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Demetria vs.

Alba (1987)
Summary Cases:

Demetrio G. Demetria vs. Manuel Alba, 148 SCRA 208

Subject:
Moot and academic, Locus Standi, Budget Power of the President (Authority to Transfer Funds)
Facts:
Petitioners, as citizens, taxpayers, and members of the National Assembly/Batasan Pambansa, assail
the constitutionality of Section 44 of PD 1177 (Budget Reform Decree of 1977) for being in violation of
Section 16(5), Article VIII of the 1973 Constitution. Section 44 states that:
"The President shall have the authority to transfer any fund, appropriated for the different
departments, bureaus, offices and agencies of the Executive Department, which are included in
the General Appropriations Act, to any program, project or activity of any department, bureau, or
office included in the General Appropriations Act or approved after its enactment."
The Solicitor General questioned the legal standing of petitioners, who were allegedly merely begging an
advisory opinion from the Court, there being no justiciable controversy fit for resolution or determination.
It is also argued that the abrogation of Section 16(5), Article VIII of the 1973 Constitution by the Freedom
Constitution of March 25, 1986 has effectively rendered the petition moot and academic.
Held:
Moot and Academic
1. The issue has not been rendered baseless. Notably, Section 16(5), Article VIII of the 1973
Constitution has been carried over verbatim under Section 24, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, which
was ratified by the Filipino people in the plebiscite held on February 2, 1987.
Locus Standi
2. The validity of a statute may be contested only by one who will sustain a direct injury in consequence
of its enforcement. Nevertheless, taxpayers have been given standing to assail laws providing for the
disbursement of public funds, upon the theory that 'the expenditure of public funds by an officer of the
state for the purpose of administering an unconstitutional act constitutes a misapplication of such funds
which may be enjoined at the request of a taxpayer.
Authority to Transfer Funds
3. Paragraph 1 of Section 44 of Presidential Decree No. 1177 is null and void for being unconstitutional.
4. The prohibition to transfer an appropriation for one item to another was explicit and categorical under
the 1973 Constitution. However, to afford the heads of the different branches of the government and
those of the constitutional commissions considerable flexibility in the use of public funds and resources,
the constitution allowed the enactment of a law authorizing the transfer of funds. But the leeway granted
was limited. The purpose and conditions for which funds may be transferred were specified, i.e. transfer
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may be allowed (1) for the purpose of augmenting an item and (2) such transfer may be made only if
there are savings from another item in the appropriation of the government branch or constitutional
body.
5. Paragraph 1 of Section 44 of P.D. No. 1177 unduly overextends the privilege granted under said
Section 16(5). It empowers the President to indiscriminately transfer funds from one department, bureau,
office or agency of the Executive Department to any program, project or activity of any department,
bureau or office included in the General Appropriations Act or approved after its enactment, without
regard as to whether or not the funds to be transferred are actually savings in the item from which the
same are to be taken, or whether or not the transfer is for the purpose of augmenting the item to which
said transfer is to be made. It does not only completely disregard the standards set in the fundamental
law, thereby amounting to an undue delegation of legislative powers, but likewise goes beyond the tenor
thereof. Such constitutional infirmities render the provision in question null and void.
Judicial Power
6. Public respondents are being enjoined from acting under a provision of law which is constitutionally
infirm. The principle of separation of powers relied upon cannot accord them the protection sought as
they are not acting within their "sphere of responsibility" but without it.

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