Sunday, February 11, 2018

MIRASOL V. DPWH - CASE DIGEST - CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

MIRASOL V. DPWH                             G.R. No. 158793 June 8, 2006
FACTS:
Petitioners filed before the court a petition for declaratory judgment with application for temporary restraining order and injunction. It seeks the declaration of nullification of administrative issuances for being inconsistent with the provisions of Republic Act 2000 (Limited Access Highway Act) which was enacted in 1957.

Previously, pursuant to its mandate under RA 2000, DPWH issued on June 25, 1998 Dept. Order no. 215 declaring the Manila Cavite (Coastal Road) Toll Expressway as limited access facilities.

Petitioners filed an Amended Petition on February 8, 2001 wherein petitioners sought the declaration of nullity of the aforesaid administrative issuances.

The petitioners prayed for the issuance of a temporary restraining order to prevent the enforcement of the total ban on motorcycles along NLEX, SLEX, Manila-Cavite (Coastal Road) toll Expressway under DO 215.

RTC, after due hearing, granted the petitioners application for preliminary injunction conditioned upon petitioners filing of cash bond in the amount of P100, 000 which petitioners complied.

DPWH issued an order (DO 123) allowing motorcycles with engine displacement of 400 cubic centimeters inside limited access facilities (toll ways).  

Upon assumption of Hon. Presiding Judge Cornejo, both the petitioners and respondents were required to file their Memoranda.

The court issued an order dismissing the petition but declaring invalid DO 123.

The petitioners moved for reconsideration but it was denied.

RTC ruled that DO 74 is valid but DO 123 is invalid being violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution


ISSUE:

Whether RTCs decision is barred by res judicata?
Whether DO 74, DO 215 and the TRB regulation contravene RA 2000.
Whether AO 1 is unconstitutional.

HELD:

1. NO. The petitioners are mistaken because they rely on the RTCs Order granting their prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction. Since petitioners did not appeal from that order, the petitioners presumed that the order became a final judgment on the issues.

The order granting the prayer is not an adjudication on the merits of the case that would trigger res judicata.

A preliminary injunction does not serve as a final determination of the issues, it being a provisional remedy.

2. YES. The petitioners claimed that DO 74, DO 215 and TRBs rules and regulation issued under them unduly expanded the power of the DPWH in sec. 4 of RA 2000 to regulate toll ways.  
They contend that DPWHs regulatory authority is limited to acts like redesigning curbings or central dividing sections.  

They claim that DPWH is only allowed to redesign the physical structure of toll ways and not to determine who or what can be qualifies as toll ways user.

The court ruled that DO 74 and DO 215 are void because the DPWH has no authority to declare certain expressways as limited access facilities.

Under the law, it is the DOTC which is authorized to administer and enforce all laws, rules and regulations in the field of transportation and to regulate related activities.

Since the DPWH has no authority to regulate activities relative to transportation, the  Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) cannot derive its power from the DPWH to issue regulations governing limited access facilities.

The DPWH cannot delegate a power or function which it does not possess in the first place.
3. NO. The Court emphasized that the secretary of the then Department of Public Works and Communications had issued AO 1 in February 1968, as authorized under Section 3 of Republic Act 2000, prior to the splitting of the department and the eventual devolution of its powers to the DOTC.

Because administrative issuances had the force and effect of law, AO 1 enjoyed the presumption of validity and constitutionality. The burden to prove its unconstitutionality rested on the party assailing it, more so when police power was at issue and passed the test of reasonableness. The Administrative Order was not oppressive, as it did not impose unreasonable restrictions or deprive petitioners of their right to use the facilities. It merely set rules to ensure public safety and the uninhibited flow of traffic within those limited-access facilities.

The right to travel did not mean the right to choose any vehicle in traversing a tollway. Petitioners were free to access the tollway as much as the rest of the public. However, the mode in which they wished to travel, pertaining to their manner of using the tollway, was a subject that could validly be limited by regulation. There was no absolute right to drive; on the contrary, this privilege was heavily regulated.

GSIS V. MONTESCLAROS - CASE DIGEST - CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

GSIS V. MONTESCLAROS                       G.R. No. 146494. July 14, 2004
FACTS:
Nicolas Montesclaros, a 72-year-old widower married Milagros Orbiso, who was then 43 years old, on 10 July 1983. Nicolas filed with the GSIS an application for retirement benefits under the Revised Government Insurance Act of 1977.
In his retirement application, he designated his wife as his sole beneficiary. GSIS approved Nicolasapplication for retirement effective 17 February 1984, granting a lump sum payment of annuity for the first five years and a monthly annuity after.
Nicolas died on 22 April 1992. Milagros filed with the GSIS a claim for survivorship pension under PD 1146 but was denied the claim because, under section 18 of PD 1146, the surviving spouse has no right to survivorship pension if the surviving spouse contracted the marriage with the pensioner within three years before the pensioner qualified for the pension.
Nicolas wed Milagros on 10 July 1983, less than one year from his date of retirement on 17 February 1984. Milagros filed with the trial court a special civil action for declaratory relief questioning the validity of Sec. 18 of PD 1146.
The trial court rendered judgment declaring Milagros eligible for survivorship pension and ordered GSIS to pay Milagros the benefits including interest. Citing Articles 115and 117 of the Family Code, the trial court held that retirement benefits, which the pensioner has earned for services rendered and for which the pensioner has contributed through monthly salary deductions, are onerous acquisitions. Since retirement benefits are property the pensioner acquired through labor, such benefits are conjugal property. The trial court held that the prohibition in Section 18 of PD 1146 is deemed repealed for being inconsistent with the Family Code, a later law. The Family Code has retroactive effect if it does not prejudice or impair vested rights.
The trial court held that Section 18 of PD 1146 was repealed by the Family Code, a later law. GSIS appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial courts decision. Hence, this appeal.
In a letter dated 10 January 2003, Milagros informed the Court that she has accepted GSIS decision disqualifying her from receiving survivorship pension and that she is no longer interested in pursuing the case. However, the Court will still resolve the issue despite the manifestation of Milagros because social justice and public interest demand the resolution of the constitutionality of the proviso.
ISSUE:
Whether the proviso in Section 18 of PD 1146 is constitutional.
HELD:
NO. The sole proviso Sec. 18 of PD 1146 is unconstitutional. Under Section 18 of PD 1146, it prohibits the dependent spouse from receiving survivorship pension if such dependent spouse married the pensioner within three years before the pensioner qualified for the pension. The Court holds that such proviso is discriminatory and denies equal protection of the law.
The proviso is contrary to Section 1, Article III of the Constitution, which provides that [n]o person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.
The proviso is unduly oppressive in outrightly denying a dependent spouses claim for survivorship pension if the dependent spouse contracted marriage to the pensioner within the three-year prohibited period.
There is outright confiscation of benefits due the surviving spouse without giving the surviving spouse an opportunity to be heard.
The proviso undermines the purpose of PD 1146, which is to assure comprehensive and integrated social security and insurance benefits to government employees and their dependents in the event of sickness, disability, death, and retirement of the government employees.
A statute based on reasonable classification does not violate the constitutional guaranty of the equal protection of the law. The requirements for a valid and reasonable classification are:
(1) it must rest on substantial distinctions;
(2) it must be germane to the purpose of the law;
(3) it must not be limited to existing conditions only; and
(4) it must apply equally to all members of the same class. Thus, the law may treat and regulate one class differently from another class provided there are real and substantial differences to distinguish one class from another.
The proviso in question does not satisfy these requirements. The proviso discriminates against the dependent spouse who contracts marriage to the pensioner within three years before the pensioner qualified for the pension. Under the proviso, even if the dependent spouse married the pensioner more than three years before the pensioners death, the dependent spouse would still not receive survivorship pension if the marriage took place within three years before the pensioner qualified for pension. The object of the prohibition is vague. There is no reasonable connection between the means employed and the purpose intended. The law itself does not provide any reason or purpose for such a prohibition. If the purpose of the proviso is to prevent deathbed marriages, then we do not see why the proviso reckons the three-year prohibition from the date the pensioner qualified for pension and not from the date the pensioner died. The classification does not rest on substantial distinctions. Worse, the classification lumps all those marriages contracted within three years before the pensioner qualified for pension as having been contracted primarily for financial convenience to avail of pension benefits.
Indeed, the classification is discriminatory and arbitrary. This is probably the reason Congress deleted the proviso in Republic Act No. 8291 (RA 8291), otherwise known as the Government Service Insurance Act of 1997, the law revising the old charter of GSIS (PD 1146). Under the implementing rules of RA 8291, the surviving spouse who married the member immediately before the members death is still qualified to receive survivorship pension unless the GSIS proves that the surviving spouse contracted the marriage solely to receive the benefit.
Thus, the present GSIS law does not presume that marriages contracted within three years before retirement or death of a member are sham marriages contracted to avail of survivorship benefits. The present GSIS law does not automatically forfeit the survivorship pension of the surviving spouse who contracted marriage to a GSIS member within three years before the members retirement or death. The law acknowledges that whether the surviving spouse contracted the marriage mainly to receive survivorship benefits is a matter of evidence. The law no longer prescribes a sweeping classification that unduly prejudices the legitimate surviving spouse and defeats the purpose for which Congress enacted the social legislation.
Wherefore, the proviso in Section 18 of Presidential Decree No. 1146 is void for being violative of the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection of the law.

ABKD GURO PARTYLIST ET. AL V. ERMITA - CASE DIGEST - CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

ABKD GURO PARTYLIST ET. AL V. ERMITA              G.R. No. 168056 September 1, 2005
FACTS:
RA 9337, an act amending certain sections of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, is questioned by petitioners for being unconstitutional. Procedural issues raised by petitioners are the legality of the bicameral proceedings, exclusive origination of revenue measures and the power of the Senate concomitant thereto.
Also, Substantive issue was raised with regard to the undue delegation of legislative power to the President to increase the rate of value-added tax to 12%.
Petitioners also argue that the increase to 12%, as well as the 70% limitation on the creditable input tax, the 60- month amortization on the purchase or importation of capital goods exceeding P1,000,000.00, and the 5% final withholding tax by government agencies, is arbitrary, oppressive, and confiscatory, and that it violates the constitutional principle on progressive taxation, among others.
ISSUE:
WON Sections 4, 5 and 6 of R.A. No. 9337, amending Sections 106, 107 and 108, respectively, of the NIRC giving the President the stand-by authority to raise the VAT rate from 10% to 12% when a certain condition is met, constitutes undue delegation of the legislative power to tax.
HELD:
NO. The case before the Court is not a delegation of legislative power. It is simply a delegation of ascertainment of facts upon which enforcement and administration of the increase rate under the law is contingent. The legislature has made the operation of the 12% rate effective January 1, 2006, contingent upon a specified fact or condition. It leaves the entire operation or non-operation of the 12% rate upon factual matters outside of the control of the executive.

No discretion would be exercised by the President. Highlighting the absence of discretion is the fact that the word shall is used in the common proviso.  The use of the word shall connotes a mandatory order.  Its use in a statute denotes an imperative obligation and is inconsistent with the idea of discretion.Where the law is clear and unambiguous, it must be taken to mean exactly what it says, and courts have no choice but to see to it that the mandate is obeyed

Thus, it is the ministerial duty of the President to immediately impose the 12% rate upon the existence of any of the conditions specified by Congress. This is a duty which cannot be evaded by the President. Inasmuch as the law specifically uses the word shall, the exercise of discretion by the President does not come into play. It is a clear directive to impose the 12% VAT rate when the specified conditions are present. The time of taking into effect of the 12% VAT rate is based on the happening of a certain specified contingency, or upon the ascertainment of certain facts or conditions by a person or body other than the legislature itself.

The Court finds no merit to the contention of petitioners ABAKADA GURO Party List, et al. that the law effectively nullified the Presidents power of control over the Secretary of Finance by mandating the fixing of the tax rate by the President upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Finance. The Court cannot also subscribe to the position of petitioners Pimentel, et al. that the word shall should be interpreted to mean may in view of the phrase upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Finance.

Furthermore, Congress simply granted the Secretary of Finance the authority to ascertain the existence of a fact, namely, whether by December 31, 2005, the value-added tax collection as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the previous year exceeds two and four-fifth percent (24/5%) or the national government deficit as a percentage of GDP of the previous year exceeds one and one-half percent (1%). If either of these two instances has occurred, the Secretary of Finance, by legislative mandate, must submit such information to the President. Then the 12% VAT rate must be imposed by the President effective January 1, 2006. There is no undue delegation of legislative power but only of the discretion as to the execution of a law. This is constitutionally permissible.Congress does not abdicate its functions or unduly delegate power when it describes what job must be done, who must do it, and what is the scope of his authority; in our complex economy that is frequently the only way in which the legislative process can go forward.

As to the argument of petitioners ABAKADA GURO Party List, et al. that delegating to the President the legislative power to tax is contrary to the principle of republicanism, the same deserves scant consideration. Congress did not delegate the power to tax but the mere implementation of the law. The intent and will to increase the VAT rate to 12% came from Congress and the task of the President is to simply execute the legislative policy. That Congress chose to do so in such a manner is not within the province of the Court to inquire into, its task being to interpret the law.

ESTRADA V. SANDIGANBAYAN - CASE DIGEST - CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

ESTRADA V. SANDIGANBAYAN                    G.R. No. 148560. November 19, 2001
FACTS:
Former President Estrada and co-accused were charged for Plunder under RA 7080 (An Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder), as amended by RA 7659.
On the information, it was alleged that Estrada have received billions of pesos through any or a combination or a series of overt or criminal acts, or similar schemes or means thereby unjustly enriching himself or themselves at the expense and to the damage of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines.
Estrada questions the constitutionality of the Plunder Law since for him:
1. it suffers from the vice of vagueness
2. it dispenses with the "reasonable doubt" standard in criminal prosecutions
3. it abolishes the element of mens rea in crimes already punishable under The Revised Penal Code.
Office of the Ombudsman filed before the Sandiganbayan 8 separate Informations against petitioner.
Estrada filed an Omnibus Motion on the grounds of lack of preliminary investigation, reconsideration/reinvestigation of offenses and opportunity to prove lack of probable cause but was denied.
Later on, the Sandiganbayan issued a Resolution in Crim. Case No. 26558 finding that a probable cause for the offense of plunder exists to justify the issuance of warrants for the arrest of the accused.
Estrada moved to quash the Information in Criminal Case No. 26558 on the ground that the facts alleged therein did NOT constitute an indictable offense since the law on which it was based was unconstitutional for vagueness and that the Amended Information for Plunder charged more than one offense. Same was denied.
The questioned provisions of the petitioners are Secs. 1, par. (d), 2 and 4 of the Plunder Law which states that:
Section 1. x x x x (d) "Ill-gotten wealth" means any asset, property, business, enterprise or material possession of any person within the purview of Section Two (2) hereof, acquired by him directly or indirectly through dummies, nominees, agents, subordinates and/or business associates by any combination or series of the following means or similar schemes:
(1) Through misappropriation, conversion, misuse, or malversation of public funds or raids on the public treasury;
(2) By receiving, directly or indirectly, any commission, gift, share, percentage, kickbacks or any other form of pecuniary benefit from any person and/or entity in connection with any government contract or project or by reason of the office or position of the public office concerned;
(3) By the illegal or fraudulent conveyance or disposition of assets belonging to the National Government or any of its subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities, or government owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries;
(4) By obtaining, receiving or accepting directly or indirectly any shares of stock, equity or any other form of interest or participation including the promise of future employment in any business enterprise or undertaking;
(5) By establishing agricultural, industrial or commercial monopolies or other combinations and/or implementation of decrees and orders intended to benefit particular persons or special interests; or
(6) By taking advantage of official position, authority, relationship, connection or influence to unjustly enrich himself or themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines.
Section 2. Definition of the Crime of Plunder, Penalties. - Any public officer who, by himself or in connivance with members of his family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates, subordinates or other persons, amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt or criminal acts as described in Section 1 (d) hereof, in the aggregate amount or total value of at least fifty million pesos (P50,000,000.00) shall be guilty of the crime of plunder and shall be punished by reclusion perpetua to death. Any person who participated with the said public officer in the commission of an offense contributing to the crime of plunder shall likewise be punished for such offense. In the imposition of penalties, the degree of participation and the attendance of mitigating and extenuating circumstances as provided by the Revised Penal Code shall be considered by the court. The court shall declare any and all ill-gotten wealth and their interests and other incomes and assets including the properties and shares of stocks derived from the deposit or investment thereof forfeited in favor of the State (underscoring supplied).
Section 4. Rule of Evidence. For purposes of establishing the crime of plunder, it shall not be necessary to prove each and every criminal act done by the accused in furtherance of the scheme or conspiracy to amass, accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth, it being sufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt a pattern of overt or criminal acts indicative of the overall unlawful scheme or conspiracy (underscoring supplied).
ISSUE:
WON the crime of plunder is unconstitutional for being vague?
HELD:
NO. As long as the law affords some comprehensible guide or rule that would inform those who are subject to it what conduct would render them liable to its penalties, its validity will be sustained. The amended information itself closely tracks the language of the law, indicating w/ reasonable certainty the various elements of the offense w/c the petitioner is alleged to have committed.
We discern nothing in the foregoing that is vague or ambiguous that will confuse petitioner in his defense.
Petitioner, however, bewails the failure of the law to provide for the statutory definition of the terms combinationand series in the key phrase a combination or series of overt or criminal acts. These omissions, according to the petitioner, render the Plunder Law unconstitutional for being impermissibly vague and overbroad and deny him the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, hence violative of his fundamental right to due process.
A statute is not rendered uncertain and void merely because general terms are used herein, or because of the employment of terms without defining them.
A statute or act may be said to be vague when it lacks comprehensible standards that men of common intelligence most necessarily guess at its meaning and differ in its application. In such instance, the statute is repugnant to the Constitution in two (2) respects it violates due process for failure to accord persons, especially the parties targeted by it, fair notice of what conduct  to avoid; and, it leaves law enforcers unbridled discretion in carrying out its provisions and becomes an arbitrary flexing of the Government muscle.
A facial challenge is allowed to be made to vague statute and to one which is overbroad because of possible chilling effectupon protected speech.  The possible harm to society in permitting some unprotected speech to go unpunished is outweighed by the possibility that the protected speech of others may be deterred and perceived grievances left to fester because of possible inhibitory effects of overly broad statutes. But in criminal law, the law cannot take chances as in the area of free speech.