legal knowledge base

Popular Posts

Nov 24, 2009

G.R. No. 74457, March 20, 1987

  • MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS OF PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS: (1) notice; (2) hearing; exceptions
  • SUBSTANTIVE DUE PROCESS: (1) public interest requires government interference; (2) reasonable means necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose


Petitioner’s 6 carabaos were confiscated by the police for having been transported from Masbate to Iloilo in violation of EO 626-A. He brought an action for replevin, challenging the constitutionality of said EO. The trial court sustained the confiscation of the animals and declined to rule on the validity of the law on the ground that it lacked authority to do so. Its decision was affirmed by the IAC. Hence this petition for review.

  • Whether or not the confiscation of the carabaos amounted to arbitrary confiscation of property without due process of law


Minimum Requirements of Due Process: Notice and Hearing

The minimum requirements of due process are notice and hearing which, generally speaking, may not be dispensed with because they are intended as a safeguard against official arbitrariness. It is a gratifying commentary on our judicial system that the jurisprudence of this country is rich with applications of this guaranty as proof of our fealty to the rule of law and the ancient rudiments of fair play. We have consistently declared that every person, faced by the awesome power of the State, is entitled to "the law of the land," which Daniel Webster described almost two hundred years ago in the famous Dartmouth College Case, as "the law which hears before it condemns, which proceeds upon inquiry and renders judgment only after trial." It has to be so if the rights of every person are to be secured beyond the reach of officials who, out of mistaken zeal or plain arrogance, would degrade the due process clause into a worn and empty catchword.

Exceptions to Notice and Hearing

This is not to say that notice and hearing are imperative in every case for, to be sure, there are a number of admitted exceptions. The conclusive presumption, for example, bars the admission of contrary evidence as long as such presumption is based on human experience or there is a rational connection between the fact proved and the fact ultimately presumed therefrom. There are instances when the need for expeditions action will justify omission of these requisites, as in the summary abatement of a nuisance per se, like a mad dog on the loose, which may be killed on sight because of the immediate danger it poses to the safety and lives of the people. Pornographic materials, contaminated meat and narcotic drugs are inherently pernicious and may be summarily destroyed. The passport of a person sought for a criminal offense may be cancelled without hearing, to compel his return to the country he has fled. Filthy restaurants may be summarily padlocked in the interest of the public health and bawdy houses to protect the public morals. In such instances, previous judicial hearing may be omitted without violation of due process in view of the nature of the property involved or the urgency of the need to protect the general welfare from a clear and present danger.

Due Process is a Restraint on Police Power

The protection of the general welfare is the particular function of the police power which both restraints and is restrained by due process. The police power is simply defined as the power inherent in the State to regulate liberty and property for the promotion of the general welfare. By reason of its function, it extends to all the great public needs and is described as the most pervasive, the least limitable and the most demanding of the three inherent powers of the State, far outpacing taxation and eminent domain. The individual, as a member of society, is hemmed in by the police power, which affects him even before he is born and follows him still after he is dead from the womb to beyond the tomb in practically everything he does or owns. Its reach is virtually limitless. It is a ubiquitous and often unwelcome intrusion. Even so, as long as the activity or the property has some relevance to the public welfare, its regulation under the police power is not only proper but necessary. And the justification is found in the venerable Latin maxims, Salus populi est suprema lex and Sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas, which call for the subordination of individual interests to the benefit of the greater number.

First Requisite of Substantive Due Process: Interests of the Public Generally Require Interference

xxx we hold with the Toribio Case that the carabao, as the poor man's tractor, so to speak, has a direct relevance to the public welfare and so is a lawful subject of Executive Order No. 626. The method chosen in the basic measure is also reasonably necessary for the purpose sought to be achieved and not unduly oppressive upon individuals, again following the above-cited doctrine. There is no doubt that by banning the slaughter of these animals except where they are at least seven years old if male and eleven years old if female upon issuance of the necessary permit, the executive order will be conserving those still fit for farm work or breeding and preventing their improvident depletion.

Second Requisite of Substantive Due Process: Reasonable Means Necessary for the Accomplishment of Purpose, not Unduly Oppressive Upon Individuals

But while conceding that the amendatory measure has the same lawful subject as the original executive order, we cannot say with equal certainty that it complies with the second requirement, viz., that there be a lawful method. We note that to strengthen the original measure, Executive Order No. 626-A imposes an absolute ban not on the slaughter of the carabaos but on their movement, providing that "no carabao regardless of age, sex, physical condition or purpose (sic) and no carabeef shall be transported from one province to another." The object of the prohibition escapes us. The reasonable connection between the means employed and the purpose sought to be achieved by the questioned measure is missing
We do not see how the prohibition of the inter-provincial transport of carabaos can prevent their indiscriminate slaughter, considering that they can be killed anywhere, with no less difficulty in one province than in another. Obviously, retaining the carabaos in one province will not prevent their slaughter there, any more than moving them to another province will make it easier to kill them there. As for the carabeef, the prohibition is made to apply to it as otherwise, so says executive order, it could be easily circumvented by simply killing the animal. Perhaps so. However, if the movement of the live animals for the purpose of preventing their slaughter cannot be prohibited, it should follow that there is no reason either to prohibit their transfer as, not to be flippant dead meat.

Even if a reasonable relation between the means and the end were to be assumed, we would still have to reckon with the sanction that the measure applies for violation of the prohibition. The penalty is outright confiscation of the carabao or carabeef being transported, to be meted out by the executive authorities, usually the police only. In the Toribio Case, the statute was sustained because the penalty prescribed was fine and imprisonment, to be imposed by the court after trial and conviction of the accused. Under the challenged measure, significantly, no such trial is prescribed, and the property being transported is immediately impounded by the police and declared, by the measure itself, as forfeited to the government.

EO 626-A is unconstitutional

In the instant case, the carabaos were arbitrarily confiscated by the police station commander, were returned to the petitioner only after he had filed a complaint for recovery and given a supersedeas bond of P12,000.00, which was ordered confiscated upon his failure to produce the carabaos when ordered by the trial court. The executive order defined the prohibition, convicted the petitioner and immediately imposed punishment, which was carried out forthright. The measure struck at once and pounced upon the petitioner without giving him a chance to be heard, thus denying him the centuries-old guaranty of elementary fair play.
It has already been remarked that there are occasions when notice and hearing may be validly dispensed with notwithstanding the usual requirement for these minimum guarantees of due process. It is also conceded that summary action may be validly taken in administrative proceedings as procedural due process is not necessarily judicial only. In the exceptional cases accepted, however, there is a justification for the omission of the right to a previous hearing, to wit, the immediacy of the problem sought to be corrected and the urgency of the need to correct it.

In the case before us, there was no such pressure of time or action calling for the petitioner's peremptory treatment. The properties involved were not even inimical per se as to require their instant destruction. There certainly was no reason why the offense prohibited by the executive order should not have been proved first in a court of justice, with the accused being accorded all the rights safeguarded to him under the Constitution. Considering that, as we held in Pesigan v. Angeles, Executive Order No. 626-A is penal in nature, the violation thereof should have been pronounced not by the police only but by a court of justice, which alone would have had the authority to impose the prescribed penalty, and only after trial and conviction of the accused.

We also mark, on top of all this, the questionable manner of the disposition of the confiscated property as prescribed in the questioned executive order. It is there authorized that the seized property shall "be distributed to charitable institutions and other similar institutions as the Chairman of the National Meat Inspection Commission may see fit, in the case of carabeef, and to deserving farmers through dispersal as the Director of Animal Industry may see fit, in the case of carabaos." (Emphasis supplied.) The phrase "may see fit" is an extremely generous and dangerous condition, if condition it is. It is laden with perilous opportunities for partiality and abuse, and even corruption. One searches in vain for the usual standard and the reasonable guidelines, or better still, the limitations that the said officers must observe when they make their distribution. There is none. Their options are apparently boundless. Who shall be the fortunate beneficiaries of their generosity and by what criteria shall they be chosen? Only the officers named can supply the answer, they and they alone may choose the grantee as they see fit, and in their own exclusive discretion. Definitely, there is here a "roving commission," a wide and sweeping authority that is not "canalized within banks that keep it from overflowing," in short, a clearly profligate and therefore invalid delegation of legislative powers.

To sum up then, we find that the challenged measure is an invalid exercise of the police power because the method employed to conserve the carabaos is not reasonably necessary to the purpose of the law and, worse, is unduly oppressive. Due process is violated because the owner of the property confiscated is denied the right to be heard in his defense and is immediately condemned and punished. The conferment on the administrative authorities of the power to adjudge the guilt of the supposed offender is a clear encroachment on judicial functions and militates against the doctrine of separation of powers. There is, finally, also an invalid delegation of legislative powers to the officers mentioned therein who are granted unlimited discretion in the distribution of the properties arbitrarily taken. For these reasons, we hereby declare Executive Order No. 626-A unconstitutional.


Copyright © Scire Licet | Powered by Blogger
Design by Duan Zhiyan | Blogger Theme by