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People v. Vera (1937, Laurel) Facts: Mariano Cu Unjieng was convicted in a criminal proceeding (People v. Mariano Cu Unjieng1 G.R.

No. L-41200) initiated by a complaint filed by Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. The People and complainant HSBC filed a motion for execution of judgment and simultaneously, Mariano Cu Unjieng applied for probation under Act No. 4221 (Probation Act). Judge Jose Vera of Branch 7 of CFI Manila suspended the hearing for execution of judgment to pave way for the hearing for probation. The complainant bank questioned the authority of the judge to hold probation hearings and assailed the constitutionality of the Probation Act because it violates the equal protection laws and it gives unlawful and improper delegation of legislative power to provincial board. The assailed law, by virtue of Section 11, allows the existence of a probationary officer if the provincial board grants it a salary as high as a city fiscal. The City Fiscal of Manila filed a supplementary petition, affirming the issues raised by the complainant bank, further arguing that probation is a form of reprieve and therefore Act No. 4221 encroaches upon the exclusive power of the Chief Executive. Both petitioners filed this original action in the Supreme Court to deal with the issues. Issues/Ruling: 1. (Procedural Issue) Whether or not the constitutionality of Act No. 4221 has been properly raised in the proper proceedings? YES. The general rule is that constitutionality should be raised in the earliest possible opportunity, which means during proceedings in the inferior court. However, Supreme Court is granted concurrent jurisdiction. When the inferior court or tribunal derives its jurisdiction exclusively from an unconstitutional statute, it may be prevented by a writ of prohibition from enforcing that statute. Since the CFI Manila sitting on probation proceedings derive its jurisdiction from Act No. 4221, it cannot determine whether the statute granting them jurisdiction is constitutionally valid or not. On the second level of the argument of the defence, the public prosecutors representing the People of the Philippines is also allowed to assail the constitutionality of an act promulgated by the legislative because the State is always interested in the integrity of its constitution or statutes involved.

2. (Main Substantive Issue) Whether or not said Act is constitutional? The constitutionality was challenged on the following grounds: a. Does the Act encroach upon the pardoning power of the Executive? No. Pardoning power belongs to the executive and has the effect of granting full liberty. Probation is completely different, as it has an effect of temporary suspension and operates under strict terms and conditions. It is a manner of enforcing punishment, a lighter form of penalty provided that such terms and conditions are deemed complied with. Therefore, legislative has the power to enact policies regarding probation and empowering the judiciary to decide on that penalty.

FYI, charges were for a complex crime involving forgery of quedans. The case itself was on several motions of the defence particularly the motion for a new trial.

b. Does it constitute an undue delegation of legislative power?


YES. Under our constitutional system, we follow a separation of powers in three independent organs: the executive, legislative and the judiciary. The power to make laws is vested in the judiciary and an attempt to abdicate the power is unconstitutional and void under the principle potestas delegata non delegare potest2. The non-delegation principle, however is not absolute and inflexible and are subject to several exceptions: (1) Congress could delegate legislative power to agencies in certain territories; (2) the Constitution could delegate legislative power; (3) the National Assembly may authorise the President, subject to limitations and restrictions, to fix tariff rates, import/export quotas, and the like; and (4) the National Assembly also grants emergency powers to the president at times of war. The test of the propriety of delegation lies on the completeness of the statute in its terms and provisions when it left the hands of legislature so much so that nothing is left to judgment of the appointee or delegate of the legislature. The general rule is that an act of legislature is incomplete and hence invalid if it does not lay down any rule or definite standards by which the administrative board may be guided in the exercise of discretionary powers.

The assailed Act DOES NOT have such rules or definite standards. It is a roving commission because the provincial board is completely left to its arbitrary discretion to decide whether or not they should apply the Probationary Act, all it has to do is to decline the appropriate amount needed for the salary of the probation officer. This becomes a virtual surrender of legislative power to the provincial board, and therefore is unconstitutional.

c. Does it deny equal protection of the laws? Yes. Due to the undue delegation of legislative power, there could be arbitrary application of the law in the different provinces. Statutes may be adjudged unconstitutional because of their effect in operation. It is possible that all the provinces could choose to have a probationary officer, or all could choose not to have one, and then equal protection would be maintained, but since this is just a likely outcome, and it is still possible that there could be obnoxious discrimination based on each independent provincial board, the Supreme Court strikes Sec. 11 of Act No. 4221 on this level as well.

[Sub-issue on this issue: Should the entire Act be avoided? Yes. Section 11 is inseparable to the entire Probation Act since its the provision that provides for a probation officer. Without it, what is left is bare idealism of the system, devoid of any practical benefit to a large number of people who may be deserving of the intended beneficial results of that system. The probationary officers designated under Section 10 cannot replace the ones in Section 11 either, because those are the
2

Translation: No delegated powers can be further delegated.

ones reporting to the main office of the Department of Justice in Manila.]