, to be valid, cannot incorporate the findings of fact and the conclusions of law of the lower court only by remote reference, which is to say that the challenged decision is not easily and immediately available to the person reading the memorandum decision. For the incorporation by reference to be allowed, it must provide for direct access to the facts and the law being adopted, which must be contained in a statement attached to the said decision. In other words, the memorandum decision authorized under Section 40 of B.P. Blg. 129 should actually embody the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the lower court in an annex attached to and made an indispensable part of the decision.


It is expected that this requirement will allay the suspicion that no study was made of the decision of the lower court and that its decision was merely affirmed without a prior examination of the facts and the law on which it is based. The proximity at least of the annexed statement should suggest that such examination has been undertaken. It is, of course, also understood that the decision being adopted should, to begin with, comply with Article VIII, Section 14 as no amount of incorporation or adoption will rectify its violation.


The Court finds necessary to emphasize that the memorandum decision should be sparingly used lest it become an additive excuse for judicial sloth. It is an additional condition for the validity of this kind of decision may be resorted to only in cases where the facts are in the main accepted by both parties and easily determinable by the judge and there are no doctrinal complications involved that will require an extended discussion of the laws involved. The memorandum decision may be employed in simple litigations only, such as ordinary collection cases, where the appeal is obviously groundless and deserves no more than the time needed to dismiss it.


X x x


Henceforth, all memorandum decisions shall comply with the requirements herein set forth as to the form prescribed and the occasions when they may be rendered. Any deviation will summon the strict enforcement of Article VIII, Section 14 of the Constitution and strike down the flawed judgment as a lawless disobedience.


Tested against these standards, we find that the RTC decision at bar miserably failed to meet them and, therefore, fell short of the constitutional injunction. The RTC decision is brief indeed, but it is starkly hallow, otiosely written, vacuous in its content and trite in its form. It achieved nothing and attempted at nothing, not even at a simple summation of facts which could easily be done. Its inadequacy speaks for itself.


We cannot even consider or affirm said RTC decision as a memorandum decision because it failed to comply with the measures of validity laid down in Francisco v. Permskul. It merely affirmed in toto the MeTC decision without saying more. A decision or resolution, especially one resolving an appeal, should directly meet the issues for resolution; otherwise, the appeal would be pointless (See ABD Overseas Manpower Corporation v. NLRC, 286 SCRA 454, 464 [1998]).


We therefore reiterate our admonition in Nicos Industrial Corporation v. Court of Appeals (206 SCRA 127, 134 [1992]), in that while we conceded that brevity in the writing of decisions is an admirable trait, it should not and cannot be substituted for substance; and again in Francisco v. Permskul, where we cautioned that expediency alone, no matter how compelling, cannot excuse non-compliance with the constitutional requirements.


This is not to discourage the lower courts to write abbreviated and concise decisions, but never at the expense of scholarly analysis, and more significantly, of justice and fair play, lest the fears expressed by Justice Feria as the ponente in Romero v. Court of Appeals come true, i.e., if an appellate court failed to provide the appeal the attention it rightfully deserved, said court deprived the appellant of due process since he was accorded a fair opportunity to be heard by a fair and responsible magistrate. This situation becomes more ominous in criminal cases, as in this case, where not only property rights are at stake but also the liberty if not the life of a human being.


Faithful adherence to the requirements of Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution is indisputably a paramount component of due process and fair play. It is likewise demanded by the due process clause of the Constitution. The parties to a litigation should be informed of how it was decided, with an explanation of the factual and legal reasons that led to the conclusions of the court. The court cannot simply say that judgment is rendered in favor of X and against Y and just leave it at that without any justification whatsoever for its action. The losing party is entitled to know why he lost, so he may appeal to the higher court, if permitted, should he believe that the decision should be reversed. A decision that does not clearly and distinctly state the facts and the law on which it is based leaves the parties in the dark as to how it was reached and is precisely prejudicial to the losing party, who is unable to pinpoint the possible errors of the court for review by a higher tribunal. More than that, the requirement is an assurance to the parties that, in reaching judgment, the judge did so through the processes of legal reasoning. It is, thus, a safeguard against the impetuosity of the judge, preventing him from deciding ipse dixit. Vouchsafed neither the sword nor the purse by the Constitution but nonetheless vested with the sovereign prerogative of passing judgment on the life, liberty or property of his fellowmen, the judge must ultimately depend on the power of reason for sustained public confidence in the justness of his decision.


Thus the Court has struck down as void, decisions of lower courts and even of the Court of Appeals whose careless disregard of the constitutional behest exposed their sometimes cavalier attitude not only to their magisterial responsibilities but likewise to their avowed fealty to the Constitution.


Thus, we nullified or deemed to have failed to comply with Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution, a decision, resolution or order which: contained no analysis of the evidence of the parties nor reference to any legal basis in reaching its conclusions; contained nothing more than a summary of the testimonies of the witnesses of both parties; convicted the accused of libel but failed to cite any legal authority or principle to support conclusions that the letter in question was libelous; consisted merely of one (1) paragraph with mostly sweeping generalizations and failed to support its conclusion of parricide; consisted of five (5) pages, three (3) pages of which were quotations from the labor arbiter’s decision including the dispositive portion and barely a page (two [2] short paragraphs of two [2] sentences each) of its own discussion or reasonings; was merely based on the findings of another court sans transcript of stenographic notes, or failed to explain the factual and legal bases for the award of moral damages.


In the same vein do we strike down as a nullity the RTC decision in question. (Yao v. Court of Appeals, 344 SCRA 202, Oct. 24, 2000, 1st Div. [Davide])


  1. Does the period for decision making under Section 15, Article VIII, 1987 Constitution, apply to the Sandiganbayan? Explain.


Held: The above provision does not apply to the Sandiganbayan. The provision refers to regular courts of lower collegiate level that in the present hierarchy applies only to the Court of Appeals.


The Sandiganbayan is a special court of the same level as the Court of Appeals and possessing all the inherent powers of a court of justice, with functions of a trial court.


Thus, the Sandiganbayan is not a regular court but a special one. The Sandiganbayan was originally empowered to promulgate its own rules of procedure. However, on March 30, 1995, Congress repealed the Sandiganbayan’s power to promulgate its own rules of procedure and instead prescribed that the Rules of Court promulgated by the Supreme Court shall apply to all cases and proceedings filed with the Sandiganbayan.


“Special courts are judicial tribunals exercising limited jurisdiction over particular or specialized categories of actions. They are the Court of Tax Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, and the Shari’a Courts.” (Supra, Note 23, at p. 8)


            Under Article VIII, Section 5[5] of the Constitution “Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court.”


In his report, the Court Administrator would distinguish between cases which the Sandiganbayan has cognizance of in its original jurisdiction, and cases which fall within the appellate jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. The Court Administrator posits that since in the first class of cases, the Sandiganbayan acts more as a trial court, then for that classification of cases, the three [3] month reglementary period applies. For the second class of cases, the Sandiganbayan has the twelve-month reglementary period for collegiate courts. We do not agree.


The law creating the Sandiganbayan, P.D. No. 1606 is clear on this issue. It provides:


“Sec. 6. Maximum period for termination of cases – As far as practicable, the trial of cases before the Sandiganbayan once commenced shall be continuous until terminated and the judgment shall be rendered within three [3] months from the date the case was submitted for decision.”


On September 18, 1984, the Sandiganbayan promulgated its own rules, thus:


“Sec. 3. Maximum Period to Decide Cases – The judgment or final order of a division of the Sandiganbayan shall be rendered within three [3] months from the date the case was submitted for decision.”


Given the clarity of the rule that does not distinguish, we hold that the three [3] month period, not the twelve [12] month period, to decide cases applies to the Sandiganbayan. Furthermore, the Sandiganbayan presently sitting in five [5] divisions, functions as a trial court. The term “trial” is used in its broad sense, meaning, it allows introduction of evidence by the parties in the cases before it. The Sandiganbayan, in original cases within its jurisdiction, conducts trials, has the discretion to weigh the evidence of the parties, admit the evidence it regards as credible and reject that which they consider perjurious or fabricated. (Re: Problem of Delays in Cases Before the Sandiganbayan, A.M. No. 00-8-05-SC, Nov. 28, 2001, En Banc [Pardo])


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *