by Joy Salvador

PHILIPPINE JUDGES ASSOCIATION v. PETE PRADO, GR No. 105371, 1993-11-11

Facts:

It is asserted by the petitioners that this hallmark of republicanism is impaired by the statute and circular they are here challenging. The Supreme Court is itself affected by these measures and is... thus an interested party that should ordinarily not also be a judge at the same time. Under our system of government, however, it cannot inhibit itself and must rule upon the challenge, because no other office has the authority to do so. We shall therefore act upon this matter... not with officiousness but in the discharge of an unavoidable duty and, as always, with detachment and fairness.

The petitioners are members of the lower courts who feel that their official functions as judges will be prejudiced by the above-named measures

The petitioners maintain that the second paragraph of Sec. 35 covering the repeal of the franking privilege from the petitioners and this Court under E.O. 207, PD 1882 and PD 26 was not included in the original version of Senate Bill No. 720 or of House Bill No. 4200. As this... paragraph appeared only in the Conference Committee Report, its addition violates Article VI, Sec. 26(2) of the Constitution

Issues:

The basic issue raised in this petition is the independence of the Judiciary.

Ruling:

Applying these principles, we shall decline to look into the petitioners' charges that an amendment was made upon the last reading of the bill that eventually became R.A. No. 7354 and that copies thereof in its final form were not distributed among the members of each House.

Both the enrolled bill and the legislative journals certify that the measure was duly enacted i.e., in accordance with Article VI, Sec. 26(2) of the Constitution. We are bound by such official assurances from a coordinate department of the government, to which we owe, at... the very least, a becoming courtesy.

In sum, we sustain R.A. No. 7354 against the attack that its subject is not expressed in its title and that it was not passed in accordance with the prescribed procedure. However, we annul Section 35 of the law as violative of Article 3,... Sec. 1, of the Constitution providing that no person shall "be deprived of the equal protection of the laws."

ACCORDINGLY, the petition is partially GRANTED and Section 35 of R.A. No. 7354 is declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL. Circular No. 92-28 is SET ASIDE insofar as it withdraws the franking privilege from the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Regional Trial Courts, the

Municipal Trial Courts, the Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, and the National Land Registration Authority and its Registers of Deeds to all of which offices the said privilege shall be RESTORED. The temporary restraining order dated June 2, 1992, is made permanent.

SO ORDERED.

Principles:

The details of a legislative act need not be specifically stated in its title, but matter germane to the subject as expressed in the title, and adopted to the accomplishment of the object in view, may properly be included in the act. Thus, it is proper to create in... the same act the machinery by which the act is to be enforced, to prescribe the penalties for its infraction, and to remove obstacles in the way of its execution. If such matters are properly connected with the subject as expressed in the title, it is unnecessary that they... should also have special mention in the title (Southern Pac. Co. v. Bartine, 170 Fed. 725).

No bill passed by either House shall become a law unless it has passed three readings on separate days, and printed copies thereof in its final form have been distributed to its Members three days before its passage, except when the President certifies to the necessity of... its immediate enactment to meet a public calamity or emergency. Upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed, and the vote thereon shall be taken immediately thereafter, and the yeas and nays entered in the Journal.

We arrive at these conclusions with a full awareness of the criticism it is certain to provoke. While ruling against the discrimination in this case, we may ourselves be accused of similar discrimination through the exercise of our ultimate power in our own favor. This is... inevitable. Criticism of judicial conduct, however undeserved, is a fact of life in the political system that we are prepared to accept. As judges, we cannot even debate with our detractors. We can only decide the cases before us as the law imposes on us the duty to be fair and... our own conscience gives us the light to be right.

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