Political Law

United States vs Aniceto Barrias

image_printPrint this!

G.R. No. 4349 – 11 Phil. 327 – Political Law; Basic Principles – Separation of Power; Delegation of Power; Undue Delegation of Legislative Power

In 1904, Congress, through a law (Act No. 1136), authorized the Collector of Customs to regulate the business of lighterage. Lighterage is a business involving the shipping of goods by use of lighters or cascos (small ships/boats). The said law also provides that the Collector may promulgate such rules to implement Act No. 1136. Further, Act No. 1136 provides that in case a fine is to be imposed, it should not exceed one hundred dollars. Pursuant to this, the Collector promulgated Circular No. 397.

Meanwhile, Aniceto Barrias was caught navigating the Pasig River using a lighter which is manually powered by bamboo poles (sagwan). Such is a violation of Circular No. 397 because under said Circular, only steam powered ships should be allowed to navigate the Pasig River. However, in the information against Barrias, it was alleged that the imposable penalty against him should be a fine not exceeding P500.00 at the discretion of the court – this was pursuant to Circular No. 397 which provides:

For the violation of any part of the foregoing regulations, the persons offending shall be liable to a fine of not less than P5 and not more than P500, in the discretion of the court.

Barrias now challenge the validity of such provision of the Circular as it is entirely different from the penal provision of Act. No. 1136 which only provided a penalty of not exceeding $100.00 (Note at that time the peso-dollar exchange was more or less equal).

ISSUE: Whether or not the penal provision in the Circular is valid.

HELD: No. The Commissioner cannot impose a different range of penalty different from that specified by Congress. If the Collector is allowed to do so, then in effect, it is as if he is being delegated the power to legislate penalties. One of the settled maxims in constitutional law is, that the power conferred upon the legislature to make laws cannot be delegated by that department to anybody or authority. Where the sovereign power of the State has located the authority, there it must remain; only by the constitutional agency alone the laws must be made until the constitution itself is changed. The power to whose judgment, wisdom, and patriotism this high prerogative has been entrusted can not relieve itself of the responsibility by choosing other agencies upon which the power shall be developed, nor can it substitute the judgment, wisdom, and patriotism and of any other body for those to which alone the people have seen fit to confide this sovereign trust.

This doctrine is based on the ethical principle that such a delegated power constitutes not only a right but a duty to be performed by the delegate by the instrumentality of his own judgment acting immediately upon the matter of legislation and not through the intervening mind of another. The Collector cannot exercise a power exclusively lodged in Congress. Hence, Barrias should be penalized in accordance to the penalty being imposed by Act No. 1136. In this case, the Supreme Court determined that the proper fine is $25.00.

Read full text

image_printPrint this!

Leave a Reply