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STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION | Atty.

Mercader

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CHAPTER II: CONSTRUCTION AND INTERPRETATION


1. YU CONG ENG v. TRINIDAD (1926)
Case: Certiorari to the Philippine SC, which, instead of invalidating Act 2972, gave it what the US SC deems as an uncalled for
construction. US SC overruled the appealed decision and invalidated the statute on the grounds of due process and equal protection of
the laws.

FACTS:
- assailed: constitutionality of Act. No. 2972, a special law which penalized the keeping of account books in any
language other than English, Spanish, or any local dialect by persons engaged in commerce
- the petitioners were Chinese merchants, claiming to represent all the other Chinese merchants in the country, who were
not versed in any of the required languages and thus kept track of their business using Chinese language only
a. they alleged that said deprives them of their liberty and property without the due process of law and that it
violates the equal protection of the laws
b. that even employing a bookkeeper would not necessarily solve the problem (proneness to fraud)
c. that such would drive out all the Chinese merchants in the Philippines who do 60 percent of the business in the
Islands

- assailed Philippine SC construction: the Philippine SC, in trying to construe the questioned law in a manner that
will not cause its nullification, adopted the following construction:
1. that the Act should not be construed literally because such will probably invalidate it; instead, the Court should
give it interpretation that is different from its usual meaning
2. that the law only intended to require the keeping of such books as were necessary in order to facilitate
governmental inspection for tax purposes
3. that it is not criminal per se to keep account books in any other language (e.g. Chinese) for as long as duplicate
copies will be kept in any of the required languages for the purpose of tax inspection

DISPOSITIVE: The US SC overruled the construction adopted by the Philippine SC and applied the law as it is. It then
nullified the questioned law on the ground that it violates the rights of the petitioners to due process and equal protection
of the laws.

HELD:
1. The Philippine SC's construction of the law amounted to a judicial legislation.
-where the law is clear, there is no room for construction or interpretation
What the Philippine SC did:
- the construction adopted turned the prohibitive penal law (which forbids Chinese merchants to keep account books
in any language different from what were prescribed) into a mandatory one (which requires them to keep certain
UNDEFINED books in the permitted languages), thereby inserting requirements of positive acts where they are
uncalled for and not contemplated by the legislature

Contrary to what the legislature really meant:


- the legislature, in using the words they did in the law, is presumed to know their meaning--that is to make criminal the
keeping of accounting books in ANY LANGUAGE OTHER THAN what was enumerated.
- the legislature, by wording such prohibition, clearly thought that the danger sought to be addressed was the secrecy of
the Chinese books, and that keeping additional books in the permitted languages would not solve the problem
- had the legislature meant what the Philippine SC thought it intended, then they should have amended it accordingly

US SC:
- the Court cannot introduce words of limitation into a penal statute so as to make it specific when it is only general; it
would certainly be dangerous if the legislature could set a net large enough to catch all possible offenders, and leave it to
the courts to step inside and say who could be rightfully detained and who should be set at large

2. The law, if applied as it is, is without a doubt violative of the constitutional rights of the petitioners to due process and to
the equal protection of the laws.
- while the government may make every reasonable requirement of its taxpayers to keep proper records of their business
transactions, it is nevertheless clear that the Philippine Legislature exceeded its power when it sought to prohibit all
Chinese merchants from maintaining a set of books in the Chinese language
- the law deprives the petitioners and others similarly situated with something that is indispensable to the conduct of their
business

Author: M. Molina

STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION | Atty. Mercader

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2. ENDENCIA v. DAVID (1953)

Case: After the SC had interpreted a constitutional provision prohibiting the diminution of compensation of the members of the judiciary,
and considered that taxation is a kind of such diminution, the legislature passed a law which states otherwise and granted the same an
advanced immunity from nullification by the Court

FACTS:
- Petitioner Collector of Internal Revenue appeals the CFI decision which 1) nullified RA 590 and 2) ordered the refund in
favor of two Justices of the sums collected from their salaries as taxes
- the Court in Perfecto v. Meer, interpreted Sec. 9, Art. VIII, which states that the judicial officers shall receive
compensation which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office, and held that judicial officers are exempt
from payment of income tax on their salaries because collection thereof was a diminution of such salaries
- after the Perfecto decision, the legislature enacted RA 590, Sec. 13 of which states that no salary of any public officer of
the RP shall be considered as exempt from tax, and payment of which is declared not to be a diminution of his
compensation fixed by the Constitution or by law.

ISSUE: WON the legislature may validly create a law, which necessarily is an interpretation of a constitutional provision,
especially after the SC has construed the same constitutional provision
HELD:
1. NO, the questioned enactment by the Legislature violates the principle of separation of powers.
- while the executive and legislative branches of government necessarily engages in the interpretation of the constitution
and the laws in the exercise of their functions, only the judiciary has the final say in the interpretation and application
thereof

The legislative may not limit or restrict the power granted to the courts by the Constitution.
- it cannot pass any declaratory act, or act declaratory of what the law was before its passage, so as to give it any binding
weight with the courts
- it cannot, upon passing a law which violates a constitutional provision, validate the same so as to prevent attack in the
courts, by declaring that it shall not be so construed as not to violate a constitutional provision
- the legislature may not declare what a law means or what a specific portion of the constitution means especially after the
courts have in actual case ascertain its meaning by interpretation and applied it in a decisionsuch would undermine the
principle of separation of powers


3. MAGTAJAS v. PRYCE PROPERTIES (1994)

Case: Anti-gambling Ordinances issued by CDO were declared null and void for overruling PD 1869 which authorizes Casino gambling.

FACTS:
- the Sangguniang Panglungsod of CDO issued the following ordinances which were earlier nullified by the CA
Ordinance No. 3353: prohibited the use of buildings for the operation of a casino
Ordinance No. 3375-93: prohibited the operation of casinos
- said ordinances were issued in response to the public sentiment against PAGCOR's announcement of the opening of a
casino in the city

CDO SP Arguments:
1. The legislative power conferred upon the LGU may be exercised over all kinds of gambling and not just to illegal
gambling
2. The authority to operate casinos granted by PD 1869 may be overridden by the LGUs within their territory
pursuant to the authority granted by the LGC
3. Sec. 25, Art. II: autonomy of LGUs
4. When the LGC authorized the LGUs to prevent and suppress gambling and other prohibited games of chance, it
meant all forms of gambling without distinction.
5. LGCs repealing clause and provision on statutory construction
ISSUE: WON an ordinance may overrule a PD that has already been previously upheld by the SC

DISPOSTIVE: CDO Ordinance No. 3353 and Ordinance No. 3375-93 declared null and void.
Author: M. Molina

STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION | Atty. Mercader

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HELD:
1. The morality of gambling is not a justiciable issue.
- gambling is not illegal per se and there is nothing in the Constitution which categorically proscribes gambling or even
mentions it at all
- it is left to the Congress to deal with gambling as it sees fit; it may prohibit gambling altogether OR allow it without
limitation OR it may prohibit some forms while allowing others for whatever reasons

2. The CDO SP Ordinances


Tests of a valid ordinance:
1. Must not contravene the constitution or any statute
2. Must not be unfair or oppressive
3. Must not be partial or discriminatory
4. Must not prohibit but may regulate trade
5. Must be general and consistent with public policy
6. Must not be unreasonable

a. The LGC authorizes the LGUs to prevent or suppress, among others, ONLY PROHIBITED FORMS of gambling
- the provision therefore excludes games of chance which are not prohibited but are in fact permitted by law
- "gambling and other prohibited games of chance": noscitur a sociis; a word or phrase should be interpreted in relation
to, or given the same meaning of, words with which it is associated

b. The ordinances contravene PD 1869 and invalidate the public policy embodied therein insofar as they prevent
PAGCOR from exercising the powers conferred on it to operate a casino
- the view that the LGC has shorn PAGCOR of all power to centralize and regulate casinos is erroneous

c. PD 1869 was not repealed by the LGC impliedly or expressly


- petitioners only quoted a part of the repealing clause which is most convenient to them; PD 1869 was not one of the
several repealed laws enumerated
- there is neither any sufficient indication of any implied repeal; implied repeals are not lightly presumed in the absence of
a clear and unmistakable showing of such intention

- proper resolution: to hold that under the LGC, LGUs may and must prevent and suppress all kinds of gambling
within their territories EXCEPT ONLY those allowed by statutes like PD 1869
d. ordinances should not defeat statutes
- municipal governments are only agents of the national government
- local councils exercise only delegated legislative powers conferred on them by Congress as the national lawmaking
body; the delegate cannot be superior to the principal or exercise powers higher than those of the latter
- by and large, the legislature is still the principal of the local government units, which cannot defy its will or
modify or violate it

Author: M. Molina