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BIRAOGO VS PTC

MARCH 28, 2013 ~ VBDIAZ

G.R. No. 192935 December 7, 2010


LOUIS BAROK C. BIRAOGO
vs.
THE PHILIPPINE TRUTH COMMISSION OF 2010

x -x
G.R. No. 193036
REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN, REP. RODOLFO B. ALBANO, JR., REP. SIMEON A. DATUMANONG, and REP.
ORLANDO B. FUA, SR.
vs.
EXECUTIVE SECRETARY PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR. and DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT
SECRETARY FLORENCIO B. ABAD

FACTS:
Pres. Aquino signed E. O. No. 1 establishing Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 (PTC) dated July
30, 2010.

PTC is a mere ad hoc body formed under the Office of the President with the primary task to
investigate reports of graft and corruption committed by third-level public officers and
employees, their co-principals, accomplices and accessories during the previous administration,
and to submit its finding and recommendations to the President, Congress and the Ombudsman.
PTC has all the powers of an investigative body. But it is not a quasi-judicial body as it cannot
adjudicate, arbitrate, resolve, settle, or render awards in disputes between contending parties. All
it can do is gather, collect and assess evidence of graft and corruption and make
recommendations. It may have subpoena powers but it has no power to cite people in contempt,
much less order their arrest. Although it is a fact-finding body, it cannot determine from such
facts if probable cause exists as to warrant the filing of an information in our courts of law.

Petitioners asked the Court to declare it unconstitutional and to enjoin the PTC from performing
its functions. They argued that:

(a) E.O. No. 1 violates separation of powers as it arrogates the power of the Congress to create a
public office and appropriate funds for its operation.

(b) The provision of Book III, Chapter 10, Section 31 of the Administrative Code of 1987 cannot
legitimize E.O. No. 1 because the delegated authority of the President to structurally reorganize
the Office of the President to achieve economy, simplicity and efficiency does not include the
power to create an entirely new public office which was hitherto inexistent like the Truth
Commission.

(c) E.O. No. 1 illegally amended the Constitution and statutes when it vested the Truth
Commission with quasi-judicial powers duplicating, if not superseding, those of the Office of the
Ombudsman created under the 1987 Constitution and the DOJ created under the Administrative
Code of 1987.

(d) E.O. No. 1 violates the equal protection clause as it selectively targets for investigation and
prosecution officials and personnel of the previous administration as if corruption is their peculiar
species even as it excludes those of the other administrations, past and present, who may be
indictable.

Respondents, through OSG, questioned the legal standing of petitioners and argued that:

1] E.O. No. 1 does not arrogate the powers of Congress because the Presidents executive power
and power of control necessarily include the inherent power to conduct investigations to ensure
that laws are faithfully executed and that, in any event, the Constitution, Revised Administrative
Code of 1987, PD No. 141616 (as amended), R.A. No. 9970 and settled jurisprudence, authorize
the President to create or form such bodies.

2] E.O. No. 1 does not usurp the power of Congress to appropriate funds because there is no
appropriation but a mere allocation of funds already appropriated by Congress.

3] The Truth Commission does not duplicate or supersede the functions of the Ombudsman and
the DOJ, because it is a fact-finding body and not a quasi-judicial body and its functions do not
duplicate, supplant or erode the latters jurisdiction.

4] The Truth Commission does not violate the equal protection clause because it was validly
created for laudable purposes.

ISSUES:
1. WON the petitioners have legal standing to file the petitions and question E. O. No. 1;
2. WON E. O. No. 1 violates the principle of separation of powers by usurping the powers of
Congress to create and to appropriate funds for public offices, agencies and commissions;
3. WON E. O. No. 1 supplants the powers of the Ombudsman and the DOJ;
4. WON E. O. No. 1 violates the equal protection clause.

RULING:
The power of judicial review is subject to limitations, to wit: (1) there must be an actual case or
controversy calling for the exercise of judicial power; (2) the person challenging the act must
have the standing to question the validity of the subject act or issuance; otherwise stated, he
must have a personal and substantial interest in the case such that he has sustained, or will
sustain, direct injury as a result of its enforcement; (3) the question of constitutionality must be
raised at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota
of the case.
1. The petition primarily invokes usurpation of the power of the Congress as a body to which they
belong as members. To the extent the powers of Congress are impaired, so is the power of each
member thereof, since his office confers a right to participate in the exercise of the powers of
that institution.

Legislators have a legal standing to see to it that the prerogative, powers and privileges vested
by the Constitution in their office remain inviolate. Thus, they are allowed to question the validity
of any official action which, to their mind, infringes on their prerogatives as legislators.

With regard to Biraogo, he has not shown that he sustained, or is in danger of sustaining, any
personal and direct injury attributable to the implementation of E. O. No. 1.

Locus standi is a right of appearance in a court of justice on a given question. In private suits,
standing is governed by the real-parties-in interest rule. It provides that every action must be
prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in interest. Real-party-in interest is the

party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit or the party entitled to
the avails of the suit.

Difficulty of determining locus standi arises in public suits. Here, the plaintiff who asserts a
public right in assailing an allegedly illegal official action, does so as a representative of the
general public. He has to show that he is entitled to seek judicial protection. He has to make out a
sufficient interest in the vindication of the public order and the securing of relief as a citizen or
taxpayer.

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 Court,
however, finds reason in Biraogos assertion that the petition covers matters of transcendental
importance to justify the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court. There are constitutional issues in
the petition which deserve the attention of this Court in view of their seriousness, novelty and
weight as precedents

The Executive is given much leeway in ensuring that our laws are faithfully executed. The powers
of the President are not limited to those specific powers under the Constitution. One of the
recognized powers of the President granted pursuant to this constitutionally-mandated duty is the
power to create ad hoc committees. This flows from the obvious need to ascertain facts and
determine if laws have been faithfully executed. The purpose of allowing ad hoc investigating
bodies to exist is to allow an inquiry into matters which the President is entitled to know so that
he can be properly advised and guided in the performance of his duties relative to the execution
and enforcement of the laws of the land.

2. There will be no appropriation but only an allotment or allocations of existing funds already
appropriated. There is no usurpation on the part of the Executive of the power of Congress to
appropriate funds. There is no need to specify the amount to be earmarked for the operation of
the commission because, whatever funds the Congress has provided for the Office of the
President will be the very source of the funds for the commission. The amount that would be
allocated to the PTC shall be subject to existing auditing rules and regulations so there is no
impropriety in the funding.

3. PTC will not supplant the Ombudsman or the DOJ or erode their respective powers. If at all, the
investigative function of the commission will complement those of the two offices. The function of
determining probable cause for the filing of the appropriate complaints before the courts remains
to be with the DOJ and the Ombudsman. PTCs power to investigate is limited to obtaining facts
so that it can advise and guide the President in the performance of his duties relative to the
execution and enforcement of the laws of the land.

4. Court finds difficulty in upholding the constitutionality of Executive Order No. 1 in view of its
apparent transgression of the equal protection clause enshrined in Section 1, Article III (Bill of
Rights) of the 1987 Constitution.

Equal protection requires that all persons or things similarly situated should be treated alike, both
as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed. It requires public bodies and institutions to
treat similarly situated individuals in a similar manner. The purpose of the equal protection clause
is to secure every person within a states jurisdiction against intentional and arbitrary
discrimination, whether occasioned by the express terms of a statue or by its improper execution
through the states duly constituted authorities.

There must be equality among equals as determined according to a valid classification. Equal
protection clause permits classification. Such classification, however, to be valid must pass the
test of reasonableness. The test has four requisites: (1) The classification rests on substantial
distinctions; (2) It is germane to the purpose of the law; (3) It is not limited to existing conditions
only; and (4) It applies equally to all members of the same class.

The classification will be regarded as invalid if all the members of the class are not similarly
treated, both as to rights conferred and obligations imposed.

Executive Order No. 1 should be struck down as violative of the equal protection clause. The clear
mandate of truth commission is to investigate and find out the truth concerning the reported
cases of graft and corruption during the previous administration only. The intent to single out the
previous administration is plain, patent and manifest.

Arroyo administration is but just a member of a class, that is, a class of past administrations. It is
not a class of its own. Not to include past administrations similarly situated constitutes
arbitrariness which the equal protection clause cannot sanction. Such discriminating
differentiation clearly reverberates to label the commission as a vehicle for vindictiveness and
selective retribution. Superficial differences do not make for a valid classification.

The PTC must not exclude the other past administrations. The PTC must, at least, have the
authority to investigate all past administrations.

The Constitution is the fundamental and paramount law of the nation to which all other laws must
conform and in accordance with which all private rights determined and all public authority
administered. Laws that do not conform to the Constitution should be stricken down for being
unconstitutional.

WHEREFORE, the petitions are GRANTED. Executive Order No. 1 is hereby declared
UNCONSTITUTIONAL insofar as it is violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.