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A. Concepts

VII. Judicial Department

1. Judicial power

a. CONCEPT

Judicial power – includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government. (Paragraph 2, Section 1, Article VIII, 1987 Constitution)

b. VESTED IN THE SUPREME COURT

The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law. (Section 1, Article VIII, 1987 Constitution)

2. Judicial review

a. Requisites

Requisites for the exercise of the power of judicial review:

1) There must be an actual case or justiciable controversy before this Court;

2) The question before this Court must be ripe for adjudication;

3) The person challenging the act must be a proper party; and,

4) The issue of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest opportunity and must be the very litis mota of the case. (Kilusang Mayo Uno v. Aquino III, En Banc, G.R. No. 210500, 02 April 2019)

b. Operative fact doctrine

1) Concept

GENERAL RULE: The general rule is that a void law or administrative act cannot be the source of legal rights or duties. (CIR v. San Roque Power Corporation, En Banc, G.R. Nos. 187485, 196113, and 197156, 08 October 2013)

Article 7 of the Civil Code enunciates this general rule, as well as its exception: “Laws are repealed only by subsequent ones, and their violation or non-observance shall not be excused by disuse, or custom or practice to the contrary. When the courts declared a law to be inconsistent with the Constitution, the former shall be void and the latter shall govern. Administrative or executive acts, orders and regulations shall be valid only when they are not contrary to the laws or the Constitution.” (Ibid.)

EXCEPTION: The doctrine of operative fact is an exception to the general rule, such that a judicial declaration of invalidity may not necessarily obliterate all the effects and consequences of a void act prior to such declaration. (Ibid.)

Under the operative fact doctrine, the law is recognized as unconstitutional but the effects of the unconstitutional law, prior to its declaration of nullity, may be left undisturbed as a matter of equity and fair play. In fact, the invocation of the operative fact doctrine is an admission that the law is unconstitutional. (League of Cities of the Philippines v. COMELEC, En Banc, G.R. No. 176951, 24 August 2010)

A legislative or executive act, prior to its being declared as unconstitutional by the courts, is valid and must be complied with. (Film Development Council of the Philippines v. Colon Heritage Realty Corporation, En Banc, G.R. No. 203754, 16 June 2015)

A void act though in law a mere scrap of paper nonetheless confers legitimacy upon past acts or omissions done in reliance thereof. Consequently, the existence of a statute or executive order prior to its being adjudged void is an operative fact to which legal consequences are attached. It would indeed be ghastly unfair to prevent private respondent from relying upon the order of suspension in lieu of a formal leave application. (City Government of Makati City v. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 131392, 06 February 2002)

2) Requisites

Requisites for application of the operative act doctrine:

1) The existence of a legislative act or measure; and

2) Equity and fair play demands application to protect those who relied in good faith on the invalid law. (CIR v. San Roque Power Corporation, supra. cf.  Film Development Council of the Philippines v. Colon Heritage Realty Corporation, supra.)

a) Existence of a legislative act or measure

For the operative fact doctrine to apply, there must be a “legislative or executive measure,” meaning a law or executive issuance, that is invalidated by the court. From the passage of such law or promulgation of such executive issuance until its invalidation by the court, the effects of the law or executive issuance, when relied upon by the public in good faith, may have to be recognized as valid. (CIR v. San Roque Power Corporation, supra.)

b) Equity and fair play

The doctrine of operative fact applies as a matter of equity and fair play. This doctrine nullifies the effects of an unconstitutional law or an executive act by recognizing that the existence of a statute prior to a determination of unconstitutionality is an operative fact and may have consequences that cannot always be ignored. It applies when a declaration of unconstitutionality will impose an undue burden on those who have relied on the invalid law. (Film Development Council of the Philippines v. Colon Heritage Realty Corporation, supra.)

Therefore, in applying the doctrine of operative fact, courts ought to examine with particularity the effects of the already accomplished acts arising from the unconstitutional statute, and determine, on the basis of equity and fair play, if such effects should be allowed to stand. It should not operate to give any unwarranted advantage to parties, but merely seeks to protect those who, in good faith, relied on the invalid law. (Ibid.)

c. Political question doctrine

1) Concept

Political questions refer to those questions which, under the Constitution, are to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the legislative or executive branch of government.  Thus, if an issue is clearly identified by the text of the Constitution as matters for discretionary action by a particular branch of government or to the people themselves then it is held to be a political question. (Garcia v. Executive Secretary, En Banc, G.R. No. 157584, 02 April 2009)

Political questions are concerned with issues dependent upon the wisdom, not the legality, of a particular act or measure being assailed. Moreover, the political question being a function of the separation of powers, the courts will not normally interfere with the workings of another co-equal branch unless the case shows a clear need for the courts to step in to uphold the law and the Constitution. (IBP v. Zamora, En Banc, G.R. No. 141284, 15 August 2000)

In short, the term “political question” connotes, in legal parlance, what it means in ordinary parlance, namely, a question of policy. In other words, in the language of Corpus Juris Secundum, it refers to “those questions which, under the Constitution, are to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the Legislature or executive branch of the Government.” It is concerned with issues dependent upon the wisdom, not legality, of a particular measure. (Tañada v. Cuenco, En Banc, G.R. No. L-10520, 28 February 1957)

2) When challenged: limited to grave abuse of discretion

When political questions are involved, the Constitution limits the determination as to whether there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the official whose action is being questioned. (IBP v. Zamora, supra.)

Thus, a political question will not be considered justiciable if there are no constitutionally imposed limits on powers or functions conferred upon the political bodies  Nonetheless, even in cases where matters of policy may be brought before the courts, there must be a showing of grave abuse of discretion on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government before the questioned act may be struck down. “If grave abuse is not established, the Court will not substitute its judgment for that of the official concerned and decide a matter which by its nature or by law is for the latter alone to decide.” (J. Mendoza, Separate Opinion in Ocampo v. Enriquez, En Banc, G.R. Nos. 225973, 225984, 226097, etc., 08 November 2016)

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