Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. L-57883 March 12, 1982
GUALBERTO J. DE LA LLANA Presiding Judge, Branch II of the City Court of Olongapo, ESTANISLAO L. CESA, JR., FIDELA Y. VARGAS, BENJAMIN C. ESCOLANGO, JUANITO C. ATIENZA, MANUEL REYES ROSAPAPAN, JR., VIRGILIO E. ACIERTO, and PORFIRIO AGUILLON AGUILA, petitioners,
MANUEL ALBA, Minister of Budget, FRANCISCO TANTUICO, Chairman, Commission on Audit, and RICARDO PUNO, Minister of Justice, Respondents.
This Court, pursuant to its grave responsibility of passing upon the validity of any executive or legislative act in an appropriate cases, has to resolve the crucial issue of the constitutionality of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, entitled “An act reorganizing the Judiciary, Appropriating Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes.” The task of judicial review, aptly characterized as exacting and delicate, is never more so than when a conceded legislative power, that of judicial reorganization, 1 may possibly collide with the time-honored principle of the independence of the judiciary 2 as protected and safeguarded by this constitutional provision: “The Members of the Supreme Court and judges of inferior courts shall hold office during good behavior until they reach the age of seventy years or become incapacitated to discharge the duties of their office. The Supreme Court shall have the power to discipline judges of inferior courts and, by a vote of at least eight Members, order their dismissal.” 3 For the assailed legislation mandates that Justices and judges of inferior courts from the Court of Appeals to municipal circuit courts, except the occupants of the Sandiganbayan and the Court of Tax Appeals, unless appointed to the inferior courts established by such Act, would be considered separated from the judiciary. It is the termination of their incumbency that for petitioners justifies a suit of this character, it being alleged that thereby the security of tenure provision of the Constitution has been ignored and disregarded,
That is the fundamental issue raised in this proceeding, erroneously entitled Petition for Declaratory Relief and/or for Prohibition 4 considered by this Court as an action for prohibited petition, seeking to enjoin respondent Minister of the Budget, respondent Chairman of the Commission on Audit, and respondent Minister of Justice from taking any action implementing Batas Pambansa Blg. 129. Petitioners 5 sought to bolster their claim by imputing lack of good faith in its enactment and characterizing as an undue delegation of legislative power to the President his authority to fix the compensation and allowances of the Justices and judges thereafter appointed and the determination of the date when the reorganization shall be deemed completed. In the very comprehensive and scholarly Answer of Solicitor General Estelito P. Mendoza, 6 it was pointed out that there is no valid justification for the attack on the constitutionality of this statute, it being a legitimate exercise of the power vested in the Batasang Pambansa to reorganize the judiciary, the allegations of absence of good faith as well as the attack on the independence of the judiciary being unwarranted and devoid of any support in law. A Supplemental Answer was likewise filed on October 8, 1981, followed by a Reply of petitioners on October 13. After the hearing in the morning and afternoon of October 15, in which not only petitioners and respondents were heard through counsel but also the amici curiae, 7 and thereafter submission of the minutes of the proceeding on the debate on Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, this petition was deemed submitted for decision.
The importance of the crucial question raised called for intensive and rigorous study of all the legal aspects of the case. After such exhaustive deliberation in several sessions, the exchange of views being supplemented by memoranda from the members of the Court, it is our opinion and so hold that Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 is not unconstitutional.