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Category Archives: Constitutional Law

Luz v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 197788, 29 February 2012.

[SERENO, J.]

FACTS: PO3 Alteza flagged down Rodel Luz for violating a municipal ordinance which requires all motorcycle drivers to wear helmets while driving their motorcyles. PO3 Alteza invited the Luz to come inside their sub-station since the place where he flagged down the Luz is almost in front of the said sub-station. While issuing a citation ticket for violation of municipal ordinance, PO3 Alteza noticed that Luz was uneasy and kept on getting something from his jacket. Alerted and so, he told the Luz to take out the contents of the pocket of his jacket as the latter may have a weapon inside it.  Luzo bliged and slowly put out the contents of the pocket of his jacket which was a nickel-like tin or metal container about two (2) to three (3) inches in size, including two (2) cellphones, one (1) pair of scissors and one (1) Swiss knife. Upon seeing the said container, he asked Luz to open it. After Luz opened the container, PO3 Alteza noticed a cartoon cover and something beneath it, and that upon his instruction, the former spilled out the contents of the container on the table which turned out to be four (4) plastic sachets, the two (2) of which were empty while the other two (2) contained suspected shabu. Luz was later charged for illegal possession of dangerous drugs. Luz claims that there was no lawful search and seizure because there was no lawful arrest. The RTC found that Luz was lawfully arrested. Upon review, the CA affirmed the RTCs Decision.

 

ISSUE #1: Can Luz be considered lawfully arrested based on traffic violation under the city ordinance, and such arrest lead to a valid search and seizure?

HELD #1: NO, Luz was not lawfully arrested. When he was flagged down for committing a traffic violation, he was not, ipso facto and solely for this reason, arrested.

Arrest is the taking of a person into custody in order that he or she may be bound to answer for the commission of an offense. It is effected by an actual restraint of the person to be arrested or by that persons voluntary submission to the custody of the one making the arrest. Neither the application of actual force, manual touching of the body, or physical restraint, nor a formal declaration of arrest, is required. It is enough that there be an intention on the part of one of the parties to arrest the other, and that there be an intent on the part of the other to submit, under the belief and impression that submission is necessary.

At the time that he was waiting for PO3 Alteza to write his citation ticket, petitioner could not be said to have been under arrest. There was no intention on the part of PO3 Alteza to arrest him, deprive him of his liberty, or take him into custody. Prior to the issuance of the ticket, the period during which petitioner was at the police station may be characterized merely as waiting time. In fact, as found by the trial court, PO3 Alteza himself testified that the only reason they went to the police sub-station was that petitioner had been flagged down almost in front of that place. Hence, it was only for the sake of convenience that they were waiting there. There was no intention to take petitioner into custody.

This ruling does not imply that there can be no arrest for a traffic violation. Certainly, when there is an intent on the part of the police officer to deprive the motorist of liberty, or to take the latter into custody, the former may be deemed to have arrested the motorist. In this case, however, the officers issuance (or intent to issue) a traffic citation ticket negates the possibility of an arrest for the same violation.

 

ISSUE #2: Assuming that Luz was deemed arrested, was there a valid warrantless search and seizure that can still produce conviction?

HELD#2: NO. Even if one were to work under the assumption that Luz was deemed arrested upon being flagged down for a traffic violation and while awaiting the issuance of his ticket, then the requirements for a valid arrest were not complied with.

This Court has held that at the time a person is arrested, it shall be the duty of the arresting officer to inform the latter of the reason for the arrest and must show that person the warrant of arrest, if any. Persons shall be informed of their constitutional rights to remain silent and to counsel, and that any statement they might make could be used against them. It may also be noted that in this case, these constitutional requirements were complied with by the police officers only after petitioner had been arrested for illegal possession of dangerous drugs.

[T]here being no valid arrest, the warrantless search that resulted from it was likewise illegal. The subject items seized during the illegal arrest are inadmissible. The drugs are the very corpus delicti of the crime of illegal possession of dangerous drugs. Thus, their inadmissibility precludes conviction and calls for the acquittal of the accused.

 

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Jacomille v. Abaya, G.R. No. 212381, 22 April 2015.

[MENDOZA, J.]

FACTS:

Recently, the LTO formulated the Motor Vehicle License Plate Standardization Program (MVPSP) to supply the new license plates for both old and new vehicle registrants.  The DOTC published in newspapers of general circulation the Invitation To Bid for the supply and delivery of motor vehicle license plates for the MVPSP and stated that the source of funding in the amount of P3,851,600,100.00 would be the General Appropriations Act (GAA). However, a perusal of R.A. No. 10352 or the General Appropriations Act of 2013 (GAA 2013), would show that Congress appropriated only the amount of P187,293,000.00 under the specific heading of Motor Vehicle Plate-Making Project. The DOTC proceeded with the bidding process, but delayed in the implementation of the project. The Senate Committee on Public Services conducted an inquiry in aid of legislation on the reported delays in the release of motor vehicle license plates, stickers and tags by the LTO.

Petitioner, by counsel and assisted by Retired Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing, instituted this taxpayer suit, averring that he was a diligent citizen paying his correct taxes to the Philippine Government regularly; that he was a registered vehicle owner, as evidenced by the Certificate of Registration of his motor vehicle and a registered licensed driver; that he would be affected by the government issuance of vehicle plates thru its MVPSP upon his renewal of the registration of his vehicle; that not being a participant to the bidding process, he could not avail of the administrative remedies and procedure provided under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR); that as far as he was concerned, there was no appeal or any plain or speedy remedy available to him.

For the respondents, the OSG stated that the issues presented had been rendered moot and academic as the gap in the budget of MVPSP was already bridged and covered by the full and specific funding by GAA 2014 in the amount of P4,843,753,000.00 for the item “Motor Vehicle Registration and Driver’s Licensing Regulatory Services.” With the signing of MVPSP on February 21, 2014, after the enactment of GAA 2014, the OSG claimed that all objections that petitioner might have, whether right or wrong, had been rendered naught.

On the other hand, JKG-Power Plates averred that petitioner had no locus standi. It pointed out that petitioner had admitted that he was not one of the bidders in MVPSP and so he would not suffer any direct injury. Likewise, the present case was not a proper subject of taxpayer suit because no taxes would be spent for this project. The money to be paid for the plates would not come from taxes, but from payments of vehicle owners, who would pay P450.00 for every pair of motor vehicle license plate, and P120.00 for every motorcycle license plate. Out of the P450.00, the cost of the motor vehicle plate would only be P380.00. In effect, the government would even earn P70.00 from every pair of plate.

ISSUES:

  1. Whether the petition should be dismissed for being moot and academic, considering the assailed deficiencies in appropriation have been substantially complied with.
  1. Whether the petitioner has locus standi to bring his case in court.
  1. Whether the petitioner established a taxpayer’s suit.

HELD:

1. NO.

The rule is well-settled that for a court to exercise its power of adjudication, there must be an actual case or controversy – one which involves a conflict of legal rights, an assertion of opposite legal claims susceptible of judicial resolution. The case must not be moot or academic or based on extra-legal or other similar considerations not cognizable by a court of justice. Where the issue has become moot and academic, there is no justiciable controversy, and an adjudication thereon would be of no practical u se or value as courts do not sit to adjudicate mere academic questions to satisfy scholarly interest, however intellectually challenging. xxx Nevertheless, there were occasions in the past when the Court passed upon issues although supervening events had rendered those petitions moot and academic. After all, the moot and academic principle is not a magical formula that can automatically dissuade the courts from resolving a case. Courts will decide cases, otherwise moot and academic, if: first, there is a grave violation of the Constitution; second, the exceptional character of the situation and the paramount public interest is involved; third, when the constitutional issue raised requires formulation .of controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, and the public; and fourth, the case is capable of repetition yet evading review.

In the case at bench, the issues presented must still be passed upon because paramount public interest is involved and the case is capable of repetition yet evading review. MVPSP is a nationwide project which affects new and old registrants of motor vehicles and it involves P3,851,600,100.00 of the taxpayers’ money. Also, the act complained of is capable of repetition because the procurement process under R.A. No. 9184 is regularly made by various government agencies. Hence, it is but prudent for the Court to rule on the substantial merits of the case.

2. YES.

Locus standi is defined as the right of appearance in a court of justice on a given question. The fundamental question is whether a party alleges such personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.

In the present case, petitioner justifies his locus standi by claiming that the petition raises issues of transcendental importance and that he institutes the same as a taxpayer’s suit. It must be noted that the Court has provided the following instructive guides to determine whether a matter is of transcendental importance, namely: “(1) the character of the funds or other assets involved in the case; (2) the presence of a clear case of disregard of a constitutional or statutory prohibition by the public respondent agency or instrumentality of the government; and (3) the lack of any other party with a more direct and specific interest in the questions being raised.”

Petitioner sufficiently showed that his case presents a matter of transcendental importance based on the above-cited determinants. He elucidated that, first, around P3.851 billion in public funds stood to be illegally disbursed; second, the IRR of R.A. No. 9184 and R.A. No. 7718 were violated and the contract for MVPSP was awarded to respondent JKG Power Plates despite the utter disregard of the said laws; third, there was no other party with a more direct and specific interest who had raised the issues therein; and fourth, MVPSP had a wide range of impact because all registered motor vehicles owners would be affected.

3. YES.

A person suing as a taxpayer must show that the act complained of directly involves the illegal disbursement of public funds derived from taxation. Contrary to the assertion of JKG-Power Plates, MVPSP clearly involves the expenditure of public funds. While the motor vehicle registrants will pay for the license plates, the bid documents and contract for MVPSP indicate that the government shall bear the burden of paying for the project. Every portion of the national treasury, when appropriated by Congress, must be properly allocated and disbursed. Necessarily, an allegation that public funds in the amount of P3.851 billion shall be used in a project that has undergone an improper procurement process cannot be easily brushed off by the Court.

 

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Steelcase, Inc. v. Design International Selections, Inc. (DISI), G.R. No. 171995, 18 April 2012

[MENDOZA, J.]

 

FACTS

Steelcase, Inc. (Steelcase) granted Design International Selections, Inc. (DISI) the right to market, sell, distribute, install, and service its products to end-user customers within the Philippines.Steelcase argues that Section 3(d) of R.A. No. 7042 or the Foreign Investments Act of 1991 (FIA) expressly states that the phrase doing business excludes the appointment by a foreign corporation of a local distributor domiciled in the Philippines which transacts business in its own name and for its own account. On the other hand, DISI argues that it was appointed by Steelcase as the latter’s exclusive distributor of Steelcase products.  The dealership agreement between Steelcase and DISI had been described by the owner himself as basically a buy and sell arrangement.

 

ISSUE

Whether Steelcase had been doing business in the Philippines.

RULING

NO.

[T]he appointment of a distributor in the Philippines is not sufficient to constitute doing business unless it is under the full control of the foreign corporation. On the other hand, if the distributor is an independent entity which buys and distributes products, other than those of the foreign corporation, for its own name and its own account, the latter cannot be considered to be doing business in the Philippines. Here, DISI was an independent contractor which sold Steelcase products in its own name and for its own account. As a result, Steelcase cannot be considered to be doing business in the Philippines by its act of appointing a distributor as it falls under one of the exceptions under R.A. No. 7042.

 

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Heirs of Gamboa v. Teves, et al., G.R. No. 176579, 09 October 2012

[CARPIO, J.]

FACTS

Movants Philippine Stock Exchange’s (PSE) President, Manuel V. Pangilinan, Napoleon L. Nazareno, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) contend that the term “capital” in Section 11, Article XII of the Constitution has long been settled and defined to refer to the total outstanding shares of stock, whether voting or non-voting. In fact, movants claim that the SEC, which is the administrative agency tasked to enforce the 60-40 ownership requirement in favor of Filipino citizens in the Constitution and various statutes, has consistently adopted this particular definition in its numerous opinions. Movants point out that with the 28 June 2011 Decision, the Court in effect introduced a “new” definition or “midstream redefinition” of the term “capital” in Section 11, Article XII of the Constitution.

ISSUE

Whether the term “capital” includes both voting and non-voting shares.

RULING

NO.

The Constitution expressly declares as State policy the development of an economy “effectively controlled” by Filipinos. Consistent with such State policy, the Constitution explicitly reserves the ownership and operation of public utilities to Philippine nationals, who are defined in the Foreign Investments Act of 1991 as Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least 60 percent of whose capital with voting rights belongs to Filipinos. The FIA’s implementing rules explain that “[f]or stocks to be deemed owned and held by Philippine citizens or Philippine nationals, mere legal title is not enough to meet the required Filipino equity. Full beneficial ownership of the stocks, coupled with appropriate voting rights is essential.” In effect, the FIA clarifies, reiterates and confirms the interpretation that the term “capital” in Section 11, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution refers to shares with voting rights, as well as with full beneficial ownership. This is precisely because the right to vote in the election of directors, coupled with full beneficial ownership of stocks, translates to effective control of a corporation.

 

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