Political Law

Emmanuel Pelaez vs Auditor General

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G.R. No. L-23825 – 15 SCRA 569 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Legislative Department – Legislative Powers; Delegation of Powers – Sufficient Standard Test and Completeness Test

Political Law – Basic Principles – Three Branches of the Government – Separation of Powers – Only Congress may create municipalities

In 1964, President Ferdinand Marcos issued executive orders creating 33 municipalities – this was purportedly pursuant to Section 68 of the Revised Administrative Code which provides in part:

The President may by executive order define the boundary… of any… municipality… and may change the seat of government within any subdivision to such place therein as the public welfare may require…

The then Vice President, Emmanuel Pelaez, as a taxpayer, filed a special civil action to prohibit the auditor general from disbursing funds to be appropriated for the said municipalities. Pelaez claims that the EOs were unconstitutional. He said that Section 68 of the RAC had been impliedly repealed by Section 3 of RA 2370 which provides that barrios may “not be created or their boundaries altered nor their names changed” except by Act of Congress. Pelaez argues: “If the President, under this new law, cannot even create a barrio, how can he create a municipality which is composed of several barrios, since barrios are units of municipalities?”

The Auditor General countered that there was no repeal and that only barrios were barred from being created by the President. Municipalities are exempt from the bar and that a municipality can be created without creating barrios. He further maintains that through Sec. 68 of the RAC, Congress has delegated such power to create municipalities to the President.

ISSUE: Whether or not Congress has delegated the power to create barrios to the President by virtue of Sec. 68 of the RAC.

HELD: No. There was no delegation here. Although Congress may delegate to another branch of the government the power to fill in the details in the execution, enforcement or administration of a law, it is essential, to forestall a violation of the principle of separation of powers, that said law: (a) be complete in itself – it must set forth therein the policy to be executed, carried out or implemented by the delegate; and (b) fix a standard – the limits of which are sufficiently determinate or determinable – to which the delegate must conform in the performance of his functions. In this case, Sec. 68 lacked any such standard. Indeed, without a statutory declaration of policy, the delegate would, in effect, make or formulate such policy, which is the essence of every law; and, without the aforementioned standard, there would be no means to determine, with reasonable certainty, whether the delegate has acted within or beyond the scope of his authority.

Further, although Sec. 68 provides the qualifying clause “as the public welfare may require” – which would mean that the President may exercise such power as the public welfare may require – is present, still, such will not replace the standard needed for a proper delegation of power. In the first place, what the phrase “as the public welfare may require” qualifies is the text which immediately precedes hence, the proper interpretation is “the President may change the seat of government within any subdivision to such place therein as the public welfare may require.” Only the seat of government may be changed by the President when public welfare so requires and NOT the creation of a municipality.

The Supreme Court declared that the power to create municipalities is essentially and eminently legislative in character not administrative (not executive).

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