Political Law

Valentino Legaspi vs Minister of Finance

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G.R. No. L-58289 – 115 SCRA 418 – Political Law – Other Options Available to the President Aside from Declaring Martial Law – Amendment No. 6

In 1982, after the lifting of Martial Law, Legaspi, then incumbent member of the interim Batasang Pambansa, petitioned to declare Presidential Decree 1840 “granting tax amnesty and filing of statement of assets and liabilities and some other purposes” unconstitutional. He argued that said decree was promulgated despite the fact that under the Constitution ‘(T)he Legislative power shall be vested in a Batasang Pambansa’ (Sec. 1, Article VIII) and the President may grant amnesty only ‘with concurrence of the Batasang Pambansa. In this case, there was no concurrence given by the IBP. Legaspi averred that since Martial Law is already lifted, the president can no longer arbitrarily enact laws. At the same time,¬† Legaspi averred that Amendment No. 6, which provides legislative powers to Marcos, is invalid because that is no longer allowed after the lifting of the ML.

ISSUE: What are the possible options available to the president other than declaring martial law.

HELD: SC ruled PD 1840 to be valid. SC declared¬†it must be emphatically made clear that explicitly the power that Amendment No. 6 vests upon the “President (Prime Minister)” are to be exercised only on two specified occasions, namely, (1) “when in (his judgment) a grave emergency exists or there is a threat or imminence thereof” and (2) “whenever the interim Batasang Pambansa or the regular National Assembly (now regular Batasang Pambansa) fails or is unable to act adequately on any matter for any reason that in his judgment requires immediate action.” The power is to “issue necessary decrees, orders, or letters of instruction which shall form part of the law of the land.” As the tenor of the amendment readily imparts, such power may be exercised even when the Batasan is in session. Obviously, therefore, it is a power that is in the nature of the other powers which the Constitution directly confers upon the President or allows to be delegated to him by the Batasan in times of crises and emergencies.

The SC also noted that Amendment No. 6 is a measure seen by the president to avoid declaring another martial law. There are also other options that the president can recourse to; they are:

(a) emergency powers expressly delegated by the Batasan;

(b) call of the armed forces, who otherwise are supposed to be in the barracks;

(c) suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus; and

(d) martial law [being the last]

President must first exercise emergency powers as may be provided by the legislature. When it fails, it cannot be adequate when lawless violence becomes generalized and public safety is in jeopardy, hence the need to call out the armed forces. And when such situation still aggravates to the point of requiring the preventive incarceration or detention of certain leaders or over active elements, it becomes inevitable to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Should matters really go out of hand even after the putting into effect of the measures aforementioned, under the constitution, without Amendment No. 6, the only recourse would be to proclaim martial law. But inasmuch as martial law is an extreme measure that carries with it repressive and restrictive elements unpopular to liberty loving and democratically minded sectors of the country, it is but natural to think of it only as a very last resort. Again, this is to avoid the necessity of resorting to the proclamation of martial law that Amendment No. 6 was conceived. Paraphrasing President Marcos himself, martial law is the law of the gun, that implies coercion and an active and direct role in the government by the military. Thus, the virtue of Amendment No. 6 is that such undesirable features of martial law do not have to accompany the exercise of the power thereby conferred on the Executive. To be sure, the calling out of the armed forces and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which are concomitants of martial law, may be left out or need not be resorted to when the President acts by virtue of such power. It is, therefore, evident that it is grossly erroneous to say that Amendment No. 6 is in reality no less than disguised martial law.

Read other versions of this digest here (Forms of Government) and here (Amnesty)

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