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Jun 6, 2009

166 SCRA 533 (1988)

  • GENERAL RULE: Non-delegation of Legislative Power
  • EXCEPTION: Subordinate Legislation
  • Tests for Valid Delegation of Legislative Power

Vitaliano Saco, the Chief Officer of a ship, was killed in an accident in Tokyo, Japan. The widow filed a complaint for damages against the Eastern Shipping Lines with the POEA, based on Memorandum Circular No. 2 issued by the latter which stipulated death benefits and burial expenses for the family of an overseas worker. Eastern Shipping Lines questioned the validity of the memorandum circular. Nevertheless, the POEA assumed jurisdiction and decided the case.


  • W/N the issuance of Memorandum Circular No. 2 is a violation of non-delegation of powers


SC held that there was valid delegation of powers.

In questioning the validity of the memorandum circular, Eastern Shipping Lines contended that POEA was given no authority to promulgate the regulation, and even with such authorization, the regulation represents an exercise of legislative discretion which, under the principle, is not subject to delegation.

GENERAL RULE: Non-delegation of powers; exception

It is true that legislative discretion as to the substantive contents of the law cannot be delegated. What can be delegated is the discretion to determine how the law may be enforced, not what the law shall be. The ascertainment of the latter subject is a prerogative of the legislature. This prerogative cannot be abdicated or surrendered by the legislature to the delegate.

Two Tests of Valid Delegation of Legislative Power

There are two accepted tests to determine whether or not there is a valid delegation of legislative power, viz, the completeness test and the sufficient standard test. Under the first test, the law must be complete in all its terms and conditions when it leaves the legislature such that when it reaches the delegate the only thing he will have to do is to enforce it. Under the sufficient standard test, there must be adequate guidelines or stations in the law to map out the boundaries of the delegate’s authority and prevent the delegation from running riot.

Both tests are intended to prevent a total transference of legislative authority to the delegate, who is not allowed to step into the shoes of the legislature and exercise a power essentially legislative.

Xxx The delegation of legislative power has become the rule and its non-delegation the exception.

Rationale for Delegation of Legislative Power

The reason is the increasing complexity of the task of government and the growing inability of the legislature to cope directly with the myriad problems demanding its attention. The growth of society has ramified its activities and created peculiar and sophisticated problems that the legislature cannot be expected to reasonably comprehend. Specialization even in legislation has become necessary. Too many of the problems attendant upon present-day undertakings, the legislature may not have the competence to provide the required direct and efficacious, not to say, specific solutions. These solutions may, however, be expected from its delegates, who are supposed to be experts in the particular fields.

Power of Subordinate Legislation

The reasons given above for the delegation of legislative powers in general are particularly applicable to administrative bodies. With the proliferation of specialized activities and their attendant peculiar problems, the national legislature has found it more and more necessary to entrust to administrative agencies the authority to issue rules to carry out the general provisions of the statute. This is called the “power of subordinate legislation.”

With this power, administrative bodies may implement the broad policies laid down in statute by “filling in” the details which the Congress may not have the opportunity or competence to provide. Memorandum Circular No. 2 is one such administrative regulation.


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