"Our laws do not prohibit the probate of wills executed by
foreigners abroad although the same have not as yet been probated and allowed
in the countries of their execution. A foreign will can be given legal effects
in our jurisdiction. Article 816 of the
Civil Code states that the will of an alien who is abroad produces effect in
the Philippines if made in accordance with the formalities prescribed by the law
of the place where he resides, or according to the formalities observed in his
In this connection, Section
1, Rule 73 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides that if the
decedent is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the RTC of the province where he has an estate may take cognizance of
the settlement of such estate. Sections
1 and 2 of Rule 76 further state that the executor, devisee, or legatee
named in the will, or any other person interested in the estate, may, at any
time after the death of the testator, petition the court having jurisdiction
to have the will
allowed, whether the same be in his possession or not, or is lost or destroyed.
Our rules require merely that the petition for the allowance
of a will must show, so far as known to the petitioner: (a) the jurisdictional
facts; (b) the names, ages, and residences of the heirs, legatees, and devisees
of the testator or decedent; (c) the probable value and character of the
property of the estate; (d) the name of the person for whom letters are prayed,
and (e) if the will has not been delivered to the court, the name of the person
having custody of it. Jurisdictional
facts refer to the fact of death of the decedent, his residence at the time of his death in the province where the
probate court is sitting, or if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the
estate he left in such province. The rules do not require proof that the
foreign will has already been allowed and probated in the country of its execution.
In insisting that Ruperta’s will should have been first
probated and allowed by the court of California, petitioners Manuel and
Benjamin obviously have in mind the procedure for the reprobate of will before
admitting it here. But, reprobate or re-authentication of
a will already probated and allowed in a foreign country is different from that
probate where the will is presented for the first time before a competent
Reprobate is specifically governed by Rule 77 of the Rules of Court. Contrary
to petitioners’ stance, since this latter rule applies only to reprobate of a
will, it cannot be made to apply to the present case. In reprobate, the local court acknowledges as binding the findings of
the foreign probate court provided its jurisdiction over the matter can be
Besides, petitioners’ stand is fraught with impracticality.
If the instituted heirs do not have the means to go abroad for the probate of
the will, it is as good as depriving them outright of their inheritance, since
our law requires that no will shall pass either real or personal property
unless the will has been proved and allowed by the proper court.
Notably, the assailed RTC order of June 17, 2004, is
nothing more than an initial ruling that the court can take cognizance of the
petition for probate of Ruperta’s will and that, in the meantime, it was designating
Ernesto as special administrator of the estate. The parties have yet to present
evidence of the due execution of the will, i.e., the testator’s state of mind
at the time of the execution and compliance with the formalities required of
wills by the laws of California. This explains the trial court’s directive for Ernesto
to submit the duly authenticated copy of Ruperta’s will and the certified copies
of the Laws of Succession and Probate of Will of California."
(Abad, J., In Re:
In the Matter of the Petition to Approve the Willof Ruperta Palaganas with
Prayer for the Appointment of Special Administrator, Manuel Miguel Palaganas
and Benjamin Gregorio Palaganas v. Ernesto Palaganas, G.R. No. 169144, January
The 2000 POEA-SEC contract governs the claims for disability
benefits by respondent as he was employed by the petitioners in September of
Pursuant to the said contract, the injury or illness must be
workrelated and must have existed during the term of the seafarer's employment in
order for compensability to arise. 14 Work-relation must, therefore, be established.
As a general rule, the principle of work-relation requires
that the disease in question must be one of those listed as an occupational
disease under Sec. 32-A of the PO EA-SEC. Nevertheless, should it be not
classified as occupational in nature, Section 20 (B) paragraph 4 of the
POEA-SEC15 provides that such diseases are disputably presumed as work-related.
In this case, it
is undisputed that NPC afflicted respondent while on board the petitioners'
vessel. As a non-occupational disease, it has the disputable presumption of
being work-related. This presumption obviously works in the seafarer's favor.
16 Hence, unless contrary evidence is presented by the employers, the
work-relatedness of the disease must be sustained. 17
In this wise, the petitioners, as employers, failed to
disprove the presumption of NPC's work-relatedness. They primarily relied on
the medical report issued by Dr. Co Pefia. The report, however, failed to make
a categorical statement confirming the total absence of work relation. Thus:
Dear Dr. Lim,
This is with regards [sic] to Mr. Elena Babol, 45 y/o male, diagnosed
case of Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma; S/P Incisional Biopsy of Left Neck Mass on
April 2, 2007. Risk factors include:
Diet - salt cured fish
Viral agents - Epstein Barr Virus (EBV)
Genetic Susceptibility - H2 locus antigens, Singapore
Antigen BW46 and B17 Antigen
His condition is likely not work-related.
Black's Law Dictionary defines likely as
"probable"18 and likelihood as "probability." 19 The
use of the word likely indicates a hesitant and an uncertain tone in the
stated medical opinion and does not foreclose the possibility that respondent's
NPC could be work-related. In other words, as the doctor opined only a
probability, there was no certainty that his condition was not work related.
There being no certainty, the Court will lean in favor of
the seafarer consistent with the mandate of POEA-SEC to secure the best terms
and conditions of employment for Filipino workers. 20 Hence, the presumption of
NPC's work-relatedness stays.”
INC., ESTANISLAO SANTIAGO, and/or HAP AG-LLOYD
AKTIENGESELL SCHAFT vs. ELENO A. BABOL, G.R. No. 204076, Dec. 4, 2013.
Assuming for the sake of argument that the presumption of
work-relation was refuted by petitioners, compensability may still be established on the basis of the theory of work
aggravation if by substantial evidence,21 it can be demonstrated that the
working conditions aggravated or at least contributed in the advancement of
respondent's cancer. 22 As held in Rosario v. Denklav Marine,23 "the
burden is on the beneficiaries to show a reasonable employment disability"
connection between the causative circumstances of the deceased employee
and his death or permanent total disability.
To determine if indeed respondent sufficiently established
the link between his cancer and the working conditions on board MY Glasgow Express,
understanding the disease is of utmost importance.
Respondent's cancer is by far, the most common malignant
tumor of the nasopharynx.24 Risk factors for this cancer, as derived from the
position paper filed by the petitioners and consistent with many medical
literatures25 on the matter, include (I) salt-cured foods; (2) preserved meats,
(3) Epstein Barr virus, and ( 4) family history. 26 In every detail, it is
clear that the dietary factor plays a vital role in increasing the risk of
acquiring the disease. For medical purposes, salt-cured fish and preserved meat
can, thus, be considered as high risk food that can contribute in the growth of
this type of cancer.
Respondent is of the theory that such high risk dietary
factor persisted on board the vessel, thus, increasing the probability that the
disease was aggravated by his working conditions:
... On the food he took while on board, Complainant is
exposed to the risk of contracting his illness. The Supreme Court has taken
judicial notice of the fact that seamen are required to stay on board their vessel
by the very nature of their duties. It is also of common knowledge that while
on board, seamen have no choice but to eat the food prepared by the kitchen
staff of the vessel. They are also not at liberty to prepare/cook their own
food to suit their health needs.
Their day-to-day "diet" therefore depends on the
kind of food served on the vessel for the consumption of the entire crew. Thus,
the long voyage on the high seas, the vessel's menu is limited to salt- cured foods
(such as salted fish, dried fish, anchovies, dried meat, salted eggs, etc.),
frozen meat, processed meat, canned goods, and other preserved foods, thus the
diet is mostly salt-cured foods, hence, the increased risk of contracting nasopharyngeal
Complainant had no other alternative or option but to eat whatever
is served at the mess hall, and considering further that his "diet"
or sustenance while on board the vessel had presumably contributed to, if not
caused by, his present health condition, there is good reason to conclude that
his ailment or affliction is work related or, otherwise stated, reasonably
connected/aggravated by his work. 27
The above assertions of respondent do not constitute as
substantial evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support
the conclusion that there is a causal relationship between his illness and the working
conditions on board the petitioners' vessel. Although the Court has recognized
as sufficient that work conditions are proven to have contributed even to a
small degree,28 such must, however, be reasonable, and anchored on credible
information. 29 The claimant must, therefore, prove a convincing proposition
other than by his mere allegations. 30 This he failed to do.
The Court refuses to take judicial notice of said assertions
on the basis of an allegation of mere common knowledge. This is in light of the
changing global landscape affecting international maritime labor practices. The
Court notes the acceptance, albeit steadily, of the minimum standards governing
food and catering on board ocean-going vessels as provided in the 2006 Maritime
Labor Convention of which the Philippines31 and MY Glasgow's flag country
Germany32 have signed, to wit:
(a) food and drinking water supplies, having regard to the
number of seafarers on board, their religious requirements and cultural practices
as they pertain to food, and the duration and nature of the voyage, shall be
suitable in respect of quantity, nutritional value, quality and variety;
(b) the organization and equipment of the catering
department shall be such as to permit the provision to the seafarers of
adequate, varied and nutritious meals prepared and served in hygienic
(c) catering staff shall be properly trained or instructed
for their positions.33
Although not yet fully implemented, this International Labor
Organization (!LO) Convention merely underscores that food on board an ocean-going
vessel may not necessarily be limited as alleged by respondent.
In this respect, the petitioners submitted documents34
showing that fresh and varied provisions
were provided on board. Respondent, on the other hand, countered that even if
there were such provisions, salt-cured fish and diet such as bagoong dilis,
bagoong alamang, anchovies, etc.35 were still included as victuals. The
Court treats both submissions as equal in their respects and, thus, cannot be
the sole determinant of whether respondent is entitled to his claims.”
INC., ESTANISLAO SANTIAGO, and/or HAP
AG-LLOYD AKTIENGESELL SCHAFT vs. ELENO A. BABOL, G.R. No. 204076, Dec. 4, 2013.
Based on the foregoing, both parties failed to discharge
their respective burdens to prove the non-work-relatedness of the disease for
the petitioners (theory of work-relation) and the substantiation of claims for respondent
(theory of work-aggravation). With this, the Court is confronted with the
question as to whom it should rule in favor then.
In ECC v. Sanico, 36 GSIS v. CA. 37 and Bejerano v.
ECC,38 the Court held that disability should be understood not more on its
medical significance, but on the loss of earning capacity. Permanent total
disability means disablement of an employee to earn wages in the same kind of
work or work of similar nature that he was trained for or accustomed to
perform, or any kind of work which a person of his mentality and attainment
could do. It does not mean absolute helplessness. Evidence of this condition
can be found in a certification of fitness/unfitness to work issued by the company-designated
In this case,
records reveal that the medical report issued by the company-designated
oncologist was bereft of any certification that respondent remained fit to work
as a seafarer despite his cancer. This is important since the certification is
the document that contains the assessment of his disability which can be
questioned in case of disagreement as provided for under Section 20 (B) (3).of
In the absence
of any certification, the law presumes that the employee remains in a state of
temporary disability. Should no certification be issued within the 240 day
maximum period,40 as in this case, the pertinent disability becomes permanent
that respondent has suffered for more than the maximum period of 240 days in
light of the uncompleted process of evaluation, and the fact that he has never
been certified to work again or otherwise, the Court affirms his entitlement to
the permanent total disability benefits awarded him by the CA, the NLRC and the
In the same way that the seafarer has the duty to
faithfully comply with and observe the terms and conditions of the PO EA-SEC,
including the provisions governing the procedure for claiming disability
benefit,41 the employer also has the duty to provide proof that the procedures
were also complied with, including the issuance of the fit/unfit to work vertification.
Failure to do so will necessarily cast doubt on the true
nature of the seafarer's condition.
When such doubts exist, the scales of justice must tilt
in his favor.”
INC., ESTANISLAO SANTIAGO, and/or HAP
AG-LLOYD AKTIENGESELL SCHAFT vs. ELENO A. BABOL, G.R. No. 204076, Dec. 4, 2013.
“Upon its finding that the Office of the Ombudsman had incurred inordinate
delay in resolving the complaint Cong. Jimenez had brought against the
respondents, the Sandiganbayan dismissed Criminal Case No. SB-08-CRM-0266 ma inly
to uphold their constitutional right to the speedy disposition of their case.
But now comes the State contending that the delay in the resolution of the
case against the respondents was neither inordinate nor solely attributable to
the Office of the Ombudsman. Citing Mendoza-Ong v. Sandiganbayan, 87 in
which the Court held that speedy disposition of cases was also consistent with
reasonable delays, the State supported its contention by listing the various
incidents that had caused the delay in the investigation, and then laying part
of the blame on the respondents themselves.
The right to the speedy disposition of cases is enshrined in Article
III of the Constitution, which declares:
Section 16. All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of
their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.
The constitutional right to a speedy disposition of cases is not
limited to the accused in criminal proceedings but extends to all parties in
all cases, including civil and administrative cases, and in all proceedings,
including judicial and quasi-judicial hearings.88 While the concept of speedy disposition
is relative or flexible, such that a mere mathematical reckoning of the time
involved is not sufficient,89 the right to the speedy disposition of a case,
like the right to speedy trial, is deemed violated when the proceedings are
attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays; or when unjustified
postponements of the trial are asked for and secured; or when without cause or
justifiable motive a long period of time is allowed to elapse without the party
having his case tried.90
According to Angchonco, Jr. v. Ombudsman,91 inordinate delay in resolving
a criminal complaint, being violative of the constitutionally guaranteed right
to due process and to the speedy disposition of cases, warrants the dismissal
of the criminal case.92
Was the delay on the part of the Office of the Ombudsman vexatious, capricious,
We answer in the affirmative.
The acts of the respondents that the Office of the Ombudsman investigated
had supposedly occurred in the period from February 13, 2001 to February 23,
2001. Yet, the criminal complaint came to be initiated only on November 25,
2002 when Ombudsman Marcelo equested PAGC to provide his office with the
documents relevant to the expose of Cong. Villarama. Subsequently, on December
23, 2002, Cong. Jimenez submitted his complaint-affidavit to the Office of the
Ombudsman. It was only on November 6, 2006, however, when the Special Panel
created to investigate Cong. Jimenez's criminal complaint issued the Joint
Resolution recommending that the criminal informations be filed against the respondents.
Ombudsman Gutierrez approved the Joint Resolution only on January 5, 2007.93 The
Special Panel issued the second Joint Resolution denying the respondents'
motion for reconsideration on January 25, 2008, and Ombudsman Gutierrez
approved this resolution only on April 15, 2008.
Ultimately, the informations charging the respondents with four
different crimes based on the complaint of Cong. Jimenez were all filed on
April 15, 2008, thereby leading to the commencement of Criminal Case No.
SB-08-CRM-0265 and Criminal Case No. SB-08-CRM-0266. In sum, the fact-finding investigation
and preliminary investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman lasted nearly five
years and five months.
It is clear from the foregoing that the Office of the Ombudsman had taken
an unusually long period of time just to investigate the criminal complaint and
to determine whether to criminally charge the respondents in the Sandiganbayan.
Such long delay was inordinate and oppressive, and constituted under the
peculiar circumstances of the case an outright violation of the respondents'
right under the Constitution to the speedy disposition of their cases. If, in Tatad
v. Sandiganbayan,94 the Court ruled that a delay of almost three
years in the conduct of the preliminary investigation constituted a violation
of the constitutional rights of the accused to due process and to the speedy
disposition of his case, taking into account the following, namely: (a) the
complaint had been resurrected only after the accused had a falling out with
former President Marcos, indicating that political motivations had played a
vital role in activating and propelling the prosecutorial process; ( b) the
Tanodbayan had blatantly departed from the established procedure prescribed by
law for the conduct of preliminary investigation; and ( c) the simple
factual and legal issues involved did not justify the delay, there is a greater
reason for us to hold so in the respondents' case.
To emphasize, it is incumbent for the State to prove that the delay was
reasonable, or that the delay was not attributable to it. In both regards, the State
For one, the State explains that the criminal cases could not be immediately
filed in court primarily because of the insufficiency of the evidence to
establish probable cause, like not having a document showing that the funds
(worth US$1,999,965.00 as averred in the complaint of Cong. Jimenez) had
reached Secretary Perez;95 and that it could not obtain the document, and to
enable it to obtain the document and other evidence it needed to await the
ratification of the Agreement Concerning Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal
Matters with the Hongkong Special Administrative Region (RP-HKSAR Agreement),96
and the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters between the
Republic of the Philippines and the Swiss Confederation (RP-Swiss MLAT).97
To us, however, the State's dependence on the ratification of the two treaties
was not a sufficient justification for the delay. The fact-finding investigation
had extended from January 15, 2003, when Ombudsman Marcelo approved the
recommendation of the Special Panel and referred the complaint of Cong. Jimenez
for fact-finding investigation, until November 14, 2005, when the FIO completed
its fact-finding investigation. That period accounted for a total of two years
and 10 months. In addition, the FIO submitted its report only on November 14,
2005, which was after the Department of Justice had received on September 8,
2005 the letter from Wayne Walsh, the Deputy Government Counsel of the Hongkong
Special Administrative Region in response to the request for assistance dated
June 23, 2005,98 and the reply of the Office of Justice of Switzerland dated February
10, 2005 and a subsequent letter dated February 21, 2005 from Liza Favre, the
Ambassador of Switzerland, to Atty. Melchor Arthur Carandang, Acting Assistant
Ombudsman, FIO, together with documents pertaining to the bank accounts
relevant to the investigation.99 For the Office of the Ombudsman to mark time
until the HKSAR Agreement and the Swiss-RP MLAT were ratified by the Senate
before it would proceed with the preliminary investigation was oppressive,
capricious and vexatious, because the respondents were thereby subjected to a
long and unfair delay.
We should frown on the reason for the inordinate delay because the State
would thereby deliberately gain an advantage over the respondents during the
preliminary investigation. At no time should the progress and success of the
preliminary investigation of a criminal case be made dependent upon the
ratification of a treaty by the Senate that would provide to the prosecutorial
arm of the State, already powerful and overwhelming in terms of its resources,
an undue advantage unavailable at the time of the investigation. To allow the
delay under those terms would definitely violate fair play and nullify due process
of law - fair play, because the field of contest between the accuser and the
accused should at all times be level; and due process of law, because no less
that our Constitution guarantees the speedy disposition of the case.
The State further argues that the fact-finding investigation should not
be considered a part of the preliminary investigation because the former was only
preparatory in relation to the latter; 100 and that the period spent in the former
should not be factored in the computation of the period devoted to the
The argument cannot pass fair scrutiny.
The guarantee of speedy disposition under Section 16 of Article III of the
Constitution applies to all cases pending before all judicial,
quasijudicial or administrative bodies. The guarantee would be defeated or rendered
inutile if the hair-splitting distinction by the State is accepted.
Whether or not the fact-finding investigation was separate from the preliminary
investigation conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman should not matter for
purposes of determining if the respondents' right to the speedy disposition of
their cases had been violated.
There was really no sufficient justification tendered by the State for the
long delay of more than five years in bringing the charges against the respondents
before the proper court. On the charge of robbery under Article 293 in relation
to Article 294 of the Revised Penal Code, the preliminary investigation
would not require more than five years to ascertain the relevant factual and
legal matters. The basic elements of the offense, that is, the intimidation or
pressure allegedly exerted on Cong. Jimenez, the manner by which the money
extorted had been delivered, and the respondents had been identified as the
perpetrators, had been adequately bared before the Office of the Ombudsman. The
obtention of the bank documents was not indispensable to establish probable
cause to charge them with the offense. We thus agree with the following
observation of the Sandiganbayan, viz:
With the Ombudsman's finding that the extortion (intimidation) was
perpetrated on February 13, 2001 and that there was transfer of Mark Jimenez US
$1,999,965.00 to Coutts Bank Account HO 133706 on February 23, 2001 in favor of
the accused, there is no reason why within a reasonable period from these
dates, the complaint should not be resolved. The act of intimidation was there,
the asportation was complete as of February 23, 2001 why was the information
filed only on April 18, 2008.
For such a simple charge of Robbery there is nothing more to consider
and all the facts and circumstances upon which to anchor a resolution whether to
give due course to the complaint or dismiss it are on hand. The case is more
than ripe for resolution. Failure to act on the same is a clear transgression
of the constitutional rights of the accused. A healthy respect for the
constitutional prerogative of the accused should have prodded the Ombudsman to
act within reasonable time. 101
In fine, the Office of the Ombudsman transgressed the respondents' right
to due process as well as their right to the speedy disposition of their case.
WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES
the petitions for certiorari for their lack of merit. X x x.”
People vs. Sandiganbayan, et. al., GR 189063, Dec. 11.
“xxx. On the contrary, in the later ruling in Merencillo v. People, 85
promulgated in 2007, the Court reiterated the restrictive interpretation
given in Soriano, Jr. to the term transaction as used in Section
3(b) of Republic Act No. 3019 in connection with a differentiation
between bribery under the Revised Penal Code and the violation of
Section 3(b) of Republic Act No. 3019 by holding that the latter is "limited
only to contracts or transactions involving monetary consideration where the
public officer has the authority to intervene under the law."
- People vs. Sandiganbayan, et. al., GR 189063,
Dec. 11. 2013.
"The procedure prescribed in Batas Pambansa Blg. 129,
as well as the implementing rules that the Supreme Court has promulgated and
may hereafter promulgate, relative to appeals/petitions for review to the Court
of Appeals, shall apply to appeals and petitions for review filed with the
Sandiganbayan. In all cases elevated to the Sandiganbayan and from
the Sandiganbayan to the Supreme Court, the Office of the Ombudsman, through
its special prosecutor, shall represent the People of the Philippines, except
in cases filed pursuant to Executive Order Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A, issued in
- Sec. 4(c), RA 8249, cited in
People vs. Sandiganbayan, et. al., GR 189063,
Dec. 11. 2013.
The people’s right to information is provided in Section 7, Article III of the Constitution, which reads:
Sec. 7. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law. (Emphasis supplied.)
The people’s constitutional right to information is intertwined with the government’s constitutional duty of full public disclosure of all transactions involving public interest.28 Section 28, Article II of the Constitution declares the State policy of full transparency in all transactions involving public
interest, to wit:
Sec. 28. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest. (Italics supplied.)
The foregoing constitutional provisions seek to promote transparency in policy-making and in the operations of the government, as well as provide the people sufficient information to exercise effectively other constitutional rights. They are also essential to hold public officials “at all times x xx accountable to the people,” for unless citizens have the proper information, they cannot hold public officials accountable for anything. Armed with the right information, citizens can participate in public discussions leading to the formulation of government policies and their effective implementation. An informed citizenry is essential to the existence and proper functioning of any democracy.29
Consistent with this policy, the EPIRA was enacted to provide for “an orderly and transparent privatization” of NPC’s assets and liabilities.30 Specifically, said law mandated that “[a]ll assets of NPC shall be sold in an open and transparent manner through public bidding.”31 In Chavez v. Public Estates Authority32 involving the execution of an Amended Joint Venture Agreement on the disposition of reclaimed lands without public bidding, the Court held:
x xxBefore the consummation of the contract, PEA must, on its own and without demand from anyone, disclose to the public matters relating to the disposition of its property. These include the size, location, technical description and nature of the property being disposed of, the terms and conditions of the disposition, the parties qualified to bid, the minimum price and similar information. PEA must prepare all these data and disclose them to the public at the start of the disposition process, Consistent with this policy, the EPIRA was enacted to provide for “an orderly and transparent privatization” of NPC’s assets and liabilities.30 Specifically, said law mandated that “[a]ll assets of NPC shall be sold in an open and transparent manner through public bidding.”31
“Legal standing” or locus standi has been defined as a personal and substantial interest in the case such that the party has sustained or will sustain direct injury as a result of the governmental act that is being challenged, alleging more than a generalized grievance. The gist of the question of standing is whether a party alleges “such personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.”24 This Court, however, has adopted a liberal attitude on the locus standi of a petitioner where the petitioner is able to craft an issue of transcendental significance to the people, as when the issues raised are of paramount importance to the public.25 Thus, when the proceeding involves the assertion of a public right, the mere fact that the petitioner is a citizen satisfies the requirement of personal interest.26
There can be no doubt that the matter of ensuring adequate water supply for domestic use is one of paramount importance to the public. That the continued availability of potable water in Metro Manila might be compromised if PSALM proceeds with the privatization of the hydroelectric power plant in the Angat Dam Complex confers upon petitioners such personal stake in the resolution of legal issues in a petition to stop its implementation.
Moreover, we have held that if the petition is anchored on the people’s right to information on matters of public concern, any citizen can be the real party in interest. The requirement of personal interest is satisfied by the mere fact that the petitioner is a citizen, and therefore, part of the general public which possesses the right. There is no need to show any special interest in the result. It is sufficient that petitioners are citizens and, as such, are interested in the faithful execution of the laws.27
Petitioner argues that Sections 11, 48, and 52 of the EPIRA are unconstitutional for violating Section 13, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.
Section 13, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution provides:
Sec. 13. The President, Vice-President, the Members of the Cabinet, and their deputies or assistants shall not, unless otherwise provided in this Constitution, hold any other office or employment during their tenure. They shall not, during said tenure, directly or indirectly practice any other profession, participate in any business, or be financially interested in any contract with, or in any franchise, or special privilege granted by the Government or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations or their subsidiaries. They shall strictly avoid conflict of interest in the conduct of their office.
In Civil Liberties Union v. Executive Secretary, this Court explained that the prohibition contained in Section 13, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution does not apply to posts occupied by the Executive officials specified therein without additional compensation in an ex-officio capacity as provided by law and as required by the primary function of said official's office, to wit:
The prohibition against holding dual or multiple offices or employment under Section 13, Article VII of the Constitution must not, however, be construed as applying to posts occupied by the Executive officials specified therein without additional compensation in an ex-officio capacity as provided by law and as required by the primary functions of said officials' office. The reason is that these posts do not comprise "any other office" within the contemplation of the constitutional prohibition but are properly an imposition of additional duties and functions on said officials. To characterize these posts otherwise would lead to absurd consequences, among which are: The President of the Philippinescannot chair the National Security Council reorganized under Executive Order No. 115 (December 24, 1986). Neither can the Vice-President, the Executive Secretary, and the Secretaries of National Defence, Justice, Labor and Employment and Local Government sit in this Council, which would then have no reason to exist for lack of a chairperson and members. The respective undersecretaries and assistant secretaries, would also be prohibited.
x x x x
The term "primary" used to describe "functions" refers to the order of importance and thus means chief or principal function. The term is not restricted to the singular but may refer to the plural. The additional duties must not only be closely related to, but must be required by the official's primary functions. Examples of designations to positions by virtue of one's primary functions are the Secretaries of Finance and Budget, sitting as members of the Monetary Board, and the Secretary of Transportation and Communications, acting as Chairman of the Maritime Industry Authority and the Civil Aeronautics Board.
The designation of the members of the Cabinet to form the NPB does not violate the prohibition contained in our Constitution as the privatization and restructuring of the electric power industry involves the close coordination and policy determination of various government agencies. Section 2 of the EPIRA clearly shows that the policy toward privatization would involve financial, budgetary and environmental concerns as well as coordination with local government units, to wit:
SECTION 2. Declaration of Policy. – It is hereby declared the policy of the State:
(a) To ensure and accelerate the total electrification of the country;
(b) To ensure the quality, reliability, security and affordability of the supply of electric power;
(c) To ensure transparent and reasonable prices of electricity in a regime of free and fair competition and full public accountability to achieve greater operational and economic efficiency and enhance the competitiveness of Philippine products in the global market;
(d) To enhance the inflow of private capital and broaden the ownership base of the power generation, transmission and distribution sectors;
(e) To ensure fair and non-discriminatory treatment of public and private sector entities
in the process of restructuring the electric power industry;
(f) To protect the public interest as it is affected by the rates and services of electric utilities and other providers of electric power;
(g) To assure socially and environmentally compatible energy sources and infrastructure;
(h) To promote the utilization of indigenous and new and renewable energy resources in power generation in order to reduce dependence on imported energy;
(i) To provide for an orderly and transparent privatization of the assets and liabilities of the National Power Corporation (NPC);
(j) To establish a strong and purely independent regulatory body and system to ensure consumer protection and enhance the competitive operation of the electricity market; and
(k) To encourage the efficient use of energy and other modalities of demand side management.
As can be gleaned from the foregoing enumeration, the restructuring of the electric power industry inherently involves the participation of various government agencies. In Civil Liberties, this Court explained that mandating additional duties and functions to Cabinet members which are not inconsistent with those already prescribed by their offices or appointments by virtue of their special knowledge, expertise and skill in their respective executive offices, is a practice long-recognized in many jurisdictions. It is a practice justified by the demands of efficiency, policy direction, continuity and coordination among the different offices in the Executive Branch in the discharge of its multifarious tasks of executing and implementing laws affecting national interest and general welfare and delivering basic services to the people.
The production and supply of energy is undoubtedly one of national interest and is a basic commodity expected by the people. This Court, therefore, finds the designation of the respective members of the Cabinet, as ex-officiomembers of the NPB, valid.
This Court is not unmindful, however, that Section 48 of the EPIRA is not categorical in proclaiming that the concerned Cabinet secretaries compose the NPB Board only in an ex-officio capacity. It is only in Section 52 creating the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) that they are so designated in an ex-officiocapacity. Sections 4 and 6 of the EPIRA provides:
Section 4. TRANSCO Board of Directors.
All the powers of the TRANSCO shall be vested in and exercised by a Board of Directors. The Board shall be composed of a Chairman and six (6) members. The Secretary of the DOF shall be the ex-officio Chairman of the Board. The other members of the TRANSCO Board shall include the Secretary of the DOE, the Secretary of the DENR, the President of TRANSCO, and three (3) members to be appointed by the President of the Philippines, each representingLuzon, Visayas and Mindanao, one of whom shall be the President of PSALM.
x x x x.
Section 6. PSALM Board of Directors.
PSALM shall be administered, and its powers and functions exercised, by a Board of Directors which shall be composed of the Secretary of the DOF as the Chairman, and the Secretary of the DOE, the Secretary of the DBM, the Director-General of the NEDA, the Secretary of the DOJ, the Secretary of the DTI and the President of the PSALM as ex-officio members thereof.
Nonetheless, this Court agrees with the contention of the Solicitor General that the constitutional prohibition was not violated, considering that the concerned Cabinet secretaries were merely imposed additional duties and their posts in the NPB do not constitute “any other office” within the contemplation of the constitutional prohibition.
The delegation of the said official to the respective Board of Directors were designation by Congress of additional functions and duties to the officials concerned, i.e., they were designated as members of the Board of Directors. Designation connotes an imposition of additional duties, usually by law, upon a person already in the public service by virtue of an earlier appointment. Designation does not entail payment of additional benefits or grant upon the person so designated the right to claim the salary attached to the position.Without an appointment, a designation does not entitle the officer to receive the salary of the position. The legal basis of an employee's right to claim the salary attached thereto is a duly issued and approved appointment to the position, and not a mere designation.
Hence, Congress specifically intended that the position of member of the Board of NPB shall be ex-officio or automatically attached to the respective offices of the memberscomposing the board. It is clear from the wordings of the law that it was the intention of Congress that the subject posts will be adjunct to the respective offices of the official designated to such posts.
The foregoing discussion, notwithstanding, the concerned officials should not receive any additional compensation pursuant to their designation as ruled in Civil Liberties, thus:
The ex-officio position being actually and in legal contemplation part of the principal office, it follows that the official concerned has no right to receive additional compensation for his services in the said position. The reason is that these services are already paid for and covered by the compensation attached to his principal office. It should be obvious that if, say, the Secretary of Finance attends a meeting of the Monetary Board as an ex-officio member thereof, he is actually and in legal contemplation performing the primary function of his principal office in defining policy in monetary and banking matters, which come under the jurisdiction of his department. For such attendance, therefore, he is not entitled to collect any extra compensation, whether it be in the form of a per diem or an honorarium or an allowance, or some other such euphemism. By whatever name it is designated, such additional compensation is prohibited by the Constitution.
In relation thereto, Section 14 of the EPIRA provides:
SEC. 14. Board Per Diems and Allowances. – The members of the Board shall receive per diem for each regular or special meeting of the board actually attended by them and, upon approval of the Secretary of the Department of Finance, such other allowances as the Board may prescribe.
Section 14 relates to Section 11 which sets the composition of the TRANSCO Board naming the Secretary of the Department of Finance as the ex officio Chairman of the Board. The other members of the TRANSCO Board include the Secretary of the Department of Energy and the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. However, considering the constitutional prohibition, it is clear that such emoluments or additional compensation to be received by the members of the NPB do not apply and should not be received by those covered by the constitutional prohibition, i.e., the Cabinet secretaries. It is to be noted that three of the members of the NPB are to be appointed by the President, who would be representing the interests of those in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, who may be entitled to such honorarium or allowance if they do not fall within the constitutional prohibition.
Hence, the said cabinet officials cannot receive any form of additional compensation by way of per diems and allowances. Moreover, any amount received by them in their capacity as members of the Board of Directors should be reimbursed to the government, since they are prohibited from collecting additional compensation by the Constitution.
These interpretations are consistent with the fundamental rule of statutory construction that a statute is to be read in a manner that would breathe life into it, rather than defeat it,and is supported by the criteria in cases of this nature that all reasonable doubts should be resolved in favor of the constitutionality of a statute.
Before anything else, this Court shall first tackle whether it was proper for petitioner to directly question the constitutionality of the EPIRA before this Court.
Section 5(1) and (2), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitutionprovides that:
SECTION 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:
1. Exercise original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and overpetitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus.
2. Review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari, as the law or the rules of court may provide, final judgments and orders of lower courts in:
(a)All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question.
Based on the foregoing, this Court's jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus, while concurrent with that of the Regional Trial Courts and the Court of Appeals, does not give litigants unrestrained freedom of choice of forum from which to seek such relief. The determination of whether the assailed law and its implementing rules and regulations contravene the Constitution is within the jurisdiction of regular courts. The Constitution vests the power of judicial review or the power to declare a law, treaty, international or executive agreement, presidential decree, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation in the courts, including the Regional Trial Courts.
It has long been established that this Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts, or where exceptional and compelling circumstances justify availment of a remedy within and call for the exercise of our primary jurisdiction.Thus, herein petition should already be dismissed at the outset; however, since similar petitions have already been resolved by this Court tackling the validity of NPB Resolutions No. 2002-124 and No. 2002-125, as well as the constitutionality of certain provisions of the EPIRA, this Court shall disregard the procedural defect.
Anent the Deed of Extra-judicial Partition, we find that the same is void ab initio and not merely unenforceable. InDelos Reyes v. Court of Appeals, which is a case involving the sale of a lot by a person who is neither the owner nor the legal representative, we declared the contract void ab initio. It was held that one of the requisites of a valid contract under Article 1318 of the Civil Code is the consent and the capacity to give consent of the parties to the contract. The legal capacity of the parties is an essential element for the existence of the contract because it is an indispensable condition for the existence of consent. There is no effective consent in law without the capacity to give such consent. In other words, legal consent presupposes capacity. Thus, there is said to be no consent, and consequently, no contract when the agreement is entered into by one in behalf of another who has never given him authorization therefor unless he has by law a right to represent the latter.
In the case at bar, at the time Felisa executed the deed of extra-judicial partition dividing the share of her deceased sister Honarata between her and the heirs of Filomena Almirol de Sevilla, she was no longer the owner of the 1/2 undivided portion of Lot No. 653, having previously donated the same to respondent Leopoldo Sevilla who accepted the donation in the same deed. A donation inter vivos, as in the instant case, is immediately operative and final. As a mode of acquiring ownership, it results in an effective transfer of title over the property from the donor to the donee and the donation is perfected from the moment the donor knows of the acceptance by the donee. And once a donation is accepted, the donee becomes the absolute owner of the property donated.
Evidently, Felisa did not possess the capacity to give consent to or execute the deed of partition inasmuch as she was neither the owner nor the authorized representative of respondent Leopoldo to whom she previously transmitted ownership of her undivided share in Lot No. 653. Considering that she had no legal capacity to give consent to the deed of partition, it follows that there is no consent given to the execution of the deed, and therefore, there is no contract to speak of. As such, the deed of partition is void ab initio, hence, not susceptible of ratification.
Nevertheless, the nullity of the deed of extra-judicial partition will not affect the validity of the donation inter vivos ceding to respondent Leopoldo Sevilla the 1/2 undivided share of Felisa Almirol in Lot No. 653. Said lot should therefore be divided as follows: 1/2 shall go to respondent Leopoldo Sevilla by virtue of the deed of donation, while the other half shall be divided equally among the heirs of Filomena Almirol de Sevilla including Leopoldo Sevilla, following the rules on intestate succession.
There is fraud when, through the insidious words or machinations of one of the contracting parties, the other is induced to enter into a contract which, without them, he would not have agreed to. There is undue influence when a person takes improper advantage of his power over the will of another, depriving the latter of a reasonable freedom of choice. The following circumstances shall be considered: the confidential, family, spiritual and other relations between the parties, or the fact that the person alleged to have been unduly influenced was suffering from mental weakness, or was ignorant or in financial distress.
Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat. He who asserts, not he who denies, must prove. We have consistently applied the ancient rule that if the plaintiff, upon whom rests the burden of proving his cause of action, fails to show in a satisfactory manner facts on which he bases his claim, the defendant is under no obligation to prove his exception or defense. In the instant case, the self-serving testimony of the petitioners are vague on what acts of Leopoldo Sevilla constituted fraud and undue influence and on how these acts vitiated the consent of Felisa Almirol. Fraud and undue influence that vitiated a party’s consent must be established by full, clear and convincing evidence, otherwise, the latter’s presumed consent to the contract prevails. Neither does the fact that the donation preceded the partition constitute fraud. It is not necessary that partition should first be had because what was donated to Leopoldo was the 1/2 undivided share of Felisa in Lot No. 653.
Moreover, petitioners failed to show proof why Felisa should be held incapable of exercising sufficient judgment in ceding her share to respondent Leopoldo. As testified by the notary public who notarized the Deed of Donation, Felisa confirmed to him her intention to donate her share in Lot No. 653 to Leopoldo. He stressed that though the donor was old, she was of sound mind and could talk sensibly. Significantly, there is nothing in the record that discloses even an attempt by petitioners to rebut said declaration of the notary public.
Article 279 of the Labor Code provides the law on reinstatement, viz.:
Article 279. Security of Tenure. -- In cases of regular employment, the employer shall not terminate the services of an employee except for a just cause or when authorized by this Title. An employee who is unjustly dismissed from work shall be entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and to his full backwages, inclusive of allowances, and to his other benefits or their monetary equivalent computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him up to the time of his actual reinstatement.
Corollarily, the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code state, viz.:
Section 2. Security of Tenure. In cases of regular employment, the employer shall not terminate the services of an employee except for a just cause as provided in the Labor Code or when authorized by existing laws.
Sec. 3. Reinstatement. An employee who is unjustly dismissed from work shall be entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and to backwages.
The existence of strained relations is a factual finding and should be initially raised, argued and proven before the Labor Arbiter. Petitioner is correct that the finding of strained relations does not have any basis on the records. Indeed, nowhere was the issue raised in private respondents’ pleadings before the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC. Sieving through the records, private respondents first raised the issue in their Comment to Petitioner’s Motion for Partial Reconsideration before the Court of Appeals. In Globe-Mackay Cable and Radio Corporation v. NLRC, we emphasized that the principle of strained relations cannot be applied indiscriminately. Otherwise, an illegally dismissed employee can never be reinstated because invariably, some hostility is engendered between litigants. As a rule, no strained relations should arise from a valid and legal act of asserting one’s right; otherwise, an employee who asserts his right could be easily separated from the service by merely paying his separation pay on the pretext that his relationship with his employer had already become strained.
We reiterated the rule in Quijano v. Mercury Drug Corporation, viz.:
[A]n illegally dismissed employee is entitled to reinstatement as a matter of right. Over the years, however, the case law developed that where reinstatement is not feasible, expedient or practical, as where reinstatement would only exacerbate the tension and strained relations between the parties, or where the relationship between the employer and [the] employee has been unduly strained by reason of their irreconcilable differences, particularly where the illegally dismissed employee held a managerial or key position in the company, it would be more prudent to order payment of separation pay instead of reinstatement. Some unscrupulous employers, however, have taken advantage of the overgrowth of this doctrine of “strained relations” by using it as a cover to get rid of its employees and thus defeat their right to job security.
To protect labor’s security of tenure, we emphasize that the doctrine of “strained relations” should be strictly applied so as not to deprive an illegally dismissed employee of his right to reinstatement. Every labor dispute almost always results in “strained relations,” and the phrase cannot be given an overarching interpretation, otherwise, an unjustly dismissed employee can never be reinstated.
x x x
[T]he alleged antagonism between the petitioner and the private respondent is a mere conclusion bereft of evidentiary support. To be sure, the private respondent did not raise the defense of strained relationship with the petitioner before the labor arbiter. Consequently, this issue which is factual in nature, was not the subject of evidence on the part of both the petitioner and the respondent. There is thus no competent evidence upon which to base the conclusion that the relationship between the petitioner and the respondent has reached the point where it is now best to sever their employment relationship. We therefore hold that the NLRC’s ruling on the alleged brewing antagonism between the petitioner and the respondent is a mere guesswork and cannot justify the non-reinstatement of petitioner x x x. (footnotes and emphases omitted)
In the case at bar, there are no hard facts upon which to base the application of the doctrine of strained relationship. Petitioner is correct that mere persistency in argument does not amount to proof, and to deny an employee’s right to be reinstated on the basis of the mere consistency of the employer’s stand that the dismissal was for cause is to make a mockery of the right of reinstatement under Article 279 of the Labor Code.
Be that as it may, we reject petitioner’s claim for moral and exemplary damages. The award of moral and exemplary damages is proper when an illegally dismissed employee had been harassed and arbitrarily terminated by the employer, as when the latter committed an anti-social and oppressive abuse of its right to investigate and dismiss an employee. The person claiming moral damages must prove the existence of bad faith by clear and convincing evidence for the law always presumes good faith. It is not enough that one merely suffered sleepless nights, mental anguish or serious anxiety as the result of the actuations of the other party.