[ G.R. No. 105371, November 11, 1993 ]
THE PHILIPPINE JUDGES ASSOCIATION, DULY REP. BY ITS PRESIDENT, BERNARDO P. ABESAMIS, VICE-PRESIDENT FOR LEGAL AFFAIRS, MARIANO M. UMALI, DIRECTOR FOR PASIG, MAKATI AND PASAY, METRO MANILA ALFREDO C. FLORES, AND CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AID, JESUS G. BERSAMIRA,
PRESIDING JUDGES OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 85, QUEZON CITY AND BRANCHES 160, 167 AND 166, PASIG, METRO MANILA, RESPECTIVELY: THE NATIONAL CONFEDERATION OF THE JUDGES ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES, COMPOSED OF THE METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT COURT JUDGES
ASSOCIATION REP. BY ITS PRESIDENT, REINATO QUILALA OF THE MUNICIPAL TRIAL CIRCUIT COURT, MANILA; THE MUNICIPAL JUDGES LEAGUE OF THE PHILIPPINES REP. BY ITS PRESIDENT, TOMAS G. TALAVERA; BY THEMSELVES AND IN BEHALF OF ALL THE JUDGES OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL AND SHARI'A COURTS,
METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURTS AND MUNICIPAL COURTS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY, PETITIONERS, VS. HON. PETE PRADO, IN HIS CAPACITY AS SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATIONS, JORGE V. SARMIENTO, IN HIS CAPACITY AS POSTMASTER GENERAL, AND THE PHILIPPINE POSTAL
D E C I S I O N
The basic issue raised in this petition is the independence of the Judiciary. 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 main target of this petition is Section 35 of R.A. No. 7354 as implemented by the Philippine Postal Corporation through its Circular No. 92-28. These measures withdraw the franking privilege from the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Regional Trial Courts, the Metropolitan Trial Courts, the Municipal Trial Courts, and the Land Registration Commission and its Registers of Deeds, along with certain other government offices.
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 National Land Registration Authority has taken common cause with them insofar as its own activities, such as the sending of requisite notices in registration cases, affect judicial proceedings. On its motion, it has been allowed to intervene.
The petition assails the constitutionality of R.A. No. 7354 on the grounds that: (1) its title embraces more than one subject and does not express its purposes; (2) it did not pass the required readings in both Houses of Congress and printed copies of the bill in its final form were not distributed among the members before its passage; and (3) it is discriminatory and encroaches on the independence of the Judiciary.
We approach these issues with one important principle in mind, to wit, the presumption of the constitutionality of statutes. The theory is that as the joint act of the Legislature and the Executive, every statute is supposed to have first been carefully studied and determined to be constitutional before it was finally enacted. Hence, unless it is clearly shown that it is constitutionally flawed, the attack against its validity must be rejected and the law itself upheld. To doubt is to sustain.
We consider first the objection based on Article VI, Sec. 26(1), of the Constitution providing that "Every bill passed by the Congress shall embrace only one subject which shall be expressed in the title thereof."
The purposes of this rule are: (1) to prevent hodge-podge or "log-rolling" legislation; (2) to prevent surprise or fraud upon the legislature by means of provisions in bills of which the title gives no intimation, and which might therefore be overlooked and carelessly and unintentionally adopted; and (3) to fairly apprise the people, through such publication of legislative proceedings as is usually made, of the subject of legislation that is being considered, in order that they may have opportunity of being heard thereon, by petition or otherwise, if they shall so desire.
It is the submission of the petitioners that Section 35 of R.A. No. 7354 which withdrew the franking privilege from the Judiciary is not expressed in the title of the law, nor does it reflect its purposes.
R.A. No. 7354 is entitled "An Act Creating the Philippine Postal Corporation, Defining its Powers, Functions and Responsibilities, Providing for Regulation of the Industry and for Other Purposes Connected Therewith."
The objectives of the law are enumerated in Section 3, which provides:
The State shall pursue the following objectives of a nationwide postal system:
a) to enable the economical and speedy transfer of mail and other postal matters, from sender to addressee, with full recognition of their privacy or confidentiality;
b) to promote international interchange, cooperation and understanding through the unhampered flow or exchange of postal matters between nations;
c) to cause or effect a wide range of postal services to cater to different users and changing needs, including but not limited to, philately, transfer of monies and valuables, and the like;
d) to ensure that sufficient revenues are generated by and within the industry to finance the overall cost of providing the varied range of postal delivery and messengerial services as well as the expansion and continuous upgrading of service standards by the same.
Sec. 35 of R.A. No. 7354, which is the principal target of the petition, reads as follows:
SEC. 35. Repealing Clause. - All acts, decrees, orders, executive orders, instructions, rules and regulations or parts thereof inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are repealed or modified accordingly.
All franking privileges authorized by law are hereby repealed, except those provided for under Commonwealth Act No. 265, Republic Acts Numbered 69, 180, 1414, 2087 and 5059. The Corporation may continue the franking privilege under Circular No. 35 dated October 24, 1977 and that of the Vice President, under such arrangements and conditions as may obviate abuse or unauthorized use thereof.
The petitioners' contention is untenable. We do not agree that the title of the challenged act violates the Constitution.
The title of the bill is not required to be an index to the body of the act, or to be as comprehensive as to cover every single detail of the measure. It has been held that if the title fairly indicates the general subject, and reasonably covers all the provisions of the act, and is not calculated to mislead the legislature or the people, there is sufficient compliance with the constitutional requirement.
To require every end and means necessary for the accomplishment of the general objectives of the statute to be expressed in its title would not only be unreasonable but would actually render legislation impossible. As has been correctly explained:
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).
This is particularly true of the repealing clause, on which Cooley writes: "The repeal of a statute on a given subject is properly connected with the subject matter of a new statute on the same subject; and therefore a repealing section in the new statute is valid, notwithstanding that the title is silent on the subject. It would be difficult to conceive of a matter more germane to an act and to the object to be accomplished thereby than the repeal of previous legislations connected therewith."
The reason is that where a statute repeals a former law, such repeal is the effect and not the subject of the statute; and it is the subject, not the effect of a law, which is required to be briefly expressed in its title. As observed in one case, if the title of an act embraces only one subject, we apprehend it was never claimed that every other act which it repeals or alters by implication must be mentioned in the title of the new act. Any such rule would be neither within the reason of the Constitution, nor practicable.
We are convinced that the withdrawal of the franking privilege from some agencies is germane to the accomplishment of the principal objective of R.A. No. 7354, which is the creation of a more efficient and effective postal service system. Our ruling is that, by virtue of its nature as a repealing clause, Section 35 did not have to be expressly included in the title of the said law.
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, reading as follows:
(2) 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.
The petitioners also invoke Sec. 74 of the Rules of the House of Representatives, requiring that amendment to any bill when the House and the Senate shall have differences thereon may be settled by a conference committee of both chambers. They stress that Sec. 35 was never a subject of any disagreement between both Houses and so the second paragraph could not have been validly added as an amendment.
These arguments are unacceptable.
While it is true that a conference committee is the mechanism for compromising differences between the Senate and the House, it is not limited in its jurisdiction to this question. Its broader function is described thus:
A conference committee may deal generally with the subject matter or it may be limited to resolving the precise differences between the two houses. Even where the conference committee is not by rule limited in its jurisdiction, legislative custom severely limits the freedom with which new subject matter can be inserted into the conference bill. But occasionally a conference committee produces unexpected results, results beyond its mandate. These excursions occur even where the rules impose strict limitations on conference committee jurisdiction. This is symptomatic of the authoritarian power of conference committee (Davies, Legislative Law and Process: In A Nutshell, 1986 Ed., p. 81).
It is a matter of record that the Conference Committee Report on the bill in question was returned to and duly approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Thereafter, the bill was enrolled with its certification by Senate President Neptali A. Gonzales and Speaker Ramon V. Mitra of the House of Representatives as having been duly passed by both Houses of Congress. It was then presented to and approved by President Corazon C. Aquino on April 3, 1992.
Under the doctrine of separation of powers, the Court may not inquire beyond the certification of the approval of a bill from the presiding officers of Congress. Casco Philippine Chemical Co. v. Gimenez laid down the rule that the enrolled bill is conclusive upon the Judiciary (except in matters that have to be entered in the journals like the yeas and nays on the final reading of the bill). The journals are themselves also binding on the Supreme Court, as we held in the old (but still valid) case of U.S. vs. Pons, where we explained the reason thus:
To inquire into the veracity of the journals of the Philippine legislature when they are, as we have said, clear and explicit, would be to violate both the letter and spirit of the organic laws by which the Philippine Government was brought into existence, to invade a coordinate and independent department of the Government, and to interfere with the legitimate powers and functions of the Legislature.
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.
The third and most serious challenge of the petitioners is based on the equal protection clause.
It is alleged that R.A. No. 7354 is discriminatory because while withdrawing the franking privilege from the Judiciary, it retains the same for the President of the Philippines; the Vice President of the Philippines; Senators and Members of the House of Representatives; the Commission on Elections; former Presidents of the Philippines; widows of former Presidents of the Philippines; the National Census and Statistics Office; and the general public in the filing of complaints against public offices or officers.
The respondents counter that there is no discrimination because the law is based on a valid classification in accordance with the equal protection clause. In fact, the franking privilege has been withdrawn not only from the Judiciary but also the Office of Adult Education; the Institute of National Language; the Telecommunications Office; the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation; the National Historical Commission; the Armed Forces of the Philippines; the Armed Forces of the Philippines Ladies Steering Committee; the City and Provincial Prosecutors; the Tanodbayan (Office of Special Prosecutor); the Kabataang Barangay; the Commission on the Filipino Language; the Provincial and City Assessors; and the National Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons.
The equal protection of the laws is embraced in the concept of due process, as every unfair discrimination offends the requirements of justice and fair play. It has nonetheless been embodied in a separate clause in Article III Sec. 1, of the Constitution to provide for a more specific guaranty against any form of undue favoritism or hostility from the government. Arbitrariness in general may be challenged on the basis of the due process clause. But if the particular act assailed partakes of an unwarranted partiality or prejudice, the sharper weapon to cut it down is the equal protection clause.
According to a long line of decisions, equal protection simply requires that all persons or things similarly situated should be treated alike, both as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed. Similar subjects, in other words, should not be treated differently, so as to give undue favor to some and unjustly discriminate against others.
The equal protection clause does not require the universal application of the laws on all persons or things without distinction. This might in fact sometimes result in unequal protection, as where, for example, a law prohibiting mature books to all persons, regardless of age, would benefit the morals of the youth but violate the liberty of adults. What the clause requires is equality among equals as determined according to a valid classification. By classification is meant the grouping of persons or things similar to each other in certain particulars and different from all others in these same particulars.
What is the reason for the grant of the franking privilege in the first place? Is the franking privilege extended to the President of the Philippines or the Commission on Elections or to former Presidents of the Philippines purely as a courtesy from the lawmaking body? Is it offered because of the importance or status of the grantee or because of its need for the privilege? Or have the grantees been chosen pell-mell, as it were, without any basis at all for the selection?
We reject outright the last conjecture as there is no doubt that the statute as a whole was carefully deliberated upon by the political departments before it was finally enacted. There is reason to suspect, however, that not enough care (or attention) was given to its repealing clause, resulting in the unwitting withdrawal of the franking privilege from the Judiciary.
We also do not believe that the basis of the classification was mere courtesy, for it is unimaginable that the political departments would have intended this serious slight to the Judiciary as the third of the major and equal departments of the government. The same observations are made if the importance or status of the grantee was the criterion used for the extension of the franking privilege, which is enjoyed by the National Census and Statistics Office and even some private individuals but not the courts of justice.
In our view, the only acceptable reason for the grant of the franking privilege was the perceived need of the grantee for the accommodation, which would justify a waiver of substantial revenue by the Corporation in the interest of providing for a smoother flow of communication between the government and the people.
Assuming that basis, we cannot understand why, of all the departments of the government, it is the Judiciary that has been denied the franking privilege. There is no question that if there is any major branch of the government that needs the privilege, it is the Judicial Department, as the respondents themselves point out. Curiously, the respondents would justify the distinction on the basis precisely of this need and, on this basis, deny the Judiciary the franking privilege while extending it to others less deserving.
In their Comment, the respondents point out that available data from the Postal Service Office show that from January 1988 to June 1992, the total volume of frank mails amounted to P90,424,175.00. Of this amount, frank mails from the Judiciary and other agencies whose functions include the service of judicial processes, such as the intervenor, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman, amounted to P86,481,759. Frank mails coming from the Judiciary amounted to P73,574,864.00, and those coming from the petitioners reached the total amount of P60,991.431.00. The respondents' conclusion is that because of this considerable volume of mail from the Judiciary, the franking privilege must be withdrawn from it.
The argument is self-defeating. The respondents are in effect saying that the franking privilege should be extended only to those who do not need it very much, if at all, (like the widows of former Presidents) but not to those who need it badly (especially the courts of justice). It is like saying that a person may be allowed cosmetic surgery although it is not really necessary but not an operation that can save his life.
If the problem of the respondents is the loss of revenues from the franking privilege, the remedy, it seems to us, is to withdraw it altogether from all agencies of the government, including those who do not need it. The problem is not solved by retaining it for some and withdrawing it from others, especially where there is no substantial distinction between those favored, which may or may not need it at all, and the Judiciary, which definitely needs it. The problem is not solved by violating the Constitution.
In lumping the Judiciary with the other offices from which the franking privilege has been withdrawn, Section 35 has placed the courts of justice in a category to which it does not belong. If it recognizes the need of the President of the Philippines and the members of Congress for the franking privilege, there is no reason why it should not recognize a similar and in fact greater need on the part of the Judiciary for such privilege. While we may appreciate the withdrawal of the franking privilege from the Armed Forces of the Philippines Ladies Steering Committee, we fail to understand why the Supreme Court should be similarly treated as that Committee. And while we may concede the need of the National Census and Statistics Office for the franking privilege, we are intrigued that a similar if not greater need is not recognized in the courts of justice.
(On second thought, there does not seem to be any justifiable need for withdrawing the privilege from the Armed Forces of the Philippines Ladies Steering Committee, which, like former Presidents of the Philippines or their widows, does not send as much frank mails as the Judiciary.)
It is worth observing that the Philippine Postal Corporation, as a government-controlled corporation, was created and is expected to operate for the purpose of promoting the public service. While it may have been established primarily for private gain, it cannot excuse itself from performing certain functions for the benefit of the public in exchange for the franchise extended to it by the government and the many advantages it enjoys under its charter, like exemption from taxes, customs and tariff duties. Among the services it should be prepared to extend is the free carriage of mail for certain offices of the government that need the franking privilege in the discharge of their own public functions.
We also note that under Section 9 of the law, the Corporation is capitalized at P10 billion pesos, 55% of which is supplied by the Government, and that it derives substantial revenues from the sources enumerated in Section 10, on top of the tax exemptions it enjoys. It is not likely that the retention of the franking privilege by the Judiciary will cripple the Corporation.
At this time when the Judiciary is being faulted for the delay in the administration of justice, the withdrawal from it of the franking privilege can only further deepen this serious problem. The volume of judicial mail, as emphasized by the respondents themselves, should stress the dependence of the courts of justice on the postal service for communicating with lawyers and litigants as part of the judicial process. The Judiciary has the lowest appropriation in the national budget compared to the Legislative and Executive Departments; of the P309 billion budgeted for 1993, only .84%, or less than 1 %, is allotted to the Judiciary. It should not be hard to imagine the increased difficulties of our courts if they have to affix a purchased stamp to every process they send in the discharge of their judicial functions.
We are unable to agree with the respondents that Section 35 of R.A. No. 7354 represents a valid exercise of discretion by the Legislature under the police power. On the contrary, we find its repealing clause to be a discriminatory provision that denies the Judiciary the equal protection of the laws guaranteed for all persons or things similarly situated. The distinction made by the law is superficial. It is not based on substantial distinctions that make real differences between the Judiciary and the grantees of the franking privilege.
This is not a question of wisdom or power into which the Judiciary may not intrude. It is a matter of arbitrariness that this Court has the duty and power to correct.
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."
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.
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.
Narvasa, C.J., Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Nocon, Melo, Quiason, Puno, and Vitug, JJ., concur.
Bellosillo, J., on leave.
 Cooley, Constitutional Limitations, 8th Ed., pp. 295-296; State vs. Dolan, 14 L.R.A. 1259; State v. Doherty, 29 Pac. 855.
 Public Service Co. v. Recktenwald, 8 A.L.R. 466.
 Cooley, Constitutional Limitations, 8th Ed., p. 297.
 Ibid., p. 302.
 Southern Pac. Co. v. Bartine, 170 Fed. 737.
 City of Winona v. School District, 41 N.W. 539.
 7 SCRA 347.
 Mabanag v. Lopez Vito, 78 Phil. 1.
 34 Phil. 729.
 Rollo, pp. 8-9.
 Ibid., pp. 209-210.
 Ichong v. Hernandez, 101 Phil. 1155; Sison v. Ancheta, 130 SCRA 654; Association of Small Landowners in the Philippines v. Secretary of Agrarian Reform, 175 SCRA 375.
 International Harvester Co. v. Missouri, 234 US 199.
 Sec. 14 of R.A. No. 7354.