Monday, December 2, 2013

. A political question refers to "those questions which, under the Constitution,
are to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity, or in regard to
which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the Legislature or
executive branch of the Government. It is concerned with issues dependent
upon the wisdom, not legality, of a particular measure."141 The intrinsic
constitutionality of the "Pork Barrel System" is not an issue dependent
upon the wisdom of the political branches of government but rather a
legal one which the Constitution itself has commanded the Court to act
upon. Scrutinizing the contours of the system along constitutional lines is a
task that the political branches of government are incapable of rendering
precisely because it is an exercise of judicial power. More importantly, the
present Constitution has not only vested the Judiciary the right to exercise
judicial power but essentially makes it a duty to proceed therewith. Section
1, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution cannot be any clearer: "The judicial
power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may
be established by law. [It] includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle
actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and
enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any
branch or instrumentality of the Government." In Estrada v. Desierto, 142 the
expanded concept of judicial power under the 1987 Constitution and its
effect on the political question doctrine was explained as follows: 143
To a great degree, the 1987 Constitution has narrowed the reach of the
political question doctrine when it expanded the power of judicial review
of this court not only to settle actual controversies involving rights which
are legally demandable and enforceable but also to determine whether
or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
excess of .iurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of
government. Heretofore, the judiciary has focused on the "thou shalt
not's" of the Constitution directed against the exercise of its
jurisdiction. With the new provision, however, courts are given a greater
prerogative to determine what it can do to prevent grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any
branch or instrumentality of government. Clearly, the new provision did
not just grant the Court power of doing nothing. x x x (Emphases
supplied)
It must also be borne in mind that "when the judiciary mediates to
allocate constitutional boundaries, it does not assert any superiority over the
other departments; does not in reality nullify or invalidate an act of the
legislature [or the executive], but only asserts the solemn and sacred
obligation assigned to it by the Constitution."144 To a great extent, the Court
is laudably cognizant of the reforms undertaken by its co-equal branches of
government. But it is by constitutional force that the Court must faithfully
perform its duty. Ultimately, it is the Court's avowed intention that a
resolution of these cases would not arrest or in any manner impede the
endeavors of the two other branches but, in fact, help ensure that the pillars
of change are erected on firm constitutional grounds. After all, it is in the
best interest of the people that each great branch of government, within its
own sphere, contributes its share towards achieving a holistic and genuine
solution to the problems of society. For all these reasons, the Court cannot
heed respondents' plea for judicial restraint.

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