Political Law

Ramon Gonzales vs Rufino Hechanova

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G.R. No. L-21897 – 9 SCRA 230 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Judicial Department – Powers of the Judiciary – Judicial Review – Nullification of Treaties – Treaty vs Executive Agreements

During the term of President Diosdado Macapagal, he entered into two executive agreements with Vietnam and Burma for the importation of rice without complying with the requisite of securing a certification from the National Economic Council showing that there is a shortage in cereals or rice. Hence, the then Executive Secretary Rufino Hechanova, authorized the importation of 67,000 tons of rice from abroad to the detriment of our local planters. Ramon Gonzales, then president of the Iloilo Palay and Corn Planters Association assailed the executive agreements. Gonzales averred that Hechanova is without jurisdiction or in excess of jurisdiction because Republic Act 3452 prohibits the importation of rice and corn by the Rice and Corn Administration or any other government agency.

ISSUE: Whether or not RA 3452 prevails over the 2 executive agreements entered into by Macapagal.

HELD: Yes. Under the Constitution, the main function of the Executive is to enforce laws enacted by Congress. The former may not interfere in the performance of the legislative powers of the latter, except in the exercise of his veto power. He may not defeat legislative enactments that have acquired the status of laws, by indirectly repealing the same through an executive agreement providing for the performance of the very act prohibited by said laws. In the event of conflict between a treaty and a statute, the one which is latest in point of time shall prevail, is not applicable to the case at bar, Hechanova not only admits, but, also, insists that the contracts adverted to are not treaties. No such justification can be given as regards executive agreements not authorized by previous legislation, without completely upsetting the principle of separation of powers and the system of checks and balances which are fundamental in our constitutional set up.

As regards the question whether an executive or an international agreement may be invalidated by our courts, suffice it to say that the Constitution of the Philippines has clearly settled it in the affirmative, by providing that the SC may not be deprived “of its jurisdiction to review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal, certiorari, or writ of error, as the law or the rules of court may provide, final judgments and decrees of inferior courts in all cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, law, ordinance, or executive order or regulation is in question”. In other words, our Constitution authorizes the nullification of a treaty, not only when it conflicts with the fundamental law, but, also, when it runs counter to an act of Congress.

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