Category: LEGAL DIGESTS


PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES VS. SANDIGANBAYAN (FOURTH DIVISION) AND IMELDA R. MARCOS (G.R. NO. 155832, 07 DECEMBER 2010) SUBJECT: DELEGATION OF QUASI JUDICIAL POWER; ESTOPPEL.

 

THIS CASE IS ABOUT THE RESTHOUSE OF IMELDA IN OLOT LEYTE. SHE RECOVERED IT. FIND OUT WHY.

 READ THE FULL TEXT OF THE DECISION IN jabbulao.com under the category RECENT SUPREME COURT DECISIONS.

 

DIGEST:

 

FACTS:

 

ON 18 MARCH 1986, ATTY. RAMIREZ AND ATTY. ABELLA, PCGG AGENTS, ISSUED A SEQUESTRATION ORDER AGAINST THE RESTHOUS THE SOLE ISSUE PRESENTED IS WHETHER OR NOT THE MARCH 18, 1986 SEQUESTRATION ORDER AGAINST PROPERTIES OF IMELDA IN LEYTE INCLUDING THE RESTHOUSE AT OLOT. THEIR ORDER WAS NOT SIGNED BY ANY PCGG COMMISSIONERS.

 

ISSUE:

 

IS THEIR ORDER VALID?

 

RULING:

 

NO. JUDICIAL OR QUASI-JUDICIAL POWERS MAY NOT BE DELEGATED. IN PCGG V. JUDGE PEÑA,[1][17] THE COURT HELD THAT THE POWERS, FUNCTIONS AND DUTIES OF THE PCGG AMOUNT TO THE EXERCISE OF QUASI-JUDICIAL FUNCTIONS, AND THE EXERCISE OF SUCH FUNCTIONS CANNOT BE DELEGATED BY THE COMMISSION TO ITS REPRESENTATIVES OR SUBORDINATES OR TASK FORCES BECAUSE OF THE WELL ESTABLISHED PRINCIPLE THAT JUDICIAL OR QUASI-JUDICIAL POWERS MAY NOT BE DELEGATED.

 

PETITIONER REPUBLIC ARGUES THAT MRS. MARCOS SHOULD BE DEEMED ESTOPPED FROM QUESTIONING THE SEQUESTRATION OF HER OLOT RESTHOUSE BY HER ACTIONS IN REGARD TO THE SAME.  BUT A VOID ORDER PRODUCES NO EFFECT AND CANNOT BE VALIDATED UNDER THE DOCTRINE OF ESTOPPEL.  FOR THE SAME REASON, THE COURT CANNOT ACCEPT PETITIONER’S VIEW THAT MRS. MARCOS SHOULD HAVE FIRST SOUGHT THE LIFTING OF THE SEQUESTRATION ORDER THROUGH A MOTION TO QUASH FILED WITH THE PCGG.  BEING VOID, THE SANDIGANBAYAN HAS THE POWER TO STRIKE IT DOWN ON SIGHT. 

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

RULING OF THE COURT:

 

The Court’s Ruling

Under Section 26, Article XVIII of the Constitution, an order of sequestration may only issue upon a showing “of a prima facie case” that the properties are ill-gotten wealth under Executive Orders 1 and 2.[2][11]  When a court nullifies an order of sequestration for having been issued without a prima facie case, the Court does not substitute its judgment for that of the PCGG but simply applies the law.[3][12]

In Bataan Shipyard & Engineering Co, Inc. v. PCGG,[4][13] the Court held that a prima facie factual foundation that the properties sequestered are “ill-gotten wealth” is required.  The power to determine the existence of a prima facie case has been vested in the PCGG as an incident to its investigatory powers.  The two-commissioner rule is obviously intended to assure a collegial determination of such fact.[5][14] 

Here, it is clear that the PCGG did not make a prior determination of the existence of a prima facie case that would warrant the sequestration of the Olot Resthouse. The Republic presented no evidence before the Sandiganbayan that shows differently.  Nor did the Republic demonstrate that the two PCGG representatives were given the quasi-judicial authority to receive and consider evidence that would warrant such a prima facie finding.

Parenthetically, the Republic’s supposed evidence does not show how the Marcoses acquired the sequestered property, what makes it “ill-gotten wealth,” and how former President Marcos intervened in its acquisition. Taking the foregoing view, the resolution of the issue surrounding the character of the property sequestered – whether or not it could prima facie be considered ill-gotten – should be necessary.

          The issue in this case is not new.  The facts are substantially identical to those in the case of Republic v. Sandiganbayan (Dio Island Resort, Inc.).[6][15]  There, the same Atty. Ramirez issued a sequestration order on April 14, 1986 against Dio Island Resort, Inc. and all its assets and properties which were thought to be part of the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth.  Alerted by a challenge to his action, the PCGG passed a resolution “to confirm, ratify and adopt as its own all the Writs of Sequestration” that Attys. Ramirez and Abella issued “to remove any doubt as to the validity and enforceability” of their writs.  Still, the Court struck them down as void:

x x x  It is indubitable that under no circumstances can a sequestration or freeze order be validly issued by one not a Commissioner of the PCGG.

 

The invalidity of the sequestration order was made more apparent by the fact that Atty. Ramirez did not even have any specific authority to act on behalf of the Commission at the time he issued the said sequestration order. x x x

 

x x x x

 

Even assuming arguendo that Atty. Ramirez had been given prior authority by the PCGG to place Dio Island Resort under sequestration, nevertheless, the sequestration order he issued is still void since PCGG may not delegate its authority to sequester to its representatives and subordinates, and any such delegation is invalid and ineffective.

 

Under Executive Order Nos. 1 and 2, PCGG is the sole entity primarily charged with the responsibility of recovering ill-gotten wealth.  x x x The power to sequester, therefore, carries with it the corollary duty to make a preliminary determination of whether there is a reasonable basis for sequestering a property alleged to be ill-gotten.  After a careful evaluation of the evidence adduced, the PCGG clearly has to use its own judgment in determining the existence of a prima facie case. 

 

x x x x

 

The absence of a prior determination by the PCGG of a prima facie basis for the sequestration order is, unavoidably, a fatal defect which rendered the sequestration of respondent corporation and its properties void ab initio.  Being void ab initio, it is deemed non-existent, as though it had never been issued, x x x.[7][16]

 

          The Court is maintaining its above ruling in this case. 

Although the two PCGG lawyers issued the sequestration order in this case on March 18, 1986, before the passage of Sec. 3 of the PCGG Rules, such consideration is immaterial following our above ruling. 

          In PCGG v. Judge Peña,[8][17] the Court held that the powers, functions and duties of the PCGG amount to the exercise of quasi-judicial functions, and the exercise of such functions cannot be delegated by the Commission to its representatives or subordinates or task forces because of the well established principle that judicial or quasi-judicial powers may not be delegated.

It is the Republic’s theory of course that Commissioner Daza’s letter, directing Attys. Ramirez and Abella to search and sequester all properties, documents, money and other assets of respondents, should be considered as the writ of sequestration while the order issued by Attys. Ramirez and Abella  should be treated merely as an implementing order.

But the letter did not have the tenor of a sequestration order covering specific properties that the lawyers were ordered to seize and hold for the PCGG.   Actually, that letter is of the same kind issued to Attys. Ramirez and Abella in Dio Island Resort.  Consequently, there is no reason to depart from the Court’s ruling in the latter case where it said:

The invalidity of the sequestration order was made more apparent by the fact that Atty. Ramirez did not even have any specific authority to act on behalf of the Commission at the time he issued the said sequestration order.  Thus, the respondent Court noted:

 

“Contrary to plaintiff’s representation, nothing exists to support its contention that the Task Force had been given prior authority to place DIO under PCGG control.  On the contrary, as the text of the above letters clearly show, Attys. Jose Tan Ramirez and Ben Abella, had acted on broad and non-specific powers: ‘By authority of the commission and the powers vested in it. x x x.’”[9][18]

 

Petitioner Republic argues that Mrs. Marcos should be deemed estopped from questioning the sequestration of her Olot Resthouse by her actions in regard to the same.  But a void order produces no effect and cannot be validated under the doctrine of estoppel.  For the same reason, the Court cannot accept petitioner’s view that Mrs. Marcos should have first sought the lifting of the sequestration order through a motion to quash filed with the PCGG.  Being void, the Sandiganbayan has the power to strike it down on sight. 

Besides, the lifting of the sequestration order will not necessarily be fatal to the main case since it does not follow from such lifting that the sequestered properties are not ill-gotten wealth. Such lifting simply means that the government may not act as conservator or may not exercise administrative or housekeeping powers over the property.[10][19]  Indeed, the Republic can be protected by a notice of lis pendens.

WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES the petition for lack of merit and AFFIRMS the challenged resolutions of the Fourth Division of the Sandiganbayan dated February 28, 2002 and August 28, 2002 in Civil Case 0002, which granted respondent Imelda R. Marcos’ Motion to Quash the March 18, 1986 Sequestration Order covering the Olot Resthouse.

Further, the Court DIRECTS the Register of Deeds of Leyte to immediately annotate a notice of lis pendens on the certificate of title of the Olot Resthouse with respect to the Republic of the Philippines’ claim over the same in Civil Case 0002 of the Sandiganbayan. 

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

ROBERTO A. ABAD

                                                              Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

 

 

 

      ANTONIO T. CARPIO              CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES    

  Associate Justice                                               Associate Justice

 

 

             (On Official Leave)                               

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.     ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

               Associate Justice                                     Associate Justice

 

 

 

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO       ARTURO D. BRION

                     Associate Justice                                 Associate Justice

 

 

                       (No part)

       DIOSDADO M. PERALTA                     LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

                 Associate Justice                                      Associate Justice        

    

 MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO             MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.

              Associate Justice                                     Associate Justice

  JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ                           JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

            Associate Justice                                       Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO

Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

RENATO C. CORONA

          Chief Justice


 


[1][17]  243 Phil. 93 (1988).

[2][11]         EXECUTIVE ORDER 1 – CREATING THE PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD GOVERNMENT.   WHEREAS, vast resources of the government have been amassed by former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, his immediate family, relatives, and close associates both here and abroad; 

x x x x

                Sec. 2.  The Commission shall be charged with the task of assisting the President in regard to the following matters:

                (a)           The recovery of all ill-gotten wealth accumulated by former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, his immediate family, relatives, subordinates and close associates, whether located in the Philippines or abroad, including the takeover or sequestration of all business enterprises and entities owned or controlled by them, during his administration, directly or through nominees, by taking undue advantage of their public office and/or using their powers, authority, influence, connections or relationship.

x x x x

                EXECUTIVE ORDER 2. – REGARDING THE FUNDS, MONEYS, ASSETS, AND PROPERTIES ILLEGALLY ACQUIRED OR MISAPPROPRIATED BY FORMER PRESIDENT FERDINAND E. MARCOS, MRS. IMELDA ROMUALDEZ MARCOS, THEIR CLOSE RELATIVES, SUBORDINATES, BUSINESS ASSOCIATES, DUMMIES, AGENTS, OR NOMINEES.   

x x x x

                NOW, THEREFORE, I, CORAZON C. AQUINO, President of the Philippines, hereby:

                (1)           Freeze all assets and properties in the Philippines in which former President Marcos and/or his wife, Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos, their close relatives, subordinates, business associates, dummies, agents, or nominees have any interest or participation; x x x

[3][12]  Presidential Commission on Good Government v. Tan, G.R. Nos. 173553-56, December 7, 2007, 539 SCRA 464, 479-480.

[4][13]  234 Phil. 180, 214 (1987).

[5][14]  Republic of the Philippines v. Sandiganbayan, 355 Phil. 181, 195 (1998).

[6][15]  Supra note 8.

[7][16]  Id. at 218-219, 222.

[8][17]  243 Phil. 93 (1988).

[9][18]  Republic of the Philippines v. Sandiganbayan, supra note 8, at 218.

[10][19]  Presidential Commission on Good Government v. Sandiganbayan, 418 Phil. 8, 20 (2001).

MAY D. AÑONUEVO, ALEXANDER BLEE DESANTIS AND JOHN DESANTIS NERI, PETITIONERS VS. INTESTATE ESTATE OF RODOLFO G. JALANDONI, REPRESENTED BY BERNARDINO G. JALANDONI AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR, RESPONDENT (FIRS DIVISION, G.R. NO. 178221, O1 DECEMBER 2010)

 

THIS CASE IS ABOUT LEGAL PRESUMPTION OF MARRIAGE. BIRTH CERTIFICATE STATING THAT ONE’S PARENTS WERE MARRIED ESTABLISHES THE PRESUMPTION THAT INDEED THEY WERE MARRIED.

 

READ THE FULL TEXT OF THE DECISION IN jabbulao.com under the category RECENT SUPREME COURT DECISIONS.

DIGEST:

 

FACTS:

 

RODOLFO DIED. HIS BROTHER FILED AT RTC PETITION FOR ISSUANCE OF LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION. ANONUEVO  ET AL INTERVENED. THEY SAID THEIR MOTHER SYLVIA  WAS DAUGHTER  OF ISABEL AND JOHN. BUT AT THE TIME OF RODOLFO’S DEATH, THEIR GRANDMOTHER ISABEL  WAS THE LAWFUL WIFE OF RODOLFO BASED ON A MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE. RODOLFO’S BROTHER  OPPOSED THEIR INTERVENTION BECAUSE THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE OF SYLVIA STATES THAT ISABEL AND JOHN  WERE MARRIED. THEREFORE ISABEL’S MARRIAGE TO RODOLFO WAS NULL AND VOID. ANONUEVO ET AL HOWEVER ARGUED THAT THE ENTRIES IN THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE OF SYLVIA COULD NOT BE USED AS PROOF THAT ISABEL AND JOHN WERE INDEED MARRIED. FURTHER, SUCH  STATEMENT OF MARRIAGE IN THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE IS JUST TO SAVE FACE AND IS CUSTOMARY.

 

ISSUE:

 

CAN ANONUEVO ET AL  INTERVENE?

 

RULING:

 

NO. THEY HAVE NO PERSONAL STANDING TO INTERVENE. THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE OF SYLVIA WHICH SHOWS THAT ISABEL AND JOHN  WERE MARRIED IS SUFFICIENT PROOF THAT INDEED THEY WERE MARRIED. THEREFORE ISABEL’S MARRIAGE TO RODOLFO IS VOID SINCE AT THAT TIME ISABEL WAS STILL MARRIED TO JOHN. BEING NOT MARRIED TO RODOLFO, ISABEL AND HER DESCENDANTS HAVE NO SHARE IN THE ESTATE OF RODOLFO.

 

WHILE A MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE IS CONSIDERED THE PRIMARY EVIDENCE OF A MARITAL UNION, IT IS NOT REGARDED AS THE SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE EVIDENCE OF MARRIAGE.[1][47]  JURISPRUDENCE TEACHES THAT THE FACT OF MARRIAGE MAY BE PROVEN BY RELEVANT EVIDENCE OTHER THAN THE MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE.[2][48]  HENCE, EVEN A PERSON’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE MAY BE RECOGNIZED AS COMPETENT EVIDENCE OF THE MARRIAGE BETWEEN HIS PARENTS. THE REASON “FACE SAVING/ CUSTOMARY” IS WITHOUT MERIT. THE COURT CANNOT TAKE JUDICIAL NOTICE OF A FOLKWAY.

The ruling of the Court:

 

PEREZ, J.:

 

X X X X X X

The second argument of the petitioners is also without merit.  We agree with the finding of the Court of Appeals that the petitioners and their siblings failed to offer sufficient evidence to establish that Isabel was the legal spouse of Rodolfo.  The very evidence of the petitioners and their siblings negates their claim that Isabel has interest in Rodolfo’s estate.

Contrary to the position taken by the petitioners, the existence of a previous marriage between Isabel and John Desantis was adequately established.  This holds true notwithstanding the fact that no marriage certificate between Isabel and John Desantis exists on record.

While a marriage certificate is considered the primary evidence of a marital union, it is not regarded as the sole and exclusive evidence of marriage.[3][47]  Jurisprudence teaches that the fact of marriage may be proven by relevant evidence other than the marriage certificate.[4][48]  Hence, even a person’s birth certificate may be recognized as competent evidence of the marriage between his parents.[5][49]

In the present case, the birth certificate of Sylvia precisely serves as the competent evidence of marriage between Isabel and John Desantis.  As mentioned earlier, it contains the following notable entries: (a) that Isabel and John Desantis were “married” and (b) that Sylvia is their “legitimate” child.[6][50]  In clear and categorical language, Sylvia’s birth certificate speaks of a subsisting marriage between Isabel and John Desantis.

Pursuant to existing laws,[7][51] the foregoing entries are accorded prima facie weight.  They are presumed to be true.  Hence, unless rebutted by clear and convincing evidence, they can, and will, stand as proof of the facts attested.[8][52]  In the case at bench, the petitioners and their siblings offered no such rebuttal.

The petitioners did no better than to explain away the entries in Sylvia’s birth certificate as untruthful statements made only in order to “save face.”[9][53]  They urge this Court to take note of a “typical” practice among unwed Filipino couples to concoct the illusion of marriage and make it appear that a child begot by them is legitimate.  That, the Court cannot countenance.

           The allegations of the petitioners, by themselves and unsupported by any other evidence, do not diminish the probative value of the entries.  This Court cannot, as the petitioners would like Us to do, simply take judicial notice of a supposed folkway and conclude therefrom that the usage was in fact followed.  It certainly is odd that the petitioners would themselves argue that the document on which they based their interest in intervention contains untruthful statements in its vital entries.

Ironically, it is the evidence presented by the petitioners and their siblings themselves which, properly appreciated, supports the finding that Isabel was, indeed, previously married to John Desantis.  Consequently, in the absence of any proof that such marriage had been dissolved by the time Isabel was married to Rodolfo, the inescapable conclusion is that the latter marriage is bigamous and, therefore, void ab initio.

The inability of the petitioners and their siblings to present evidence to prove that Isabel’s prior marriage was dissolved results in a failure to establish that she has interest in the estate of Rodolfo.  Clearly, an intervention by the petitioners and their siblings in the settlement proceedings cannot be justified.  We affirm the Court of Appeals.

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DENIED. Accordingly, the decision dated 31 May 2007 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 00576 is hereby AFFIRMED.

          Costs against the petitioners.

          SO ORDERED.

  JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

Chairperson

 

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO    DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

 Associate Justice                                       Associate Justice

 

ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

       RENATO C. CORONA

                                                                      Chief Justice


 


[1][47]          Trinidad v. Court of Appeals, 352 Phil. 12, 30-31 (1988). 

[2][48]          Pugeda v. Trias, 114 Phil. 781, 787 (1962).

[3][47]          Trinidad v. Court of Appeals, 352 Phil. 12, 30-31 (1988). 

[4][48]          Pugeda v. Trias, 114 Phil. 781, 787 (1962).

[5][49]          In Trinidad v. Court of Appeals, supra note 47 at 30, this Court held:

To prove the fact of marriage, the following would constitute competent evidence: the testimony of a witness to the matrimony, the couple’s public and open cohabitation as husband and wife after the alleged wedlock, the birth and the baptismal certificates of children born during such union, and the mention of such nuptial in subsequent documents. (Pugeda v. Trias, id.) (Emphasis supplied)

[6][50]          CA rollo, p. 64

[7][51]          See Article 410 in relation to Article 408 of the Civil Code and Section 44 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court.

[8][52]          Bustillo v. People, G.R. No. 160718, 12 May 2010.

[9][53]          Rollo, p. 27.

 

LOUIS “BAROK” C. BIRAOGO VS. THE PHILIPPINE TRUTH COMMISSION OF 2010 (G.R. NO. 192935, 07 DECEMBER 2010)

 

REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN, REP. RODOLFO B. ALBANO, JR., REP. SIMEON A. DATUMANONG, AND REP. ORLANDO B. FUA, SR. VS.   EXECUTIVE SECRETARY PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR. AND DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT SECRETARY FLORENCIO B. ABAD (G.R. NO. 193036, 07                                             

THIS CASE IS ABOUT THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE ENSHRINED IN THE CONSTITUTION.

 

READ THE FULL TEXT OF THE DECISION IN jabbulao.com under the category RECENT SUPREME COURT DECISIONS.

 

DOCTRINE:  WHEN A TRUTH COMMISSION IS CREATED TO INVESTIGATE ANOMALIES OF A SPECIFIC ADMINISTRATION IT IS VIOLATIVE OF THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE.

 

DIGEST:

 

FACTS:

 

EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 1 WAS ISSUED BY PRESIDENT NOYNOY AQUINO TO INVESTIGATE REPORTED CASES OF GRAFT AND CORRUPTION OF THE PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATION.

 

ISSUE:

 

IS THIS LEGAL?

 

RULING:

 

NO. IT IS VIOLATIVE OF THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE. THE ARROYO ADMINISTRATION IS BUT JUST A MEMBER OF A CLASS, THAT IS, A CLASS OF PAST ADMINISTRATIONS. IT IS NOT A CLASS OF ITS OWN. NOT TO INCLUDE PAST ADMINISTRATIONS SIMILARLY SITUATED CONSTITUTES ARBITRARINESS WHICH THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE CANNOT SANCTION.

The ruling of the Court:

Applying these precepts to this case, Executive Order No. 1 should be struck down as violative of the equal protection clause.  The clear mandate of the envisioned truth commission is to investigate and find out the truth “concerning the reported cases of graft and corruption during the previous administration”[1][87] only. The intent to single out the previous administration is plain, patent and manifest.  Mention of it has been made in at least three portions of the questioned executive order. Specifically, these are:

WHEREAS, there is a need for a separate body dedicated solely to investigating and finding out the truth concerning the reported cases of graft and corruption during the previous administration, and which will recommend the prosecution of the offenders and secure justice for all;

SECTION 1. Creation of a Commission. – There is hereby created the PHILIPPINE TRUTH COMMISSION, hereinafter referred to as the “COMMISSION,” which shall primarily seek and find the truth on, and toward this end, investigate reports of graft and corruption of such scale and magnitude that shock and offend the moral and ethical sensibilities of the people, committed by public officers and employees, their co-principals, accomplices and accessories from the private sector, if any, during the previous administration; and thereafter recommend the appropriate action or measure to be taken thereon to ensure that the full measure of justice shall be served without fear or favor.

SECTION 2. Powers and Functions. – The Commission, which shall have all the powers of an investigative body under Section 37, Chapter 9, Book I of the Administrative Code of 1987, is primarily tasked to conduct a thorough fact-finding investigation of reported cases of graft and corruption referred to in Section 1, involving third level public officers and higher, their co-principals, accomplices and accessories from the private sector, if any, during the previous administration and thereafter submit its finding and recommendations to the President, Congress and the Ombudsman. [Emphases supplied]

In this regard, it must be borne in mind that the Arroyo administration is but just a member of a class, that is, a class of past administrations. It is not a class of its own. Not to include past administrations similarly situated constitutes arbitrariness which the equal protection clause cannot sanction.  Such discriminating differentiation clearly reverberates to label the commission as a vehicle for vindictiveness and selective retribution.

Though the OSG enumerates several differences between the Arroyo administration and other past administrations, these distinctions are not substantial enough to merit the restriction of the investigation to the “previous administration” only.  The reports of widespread corruption in the Arroyo administration cannot be taken as basis for distinguishing said administration from earlier administrations which were also blemished by similar widespread reports of impropriety. They are not inherent in, and do not inure solely to, the Arroyo administration. As Justice Isagani Cruz put it, “Superficial differences do not make for a valid classification.”[2][88]

The public needs to be enlightened why Executive Order No. 1 chooses to limit the scope of the intended investigation to the previous administration only.  The OSG ventures to opine that “to include other past administrations, at this point, may unnecessarily overburden the commission and lead it to lose its effectiveness.”[3][89] The reason given is specious. It is without doubt irrelevant to the legitimate and noble objective of the PTC to stamp out or “end corruption and the evil it breeds.”[4][90]

The probability that there would be difficulty in unearthing evidence or that the earlier reports involving the earlier administrations were already inquired into is beside the point. Obviously, deceased presidents and cases which have already prescribed can no longer be the subjects of inquiry by the PTC. Neither is the PTC expected to conduct simultaneous investigations of previous administrations, given the body’s limited time and resources.  “The law does not require the impossible” (Lex non cogit ad impossibilia).[5][91]

Given the foregoing physical and legal impossibility, the Court logically recognizes the unfeasibility of investigating almost a century’s worth of graft cases.  However, the fact remains that Executive Order No. 1 suffers from arbitrary classification.  The PTC, to be true to its mandate of searching for the truth, must not exclude the other past administrations.  The PTC must, at least, have the authority to investigate all past administrations.  While reasonable prioritization is permitted, it should not be arbitrary lest it be struck down for being unconstitutional. In the often quoted language of Yick Wo v. Hopkins,[6][92]

Though the law itself be fair on its face and impartial in appearance, yet, if applied and administered by public authority with an evil eye and an unequal hand, so as practically to make unjust and illegal discriminations between persons in similar circumstances, material to their rights, the denial of equal justice is still within the prohibition of the constitution.  [Emphasis supplied]

It could be argued that considering that the PTC is an ad hoc body, its scope is limited.  The Court, however, is of the considered view that although its focus is restricted, the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the laws should not in any way be circumvented. The Constitution is the fundamental and paramount law of the nation to which all other laws must conform and in accordance with which all private rights determined and all public authority administered.[7][93] Laws that do not conform to the Constitution should be stricken down for being unconstitutional.[8][94] While the thrust of the PTC is specific, that is, for investigation of acts of graft and corruption, Executive Order No. 1, to survive, must be read together with the provisions of the Constitution.  To exclude the earlier administrations in the guise of “substantial distinctions” would only confirm the petitioners’ lament that the subject executive order is only an “adventure in partisan hostility.”  In the case of US v. Cyprian,[9][95] it was written: “A rather limited number of such classifications have routinely been held or assumed to be arbitrary; those include: race, national origin, gender, political activity or membership in a political party, union activity or membership in a labor union, or more generally the exercise of first amendment rights.”

To reiterate, in order for a classification to meet the requirements of constitutionality, it must include or embrace all persons who naturally belong to the class.[10][96] “Such a classification must not be based on existing circumstances only, or so constituted as to preclude additions to the number included within a class, but must be of such a nature as to embrace all those who may thereafter be in similar circumstances and conditions.  Furthermore, all who are in situations and circumstances which are relative to the discriminatory legislation and which are indistinguishable from those of the members of the class must be brought under the influence of the law and treated by it in the same way as are the members of the class.”[11][97]

The Court is not unaware that “mere underinclusiveness is not fatal to the validity of a law under the equal protection clause.”[12][98] “Legislation is not unconstitutional merely because it is not all-embracing and does not include all the evils within its reach.”[13][99] It has been written that a regulation challenged under the equal protection clause is not devoid of a rational predicate simply because it happens to be incomplete.[14][100] In several instances, the underinclusiveness was not considered a valid reason to strike down a law or regulation where the purpose can be attained in future legislations or regulations.  These cases refer to the “step by step” process.[15][101] “With regard to equal protection claims, a legislature does not run the risk of losing the entire remedial scheme simply because it fails, through inadvertence or otherwise, to cover every evil that might conceivably have been attacked.”[16][102]

In Executive Order No. 1, however, there is no inadvertence.  That the previous administration was picked out was deliberate and intentional as can be gleaned from the fact that it was underscored at least three times in the assailed executive order.  It must be noted that Executive Order No. 1 does not even mention any particular act, event or report to be focused on unlike the investigative commissions created in the past. “The equal protection clause is violated by purposeful and intentional discrimination.”[17][103]

To disprove petitioners’ contention that there is deliberate discrimination, the OSG clarifies that the commission does not only confine itself to cases of large scale graft and corruption committed during the previous administration.[18][104]  The OSG points to Section 17 of Executive Order No. 1, which provides:

SECTION 17. Special Provision Concerning Mandate. If and when in the judgment of the President there is a need to expand the mandate of the Commission as defined in Section 1 hereof to include the investigation of cases and instances of graft and corruption during the prior administrations, such mandate may be so extended accordingly by way of a supplemental Executive Order.

 The Court is not convinced.  Although Section 17 allows the President the discretion to expand the scope of investigations of the PTC so as to include the acts of graft and corruption committed in other past administrations, it does not guarantee that they would be covered in the future.  Such expanded mandate of the commission will still depend on the whim and caprice of the President.  If he would decide not to include them, the section would then be meaningless. This will only fortify the fears of the petitioners that the Executive Order No. 1 was “crafted to tailor-fit the prosecution of officials and personalities of the Arroyo administration.”[19][105]

The Court tried to seek guidance from the pronouncement in the case of Virata v. Sandiganbayan,[20][106] that the “PCGG Charter (composed of Executive Orders Nos. 1, 2 and 14) does not violate the equal protection clause.” The decision, however, was devoid of any discussion on how such conclusory statement was arrived at, the principal issue in said case being only the sufficiency of a cause of action.

A final word

The issue that seems to take center stage at present is – whether or not the Supreme Court, in the exercise of its constitutionally mandated power of Judicial Review with respect to recent initiatives of the legislature and the executive department, is exercising undue interference.  Is the Highest Tribunal, which is expected to be the protector of the Constitution, itself guilty of violating fundamental tenets like the doctrine of separation of powers? Time and again, this issue has been addressed by the Court, but it seems that the present political situation calls for it to once again explain the legal basis of its action lest it continually be accused of being a hindrance to the nation’s thrust to progress.

The Philippine Supreme Court, according to Article VIII, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution, is vested with Judicial Power that “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 of abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government.”

Furthermore, in Section 4(2) thereof, it is vested with the power of judicial review which is the power to declare a treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation unconstitutional. This power also includes the duty to rule on the constitutionality of the application, or operation of presidential decrees, proclamations, orders, instructions, ordinances, and other regulations. These provisions, however, have been fertile grounds of conflict between the Supreme Court, on one hand, and the two co-equal bodies of government, on the other.  Many times the Court has been accused of asserting superiority over the other departments.

To answer this accusation, the words of Justice Laurel would be a good source of enlightenment, to wit: “And when the judiciary mediates to allocate constitutional boundaries, it does not assert any superiority over the other departments; it does not in reality nullify or invalidate an act of the legislature, but only asserts the solemn and sacred obligation assigned to it by the Constitution to determine conflicting claims of authority under the Constitution and to establish for the parties in an actual controversy the rights which that instrument secures and guarantees to them.”[21][107]

Thus, the Court, in exercising its power of judicial review, is not imposing its own will upon a co-equal body but rather simply making sure that any act of government is done in consonance with the authorities and rights allocated to it by the Constitution. And, if after said review, the Court finds no constitutional violations of any sort, then, it has no more authority of proscribing the actions under review. Otherwise, the Court will not be deterred to pronounce said act as void and unconstitutional.

It cannot be denied that most government actions are inspired with noble intentions, all geared towards the betterment of the nation and its people. But then again, it is important to remember this ethical principle: “The end does not justify the means.” No matter how noble and worthy of admiration the purpose of an act, but if the means to be employed in accomplishing it is simply irreconcilable with constitutional parameters, then it cannot still be allowed.[22][108] The Court cannot just turn a blind eye and simply let it pass. It will continue to uphold the Constitution and its enshrined principles.

“The Constitution must ever remain supreme. All must bow to the mandate of this law. Expediency must not be allowed to sap its strength nor greed for power debase its rectitude.”[23][109]

Lest it be misunderstood, this is not the death knell for a truth commission as nobly envisioned by the present administration.  Perhaps a revision of the executive issuance so as to include the earlier past administrations would allow it to pass the test of reasonableness and not be an affront to the Constitution. Of all the branches of the government, it is the judiciary which is the most interested in knowing the truth and so it will not allow itself to be a hindrance or obstacle to its attainment.  It must, however, be emphasized that the search for the truth must be within constitutional bounds for “ours is still a government of laws and not of men.”[24][110]

WHEREFORE, the petitions are GRANTED.  Executive Order     No. 1 is hereby declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL insofar as it is violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

As also prayed for, the respondents are hereby ordered to cease and desist from carrying out the provisions of Executive Order No. 1.

            SO ORDERED.

                                                           JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

                                                                 Associate Justice

 

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

 ANTONIO T. CARPIO                     CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

                                                                                                                                                Associate Justice                                           Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.      ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

                                                                                                                                                Associate Justice                                      Associate Justice

 

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO       ARTURO D. BRION

                   Associate Justice                                       Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA                              LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

  Associate Justice                                                Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO                        ROBERTO A. ABAD

                                                                                                                                                Associate Justice                                        Associate Justice

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.                JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ

                                                                                                                                                Associate Justice                                   Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO

                                                                                                                                                                             Associate Justice

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice


 


[1][87] 7th Whereas clause, Executive Order No. 1.

[2][88] Cruz, Constitutional Law, 2003 ed., p. 128.

[3][89] OSG, Memorandum, p. 89, rollo, p. 408.

[4][90] 6th Whereas clause, Executive Order No. 1

[5][91] Lee, Handbook of Legal Maxims, 2002 Ed., p.

[7][93] Macalintal v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 157013, July 10, 2003, 405 SCRA 614, pp. 631-632; Manila Prince Hotel vs. GSIS, 335 Phil. 82, 101 (1997).

[8][94] Id. at 632.

[9][95] 756 F. Supp. 388, N.. D. Ind., 1991, Jan 30, 1991, Crim No. HCR 90-42; also http://in.findacase.com/research/wfrmDocViewer.aspx/xq/fac.19910130_0000002.NIN.htm/qx <accessed December 5, 2010>

[10][96]  McErlain v. Taylor, 207 Ind. 240 cited in Am. Jur. 2d, Vol. 16 (b), p. 367.

[11][97]  Martin v. Tollefson, 24 Wash. 2d 211 cited in  Am. Jur. 2d, Vol. 16 (b), pp. 367-368 .

[12][98]  Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 US 425 cited in Am. Jur. 2d, Vol. 16 (b), p. 371.

[13][99]  Hunter v. Flowers, 43 So 2d 435 cited in Am. Jur. 2d, Vol. 16 (b), p. 370.

[14][100] Clements v. Fashing, 457 US 957.

[15][101] See Am. Jur. 2d, Vol. 16 (b), pp. 370-371, as footnote (A state legislature may, consistently with the Equal Protection Clause, address a problem one step at a time, or even select one phase of one field and apply a remedy there, neglecting the others. [Jeffeson v. Hackney, 406 US 535].

[16][102] McDonald v. Board of Election Com’rs of Chicago, 394 US 802 cited in  Am Jur 2d, Footnote No. 9. 

[17][103] Ricketts v. City of Hardford, 74 F. 3d 1397 cited in Am. Jur. 2d, Vol. 16 (b),  p. 303.

[18][104] OSG Consolidated Comment, p. 66, rollo, p.186.

[19][105] Lagman Memorandum, p. 30; rollo, p. 118.

[20][106] G.R. No. 86926, October 15, 1991; 202 SCRA 680.

[21][107] Angara v. Electoral Commission, 63 Phil. 139, 158 (1936).

[22][108] Cruz, Philippine Political Law, 2002 ed., pp. 12-13.

[23][109] Id.

[24][110] Republic v. Southside Homeowners Association, G.R. No. 156951, September 22, 2006.

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