Bar Q and A #14

The following are the constitutional safeguards to maintain judicial independence:

  1. The Supreme Court is a constitutional body and cannot be abolished by mere legislation.

  2. The members of the Supreme Court cannot be removed except by

  3. The Supreme Court cannot be deprived of its minimum Jurisdiction prescribed in Section 5, Article X of the

  4. Cannot be increased by law without its advice and

  5. Appointees to the Judiciary are nominated by the Judicial and Bar Council and are not subject to confirmation  by the Commission on Appointments.

  6. The Supreme Court has administrative supervision over all lower courts and their

  7. The Supreme Court has exclusive power to discipline judges of lower

  8. The Members of the Judiciary have security of tenure, which cannot be undermined by a law reorganizing the

  9. Members of the Judiciary cannot be designated to any agency performing quasijudicial or administrative

  10. The salaries of Members of the Judiciary cannot be decreased during  their continuance in

  11. The Judiciary has fiscal

  12. The Supreme Court has exclusive power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and

  13. Only the Supreme Court can temporarily assign judges to other

  14. It is the Supreme Court who appoints all officials and employees of the Judiciary (Cruz, Philippine Political Law, 1995 ed., pp. 229-31)

The power of appropriation is limited by Sec 3 Art. VIII or the Judiciary’s enjoyment of fiscal autonomy, which is intended to strengthen the independence of the judiciary (Cruz, 2014). Fiscal autonomy means freedom from outside control. It contemplates a guarantee on full flexibility to allocate and utilize their resources with the wisdom and dispatch that their needs require. It recognizes the power and authority to levy, assess and collect fees, fix rates of compensation not exceeding the highest rates authorized by law for compensation and pay plans of the government and allocate and disburse such sums as may be provided by law or prescribed by them in the course of the discharge of their functions. (Bengzon v. Drilon)

The fiscal autonomy of the Judiciary means that the appropriation for the Judiciary may not be reduced by Congress below the amount appropriated for the previous year, and after approval, shall be automatically and regularly released. (Article VII, Sec. 3 of the 1987 Constitution)

Fiscal autonomy authorizes the Supreme Court to levy, assess and collect fees, and to determine how its funds should be utilized. (Bengzon v. Drilon, G.R. No.103524, April 15, 1992, 208 SCRA 133)

The Judicial and Bar Council is composed of the following:

a. The Chief Justice as ex officio chairman;
b. The Secretary of Justice as ex officio member;
c. A representative of Congress as ex officio member;
d. A representative of the Integrated Bar;
e. A professor of law;
f. A retired Justice of the Supreme Court; and
g. A representative of the private sector.

[Section 8(1), Article VIII of the Constitution]

The term of office of the regular members is 4 years. [Section 8(2), Article VIII of the Constitution]

The law prescribing as a qualification for appointment to any lower court mere Philippine citizenship, whether natural-born or naturalized, would be unconstitutional with respect to appointments to collegiate courts (CA, CTA, Sandiganbayan) because all appointees to these courts must be natural-born citizens. (Article VIII, Section 7)

The following are the cases required by the Constitution to be heard en banc by the Supreme Court:

  1. Cases involving the constitutionality of a treaty, international or executive agreement, or law;

  2. Cases which under the Rules of Court are required to be heard en banc

  3. Cases involving the constitutionality, application, or operation of presidential decrees, proclamations,orders,   instructions,    ordinances,    and other regulations;

  1. Cases heard by a division when the required majority is not obtained;

  2. Cases where a doctrine or principle of law previously laid down will be modified or reversed;

  3. Administrative cases against judges when the penalty is dismissal;

  4. Election contests for president or vice-president.

a. The decision cannot be deemed to have been promulgated simply because of the announcement of the voting in a press release, because the decision has not yet been issued and filed with the Clerk of Court. Until the decision is filed with the Clerk of Court, the Justices still have control over the decision and they can still change their votes (Limkaichong v. COMELEC, 594 SCRA 434 (2009).

b. The decision can no longer be promulgated if the Justice who belonged to the majority died, for lack of majority vote. The vote he cast is no longer valid, as he was no longer an incumbent member of the Supreme Court (Lao v. To-Chip, 158 SCRA 243 (1988)).

c. The Supreme Court should not release to the public the majority opinion and the separate opinions, as well as its deliberations. They are part of its confidential internal deliberations (Limkaichong v. COMELEC, supra.)

The law is unconstitutional. The power to issue injunctive writs is part of judicial power. The rules governing the exercise of this power are within the powers of the Supreme Court to promulgate. The law, therefore, is an encroachment of the Court's rule-making power (Carpio-Morales v CA, GR 217126- 27, 10 Nov 2015)

The challenge is without merit.

The rule in international law is that foreign armed forces allowed to enter one’s territory are immune from local jurisdiction, except to the extent agreed upon. As a result, the situation involved is not one in which the power of the Supreme Court to adopt rules of procedure is curtailed or violated, rather, it is one in which, as is normally encountered around the world, the laws (including rules of procedure) of one State do not extend or Apply, except to the extent agreed upon, to subjects of another State due to the recognition of extraterritorial immunity given to such bodies as visiting foreign armed forces.

Nothing in the Constitution prohibits such agreements recognizing immunity from jurisdiction or some aspects of jurisdiction (such as custody), in relation to long-recognized subjects of such immunity, like Heads of State, diplomats and members of the armed forces contingents of a foreign State allowed to enter another State’s territory. The Constitution, on the contrary, states that the Philippines adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land (Art. II, Sec. 2).

Section 5[5] of Article VIII of the Constitution clearly provides that the “[R]ules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court;” accordingly, it is clear that the Supreme Court may review and reverse the rules of procedure of the Sandiganbayan and the Constitutional Commissions.

With respect to the rules of procedure of Congress in its proceedings, legislative inquiries and on impeachment, while these rules may be generally considered as political questions, when questioned before the courts in a proper case, they would nevertheless be subject to the power of judicial review under the second paragraph of Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution, which authorizes it to review and annul all acts of any branch or instrumentality of the government which may be tainted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

The law providing for trial by jury is unconstitutional, because of the omission in Article VIII, Section 5(5) of the 1987 Constitution and Article X, Section 5(5) 1973 Constitution, which authorizes the Legislature  to repeal, alter or supplement the rules of procedure promulgated by the Supreme Court. Congress can no longer enact a law governing rules of procedure for the courts. (Echegaray v. Secretary of Justice, 301 SCRA 96)