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Sotto v. Commission on Elections, 76 Phil. 516, G.R. No. L-329 April 16, 1946

En Banc

[FERIA, J.]

FACTS: Section 9 of Commonwealth Act No. 657 provides:

“Any decision, order, or ruling of the Commission on Elections may be reviewed by the Supreme Court by writ of certiorari in accordance with the Rules of Court or with such rules as may be promulgated by the Supreme Court.”

Here is a petition filed by Vicente Sotto for review of the decision of the Commission on Elections which declared the respondent Emilio M. Javier as the true and legitimate President of the Popular Front (Sumulong) Party. The petitioner Vicente Sotto contends in his petition that he is the President of said Party, and prays that said decision be reviewed and reversed and that petitioner be declared the legitimate President of the Party.

ISSUE#1: Can the Supreme Court review the rulings or findings of facts by the Commission on Elections?

HELD#1: NO.

Under Section 2, Article VIII of the Constitution of the Philippines, as well as our Rules of Court, final judgment and decrees of the inferior or lower courts may be reviewed by this Court by appeal, writ of error, or certiorari. By appeal the appellate court reviews all the findings of law and of fact of the court a quo, as in special proceedings (Rule 105, Rules of Court). By writ of error the appellate court reviews only the findings of law or of fact of the lower court assigned in the assignment of errors of the appellant, as in ordinary civil actions (section 19, Rule 48). And by certiorari the appellate or superior Court can only review questions or errors of law decided or committed by the lower court, as provided in Rules 43, 44 and 46 of the Rules of court. Questions or findings of fact of the inferior tribunal, can not be reviewed on certiorari. “Evidence which is made a part of the record can not be examined to determine whether or not it justifies the finding on which the decision or judgment was made. (See the following rule.).

The general rule is that, in the absence of statue or local practice otherwise, questions or findings of fact, in the inferior tribunal, are not reviewable on certiorari, and that evidence which is made a part of the record cannot be examined to determine whether or not it justified the findings on which the decision or judgment was made; nor will rulings on questions of fact, within the inferior tribunal’s jurisdiction, be reviewed. (14 Corpus Juris Secundum, pp. 311, 312.) (Emphasis supplied.)

In accordance with the provision of section 9 of Commonwealth Act No. 657, this Court can not, therefore, review the rulings or findings of fact of the Commission on Elections.

It is true that Article X, Section 2, of the Constitution of the Philippines provides that “decisions, orders and rulings of the Commission shall be subject to review by the Supreme Court.” As the review may only be effected, as above-stated, by any one of the three modes or ways abovementioned, and not by the three at the same time, for the scope of each one is different and at variance with the others, and the Philippine Congress has provided in section 9, Commonwealth Act No. 657, that decisions, orders and rulings of the Commission on Elections may be reviewed by this Court by writ of certiorari in accordance with the Rules of Court, we have to apply said provision of Act No. 657, since its constitutionality is not assailed by the parties in this case, and the presumption is that it is constitutional. xxx

But assuming that this Court may review the findings of facts in the decision of the Commission on Elections, it is obvious that the findings of fact as well as of law in the decision of the Commission are supported by the evidence in the record and are in accordance with the law.

ISSUE#2: Should the Court pass upon a constitutional question not raised by the parties?

HELD#2: NO.

It is a well-established rule that a court should not pass upon a constitutional question and decide a law to be unconstitutional or invalid, unless such question is raised by the parties, and that when it is raised, if the record also presents some other ground upon which the court may rest its judgment, that course will be adopted and the constitutional will be left for consideration until a case arises in which a decision upon such question will be unavoidable (Cooley’s Constitutional Limitations, seventh edition, p. 231). The contention in the dissenting opinion that “whether the point (unconstitutionality) of the provision of section 9, Act No. 657, is raised or not by either party, we can not close our eyes to the constitutional mandate,” is therefore evidently erroneous.

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Tan v. Macapagal, G.R. No. L-34161 February 29, 1972

En Banc

[FERNANDO, J.]

FACTS: Petitioners, in a taxpayer’s suit, assails the validity of the Laurel-Leido Resolution, dealing with the range of the authority of the 1971 Constitutional Convention, would have this Court declare that it is “without power, under Section 1, Article XV of the Constitution and Republic Act 6132, to consider, discuss and adopt proposals which seek to revise the present Constitution through the adoption of a form of government other than the form now outlined in the present Constitution [the Convention being] merely empowered to propose improvements to the present Constitution without altering the general plan laid down therein.” The denial of the petitioner’s 5-page petition was responded by a 32-page motion for reconsideration.

ISSUE: Can the Court interpose judicial oversight against a resolution passed by the Constitutional Convention?

HELD: NO.

The doctrine of separation of powers calls for the other departments being left alone to discharge their duties as they see fit. The judiciary as Justice Laurel emphatically asserted “will neither direct nor restrain executive [or legislative] action …” The legislative and executive branches are not bound to seek its advice as to what to do or not to do. Judicial inquiry has to be postponed in the meanwhile. It is a prerequisite that something had by then been accomplished or performed by either branch before a court may come into the picture. At such a time, it may pass on the validity of what was done but only “when … properly challenged in an appropriate legal proceeding.”

Such a principle applies as well when the inquiry concerns the scope of the competence lodged in the Constitutional Convention. The judiciary must leave it free to fulfill its responsibility according to its lights. There is to be no interference. Its autonomy is to be respected. It cannot be otherwise if it is to perform its function well. Such should be the case not only because it is a coordinate agency but also because its powers are transcendent, amounting as it does to submitting for popular ratification proposals which may radically alter the organization and functions of all three departments, including the courts. It is therefore much more imperative that the rule of non-interference be strictly adhered to until the appropriate time comes.

More specifically, as long as any proposed amendment is still unacted on by it, there is no room for the interposition of judicial oversight. Only after it has made concrete what it intends to submit for ratification may the appropriate case be instituted. Until then, the courts are devoid of jurisdiction. That is the command of the Constitution as interpreted by this Court. Unless and until such a doctrine loses force by being overruled or a new precedent being announced, it is controlling. That is implicit in the rule of law. Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration cannot therefor be sustained.

 
 

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City of Caloocan and Abracia v. Judge Allarde, et al., G.R. No. 107271, 10 September 2003

Third Division

[CORONA, J.]

FACTS: The City Mayor, through an ordinance, abolished the position of Assistant City Administrator and 17 other positions from the plantilla of the local government of Caloocan. Then Assistant City Administrator Delfina Hernandez Santiago and the 17 affected employees of the City Government assailed the legality of the abolition before the then Court of First Instance (CFI) of Caloocan City, Branch 33, which was ruled in their favor and has attained finality. Later, all dismissed employees were paid their back wages except respondent Santiago who was only partially paid. City of Caloocan resorted to several attempts to delay the payment of remaining unpaid back wages with interest of Santiago by filing another action with the Court of Appeals and later, inquiry from the Civil Service Commission. Both were not favorable to the City.

When the City Council of Caloocan enacted appropriation Ordinance No. 0134, Series of 1992 which included the amount of P439,377.14 claimed by Santiago, Judge Allarde issued an order for the City of Caloocan to deliver to the RTC a manager’s check for the satisfaction of the judgment.  When the City Mayor refused to sign the check intended for Santiago’s payment, Judge Allarde ordered the Sheriff to garnish the funds of the City of Caloocan. The order was questioned by the City contending their public funds are beyond the reach of garnishment.

ISSUE: Is Judge Allarde correct in ordering the garnishment of City funds to satisfy the judgment in favor of Santiago?

HELD: YES.

The rule is and has always been that all government funds deposited in the PNB or any other official depositary of the Philippine Government by any of its agencies or instrumentalities, whether by general or special deposit, remain government funds and may not be subject to garnishment or levy, in the absence of a corresponding appropriation as required by law. The rule is based on obvious considerations of public policy. The functions and public services rendered by the State cannot be allowed to be paralyzed or disrupted by the diversion of public funds from their legitimate and specific objects, as appropriated by law. However, the rule is not absolute and admits of a well-defined exception, that is, when there is a corresponding appropriation as required by law. Otherwise stated, the rule on the immunity of public funds from seizure or garnishment does not apply where the funds sought to be levied under execution are already allocated by law specifically for the satisfaction of the money judgment against the government. In such a case, the monetary judgment may be legally enforced by judicial processes.

In the instant case, the City Council of Caloocan already approved and passed Ordinance No. 0134, Series of 1992, allocating the amount of P439,377.14 for respondent Santiago’s back salaries plus interest. Thus this case fell squarely within the exception. For all intents and purposes, Ordinance No. 0134, Series of 1992, was the “corresponding appropriation as required by law.” The sum indicated in the ordinance for Santiago were deemed automatically segregated from the other budgetary allocations of the City of Caloocan and earmarked solely for the City’s monetary obligation to her. The judgment of the trial court could then be validly enforced against such funds.

 
 

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Municipality of Makati v. Court of Appeals G.R. Nos. 89898-99 October 1, 1990

Third Division

[CORTES, J.]

FACTS:An action for eminent domain was filed by petitioner Municipality of Makati, attached was a certification that a bank account (Account No. S/A 265-537154-3) opened with the PNB Buendia Branch. After due hearing, respondent Judge fixed the appraised value of the property to P5,291,666.00 and ordering petitioner to pay this amount minus the advanced payment of P338,160.00 which was earlier released to private respondent. Private respondent moved for the issuance of a writ of execution, followed by the garnishment of petitioners fund with PNB Buendia Branch. Petitioner alleges that it has two accounts with PNB Buendia:

(1) Account No. S/A 265-537154-3 — exclusively for the expropriation of the subject property, with an outstanding balance of P99,743.94.

(2) Account No. S/A 263-530850-7 — for statutory obligations and other purposes of the municipal government, with a balance of P170,098,421.72, as of July 12, 1989.

Petitioner claims that only the first PNB account may be garnished, but not the second.

ISSUE: Is the second PNB account (S/A 263-530850-7) exempt from garnishment?

HELD: YES.

The funds deposited in the second PNB Account No. S/A 263-530850-7 are public funds of the municipal government. In this jurisdiction, well-settled is the rule that public funds are not subject to levy and execution, unless otherwise provided for by statute More particularly, the properties of a municipality, whether real or personal, which are necessary for public use cannot be attached and sold at execution sale to satisfy a money judgment against the municipality. Municipal revenues derived from taxes, licenses and market fees, and which are intended primarily and exclusively for the purpose of financing the governmental activities and functions of the municipality, are exempt from execution  The foregoing rule finds application in the case at bar. Absent a showing that the municipal council of Makati has passed an ordinance appropriating from its public funds an amount corresponding to the balance due under the RTC decision dated June 4, 1987, less the sum of P99,743.94 deposited in Account No. S/A 265-537154-3, no levy under execution may be validly effected on the public funds of petitioner deposited in Account No. S/A 263-530850-7.

 

 
 

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Philippine National Bank v. Judge Pabalan, G.R. No. L-33112, 15 June 1978

Second Division

[FERNANDO, Acting C.J.]

FACTS: The petitioner Philippine National Bank filed this certiorari and prohibition proceeding against respondent Judge Javier Pabalan who issued a writ of execution, followed thereafter by a notice of garnishment of the funds of respondent Philippine Virginia Tobacco Administration, deposited with it, on the fundamental constitutional law doctrine of non-suability of a state, it being alleged that such funds are public in character.

ISSUE: Can the funds of Philippine Virginia Tobacco Administration deposited with the petitioner be garnished?

HELD: YES.

The alleged grave abuse of discretion, the basis of this certiorari proceeding, was sought to be justified on the failure of respondent Judge to set aside the notice of garnishment of funds belonging to respondent Philippine Virginia Tobacco Administration. This excerpt from the aforecited decision of Philippine National Bank v.Court of Industrial Relations makes manifest why such an argument is far from persuasive.

“The premise that the funds could be spoken as public character may be accepted in the sense that the People Homesite and Housing Corporation was a government-owned entity. It does not follow though that they were exempt. from garnishment. National Shipyard and Steel Corporation v. Court of Industrial Relations is squarely in point. As was explicitly stated in the opinion of the then Justice, later Chief Justice, Concepcion: “The allegation to the effect that the funds of the NASSCO are public funds of the government, and that, as such, the same may not be garnished, attached or levied upon, is untenable for, as a government owned and controlled corporation, the NASSCO has a personality of its own. distinct and separate from that of the Government. It has — pursuant to Section 2 of Executive Order No. 356, dated October 23, 1950 … , pursuant to which The NASSCO has been established — all the powers of a corporation under the Corporation Law … .” Accordingly, it may be sue and be sued and may be subjected to court processes just like any other corporation (Section 13, Act No. 1459, as amended.)” … To repeat, the ruling was the appropriate remedy for the prevailing party which could proceed against the funds of a corporate entity even if owned or controlled by the government.”

 
 

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Shauf v. Court of Appeals G.R. No. 90314, 27 November 1990

Second Division

[REGALADO, J.]

FACTS: Petitioner Loida Q. Shauf filed a complaint for damages against private respondents Don Detwiler and Anthony Persi before the Regional Trial Court, Branch LVI at Angeles City for the alleged discriminatory acts of herein private respondents in maliciously denying her application for the GS 1710-9 position in Clark Air Base. Private respondents, as defendants, filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that as officers of the United States Armed Forces performing official functions in accordance with the powers vested in them under the Philippine-American Military Bases Agreement, they are immune from suit.

ISSUE: Can the private respondents validly set up the defense invoking the doctrine of immunity from suit?

HELD: NO.

While the doctrine appears to prohibit only suits against the state without its consent, it is also applicable to complaints filed against officials of the state for acts allegedly performed by them in the discharge of their duties. The rule is that if the judgment against such officials will require the state itself to perform an affirmative act to satisfy the same, such as the appropriation of the amount needed to pay the damages awarded against them, the suit must be regarded as against the state itself although it has been formally impleaded. It must be noted, however, that the rule is not also all-encompassing as to be applicable under all circumstances.

There is no doubt that private respondents Persi and Detwiler, in committing the acts complained of have, in effect, violated the basic constitutional right of petitioner Loida Q. Shauf to earn a living which is very much an integral aspect of the right to life. For this, they should be held accountable.

 
 

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Lansang v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 102667, 23 February 2000

Second Division

[QUISUMBING, J.]

FACTS: Private respondents were allegedly awarded a “verbal contract of lease” in 1970 by the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC), a government initiated civic body engaged in the development of national parks, including Rizal Park, which are outside the commerce of man.With the change of government after the EDSA Revolution, the new Chairman of the NPDC, herein petitioner, sought to clean up Rizal Park. In a written notice petitioner terminated the so-called verbal agreement with the General Assembly of the Blind, Inc. (GABI)  and demanded that the latter vacate the premises and the kiosks it ran privately within the public park.

GABI filed an action for damages and injunction in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) against petitioner, Villanueva, and “all persons acting on their behalf”. The RTC later dismissed the case because it is actually one directed against the state which cannot be sued without its consent. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the RTC.

ISSUE: Can there be a valid cause of action against the petitioner for his order to terminate the accommodation extended to GABI?

HELD: NO.

The doctrine of state immunity from suit applies to complaints filed against public officials for acts done in the performance of their duties. The rule is that the suit must be regarded as one against the state where satisfaction of the judgment against the public official concerned will require the state itself to perform a positive act, such as appropriation of the amount necessary to pay the damages awarded to the plaintiff. The rule does not apply where the public official is charged in his official capacity for acts that are unlawful and injurious to the rights of others. Public officials are not exempt, in their personal capacity, from liability arising from acts committed in bad faith.

We find, however, no evidence of such abuse of authority on record. As earlier stated, Rizal Park is beyond the commerce of man and, thus, could not be the subject of a lease contract. Admittedly, there was no written contract. That private respondents were allowed to occupy office and kiosk spaces in the park was only a matter of accommodation by the previous administrator. This being so, also admittedly, petitioner may validly discontinue the accommodation extended to private respondents, who may be ejected from the park when necessary. Private respondents cannot and does not claim a vested right to continue to occupy Rizal Park.

 

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