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DIGEST

:
FACTS:
EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 1 WAS ISSUED BY PRESIDENT NOYNOY AQUINO TO INVESTIGATE REPOR
TED CASES OF GRAFT AND CORRUPTION OF THE PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATION.
ISSUE:
IS THIS LEGAL?
RULING:
NO. IT IS VIOLATIVE OF THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE. THE ARROYO ADMINISTRATION IS
BUT JUST A MEMBER OF A CLASS, THAT IS, A CLASS OF PAST ADMINISTRATIONS. IT IS N
OT A CLASS OF ITS OWN. NOT TO INCLUDE PAST ADMINISTRATIONS SIMILARLY SITUATED CO
NSTITUTES ARBITRARINESS WHICH THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE CANNOT SANCTION.
The ruling of the Court:
Applying these precepts to this case, Executive Order No. 1 should be struck dow
n as violative of the equal protection clause. The clear mandate of the envisio
ned truth commission is to investigate and find out the truth concerning the repo
rted cases of graft and corruption during the previous administration [1][87] only
. The intent to single out the previous administration is plain, patent and mani
fest. Mention of it has been made in at least three portions of the questioned
executive order. Specifically, these are:
WHEREAS, there is a need for a separate body dedicated solely to investigating a
nd finding out the truth concerning the reported cases of graft and corruption d
uring the previous administration, and which will recommend the prosecution of t
he offenders and secure justice for all;
SECTION 1. Creation of a Commission. There is hereby created the PHILIPPINE TRUT
H COMMISSION, hereinafter referred to as the COMMISSION, which shall primarily see
k and find the truth on, and toward this end, investigate reports of graft and c
orruption of such scale and magnitude that shock and offend the moral and ethica
l sensibilities of the people, committed by public officers and employees, their
co-principals, accomplices and accessories from the private sector, if any, dur
ing the previous administration; and thereafter recommend the appropriate action
or measure to be taken thereon to ensure that the full measure of justice shall
be served without fear or favor.
SECTION 2. Powers and Functions. The Commission, which shall have all the powers
of an investigative body under Section 37, Chapter 9, Book I of the Administrat
ive Code of 1987, is primarily tasked to conduct a thorough fact-finding investi
gation of reported cases of graft and corruption referred to in Section 1, invol
ving third level public officers and higher, their co-principals, accomplices an
d accessories from the private sector, if any, during the previous administratio
n and thereafter submit its finding and recommendations to the President, Congre
ss and the Ombudsman. [Emphases supplied]
In this regard, it must be borne in mind that the Arroyo administration is but j
ust a member of a class, that is, a class of past administrations. It is not a c
lass of its own. Not to include past administrations similarly situated constitu
tes arbitrariness which the equal protection clause cannot sanction. Such discr
iminating differentiation clearly reverberates to label the commission as a vehi
cle for vindictiveness and selective retribution.
Though the OSG enumerates several differences between the Arroyo administration
and other past administrations, these distinctions are not substantial enough to
merit the restriction of the investigation to the previous administration only.
The reports of widespread corruption in the Arroyo administration cannot be take
n as basis for distinguishing said administration from earlier administrations w
hich were also blemished by similar widespread reports of impropriety. They are
not inherent in, and do not inure solely to, the Arroyo administration. As Justi
ce Isagani Cruz put it, Superficial differences do not make for a valid classific

[4][90] The probability that there would be difficulty in unearthing evidence or that th e earlier reports involving the earlier administrations were already inquired in to is beside the point.[8][94] While the thrust of the PTC is specific. Hopkins. The PTC. In the case of US v. at this point.[9][95] it was written: A rather limited number of such classifications have routinely been held or assu med to be arbitrary.ation. all who are in situation s and circumstances which are relative to the discriminatory legislation and whi ch are indistinguishable from those of the members of the class must be brought under the influence of the law and treated by it in the same way as are the memb ers of the class. however. that i s. While reasonable prioritizati on is permitted. the Court logically recogn izes the unfeasibility of investigating almost a century s worth of graft cases. Furthermore. The Constitution is the fundamental and p aramount law of the nation to which all other laws must conform and in accordanc e with which all private rights determined and all public authority administered . Cyprian.[5][91] Given the foregoing physical and legal impossibility. but must be of such a nature as to embrace all those who may thereafter be in similar circumstances and conditions. it should not be arbitrary lest it be struck down for being unc onstitutional. [11][97] The Court is not unaware that mere underinclusiveness is not fatal to the validit y of a law under the equal protection clause. 1 suffers from arbitrary clas sification. or more generally the exercise of first amendment rights. The OSG ventures to opine that to include other past administrations. political act ivity or membership in a political party. To excl ude the earlier administrations in the guise of substantial distinctions would onl y confirm the petitioners lament that the subject executive order is only an adven ture in partisan hostility. may unnecessarily overburden the commission and lead it to lose its effectivenes s. 1 chooses to limit th e scope of the intended investigation to the previous administration only. However. to survive. To reiterate. for investigation of acts of graft and corruption. [2][88] The public needs to be enlightened why Executive Order No. so as practically to make unjust and illegal discriminations between persons i n similar circumstances.[6][92] Though the law itself be fair on its face and impartial in appearance.[7][93] Laws that do not conform to the Constitution should be stricken down fo r being unconstitutional. it must include or embrace all persons who naturally belong to the cl ass. 1. the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the laws should not in any way be circumvented. must not exclude the other past administrations. gender. Obviously. given the body s limited time and resources. In the often quoted language of Yick Wo v. if a pplied and administered by public authority with an evil eye and an unequal hand . or so constituted as to preclude additions to the number included within a c lass. It is without doubt irrelevant to the leg itimate and noble objective of the PTC to stamp out or end corruption and the evi l it breeds. must be read together with the provisions of the Constitution. in order for a classification to meet the requirements of constitu tionality. The law does not require the impo ssible (Lex non cogit ad impossibilia). [Emphasis supplied] It could be argued that considering that the PTC is an ad hoc body. its scope is limited.[10][96] Such a classification must not be based on existing circumstances on ly. have the a uthority to investigate all past administrations. those include: race. [3][89] The reason given is specious. [12][98] Legislation is not unconstit utional merely because it is not all-embracing and does not include all the evil s within its reach. deceased presidents and cases which have alre ady prescribed can no longer be the subjects of inquiry by the PTC. [13][99] It has been written that a regulation challenged unde r the equal protection clause is not devoid of a rational predicate simply becau . The PTC must. to be true to its mandate of searching for the truth. national origin. union activity or membership in a labo r union. the fact remains that Executive Order No. is of the considered view that although its focus is restricted. material to their rights. the denial of equal justice i s still within the prohibition of the constitution. yet. Neither is t he PTC expected to conduct simultaneous investigations of previous administratio ns. Executive Order No. The Court. at least.

the underinclusiv eness was not considered a valid reason to strike down a law or regulation where the purpose can be attained in future legislations or regulations. The Philippine Supreme Court. this iss ue has been addressed by the Court. or operation of presidential decrees.[18][104 ] The OSG points to Section 17 of Executive Order No. These cases refer to the step by step process.[14][100] In several instances. 1 was cra fted to tailor-fit the prosecution of officials and personalities of the Arroyo administration. international or executive agreemen t. according to Article VIII. The decision. is exercising undue interference. which provides: SECTION 17. ordinance. and to determine whether or not there has been a grave o f abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government. Furthermore. is vested with Judicial Power that includes the duty of the courts o f justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally dema ndable and enforceable. however . in Section 4(2) thereof. [16][102] In Executive Order No. These provisions. the O SG clarifies that the commission does not only confine itself to cases of large scale graft and corruption committed during the previous administration. The equal protection clause is violated by purposefu l and intentional discrimination. Is the Highest Tribunal. This power also includes the duty to rule on the const itutionality of the application. 1. instruction. presidential decree. Although Section 17 allows the President the discr etion to expand the scope of investigations of the PTC so as to include the acts of graft and corruption committed in other past administrations. It must be noted that Executive Order No. but it seems that the present political situ ation calls for it to once again explain the legal basis of its action lest it c ontinually be accused of being a hindrance to the nation s thrust to progress. order. A final word The issue that seems to take center stage at present is whether or not the Supre me Court. orders. ordinances. however. in the exercise of its constitutionally mandated power of Judicial Rev iew with respect to recent initiatives of the legislature and the executive depa rtment. was devoid of any discussion on how such conclusory statement was arrived at. there is no inadvertence. 1 does not even mention an y particular act.[15][101] With regard to equal protection claims . itself guilty of violating fundam ental tenets like the doctrine of separation of powers? Time and again. through inadvertence or otherwise. it does not gu arantee that they would be covered in the future. 1. . This will only fortify the fears of the petitioners that the Executive Order No. Such expanded mandate of the commission will still depend on the whim and caprice of the President. or reg ulation unconstitutional. law. the section would then be meaningless.[20][106] that the PCGG Charter (composed of Executive Orders Nos. and other regulations. proclamat ions. proclamation. Section 1 of the 1987 C onstitution. Sandiganbayan. If and when in the judgment of the President there is a need to expand the mandate of the Commission as define d in Section 1 hereof to include the investigation of cases and instances of gra ft and corruption during the prior administrations. [17][103] To disprove petitioners contention that there is deliberate discrimination. a legislature does not run the risk of losing the entire remedial scheme simpl y because it fails. 2 and 14) does not violate the equal protection clause. the principal issue in said case being only the sufficiency of a cause of action .se it happens to be incomplete. The Court is not convinced. such mandate may be so exten ded accordingly by way of a supplemental Executive Order. [19][105] The Court tried to seek guidance from the pronouncement in the case of Virata v. which is exp ected to be the protector of the Constitution. instructions. If he wo uld decide not to include them. That the previous administration was picked out was deliberate and intentional as can be gleaned f rom the fact that it was underscored at least three times in the assailed execut ive order. Special Provision Concerning Mandate. 1. to cover every evil that might conceivably have been attacked. it is vested with the power of judicial re view which is the power to declare a treaty. event or report to be focused on unlike the investigative comm issions created in the past.

[23][109] Lest it be misunderstood. To answer this accusation. the petitions are GRANTED.[22][108] The Court cannot just turn a blind eye and simply let it pass. if after said review. But then ag ain. all geared towards the betterment of the nation and its people. It must. the words of Justice Laurel would be a good source of enlightenment. is not imposing its own will upon a co-equal body but rather simply making sure that any act of gov ernment is done in consonance with the authorities and rights allocated to it by the Constitution. but only as serts the solemn and sacred obligation assigned to it by the Constitution to det ermine conflicting claims of authority under the Constitution and to establish f or the parties in an actual controversy the rights which that instrument secures and guarantees to them. Expediency must not be allowed to sap its strength nor greed for power debase its rectitude. The Constitution must ever remain supreme. b ut if the means to be employed in accomplishing it is simply irreconcilable with constitutional parameters. however. Of all the branches of the government. [21][107] Thus. it does not in reality nullify or invalidate an act of the legislature. it is important to remember this ethical principle: The end does not justify the means. Perhaps a revision of the execu tive issuance so as to include the earlier past administrations would allow it t o pass the test of reasonableness and not be an affront to the Constitution. the Court. on on e hand. then it cannot still be allowed. . on the other. this is not the death knell for a truth commission as nobly envisioned by the present administration.however. it does not assert any superiority over the other departments. be emphasized that the search for the truth must be within constitutional bounds for ours is still a government of laws and not of men. Executive Order No. Otherwise. No matter how noble and worthy of admiration the purpose of an act. and the two co-equal bodies of government. it has no more authority of proscribing the action s under review. And. the Court will not be deterred to pronounce said act as void and unconstitutional. All must bow to the mandate of this la w. Many times the Court has been accused of asserting superiority over the other departments. [24][110] WHEREFORE. As also prayed for. then. It cannot be denied that most government actions are inspired with noble intenti ons. in exercising its power of judicial review. the respondents are hereby ordered to cease and desist from carrying out the provisions of Executive Order No. it is the judiciary which is the most intere sted in knowing the truth and so it will not allow itself to be a hindrance or o bstacle to its attainment. have been fertile grounds of conflict between the Supreme Court. 1. SO ORDERED. to wit: And when the judiciary mediates to allocate constitutiona l boundaries. the Court finds no constitutional violations of any sort. It will continue to uphold the Constitution and its enshrined principles. 1 is hereby decla red UNCONSTITUTIONAL insofar as it is violative of the equal protection clause o f the Constitution.