G.R. No. L-46440 – 67 Phil. 62 – Political Law – Basic Principles – Branches of Government; Separation of Powers – Rule of Non-Interference
In November 1938, Carmen Planas, then a municipal board member of Manila, published a statement criticizing the acts of certain government officials including Pres. Manuel Quezon in a newspaper. The following morning, she received a letter from Jorge Vargas (Secretary to the President) by order of the president directing her to report before the Civil Service Commission (CSC). She was directed to explain and prove her allegations.
She appeared before the CSC but she questioned the jurisdiction of the CSC over the matter. She said that as an elective official, she is accountable for her political acts to her constituency alone, unless such acts constitute offenses punishable under our penal laws, and not to executive officials belonging to a party opposed to that to which petitioner is affiliated. Further, she contends that her statement in the newspaper was made by her as a private citizen and in the exercise of her right to discuss freely political questions and cannot properly be the subject of an administrative investigation; that the issue is only cognizable by courts of justice in case the contents of said statement infringe any provision of the Penal Code. The CSC, acting through Commissioner Jose Gil, however took cognizance of the case hence Planas appealed to the Supreme Court. The Solicitor General argued for the CSC stated that under the separation of powers marked by the Constitution, the court has no jurisdiction to review the orders of the Chief Executive which are of purely administrative in character.
ISSUE: Whether or not the SC has jurisdiction to review orders issued by the President.
HELD: The acts of the Chief Executive performed within the limits of his jurisdiction are his official acts and courts will neither direct nor restrain executive action in such cases. The rule is non-interference. But from this legal premise, it does not necessarily follow that the SC is precluded from making an inquiry into the validity or constitutionality of his acts when these are properly challenged in an appropriate legal proceeding. The classical separation of governmental powers viewed in the light of political philosophy is a relative theory of government. There is more truism and actuality in interdependence than in independence and separation of powers.
In the present case, the President is not a party to the proceeding. He is neither compelled nor restrained to act in a particular way. The CSC is the party respondent and the theory is advanced by the Sol. Gen that because an investigation undertaken by him is directed by authority of the President of the Philippines, the SC has no jurisdiction over the present proceedings instituted by Planas. The argument is farfetched. A mere plea that a subordinate officer of the government is acting under orders from the Chief Executive may be an important averment, but is neither decisive nor conclusive upon this court. Like the dignity of his high office, the relative immunity of the Chief Executive from judicial interference is not in the nature of a sovereign passport for all the subordinate official and employees of the executive Department to the extent that at the mere invocation of the authority that it purports the jurisdiction of this court to inquire into the validity or legality of an executive order is necessarily abated or suspended.
Nevertheless, SC ruled that the CSC can take cognizance of the case. Planas was not denied the right to voice out her opinion but since she made allegations against the administration it is but right for her to prove those allegations. The CSC has the right to elicit the truth.