Monday, November 28, 2011

Dennis B. Funa vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita, Office of the President,G.R. No. 184740, February 11, 2010.

Judicial review; requisites. The courts’ power of judicial review, like almost all other powers conferred by the Constitution, is subject to several limitations, namely: (1) there must be an actual case or controversy calling for the exercise of judicial power; (2) the person challenging the act must have “standing” to challenge; he must have a personal and substantial interest in the case, such that he has sustained or will sustain, direct injury as a result of its enforcement; (3) the question of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest possible opportunity; and (4) the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota of the case. Respondents assert that the second requisite is absent in this case. 

Generally, a party will be allowed to litigate only when (1) he can show that he has personally suffered some actual or threatened injury because of the allegedly illegal conduct of the government; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action; and (3) the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable action. The question on 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.” 

In David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, summarizing the rules culled from jurisprudence, the Supreme Court held that taxpayers, voters, concerned citizens, and legislators may be accorded standing to sue, provided that the following requirements are met: 

(1) cases involve constitutional issues; 

(2) for taxpayers, there must be a claim of illegal disbursement of public funds or that the tax measure is unconstitutional; 

(3) for voters, there must be a showing of obvious interest in the validity of the election law in question; 

(4) for concerned citizens, there must be a showing that the issues raised are of transcendental importance which must be settled early; and for legislators, there must be a claim that the official action complained of infringes upon their prerogatives as legislators. 

Petitioner having alleged a grave violation of the constitutional prohibition against Members of the Cabinet, their deputies and assistants holding two (2) or more positions in government, the fact that he filed this suit as a concerned citizen sufficiently confers him with standing to sue for redress of such illegal act by public officials. 

Public officials; multiple office. The prohibition against holding dual or multiple offices or employment under Section 13, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution was held inapplicable to posts occupied by the Executive officials specified therein, without additional compensation in an ex-officio capacity as provided by law and as required by the primary functions of said office. The reason is that these posts do not comprise “any other office” within the contemplation of the constitutional prohibition but are properly an imposition of additional duties and functions on said officials. Apart from their bare assertion that respondent Bautista did not receive any compensation when she was OIC of MARINA, respondents failed to demonstrate clearly that her designation as such OIC was in an ex-officio capacity as required by the primary functions of her office as DOTC Undersecretary for Maritime Transport. 

Given the vast responsibilities and scope of administration of the MARINA, we are hardly persuaded by respondents’ submission that respondent Bautista’s designation as OIC of MARINA was merely an imposition of additional duties related to her primary position as DOTC Undersecretary for Maritime Transport. It appears that the DOTC Undersecretary for Maritime Transport is not even a member of the Maritime Industry Board, which includes the DOTC Secretary as Chairman, the MARINA Administrator as Vice-Chairman, and the following as members: Executive Secretary (Office of the President), Philippine Ports Authority General Manager, Department of National Defense Secretary, Development Bank of the Philippines General Manager, and the Department of Trade and Industry Secretary. 

It must be stressed though that while the designation was in the nature of an acting and temporary capacity, the words “hold the office” were employed. Such holding of office pertains to both appointment and designation because the appointee or designate performs the duties and functions of the office. The 1987 Constitution in prohibiting dual or multiple offices, as well as incompatible offices, refers to the holding of the office, and not to the nature of the appointment or designation, words which were not even found in Section 13, Article VII nor in Section 7, paragraph 2, Article IX-B. To “hold” an office means to “possess or occupy” the same, or “to be in possession and administration,” which implies nothing less than the actual discharge of the functions and duties of the office. 

The disqualification laid down in Section 13, Article VII is aimed at preventing the concentration of powers in the Executive Department officials, specifically the President, Vice-President, Members of the Cabinet and their deputies and assistants. Civil Liberties Union traced the history of the times and the conditions under which the Constitution was framed, and construed the Constitution consistent with the object sought to be accomplished by adoption of such provision, and the evils sought to be avoided or remedied. We recalled the practice, during the Marcos regime, of designating members of the Cabinet, their deputies and assistants as members of the governing bodies or boards of various government agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations. This practice of holding multiple offices or positions in the government led to abuses by unscrupulous public officials, who took advantage of this scheme for purposes of self-enrichment. The blatant betrayal of public trust evolved into one of the serious causes of discontent with the Marcos regime. It was therefore quite inevitable and in consonance with the overwhelming sentiment of the people that the 1986 Constitutional Commission would draft into the proposed Constitution the provisions under consideration, which were envisioned to remedy, if not correct, the evils that flow from the holding of multiple governmental offices and employment. Dennis B. Funa vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita, Office of the President,G.R. No. 184740, February 11, 2010.

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