Political Law

National Economic Protectionism Association vs Roberto Ongpin

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G.R. No. 67752 – 171 SCRA 657 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Judicial Department – Judicial Review – Requisites

After the lifting of martial law in 1981, President Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1789 and some other PDs. The said PD was issued in order to suspend for one year the requirement that in order for companies to validly operate in the country they must be comprised of at least 60% Filipino. NEPA (National Economic Protectionism Association), an association of local businessmen, assailed the said PD averring that as taxpayers and Filipinos they will be greatly adversed by such PD. They sought to enjoin Roberto Ongpin, then the Minister (Secretary) of Trade and Industry, from enforcing the said law. The Sol-Gen commented that NEPA et al have no personality and standing to sue in the absence of an actual controversy concerning the enforcement of the PD in question – that they were not actually adversely affected by said PD.

ISSUE: Whether or not the requisites for judicial review are met.

HELD: No. NEPA et al question the constitutionality of Secs 1 and 3 of PD 1892 in relation to PD 1789, the 1981 Investment Priorities Plan and EO 676, as being violative of the due process and equal protection clauses of the 1973 Constitution as well as Secs 8 and 9 of Article 14 thereof, and seek to prohibit Ongpin from implementing said laws. Yet, not even one of the petitioners has been adversely affected by the application of those provisions. No actual conflict has been alleged wherein NEPA could validly and possibly say that the increase in foreign equity participation in non-pioneer areas of investment from the period of Dec 2, 1983 to Dec 4, 1984 had any direct bearing on them, such as considerable rise in unemployment, real increase in foreign investment, unfair competition with Philippine nationals, exploitation of the country’s natural resources by foreign investors under the decrees. NEPA et al advance an abstract, hypothetical issue which is in effect a petition for an advisory opinion from the Supreme Court. The power of courts to declare a law unconstitutional arises only when the interests of litigants require the use of that judicial authority for their protection against actual interference, a hypothetical threat being insufficient.

There must be a bona fide suit. Judicial power is limited to the decision of actual cases and controversies. The authority to pass on the validity of statutes is incidental to the decision of such cases where conflicting claims under the Constitution and under a legislative act assailed as contrary to the Constitution are raised. It is legitimate only in the last resort, and as necessity in the determination of real, earnest, and vital controversy between litigants.

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