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DE LA LLANA VS ALBA

Main Topic: Judiciary Reorganization



Facts: In 1981, BP 129, entitled An Act Reorganizing the Judiciary, Appropriating Funds
Therefor and for Other Purposes, was passed. De la Llana was assailing its validity
because, first of all, he would be one of the judges that would be removed because of
the reorganization and second, he said such law would contravene the constitutional
provision which provides the security of tenure of judges of the courts, He averred that
only the SC can remove judges NOT Congress.

Petitioners: Gualberto J. Del La Llana, Presiding Judge, Branch II City of Olongapo
Estanislao L. Cesa Jr.
Fidel Y. Vargas
Benjamin C. Escolango
Juanito C. Atienza
Manuel Reyes Rosapapan Jr.
Virgilio E. Acierto
Porfirio Aguillon Aguila

Respondents: Manuel Alba, Minister of Budget,
Francisco Tantuico, Chairman, Commission on Audit
Ricardo Puno, Minister of Justice

Contentions: The provision in the above section which mandates that "upon the declaration upon the
President that the reorganization contemplated in the Act has been completed), the
said courts ( The Court of Appeals and all other lower courts, except the Sandiganbayan
and the Court of Tax Appeals) shall be deemed abolished and the incumbents thereof
shall cease to hold office".

Issue: Whether or not Judge De La Llana can be validly removed by the legislature by such
statute (BP 129).

Ruling: The SC ruled the following way: Moreover, this Court is empowered to discipline
judges of inferior courts and, by a vote of at least eight members, order their dismissal.
Thus it possesses the competence to remove judges. Under the Judiciary Act, it was the
President who was vested with such power. Removal is, of course, to be distinguished
from termination by virtue of the abolition of the office. There can be no tenure to a
non-existent office. After the abolition, there is in law no occupant. In case of removal,
there is an office with an occupant who would thereby lose his position. It is in that
sense that from the standpoint of strict law, the question of any impairment of security
of tenure does not arise. Nonetheless, for the incumbents of inferior courts abolished,
the effect is one of separation. As to its effect, no distinction exists between removal
and the abolition of the office. Realistically, it is devoid of significance. He ceases to be a
member of the judiciary. In the implementation of the assailed legislation, therefore, it
would be in accordance with accepted principles of constitutional construction that as
far as incumbent justices and judges are concerned, this Court be consulted and that its
view be accorded the fullest consideration. No fear need be entertained that there is a
failure to accord respect to the basic principle that this Court does not render advisory
opinions. No question of law is involved. If such were the case, certainly this Court could
not have its say prior to the action taken by either of the two departments. Even then, it
could do so but only by way of deciding a case where the matter has been put in issue.
Neither is there any intrusion into who shall be appointed to the vacant positions
created by the reorganization. That remains in the hands of the Executive to whom it
properly belongs. There is no departure therefore from the tried and tested ways of
judicial power. Rather what is sought to be achieved by this liberal interpretation is to
preclude any plausibility to the charge that in the exercise of the conceded power of
reorganizing the inferior courts, the power of removal of the present incumbents vested
in this Tribunal is ignored or disregarded. The challenged Act would thus be free from
any unconstitutional taint, even one not readily discernible except to those predisposed
to view it with distrust. Moreover, such a construction would be in accordance with the
basic principle that in the choice of alternatives between one which would save and
another which would invalidate a statute, the former is to be preferred.