Political Law

United States vs Ang Tang Ho

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G.R. No. 17122 – 43 Phil. 1 – Political Law – Delegation of Power – Undue delegation of legislative power – Sufficient Standard Test

In July 1919, the Philippine Legislature (during special session) passed and approved Act No. 2868 entitled An Act Penalizing the Monopoly and Hoarding of Rice, Palay and Corn. The said act, under extraordinary circumstances, authorizes the Governor General (GG) to issue the necessary Rules and Regulations in regulating the distribution of such products. Pursuant to this Act, in August 1919, the GG issued Executive Order No. 53 which was published on August 20, 1919. The said EO fixed the price at which rice should be sold. On the other hand, Ang Tang Ho, a rice dealer, sold a ganta of rice to Pedro Trinidad at the price of eighty centavos. The said amount was way higher than that prescribed by the EO. The sale was done on the 6th of August 1919. On August 8, 1919, he was charged for violation of the said EO. He was found guilty as charged and was sentenced to 5 months imprisonment plus a P500.00 fine. He appealed the sentence countering that there is an undue delegation of power to the Governor General.

ISSUE: Whether or not there is undue delegation to the Governor General.

HELD: First of, Ang Tang Ho’s conviction must be reversed because he committed the act prior to the publication of the EO. Hence, he cannot be ex post facto charged of the crime. Further, one cannot be convicted of a violation of a law or of an order issued pursuant to the law when both the law and the order fail to set up an ascertainable standard of guilt.

There is undue delegation. When analyzed, if a seller of rice commits overpricing, it was not Act 2868 (the law passed by Congress) that sends him to jail, it is EO 53 (act of the GG). Without that EO, it was no crime to sell rice at any price. In other words, the Legislature left it to the sole discretion of the GG to say what was and what was not “any cause” for enforcing the act, and what was and what was not “an extraordinary rise in the price of palay, rice or corn,” and under certain undefined conditions to fix the price at which rice should be sold, without regard to grade or quality, also to say whether a proclamation should be issued, if so, when, and whether or not the law should be enforced, how long it should be enforced, and when the law should be suspended. The Legislature did not specify or define what was “any cause,” or what was “an extraordinary rise in the price of rice, palay or corn,” neither did it specify or define the conditions upon which the proclamation should be issued. In the absence of the proclamation no crime was committed. The alleged sale was made a crime, if at all, because the GG issued the proclamation. The act or proclamation does not say anything about the different grades or qualities of rice, and the defendant is charged with the sale “of one ganta of rice at the price of eighty centavos (P0.80) which is a price greater than that fixed by Executive order No. 53.

No part of the legislative power can be delegated by the legislature to any other department of the government, executive or judicial. This a fundamental principle in constitutional law, essential to the integrity and maintenance of the system of government established by the constitution

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