Thursday, March 01, 2012

Segovia vs. Noel [G.R. No. L-23226, March 4, 1925]

Facts: Vicente Segovia was appointed justice of the peace of Dumanjug, Cebu, on January 21, 1907. He continuously occupied this position until having passed sixty-five mile- stones, he was ordered by the Secretary of Justice on July 1, 1924, to vacate the office. Since that date, Pedro Noel, the auxiliary justice of the peace has acted as justice of the peace for the municipality of Dumanjug. 

Mr. Segovia being desirous of avoiding a public scandal and of opposing physical resistance to the occupancy of the office of justice of the peace by the auxiliary justice of the peace, instituted friendly quo warranto proceedings in the Court of First Instance of Cebu to inquire into the right of Pedro Noel to occupy the office of justice of the peace, to oust the latter therefrom, and to procure reinstatement as justice of the peace of Dumanjug. To this complaint, Pedro Noel interposed a demurrer on the ground that it did not allege facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action, because Act No. 3107 was constitutional and because Mr. Segovia being sixty-five years old had automatically ceased to be justice of the peace. On the issue thus framed and on stipulated facts, judgment was rendered by Honorable Adolph Wislizenus, Judge of First Instance, overruling the demurrer, and in favor of petitioner and against respondent. 

Issue: Whether that portion of Act No. 3107 which provides, that justices of the peace and auxiliary justices of the peace shall be appointed to serve until they have reached the age of sixty- five years, should be given retroactive or prospective effect. 

Held: A sound canon of statutory construction is that a statute operates prospectively only and never retroactively, unless the legislative intent to the contrary is made manifest either by the express terms of the statute or by necessary implication. Following the lead of the United States Supreme Court and putting the rule more strongly, a statute ought not to receive a construction making it act retroactively, unless the words used are so clear, strong, and imperative that no other meaning can be annexed to them, or unless the intention of the legislature cannot be otherwise satisfied. No court will hold a statute to be retroactive when the legislature has not said so. As our Civil Code has it in article 3, "Law shall not have a retroactive effect unless therein otherwise provided." 

The same rule is followed by the courts with reference to public offices. A well-known New York decision held that "though there is no vested right in an office, which may not be disturbed by legislation, yet the incumbent has, in a sense, a right to his office. If that right is to be taken away by statute, the terms should be clear in which the purpose is stated." In another case, a new constitutional provision as to the advanced age which should prevent the incumbents of certain judicial offices from retaining them was held prospective; it did not apply to persons in office at the time of its taking effect. 

The language of Act No. 3107 amendatory of section 203 of the Administrative Code, gives no indication of retroactive effect. The law signifies no purpose of operating upon existing rights. A proviso was merely tacked on to section 203 of the Administrative Code, while leaving intact section 206 of the same Code which permits justices of the peace to hold office during good behavior. In the absence of provisions expressly making the law applicable to justices of the peace then in office, and in the absence of provisions impliedly indicative of such legislative intent, the courts would not be justified in giving the law an interpretation which would legislate faithful public servants out of office. 

Answering the question with which we began our decision, we hold that the proviso added to section 203 of the Administrative Code by section 1 of Act No. 3107, providing that justices and auxiliary justices of the peace shall be appointed to serve until they have reached the age of sixty-five years, should be given prospective effect only, and so is not applicable to justices of the peace and auxiliary justices of the peace appointed before Act No. 3107 went into force. Consequently, it results that the decision of the trial court is correct in its findings of fact and law and in its disposition of the case.

Digg Google Bookmarks reddit Mixx StumbleUpon Technorati Yahoo! Buzz DesignFloat Delicious BlinkList Furl

0 comments: on "Segovia vs. Noel [G.R. No. L-23226, March 4, 1925]"

Post a Comment