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Bengzon v.

Drilon

Summary Cases:

● Cesar Bengzon vs. Drilon 208 SCRA 133

Subject:

Principle of Separation of Powers, Veto Power of the President, Vested right to accrued pension

Facts:

Republic Act No. 1797, as amended, was enacted to provide the Justices of the Supreme Court and of
the Court of Appeals retirement pensions. Eventually, President Marcos issued Presidential Decree 644
modifying the pensions to be fixed to the then prevailing salary rates, instead of giving them automatic
readjustment feature (i.e. pension to increase or decrease as the salary at the time increases or
decreases), like what they had previously in RA 1797.

Having the impression that PD 644 repealed RA 1797, which resulted to the discrimination against
retired members of the Judiciary in terms of pension rates, Congress approved House Bill No. 16297
(HB 16297) to restore the automatic readjustment feature. However, President Aquino vetoed the bill for
it would allegedly disrupt the compensation standardization. It turned out however, that absent its
publication, PD 644 has never become a valid law, making HB 16297 superfluous for RA 1797 was still
in effect. Additionally, the veto on HB 16297 produced no effect. Pursuant to such, Congress included in
the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for Fiscal Year 1992 certain appropriations for the Judiciary
intended for the payment of the adjusted pension rates. President Aquino vetoed particular provisions in
GAB.

This action assails the constitutionality of President Aquino’s veto of specific provisions in GAB on the
ground that: (1) the veto by the Executive is violative of the doctrine of separation of powers; (2) the
subject veto is not an item veto; (3) the veto impairs the Fiscal Autonomy guaranteed (4) the veto
deprives the retired Justices of their rights to the pensions due them.

Held:

Veto Power of the President

1. Though constitutionally vested, the act of Executive in vetoing is not absolute.

2. Generally, the Executive must veto a bill in its entirety or not at all.

3. In appropriation, revenue or tariff bill, the President may veto an item to avoid inexpedient riders being
attached to an indispensable appropriation or revenue measure.

4. Item veto power does not grant the authority to approve a part of such item and disapprove the
remainder.

5. Limitations of the veto power of the President:

(a) The President cannot veto the provisions of law that have been enacted long before his/her term of
office started;
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(b) The President cannot, through the exercise of the veto power, set aside or reverse a final and
executory judgment of the Supreme Court;

(c) Having the power to merely execute the laws as passed by the Congress, the President, through the
exercise of the veto power, has no authority to enact or amend statutes promulgated by his/her
predecessors, or to repeal existing laws

6. Provision and item in budgetary legislation are different—an item refers to the particulars, the details,
the distinct and severable parts of the bill; it is an indivisible sum of money dedicated to a stated purpose;
it is a specific appropriation of money, not some general provision of law, which happens to be put into
an appropriation bill.

7. An examination of the entire sections and the underlined portions of the law which were vetoed will
readily show that portions of the item have been chopped up into vetoed and unvetoed parts. Less than
all of an item has been vetoed. Moreover, the vetoed portions are not items. They are provisions.

Right to Pension

8. Retired Justices have vested right to the accrued pensions due to them pursuant to RA 1791.

9. Compliance with the statutory prerequisite for retirement grants vested right to retire and draw salary,
and may not, thereafter, be revoked or impaired.

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