Due process of law
No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. (Sec. 1) Due process is the embodiment of the sporting idea of fair play; responsive to the supremacy of reason, obedience to the dictates of justice. Due process is a guaranty against any arbitrariness on the part of the government. Any government act that militates against the ordinary norms of justice or fair play is considered an infraction of the great guaranty of due process; and this is true whether the denial involves merely of the procedure prescribed by law or affects the very validity of the law itself.
The process clause protects all persons, natural as well as artificial. Natural persons include both the citizen and the alien. Artificial person like corporations are also covered by the protection but only insofar as their property is concerned.
Life as understood under the due process clause connotes in the first place the integrity of the physical person. Liberty, according to Mabini, is the freedom to do right and never wrong. A person is free to act but he may exercise his rights only in such manner as not to injure the rights of others. In Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 US 535 recognized that the right to procreate is a basic civil right, which are part of the liberty protected by the due process clause. Property is anything that can come under the rights of ownership and be the subject of contract, i.e., future earnings. However, one cannot have a vested right to a public office, as this is not regarded as property.
Dual aspect of due process:
It requires the intrinsic validity of the law in interfering with the rights of the person to his life, liberty or property. The inquiry is whether or not it is a proper exercise of legislative power. To be so, the law must have a valid governmental objective, i.e., the interests of the public in general, and this objective must be pursued in a lawful manner, in other words, the means employed must be reasonably related to the accomplishment of the purpose and not unduly oppressive. In Corona v. United Harbor Pilots Assoc. of the Phils., 111953, December12, 1997, the Court ruled that Administrative Order 04-92 issued by the PPA, which limit the appointment of harbor pilots to one year subject to yearly renewal or cancellation after evaluation of performance, violated substantial due process. Before the issuance of the said Order, harbor pilots were given a permanent appointment until they reach the age of 70 years unless sooner revoked by reason of mental or physical unfitness. The Supreme Court said:
It readily apparent that PPA-AO No. 04-92 unduly restricts the right of harbor pilot to enjoy their profession before their compulsory retirement. Xxx. Veteran pilots and neophytes alike are suddenly confronted with one-year terms which ipso facto expire at the end of the that period. Renewal of their license is now dependent on a rigid evaluation of performance which is conducted only after the license has already been cancelled. Xxx. It is this pre-evaluation cancellation which primarily makes PPA-AO No. 042 unreasonable and constitutionally infirm. In a real sense, it is a deprivation of property without due process of law.
It is one which hears before it condemns, which proceed upon inquiry and renders judgment only after trial.
Requirements of procedural due process:
a. There must be an impartial court or tribunal clothed with judicial power to hear and determine the matter before it. Every litigant is entitled to the cold neutrality of an impartial judge.
The “cold neutrality of an impartial judge” has been put to test in the case of Tabuena v. Sandiganbayan, 268 SCRA 332, where the majority has aptly said:
“The impartiality of the judge – his avoidance of the appearance of becoming the advocate of either one side or the other of the pending controversy is a fundamental and essential rule of special importance in criminal cases.”
b. Jurisdiction must be lawfully acquired over the person of the defendant and over the property which is the subject matter of the proceeding.
c. The defendant must be given an opportunity to be heard. Notice to a party is essential to enable it to adduce its own evidence and to meet and refute the evidence submitted by the other party. Due process as a constitutional precept does not, always and in all situations, require trial-type proceedings. To be heard, does not only means verbal arguments in court. One may be heard also through pleadings.
Exceptions where essential requisites of notice and hearing may be dispensed with, among which are:
1) Cancellation of the passport of a person sought for the commission of a crime.
2) Preventive suspension of a civil servant.
3) Distraint of properties for tax delinquency.
4) Padlocking of theaters showing obscene movies.
5) Abatement of nuisance per se.
d. Judgment must be rendered upon lawful hearing.
Requirements of procedural due process in administrative proceedings:
a. The right of a hearing, which includes the right to present one’s case and submit evidence in support thereof.
b. The tribunal must consider the evidence presented.
c. The decision must have something to support itself.
d. The evidence must be substantial.
e. The decision must be rendered on the evidence presented at the hearing, or
at least contained in the record and disclosed to the parties affected.
f. The tribunal or body or any of its judges must act on its own independent consideration of the law and facts of the controversy and not simply accept the views of a subordinate in arriving at a decision.
g. The board or body should, in all controversial questions, render its decision in such a manner that the parties to the proceeding can know the various issues involved, and the reason for the decision rendered.
In Lumiqued v. Exenia, 117565, November 18, 1997, the Supreme Court held that administrative due process does not require that a party to be assisted by counsel.
No person shall be denied the equal protection of the law. (Sec. 1) Equal protection simply requires that all persons or things similarly situated should be treated alike, both as to right conferred and responsibilities imposed. It also requires that the law be enforced and applied equally. Even if the law be fair and impartial on its face, it will violate equal protection if it is administered “with an evil eye and an uneven hand”, so as to unjustly benefit some and prejudice others.
The equal protection clause does not require the universal application of the laws. The legislature is allowed to classify the subjects of legislation. If the classification is reasonable, the law may operate only on some and not all of the people without violating the equal protection clause.
To be reasonable, it must conform to the following requirements:
1. It must be based upon substantial distinctions.
2. It must be germane/relevance to the purpose of the law.
3. It must not be limited to existing conditions only.
4. It must apply equally to all members of the class.
A Circular by DECS disqualifying anyone who fails for the 4th time in the National Medical Entrance Tests from admission to the College of Medicine does not violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution. There is a substantial distinction between the Medicine students and other students. The doctor profession directly affects the lives and health of the people. (See DECS v. San Diego, 180 SCRA 533) In fact, Sec. 5(3), Art. XIV provides that the right to choose a profession or course of study is subject to fair, reasonable and equitable admission and academic requirements.
Searches and seizures
The right of the people to be secured in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except: (Sec.2)
1. It must be based upon probable cause.
Probable cause has been defined as referring to such facts and circumstances antecedent to the issuance of the warrant that in themselves are sufficient to induce a cautious man to rely on them and act in pursuance thereof. It consists of a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man in believing accused to be committing the offense or to be guilty of the offense.
Corollary to the requirements of probable cause is the rule that the warrant must refer to only one specific offense. (Rule 126, Sec. 3 of Rules of Court)
2. The probable cause must be determined personally by the judge.
In satisfying himself of the existence of probable cause, the judge is not required to personally examine the complainant and his witnesses. Following established doctrine and procedure, he shall:
a. Personally evaluate the report and the supporting documents submitted by the fiscal regarding the existence of probable cause and on the basis thereof, issue a warrant of arrest, or
b. If on the basis thereof, he finds no probable cause, he may disregard the fiscal’s report and require the submission of supporting affidavits of witnesses to aid him in arriving at a conclusion as to the existence of probable cause. (Soliven v. Makasiar)
Warrant of arrest may be issued by administrative authorities only for the purpose of carrying out a final decision of a violation of law, like an order of deportation or an order of contempt, and not for the purpose of investigation or prosecution.
3. The determination must be made after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce.
The judge must personally examine in the form of searching questions, in writing and under oath the complainant and any witnesses he may produce on facts personally known to them, and attach to the record their sworn statements together with any affidavits submitted.
4. It must particularly describe the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
The person sought to be seized should be identified by name. A John Doe warrant will satisfy the requirement if there is some description personae that will enable the officer to identify the accused. A description of a place to be searched is sufficient if the officer with the warrant can, with reasonable effort, ascertain and identify the place intended.
The properties subject to seizure are as follows: (Rule 126, Sec. 2)
1. Property subject of the offense.
2. Property stolen or embezzled and other proceeds or fruits of the offense.
3. Property used or intended to be used as the means of committing an offense.
Articles illegally seized are not admissible as evidence. Such evidence is “the fruit of the poisonous tree”. Articles seized by a private party without any warrant are admissible in evidence, because Sec. 2 does not protect from unreasonable searches and seizures of private parties. (Waterous Drug Corp., v. CA, 113271, Oct. 16, 1997)
A peace officer or even a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person:
1. When such person has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense in his presence.
A person caught in possession of heroin can be arrested even without a warrant. (People v. Gatward, 267 SCRA 785)
2. When an offense has in fact been committed and he has personal knowledge of facts indicating that the person to be arrested has committed it.
In People v. Acol, 232 SCRA 406, the warrantless arrest of accused robbers immediately after their commission of the crime, by police officers sent to look for them on the basis of the information related by the victims is valid. A warrantless arrest in this case, to be valid, should not be made long after the commission of the crime. (Larranaga v. CA, 130644, Oct. 27, 1997) Also, in People v. Sinoc, 275 SCRA 357, the accused was charged with kidnapping with murder after he stole a moter vehicle, killed the driver, and seriously wounded the passenger. The incident was reported to the police authorities, and the police officers helped bring the wounded passenger to the hospital. An informer told the police officers where the stolen motor vehicle was parked. When the police officers proceeded to the place, the owner of a nearby apartment told them that the accused would be back by noon. Upon the return of the accused, the owner of the apartment identified him. When the police officers accosted him, the key to the motor vehicle was found in his possession. According to the Supreme Court, this showed his link to the stolen vehicle and was sufficient basis for the warrantless arrest of the accused.
However, as held in Go v. CA, 206 SCRA 138, the warrantless arrest authorized by the Rules cannot be based on hearsay information. In this case, the chief of the vice control squad in Surigao City received a tip from an informer that the accused would be arriving on board the MV Sweet Pearl bringing marijuana with him. When he boarded a tricycle, the police officers chased the tricycle and stopped it. They asked the accused to hand over the plastic chairs and discovered a package of marijuana hidden between them. The Court explained that at the time the police officers stopped the tricycle there was nothing to indicate that he was committing a crime in their presence and the police officers has no personal knowledge that he had just committed an offense.
3. When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another. (Rule 113, Sec. 5)
4. Search may be made as an incident to a valid arrest.
5. Even before an arrest, as held in Terry v. Ohio, 392 US 1, when an officer is justified in believing that the individual whose suspicious behavior he is investigating at close range is presently dangerous to the officer or to others, he may conduct a limited protective search for concealed weapons. (Stop-and-frisk rule)
The Supreme Court held that in the interest of crime prevention a police officer may approach a person in appropriate cases for the purpose of investigating possible criminal behavior even though there is no probable cause to make an arrest. In Manalili v. CA, 113447, Oct. 9, 1997, the police officers had sufficient reason to investigate the accused since he had reddish eyes and was swaying like a drunk in a popular hang-out of drug addicts.
6. Right thereto is waived by the person arrested, provided he knew of such right and knowingly decided not to invoke it. However, according to Pastrano v. CA, 104504, Oct. 31, 1997, the failure of the accused to object to the admissibility of illegally seized evidence constitutes a waiver.
By posting bail or entering a plea, the accused waives his right to question the legality of his arrest. (Padilla v. CA, 269 SCRA 402)
7. Searches and seizures of vessels and aircraft for violation of customs laws because the vessel or aircraft can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the search must be sought before warrant could be secured.
Under Secs. 2265 and 2208 of the Tariff and Customs Code, custom officials are authorized to enter any warehouse, not used as dwelling, for the purpose of seizing any article which is subject to forfeiture. For this purpose, they need no search warrant to be issued by a court.
8. Searches on automobiles for the purpose of preventing violation of customs or immigration laws, provided such searches are made at borders or “constructive borders” and port of entry, like international airports or checkpoints near boundary lines of the State. But the mere mobility of these vehicles does not justify their indiscriminate searches without warrants if made within the interior of the territory and in the absence of probable cause. In Valmonte v. De Villa, 178 SCRA 211, the Supreme Court held that checkpoints may be set up to maintain peace and order for the benefit of the public and checkpoints are security measures against unauthorized firearms.
9. Prohibited articles within the plain view (open to eye and hand) of the law enforcement officer who comes upon them inadvertently.
The illegality of the arrest of the accused does not affect the validity of his conviction if he was proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. (People v. Salvatierra, 275 SCRA 55)
As held in People v. Marit, 193 SCRA 57, the constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures refers to unwarranted intrusion by the government and does not operate as a restraint upon private individuals.
Privacy of communication and correspondence
The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court or when public safety or order requires otherwise as prescribed by law. (Sec. 3)
In the implementation of this provision, the Anti-Wire Tapping Act prohibits any person, not being authorized by all the parties to any private communication or spoken word, to tap any wire or cable, or by causing any other device or arrangement, to secretly overhear, intercept or record the same, or to communicate the content thereof to any other person. In Gaanan v. IAC, it was held that a telephone extension was not among the devices covered by this law and that the use of that instrument to listen in on a private conversation was not prohibited as a “tap”.
According to the US Supreme Court, letters and sealed packages in the mails by be examined only aas to their external appearance and weight and may not be opened except in accordance with the constitutional requirements of a lawful search and seizures.
Liberty of abode and travel
The liberty of abode and of changing the same within the limits prescribed by law shall not be impaired except upon lawful order of the court. Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety or public health, as may be provided by law. (Sec.6) Thus, a person facing criminal charges may be restrained by the court from leaving the country. Also, any person under an order of arrest is under restraint and therefore he can not claim the right to travel.
In the case of Service Exporters, the Supreme Court sustained an administrative regulation, enacted pursuant to legislative authority, temporarily suspending the deployment of Filipino female domestics abroad on the ground of public safety.
Freedom of religion
No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights. (Sec. 5)
The idea of this provision is to delineate the boundaries between the two institutions and thus avoid encroachments by one against the other because of a misunderstanding of the limits of their respective exclusive jurisdictions.
The establishment clause simply means that the State cannot set up a church; nor pass laws which aid one religion. There will be no violation of this clause if:
1. The statute has a secular legislative purpose, i.e., assistance in the form of laboratory equipment in chemistry because in this case the benefit will redound to the improvement of the quality education of students, not to the religious school in particular. In the Aglipay Case, it was held that any benefit indirectly enjoyed by a religious institution, as long as such benefit was only incidental to a legitimate secular objective, would not violate the prohibition as the purpose of the stamp issue was to focus attention, not on the Eucharistic Congress, but on its site, the idea being to attract tourists to our country and not primarily to publicize the religious event.
2. Its principal or primary effect is one that neither advances nor inhibits religion.
3. It does not foster an “excessive government entanglement with religion”. In Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 US 602, it was held that financial assistance to a sectarian school by the government violates the prohibition against the establishment of religion if it fosters an excessive government entanglement of religion. However, in Allen Case, where a law was passed requiring the State to lend textbooks free of charge to all students, including those attending parochial schools was sustained by the Court because the financial benefit is to parents and children, not to schools.
The right to religious profession and worship has a two-fold aspect:
1. Freedom to believe or disbelieve.
Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion; the right to worship includes the right not to worship. Applying this criteria, the US Supreme Court in School Prayer Case, declared as unconstitutional the recitation by the students in public schools of a prayer composed by the Board of Regents for the purpose of setting the spiritual tone of the day. However, in Zorach Case, the US Supreme Court held that the wall of separation between the Church and State had not been breached by a released-time arrangement which enabled the students in a public school to attend religious instruction classes in a nearby private building.
2. Freedom to act on one’s beliefs.
The constitutional guaranty of free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession or worship carries with it the right to disseminate religious information. Any restraint of such, can be justified on the ground that there is a clear and present danger of any substantive evil which the State has the right to prevent. Where the individual externalizes his beliefs in acts or omissions that affect the public, his freedom to do so becomes subject to the authority of the State. The inherent police power can be exercised to prevent religious practices inimical to society. In sum, the test to determine which shall prevail as between religious freedom and the powers of the State is, as always, the test of reasonableness.
In Ebralinag v. Div. Superintendent of Schools of Cebu, March, 1993, the Supreme Court upheld the religious freedom of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and believed that they should not salute the flag because it was in their view an “image” to which the Bible prohibited them from rendering obedience. Freedom of religion cannot be impaired except upon showing of a clear and present danger of a substantive evil which the State has a right to prevent. The refusal of the teachers and the students to participate in the flag ceremony does not pose a clear and present danger.
The constitutional prohibition against religious tests is aimed against clandestine attempts on the part of the government to prevent person from exercising his civil or political rights because of his religious beliefs.
Freedom of expression
No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances. (Sec. 4) Freedom of expression is available only as it is exercised for the discussion of matters affecting the public interest. Purely private matters do not come within the guaranty. In Hudgens v. National Labor Relations Board, 424 US 507, the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech is a guarantee only against abridgement by the government, not apply against private parties. It is usually exercised through language, verbal and written. Symbolism may also be used, like the clenched fist, the salute to the flag, pictures, caricatures and cartoons. Every citizen has a right to offer his views and suggestions in the discussion of the common problems of the community or the nation. This is not only a right but a duty. In First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 US 765, it was ruled that this guarantee extends to corporation; even to commercial advertisements or commercial activity, like production of a film. The freedom to speak includes the right to be silent.
The elements of freedom of expression are:
1. Freedom from previous restraint or censorship.
Censorship conditions the exercise of freedom of expression upon the prior approval of the government. Only those ideas acceptable to it are allowed to be disseminated; all others are restricted or suppressed. Censorship need not partake of total suppression; even restriction of circulation is unconstitutional as in the case of Grosjean v. American Press Co., where a statute imposing a tax upon all periodicals publishing more than 20,000 copies per issue was declared invalid because it tended to limit the circulation of any such periodical seeking to avoid payment of the tax. In Primicias v. Fuguso, the Supreme Court ordered the permit issued to hold a public meeting holding that the respondent mayor could only reasonably regulate, not absolutely prohibit, the use of public places for the purpose indicated.
2. Freedom from subsequent punishment.
Freedom of speech includes freedom after speech. It is not absolute. Like all other rights, it is subject to the police power and may be properly regulated in the interest of the public. It has been held that freedom of expression does not cover ideas offensive to public order or decency or the reputation of persons, which are all entitled to protection of the State.
To determine the liability of the individuals for ideas expressed by him, 3 major criteria have been applied, to wit:
1. Clear and Present Danger Rule
The question in every case, as Justice Holmes said, is whether the words used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that the State has a right to prevent. If they do, the speaker shall be punished; otherwise, not. It is a question of proximity and degree. Also, the rule is that the danger created must not only be clear and present but also traceable to the ideas expressed. Violent picketing would create a clear and present danger to the safety of persons and the public order and is therefore not entitled to the protection of the Constitution. In Reyes v. Bagatsing, it was held that the denial of the permit for a rally was invalid as there was no showing for a probability (not mere possibility) of a clear and present danger that might arise as a result of the meeting. As for the public streets, Justice Fernando repeated that title thereto had always been vested in the people and that the authorities could not prohibit but only regulate their proper use. However, in National Press Club v. Comelec, the issue was the validity of Sec. 11 of RA 6646. This statutory mechanism which Sec. 11(B) bring into operation is designed and may be expected to bring about or promote equal opportunity, and equal time and space, for political candidates to inform all and sundry about themselves, cannot be gainsaid. But in Adiong Case, the prohibition on posting decals and stickers on mobile places whether public and private,.except in authorized areas designated by the Comelec becomes censorship which cannot be justified by the Constitution.
2. Dangerous Tendency Doctrine
In Cabansag v. Fernandez, 102 Phil. 152, it was held that a party who wrote to the Presidential Complaints and Action Committee (PCAC) to complain about the delay in the disposition of his case could not be punished for contempt in the absence of a mere tendency toward the evil sought to be prevented to the administration of justice. The Court stated:
If the words uttered create a dangerous tendency which the State has a right to prevent, then such words are punishable. It is not necessary that some definite or immediate acts of force, violence, or unlawfulness be advocated. It is sufficient that such acts be advocated in general terms. Nor is it necessary that the language used be reasonably calculated to incite persons to acts of force, violence or unlawfulness. It is sufficient if the natural tendency and probable effect of the utterance be to bring about the substantive evil which the legislative body seeks to prevent. (Cabansag v. Fernandez, 102 Phil. 152)
3. Balance-of-Interest Test
The duty of the courts is to determine which of the two conflicting interests demands the greater protection under the particular circumstances presented.
The official acts, and now even the private life of a public servant are legitimate subjects of public comment. As long as their comments are made in good faith and with justifiable ends, they are insulated from prosecution or damage suits for defamation even if such views are found to be inaccurate erroneous. In fact, a private individual may still be the subject of public comment even if he is not a public official or at least a public figure, as long as he is involved in a public issue. However, in Lagunzad v. Sotto, being a public figure does not automatically destroy in toto a person’s right to privacy. The right to invade a person’s privacy to disseminate public information does not extend to a fictional or novelized representation of a person, no matter how public a figure he or she may be.
The rule in the Philippines proscribes public comment on pending litigation, on the ground that it would interfere with the administration of justice. Even without a pending litigation, or its termination, criticism of judicial conduct is still subject to special inhibition. Such comments must be couched in respectful language lest they impair the people’s faith in the judiciary. In People v. Flores, 239 SCRA 83, any conduct by any party which tends to directly or indirectly impede, obstruct or degrade the administration of justice is subject to the contempt powers of the court.
It is axiomatic that obscenity is not constitutionally protected because it offends public decency and morals.
The tests of obscenity are as follows:
1. Whether the average person, applying contemporary standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.
2. Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable law.
3. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
The right of assembly is important to freedom of expression because public issues are better resolved after an exchange of views among citizens meeting with each other for the purpose. This right is not subject to previous restraint or censorship. If the assembly is intended to be held in a public place, a permit for the use of such place, and not for the assembly itself, may be validly required. Under the law, a permit for the holding of a public assembly shall not be necessary where the meeting is to be held in a private place, in the campus of a government-owned and operated educational institution, or in a freedom park. However, in Ramento v. Malabanan, 129 SCRA 359, if an assembly will be held by students in school premises, permit must be sought from the school authorities who are devoid of the power to deny such request arbitrarily or unreasonably.
The test of a lawful assembly should be the purpose for which it is held, regardless of the auspices under which it is organized. Thus, even if the organizers of the meeting be unquestionably lawful, the assembly will still be illegal if its objective is, say, to incite to sedition or rebellion.
The right of the people, including those employed in the public and private sectors, to form unions, associations or societies for purposes not contrary to law shall not be abridged. (Sec.8) The framers of the Constitution intended to limit the right of government employees to the formation of unions or associations only, without including the right to strike.
To compel a lawyer to be a member of the IBP is not violative of his constitutional freedom to associate. Bar integration does not compel the lawyer to associate with anyone. He is free to attend or not attend the meetings of his Chapter or vote or refuse to vote in its election as he chooses. The only compulsion to which he is subjected is the payment of annual dues. The Supreme Court, in order to further the State’s legitimate interest in elevating the quality of professional legal services, may require that the cost of improving the profession in this fashion be shared by the subjects and beneficiaries of the regulatory program – the lawyers. (In re Edillon, 84 SCRA 554)
The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized . . . subject to such limitations as may be provided by law. (Sec. 7) Access to information on matters of public concern is essential to the proper exercise of freedom of expression on such matters. In Valmonte v. Belmonte, it was held that the public nature of the loanable funds of the GSIS and the public office held by the alleged borrowers who are members of the Batasan Pambansa, make the information sought clearly a matter of public interest and concern.
No law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be passed. (Sec. 10) The purpose of this, is to safeguard the integrity of valid contractual agreements against unwarranted interference by the State. This protection of the impairment clause is not absolute. It has been settled that this constitutional guaranty is limited by the exercise of the police power of the state, the reason being that public welfare is superior to private rights. Thus, in RPB v. Agana,the Court reversed a judge decision who ordered a bank to redeem its redeemable preferred shares as per contract, even if the redemption would reduce its assets to the prejudice of its depositors and creditors.
The term “contract” refers to any lawful agreement on property or property rights, whether real or personal, tangible or intangible. It includes franchises granted to private persons or entities, like an authorization to operate a public utility. But it does not cover licenses, say for operation of a liquor store or a cockpit, as these involve grants of privileges only that are essentially revocable. Also, a timber license agreement is not a contract protected by the Constitution because under the Forestry Reform Code they may be rescinded when national interest so requires. (C & M Timber Corp., v. Alcala, 273 SCRA 402)
Impairment is anything that diminishes the efficacy of the contract. As long as the original rights of either of the parties are changed to his prejudice, there is an impairment of the obligation of the contract. But in the case of remedies, there will be no impairment as long as a substantial and efficacious remedy remains.
Despite the clause, a contract valid at the time of its execution may be legally modified or even completely invalidated by a subsequent law. If the law is a proper exercise of the police power, it will prevail over the contract. Like the police power, the other inherent powers of eminent domain and taxation may validly limit the impairment clause. In Long Island Water Supply v. Brooklyn, it was held that a contract is property and like any other property, may be taken for public use subject to the rule of just compensation. It has also been held that a lawful tax on a new subject, or an increased tax on old one, does not interfere with a contract or impair its obligation within the meaning of the Constitution.
Ex Post Facto law
No ex post facto law or bill of attainder shall be enacted. (Sec.22) Ex post facto law is one that would make a previous act criminal although it was not so at the time it was committed.
Kinds of ex post facto law:
1. Law that makes criminal an action done before the passage of the law and which was innocent when done.
2. Law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was when committed.
3. Law that changes punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment than the law annexed to the crime when committed.
4. Law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less or different testimony than the law required at the time of the commission of the offense, like, when conviction by mere preponderance of evidence instead of proof beyond reasonable doubt.
5. Law which, assuming to regulate civil rights and remedies only, in effect imposes a penalty or a deprivation of a right for something which when done was lawful, like, retroactively depriving professionals of the right to practice for failure or refusal to vote.
6. Law which deprives person accused of crime of some lawful protection to which they have become entitled, such as the protection of a former conviction or acquittal.
The characteristics of ex post facto law are:
1. Refer to criminal matters.
2. Retroactive in its application.
3. To the prejudice of the accused.
In People v. Vilo, the Supreme Court sustained the retroactive application to the accused of an amendatory law allowing affirmation of the death sentence by only 8 justices although unanimity was required when the crime was committed by the defendant. The majority decided that the amendment was merely procedural in nature and so did not partake of the nature of an ex post facto law. In Subido v. Sandiganbayan, 266 SCRA 379, the Supreme Court held that the retroactive application of RA 7975 does not violate the prohibition against ex post facto laws, because RA 7975 is not penal in nature. The law simply vested the Sandiganbayan with the exclusive jurisdiction over criminal cases committed by public officers in the performance of their duties if one of the principal accused is occupying a position corresponding to salary grade 27 or higher.
Bill of Attainder is a legislative act that inflicts punishment without judicial trial, its essence being the substitution of legislative fiat for a judicial determination of guilt. It is only when a statute applies either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a judicial trial.
Executive Orders Nos. 1,2 and 14 (creating the PCGG) are not bills of attainder because they do not inflict any punishment. On the contrary, they expressly provide that any judgment that the property sequestered is ill-gotten wealth is to be made by the Sandiganbayan only after trial. (BASECO v. PCGG)
Non-imprisonment for debt
No person shall be imprisoned for debt or non-payment of a poll tax. (Sec.20) The remedy in this case is a civil action only for the recovery of the unpaid debt. In Suva v. Martin, the defendant in a civil action was ordered arrested for contempt of court because of his failure, owing to his insolvency, to pay the plaintiff past and future support. The Supreme Court held that such arrest was invalid as it would in effect authorize his imprisonment for debt in violation of the Constitution.
Although the debtor cannot be imprisoned for his failure to pay his debt, he can validly punished in a criminal action if he contracted his debt through fraud. In such a case, the act for which he is penalized is the deception he employed in securing the debt, not his default in paying it. The suspension of a civil servant for failure to pay a just and admitted debt is an administrative sanction and does not violate the prohibition against imprisonment for debt.
Sec. 13 of PD 115 (Trust Receipts Law) does not violate the constitutional right against imprisonment for non-payment of a debt. As held in Lee v. Rodil, 175 SCRA 100, the criminal liability arises from the violation of the trust receipts, which is separate and distinct from the loan secured by it. Penalizing such an act is a valid exercise of police power. (See also People v. Nitafan, 207 SCRA 730)
Poll tax is a specific fixed levied upon every person belonging to a certain class without regard to his property or occupation, like the Community Tax Certificate.
No involuntary servitude in any form shall exist except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted. (Sec. 18)