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G.R. No. 106064 – 472 SCRA 505 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Executive Department – Qualified Political Agency – when not applied – Borrowing Powers of the President
During the Corazon Aquino regime, her administration came up with a scheme to reduce the country’s external debt. The solution resorted to was to incur foreign debts. Three restructuring programs were sought to initiate the program for foreign debts, they are basically buyback programs and bond-conversion programs. The spouses Renato Constantino, Jr. and Lourdes Constantino, as a taxpayers, and in behalf of their minor children who are Filipino citizens, together with FFDC (Freedom From Debt Coalition) averred that the buyback and bond-conversion schemes were onerous and they do not constitute the loan “contract” or “guarantee” contemplated in Sec. 20, Art. VII of the Constitution. And assuming that the President has such power, unlike other powers which may be validly delegated by the President, the power to incur foreign debts is expressly reserved by the Constitution in the person of the President, hence, the respondents herein, Central Bank Governor Jose Cuisia et al, cannot incur debts for the Philippines nor such power can be delegated to them. Constantino argued that the gravity by which the exercise of the power will affect the Filipino nation requires that the President alone must exercise this power. They argue that the requirement of prior concurrence of an entity specifically named by the Constitution, the Monetary Board, reinforces the submission that not respondents but the President “alone and personally” can validly bind the country. Hence, they would like Cuisia et al to stop acting pursuant to the said scheme.
ISSUE: Whether or not the President of the Philippines can validly delegate her debt power to the respondents.
HELD: Yes. There is no question that the president has borrowing powers and that the President may contract or guarantee foreign loans in behalf of this country with prior concurrence of the Monetary Board. It makes no distinction whatsoever, and the fact that a debt or a loan may be onerous is irrelevant. On the other hand, the President can delegate this power to her direct subordinates. The evident exigency of having the Secretary of Finance implement the decision of the President to execute the debt-relief contracts is made manifest by the fact that the process of establishing and executing a strategy for managing the government’s debt is deep within the realm of the expertise of the Department of Finance, primed as it is to raise the required amount of funding, achieve its risk and cost objectives, and meet any other sovereign debt management goals. If the President were to personally exercise every aspect of the foreign borrowing power, he/she would have to pause from running the country long enough to focus on a welter of time-consuming detailed activities, the propriety of incurring/guaranteeing loans, studying and choosing among the many methods that may be taken toward this end, meeting countless times with creditor representatives to negotiate, obtaining the concurrence of the Monetary Board, explaining and defending the negotiated deal to the public, and more often than not, flying to the agreed place of execution to sign the documents. This sort of constitutional interpretation would negate the very existence of cabinet positions and the respective expertise which the holders thereof are accorded and would unduly hamper the President’s effectivity in running the government. The act of the Cuisia et al are not unconstitutional.
There are certain acts which, by their very nature, cannot be validated by subsequent approval or ratification by the President. There are certain constitutional powers and prerogatives of the Chief Executive of the Nation which must be exercised by him in person and no amount of approval or ratification will validate the exercise of any of those powers by any other person. Such, for instance, in his power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and proclaim martial law and the exercise by him of the benign prerogative of pardon (mercy).
There are certain presidential powers which arise out of exceptional circumstances, and if exercised, would involve the suspension of fundamental freedoms, or at least call for the supersedence of executive prerogatives over those exercised by co-equal branches of government. The declaration of martial law, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, and the exercise of the pardoning power notwithstanding the judicial determination of guilt of the accused, all fall within this special class that demands the exclusive exercise by the President of the constitutionally vested power. The list is by no means exclusive, but there must be a showing that the executive power in question is of similar gravitas and exceptional import.