Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Commission on Human Rights

In relation to my previous entry about the pendency in the Philippine Congress of a bill intended to enlarge and strengthen the powers of the constitutionally created Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the Philippines, and for legal research purposes of the visitors of this blog, perhaps it is useful to digest hereinbelow the 2004 case entitled COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS EMPLOYEES’ ASSOCIATION (CHREA) vs. COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, G.R. No. 155336, November 25, 2004, which expressly held that the CHR is “not a constitutional commission”, although it was constitutionally created by virtue of the relevant provisions in the 1987 Constitution creating the CHR.

Below are the salient doctrinal pronouncements of the Philippine Supreme Court in the aforecited case, thus:

1. The Court of Appeals incorrectly relied on the pronouncement of the CSC-Central Office that the CHR is a constitutional commission, and as such enjoys fiscal autonomy.

Palpably, the Court of Appeals’ Decision was based on the mistaken premise that the CHR belongs to the species of constitutional commissions. But, Article IX of the Constitution states in no uncertain terms that only the CSC, the Commission on Elections, and the Commission on Audit shall be tagged as Constitutional Commissions with the appurtenant right to fiscal autonomy. Thus:

Sec. 1. The Constitutional Commissions, which shall be independent, are the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Elections, and the Commission on Audit.
Sec. 5. The Commission shall enjoy fiscal autonomy. Their approved annual appropriations shall be automatically and regularly released.

2. Along the same vein, the Administrative Code, in Chapter 5, Sections 24 and 26 of Book II on Distribution of Powers of Government, the constitutional commissions shall include only the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Elections, and the Commission on Audit, which are granted independence and fiscal autonomy. In contrast, Chapter 5, Section 29 thereof, is silent on the grant of similar powers to the other bodies including the CHR. Thus:
SEC. 24. Constitutional Commissions. – The Constitutional Commissions, which shall be independent, are the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Elections, and the Commission on Audit.

SEC. 26. Fiscal Autonomy. – The Constitutional Commissions shall enjoy fiscal autonomy. The approved annual appropriations shall be automatically and regularly released.

SEC. 29. Other Bodies. – There shall be in accordance with the Constitution, an Office of the Ombudsman, a Commission on Human Rights, and independent central monetary authority, and a national police commission. Likewise, as provided in the Constitution, Congress may establish an independent economic and planning agency. (Emphasis ours.)

3. From the 1987 Constitution and the Administrative Code, it is abundantly clear that the CHR is not among the class of Constitutional Commissions. As expressed in the oft-repeated maxim expressio unius est exclusio alterius, the express mention of one person, thing, act or consequence excludes all others. Stated otherwise, expressium facit cessare tacitum – what is expressed puts an end to what is implied.[21]

4. Nor is there any legal basis to support the contention that the CHR enjoys fiscal autonomy. In essence, fiscal autonomy entails freedom from outside control and limitations, other than those provided by law. It is the freedom to allocate and utilize funds granted by law, in accordance with law, and pursuant to the wisdom and dispatch its needs may require from time to time. In Blaquera v. Alcala and Bengzon v. Drilon, it is understood that it is only the Judiciary, the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Audit, the Commission on Elections, and the Office of the Ombudsman, which enjoy fiscal autonomy. Thus, in Bengzon, we explained:

As envisioned in the Constitution, the fiscal autonomy enjoyed by the Judiciary, the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Audit, the Commission on Elections, and the Office of the Ombudsman contemplates a guarantee of full flexibility to allocate and utilize their resources with the wisdom and dispatch that their needs require. It recognizes the power and authority to levy, assess and collect fees, fix rates of compensation not exceeding the highest rates authorized by law for compensation and pay plans of the government and allocate and disburse such sums as may be provided by law or prescribed by them in the course of the discharge of their functions.

. . .

The Judiciary, the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman must have the independence and flexibility needed in the discharge of their constitutional duties. The imposition of restrictions and constraints on the manner the independent constitutional offices allocate and utilize the funds appropriated for their operations is anathema to fiscal autonomy and violative not only of the express mandate of the Constitution but especially as regards the Supreme Court, of the independence and separation of powers upon which the entire fabric of our constitutional system is based. In the interest of comity and cooperation, the Supreme Court, [the] Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman have so far limited their objections to constant reminders. We now agree with the petitioners that this grant of autonomy should cease to be a meaningless provision. (Emphasis supplied.)

5. All told, the CHR, although admittedly a constitutional creation is, nonetheless, not included in the genus of offices accorded fiscal autonomy by constitutional or legislative fiat.

Even assuming en arguendo that the CHR enjoys fiscal autonomy, we share the stance of the DBM that the grant of fiscal autonomy notwithstanding, all government offices must, all the same, kowtow to the Salary Standardization Law. We are of the same mind with the DBM on its standpoint, thus-

Being a member of the fiscal autonomy group does not vest the agency with the authority to reclassify, upgrade, and create positions without approval of the DBM. While the members of the Group are authorized to formulate and implement the organizational structures of their respective offices and determine the compensation of their personnel, such authority is not absolute and must be exercised within the parameters of the Unified Position Classification and Compensation System established under RA 6758 more popularly known as the Compensation Standardization Law. (Emphasis supplied.)



Cruz, Philippine Political Law 243 (1996 ed.), citing Ex Parte Lewitt, 303 U.S. 633.
EASCO v. LTFRB, G.R. No. 149717, 07 October 2003, 413 SCRA 75.
Philippine Law Dictionary 21 (2nd ed.), citing Caw v. Benedicto, 63 OG 3393; 8 C.A.R. (2s) 814.
G.R. No. 143784, 05 February 2003, 397 SCRA 27, 35.G.R. No. 119155, 30 January 1996, 252 SCRA599.
G.R. No. 131529, 30 April 1999, 306 SCRA 593, 609.
Rep. Act No. 7354 (1992).
Canet v. Decena, G.R. No. 155344, 20 January 2004, 420 SCRA 388.
Blaquera v. Alcala, G.R. Nos. 109406, 110642, 111494, 112056 and 119597, 11 September 1998, 295 SCRA 366.
Article XXXIII, Rep. Act No. 8522, Special Provisions Applicable to all Constitutional Offices Enjoying Fiscal Autonomy.
Cruz, Philippine Political Law, p. 243 (1996 Ed).
G.R. No. 113079, 20 April 2001, 357 SCRA 30, citing Nestle v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 86738, 13 November 1991, 203 SCRA 504.