Political Law

Juan Bengzon vs Secretary of Justice

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G.R. No. L-42821 – 68 Phil. 912 (299 U.S. 410) – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Executive Department – Powers of the President – Veto Power – Line item Veto

Juan Bengzon was appointed as Justice of the Peace in 1912 in Lingayen, Pangasinan. Upon reaching 65 years of age in 1933 he would have to retire in accordance with the law. He later sought to claim gratuity pursuant to Act No. 4051: “An Act to provide for the payment of retirement gratuities to officers and employees of the Insular Government retired from the service as a result of the reorganization or reduction of personnel thereof, including the justices of the peace who must relinquish office in accordance with the provisions of Act Numbered Thirty-eight hundred and ninety-nine, and for other purposes.”

Section 7 thereof specifically provides that gratuity may be availed of by justices like Bengzon but that provision has been vetoed by the governor-general. Bengzon said the veto is beyond the power of the governor-general hence he filed a petition for mandamus to compel the Secretary of Justice to implement the gratuity provision of the said law.

ISSUE: Whether or not Bengzon is entitled to the gratuity provision of the Retirement Gratuity Law.

HELD: No. The governor-general in vetoing the said item of the law has acted within his power; for this is also in compliance with the Organic Act. Section 19 of the former Organic Act, the Act of Congress of August 29, 1916, established the practice for the enactment of a law, including the sanctioning of the veto power by the Governor-General. Specifically it provided:

The Governor-General shall have the power to veto any particular item or items of an appropriation bill, but the veto shall not affect the item or items to which he does not object.”

The SC then is constrained to rule against Bengzon and to hold that the veto by the Governor-General of section 7 of Act No. 4051 was in conformity with the legislative purpose and the provisions of the Organic Act.

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NOTE: Quite interestingly, while I was doing some research on this, it appears that this case was further appealed (via certiorari) to the U.S. Supreme Court (299 U.S. 410). That was allowed then because the Philippines was under the Commonwealth regime. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision. You can read it here. It was ruled that the Governor-General did not have the power to veto such item in the said law because in truth and in fact, the said law was not an appropriations law. hence, no line item veto can be had.

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