Political Law

Civil Liberties Union vs The Executive Secretary

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G.R. No. 83896 – 194 SCRA 317 – Political Law – The Executive Department – Ex Officio Officials – Members of the Cabinet – Singularity of Office – EO 284

In July 1987, then President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order No. 284 which allowed members of the Cabinet, their undersecretaries and assistant secretaries to hold other government offices or positions in addition to their primary positions subject to limitations set therein. The Civil Liberties Union (CLU) questioned this EO averring that such law is unconstitutional. The constitutionality of EO 284 is being challenged by CLU on the principal submission that it adds exceptions to Sec 13, Article 7 of the Constitution which provides:

“Sec. 13. The President, Vice-President, the Members of the Cabinet, and their deputies or assistants shall not, unless otherwise provided in this Constitution, hold any other office or employment during their tenure. They shall not, during said tenure, directly or indirectly practice any other profession, participate in any business, or be financially interested in any contract with, or in any franchise, or special privilege granted by the Government or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations or their subsidiaries. They shall strictly avoid conflict of interest in the conduct of their office.”

CLU avers that by virtue of the phrase “unless otherwise provided in this Constitution“, the only exceptions against holding any other office or employment in Government are those provided in the Constitution, namely: (i) The Vice-President may be appointed as a Member of the Cabinet under Sec 3, par. (2), Article 7; and (ii) the Secretary of Justice is an ex-officio member of the Judicial and Bar Council by virtue of Sec 8 (1), Article 8.

ISSUE: Whether or not EO 284 is constitutional.

HELD: No, it is unconstitutional. It is clear that the 1987 Constitution seeks to prohibit the President, Vice-President, members of the Cabinet, their deputies or assistants from holding during their tenure multiple offices or employment in the government, except in those cases specified in the Constitution itself and as above clarified with respect to posts held without additional compensation in an ex-officio capacity as provided by law and as required by the primary functions of their office, the citation of Cabinet members (then called Ministers) as examples during the debate and deliberation on the general rule laid down for all appointive officials should be considered as mere personal opinions which cannot override the constitution’s manifest intent and the people’s understanding thereof.

In the light of the construction given to Sec 13, Art 7 in relation to Sec 7, par. (2), Art IX-B of the 1987 Constitution, EO 284 is unconstitutional. Ostensibly restricting the number of positions that Cabinet members, undersecretaries or assistant secretaries may hold in addition to their primary position to not more than 2 positions in the government and government corporations, EO 284 actually allows them to hold multiple offices or employment in direct contravention of the express mandate of Sec 13, Art 7 of the 1987 Constitution prohibiting them from doing so, unless otherwise provided in the 1987 Constitution itself.

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