Thursday, February 02, 2012

Philippine Judges Association vs. Prado

Facts: The main target of this petition is Section 35 of R.A. No. 7354 as implemented by the Philippine Postal Corporation through its Circular No. 92-28. These measures withdraw the franking privilege from the SC, CA, RTC, MTC, MeTC and the Land Registration Commission and its Registers of Deeds, along with certain other government offices. The petitioners are members of the lower courts who feel that their official functions as judges will be prejudiced by the above-named measures. The petition assails the constitutionality of R.A. No. 7354.

Issues:
(1) Whether or not its title embraces more than one subject and does not express its purpose

 (2) Whether or not it did not pass the required readings in both Houses of Congress and printed copies of the bill in its final form were not distributed among the members before its passage;

 (3) Whether or not it is discriminatory and encroaches on the independence of the Judiciary

Held:
(1) Article VI, Sec. 26(l), of the Constitution providing that "Every bill passed by the Congress shall embrace only one subject which shall be expressed in the title thereof." The purposes of this rule are: (1) to prevent hodge-podge or "log-rolling" legislation; (2) to prevent surprise or fraud upon the legislature by means of provisions in bills of which the title gives no intimation, and which might therefore be overlooked and carelessly and unintentionally adopted; and (3) to fairly apprise the people, through such publication of legislative proceedings as is usually made, of the subject of legislation that is being considered, in order that they may have opportunity of being heard thereon, by petition or otherwise, if they shall so desire.

It is the submission of the petitioners that Section 35 of R.A. No. 7354 which withdrew the franking privilege from the Judiciary is not expressed in the title of the law, nor does it reflect its purposes. R.A. No. 7354 is entitled "An Act Creating the Philippine Postal Corporation, Defining its Powers, Functions and Responsibilities, Providing for Regulation of the Industry and for Other Purposes Connected Therewith." The petitioners' contention is untenable. The title of the bill is not required to be an index to the body of the act, or to be as comprehensive as to cover every single detail of the measure. It has been held that if the title fairly indicates the general subject, and reasonably covers all the provisions of the act, and is not calculated to mislead the legislature or the people, there is sufficient compliance with the constitutional requirement. Furthermore, the repeal of a statute on a given subject is properly connected with the subject matter of a new statute on the same subject; and therefore a repealing section in the new statute is valid, notwithstanding that the title is silent on the subject. The reason is that where a statute repeals a former law, such repeal is the effect and not the subject of the statute; and it is the subject, not the effect of a law, which is required to be briefly expressed in its title. The withdrawal of the franking privilege from some agencies is germane to the accomplishment of the principal objective of R.A. No. 7354, which is the creation of a more efficient and effective postal service system.

(2) It is a matter of record that the conference Committee Report on the bill in question was returned to and duly approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Thereafter, the bill was enrolled with its certification by Senate President Neptali A. Gonzales and Speaker Ramon V. Mitra of the House of Representatives as having been duly passed by both Houses of Congress. It was then presented to and approved by President Corazon C. Aquino on April 3, 1992. Under the doctrine of separation powers, the Court may not inquire beyond the certification of the approval of a bill from the presiding officers of Congress. The enrolled bill is conclusive upon the Judiciary (except in matters that have to be entered in the journals like the yeas and nays on the final reading of the bill).

 (3) It is alleged that R.A. No. 7354 is discriminatory because while withdrawing the franking privilege from the Judiciary, it retains the same for the President of the Philippines, the Vice President of the Philippines; Senators and Members of the House of Representatives, the Commission on Elections; former Presidents of the Philippines; the National Census and Statistics Office; and the general public in the filing of complaints against public offices and officers. The withdrawal of the franking privileges was indeed discriminatory. If the problem of the respondents is the loss of revenues from the franking privilege, the remedy is to withdraw it altogether from all agencies of government, including those who do not need it. The problem is not solved by retaining it for some and withdrawing it from others, especially where there is no substantial distinction between those favored, which may or may not need it at all, and the Judiciary, which definitely needs it. The problem is not solved by violating the Constitution. The classification was not based on substantial distinctions.


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