Pre-Bar Quizzer in Political Law – Part I: Constitution of Government 61-70

 61. What are the tests of locus standi in the Philippines?

The original was: [1] If the act involves the disbursement of public funds, mere taxpayer has the capacity to sue and question such act. [2] If it does not involve disbursement of public funds, only those who are “directly injured” by the said law or contract entered into by the government.

Case law in most jurisdictions now allows both “citizen” and “taxpayer” standing in public actions.   The distinction was first laid down in Beauchamp v. Silk,[1]  where it was held that the plaintiff in a taxpayer’s suit is in a different category from the plaintiff in a citizen’s suit.  In the former, the plaintiff is affected by the expenditure of public funds, while in the latter, he is but the mere instrument of the public concern

However, to prevent just about any person from seeking judicial interference in any official policy or act with which he disagreed with, and thus hinders the activities of governmental agencies engaged in public service, the United State Supreme Court laid down the more stringent “direct injurytest in Ex Parte Levitt,[2] later reaffirmed in Tileston v. Ullman.[3]  The same Court ruled that for a private individual to invoke the judicial power to determine the validity of an executive or legislative action, he must show that he has sustained a direct injury as a result of that action, and it is not sufficient that he has a general interest common to all members of the public.

This Court adopted the “direct injury” test in our jurisdiction.   In People v. Vera,[4]  it held that the person who impugns the validity of a statute must have “a personal and substantial interest in the case such that he has sustained, or will sustain direct injury as a result.”  The Vera doctrine was upheld in a litany of cases, such as, Custodio v. President of the Senate,[5] Manila Race Horse Trainers’ Association v. De la Fuente,[6]  Pascual v. Secretary of Public Works[7] and Anti-Chinese League of the Philippines v. Felix.[8]

However, being a mere procedural technicality, the requirement of locus standi may be waived by the Court in the exercise of its discretion. This was done in the 1949 Emergency Powers Cases, Araneta v. Dinglasan,[9] where the “transcendental importance” of the cases prompted the Court to act liberally.   Such liberality was neither a rarity nor accidental.   In Aquino v. Comelec,[10]  this  Court resolved to pass upon the issues raised due to the “far-reaching implications” of the petition notwithstanding its categorical statement that petitioner therein had no personality to file the suit.  Indeed, there is a chain of cases where this liberal policy has been observed, allowing ordinary citizens, members of Congress, and civic organizations to prosecute actions involving the constitutionality or validity of laws, regulations and rulings.[11]

Thus, the Court has adopted a rule that even where the petitioners have failed to show direct injury, they have been allowed to sue under the principle of “transcendental importance.” Pertinent are the following cases:

(1) Chavez v. Public Estates Authority,[12] where the Court ruled that the enforcement of the constitutional right to information and the equitable diffusion of natural resources are matters of transcendental importance which clothe the petitioner with locus standi;

(2) Bagong Alyansang Makabayan v. Zamora,[13]  wherein the Court held that “given the transcendental importance of the issues involved, the Court may relax the standing requirements and allow the suit to prosper despite the lack of direct injury to the parties seeking judicial review” of the Visiting Forces Agreement;

(3) Lim v. Executive Secretary,[14]  while the Court noted that the petitioners may not file suit in their capacity as taxpayers absent a showing that “Balikatan 02-01” involves the exercise of Congress’ taxing or spending powers, it               reiterated its ruling in Bagong Alyansang Makabayan v. Zamora,[15]  that in cases of transcendental importance, the cases must be settled promptly and definitely and standing requirements may be relaxed.

By way of summary, the following rules may be culled from the  cases decided by this Court.   Taxpayers, voters, concerned citizens, and legislators may be accorded standing to sue, provided that the following requirements are met:

1.           the 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

5.            for legislators, there must be a claim that the official action complained of infringes upon their prerogatives as legislators.

Significantly, recent decisions show a certain toughening in the Court’s attitude toward legal standing.

In Kilosbayan, Inc. v. Morato,[16] the Court ruled that the status of Kilosbayan as a people’s organization does not give it the requisite personality to question the validity of the on-line lottery contract, more so where it does not raise any issue of constitutionality.  Moreover, it cannot sue as a taxpayer absent any allegation that public funds are being misused. Nor can it sue as a concerned citizen as it does not allege any specific injury it has suffered.

In Telecommunications and Broadcast Attorneys of the Philippines, Inc. v. Comelec,[17]  the Court reiterated the “direct injury” test with respect to concerned citizens’ cases involving constitutional issues.   It held that “there must be a showing that the citizen personally suffered some actual or threatened injury arising from the alleged illegal official act.”

In Lacson v. Perez,[18] the Court ruled that one of the petitioners, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), is not a real party-in-interest as it had not demonstrated any injury to itself or to its leaders, members or supporters.

In Sanlakas v. Executive Secretary,[19] the Court ruled that only the petitioners who are members of Congress have standing to sue, as they claim that the President’s declaration of a state of rebellion is a usurpation of the emergency powers of Congress, thus impairing their legislative powers. As to petitioners Sanlakas, Partido Manggagawa, and Social Justice Society, the Court declared them to be devoid of standing, equating them with the LDP in Lacson.


          62. What is the “take over” provision of the Constitution. May the President validly exercise the same?

This is  Section 17, Article XII , which reads:

          Sec. 17. In times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires, the State may, during the emergency and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest.

    While the President alone can declare a   state of national emergency, however, without legislation, he has no     power to take over privately-owned public utility or business affected     with public interest. The President cannot decide whether exceptional      circumstances exist warranting the take over of privately-owned           public utility or business affected with public interest.  Nor can he determine when such exceptional circumstances have ceased.  Likewise, without legislation, the President has no power to point out the types of businesses affected with public interest that should be taken over.   In short, the President has no absolute authority to exercise all the powers of the State under Section 17, Article VII in the absence of an emergency powers act passed by Congress.


63. What are the limitations of the President’s power of executive clemency?

The same is not available in cases of impeachment as well as violation of election laws, rules and regulations without the favorable recommendation of the Commission on Elections. (Section 19, Art. VII and Section 5, Art. IX-C))


64. Distinguish pardon from amnesty.

As held in BARRIOQUINTO VS. FERNANDEZ, 82 Phil. 642, the distinctions are as follows:

[1] Pardon is granted by the Chief Executive and as such it is a private act which must be pleaded and proved by the person pardoned, because the courts take no notice thereof; while amnesty by Proclamation of the Chief Executive with the concurrence of Congress, and it is a public act of which the courts should take judicial notice.

[2] Pardon is granted to one after conviction (of ordinary crimes) ; while amnesty is granted to classes of persons or communities who may be guilty of political offenses, generally before or after the institution of the criminal prosecution and sometimes after conviction.

[3] Pardon looks forward and relieves the offender from the consequences of an offense of which he has been convicted, that is, it abolished or forgives the punishment, and for that reason it does “”nor work the restoration of the rights to hold public office, or the right of suffrage, unless such rights be expressly restored by the terms of the pardon,” and it “in no case exempts the culprit from the payment of the civil indemnity imposed upon him by the sentence” article 36, Revised Penal Code). while amnesty looks backward and abolishes and puts into oblivion the offense itself, it so overlooks and obliterates the offense with which he is charged that the person released by amnesty stands before the law precisely as though he had committed no offense. (section 10[6], Article VII, Philippine Constitution; State vs. Blalock, 62 N.C., 242, 247; In re Briggs, 135 N.C., 118; 47 S.E. 402., 403; Ex parte Law, 35 GA., 285, 296; State ex rel AnheuserBusch Brewing Ass’n. vs. Eby, 170 Mo., 497; 71 S.W 52, 61; Burdick vs United States, N.Y., 35 S. Ct., 267; 271; 236 U.S., 79; 59 Law. ed., 476.)

[4] Pardon is complete with the act of the President while Amnesty is valid only with the  concurrence  of the majority of the members of all the members of Congress.


65. Is it required  for the person applying for amnesty to admit his guilt before his amnesty application be considered?

Ye,s as held in VERA VS. PEOPLE, 7 SCRA 152. Before one may validly apply for executive clemency (pardon or amnesty) he MUST ADMIT HAVING COMMITTED THE ACTS WHICH RESULTED IN HIS IMPRISONMENT. This rule abandoned the contrary ruling in Barrioquinto vs. Fernandez.


          66. May a public officer, who has been granted an absolute pardon by the Chief Executive, entitled to automatic reinstatement to her former position without need of a New appointment?

No. As held in MONSANTO VS. FACTORAN,February, 1989, a pardon looks to the future. It is not retrospective.  It makes no amends for the past. It affords no relief for what has been suffered by the offender. It does not impose upon the government any obligation to make reparation for what has been suffered. “Since the offense has been established by judicial proceedings, that which has been done or suffered while they were in force is presumed to have been rightfully done and justly suffered, and no satisfaction for it can be required.” This would explain why petitioner, though pardoned, cannot be entitled to reinstatement, unless appointed again by the appointing authority, receive backpay for lost earnings and benefits.


          67.  May the power of executive clemency applied to administrative cases like the suspension of a Provincial Governor?

           Yes. This was the ruling of the Supreme Court in Llamas vs. Exec. Sec. Orbos, Oct. 15, 1991. The word “conviction in Section 19, Art. VII of the Constitution   may be used either in a criminal case or in an administrative case.


68. Is the mere filing of a criminal case against a recipient of a conditional pardon with the condition “not again violate any of the penal laws of the Philippines and  this condition be violated, he will be proceeded against in the manner prescribed by law”  sufficient to revoke such conditional pardon without first securing conviction against the grantee?

Yes. As held in  TORRES VS. GONZALES, 152 SCRA 272, the determination of whether the conditions of a convict’s pardon  had been breached rests exclusively in the sound judgment of the President and that such determination would not be reviewed by the courts. As held in Tesoro vs. Director of Prisons, in  accepting the terms under which the parole had been granted, Tesoro had in effect agreed that the Governor-General’s determination (rather than that of the regular courts of law) that he had breached one of the conditions of his parole by committing adultery while he was conditionally at liberty, was binding and conclusive upon him.


69. What are the requisites before the President or his representatives may validly contract or guarantee foreign loans?

Under Section 20, Art. VII, the President may contract or guarantee foreign loans on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines subject to the following conditions:

a. there must be  prior concurrence of the Monetary Board;

b. subject to such limitations as may be provided for by law.

Further, the Monetary Board shall, within 30 days from the end of every quarter of the calendar year, submit to the Congress a complete report of its decisions on applications for loans to be contracted or guaranteed by the government or  government owned and controlled corporations which would have the effect of  increasing the foreign debt, and containing other matters as may be provided for by law.


70. What is judicial power?

          Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government.

[1]           275 Ky 91, 120 SW2d 765 (1938).

[2]           302 U.S. 633.

[3]           318 U.S. 446.

[4]           65 Phil. 56 (1937).

[5]           G.R. No. 117, November 7, 1945 (Unreported).

[6]           G.R. No. 2947, January 11, 1959 (Unreported).

[7]           110 Phil. 331 (1960).

[8]           77 Phil. 1012 (1947).

[9]           84 Phil. 368 (1949) The Court held: “Above all, the transcendental importance to the public of these cases demands that they be settled promptly and definitely, brushing aside, if we must, technicalities of procedure.”

[10]      L-No. 40004, January 31, 1975, 62 SCRA 275.

[11]          Tañada v. Tuvera, G.R. No. 63915, April 24, 1985, 136 SCRA 27, where the Court held that where the question is one of public duty and the enforcement of a public right, the people are the real party in interest, and it is sufficient that the petitioner is a citizen interested in the execution of the law;

       Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 72119, May 29, 1987, 150 SCRA 530, where the Court held that in cases involving an assertion of a public right, the requirement of personal interest is satisfied by the mere fact that the petitioner is a citizen and part of the general public which possesses the right.

      Kapatiran ng mga Naglilingkod sa Pamahalaan ng Pilipinas, Inc. v. Tan, L. No. 81311, June 30, 1988, 163 SCRA 371, where the Court held that objections to taxpayers’ lack of personality to sue may be disregarded in determining the validity of the VAT law;

     Albano v. Reyes, G.R. No. 83551, July 11, 1989, 175 SCRA 264, where the Court held that while no expenditure of public funds was involved under the questioned contract, nonetheless considering its important role in the economic development of the country and the magnitude of the financial consideration involved, public interest was definitely involved and this clothed petitioner with the legal personality under the disclosure provision of the Constitution to question it.

      Association of Small Landowners in the Philippines, Inc. v. Sec. of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 78742, July 14, 1989, 175 SCRA 343, where the Court ruled that while petitioners are strictly speaking, not covered by the definition of a “proper party,” nonetheless, it has the discretion to waive the requirement, in determining the validity of the implementation of the CARP.

     Gonzales v. Macaraig, Jr., G.R. No. 87636, November 19, 1990, 191 SCRA 452, where the Court held that it enjoys the open discretion to entertain  taxpayer’s suit or not and that a member of the Senate has the requisite personality to bring a suit where a constitutional issue is raised.

     Maceda v. Macaraig, Jr., G.R. No. 88291, May 31, 1991, 197 SCRA 771, where the Court held that petitioner as a taxpayer, has the personality to file the instant petition, as the issues involved, pertains to illegal expenditure of public money;

     Osmeña v. Comelec, G.R. No. 100318, 100308, 100417,100420, July 30, 1991, 199 SCRA 750,  where the Court held that where serious constitutional questions are involved, the “transcendental  importance” to the public of the cases involved demands that they be settled promptly and definitely, brushing aside technicalities of procedures;

      De Guia v. Comelec, G.R. No. 104712, May 6, 1992, 208 SCRA 420, where the Court held that the importance of the issues involved  concerning as it does the political exercise of qualified voters affected by the apportionment, necessitates the brushing aside of the procedural requirement of locus standi.

[12]      G.R. No. 133250, July 9, 2002, 384 SCRA 152.

[13]      G.R. Nos. 138570, 138572, 138587, 138680, 138698, October 10, 2000, 342 SCRA 449.

[14]      G.R. No. 151445, April 11, 2002, 380 SCRA 739.

[15]     Supra.

[16]         G.R. No. 118910, November 16, 1995, 250 SCRA 130.

[17]         G.R. No. 132922, April 21, 1998, 289 SCRA 337.

[18]     G.R. No. 147780, 147781, 147799, 147810, May 10, 2001, 357 SCRA 756.

[19]     G.R. No. 159085, February 3, 2004, 421 SCRA 656.




Pre-Bar Quizzer in Political Law (Doctrinal Rulings, Requisites and Definitions) July, 2008 by Atty. Larry D. Gacayan

College of Law, University of the Cordilleras

Baguio City


About Magz

First of all, I am not a lawyer. I'm a graduate of AB Political Science and went to the College of Law but stopped going to law school for some reasons. I'm a passionate teacher who has been teaching English to speakers of other languages and a person who likes writing and blogging. I lost some important files and software when my computer broke down so the reason I created this website is to preserve the notes, reviewers and digests I collected when I was at the law school and at the same time, I want to help out law students who do not have enough time to go and read books in the library.

Posted on June 22, 2011, in Political Law and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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