Monday, December 2, 2013

demarcation of the three fundamental powers of government. In the
celebrated words of Justice Laurel in Angara v. Electoral Commission, 162 it
means that the "Constitution has blocked out with deft strokes and in bold
lines, allotment of power to the executive, the legislative and the judicial
departments of the government."163 To the legislative branch of government,
through Congress, 164 belongs the power to make laws; to the executive
branch of government, through the President, 165 belongs the power to
enforce laws; and to the judicial branch of government, through the Court, 166
belongs the power to interpret laws. Because the three great powers have
been, by constitutional design, ordained in this respect, "[ e ]ach department
of the government has exclusive cognizance of matters within its
jurisdiction, and is supreme within its own sphere."167 Thus, "the legislature
has no authority to execute or construe the law, the executive has no
authority to make or construe the law, and the judiciary has no power to
make or execute the law."168 The principle of separation of powers and its
concepts of autonomy and independence stem from the notion that the
powers of government must be divided to avoid concentration of these
powers in any one branch; the division, it is hoped, would avoid any single
branch from lording its power over the other branches or the citizenry. 169 To
achieve this purpose, the divided power must be wielded by co-equal
branches of government that are equally capable of independent action in
exercising their respective mandates. Lack of independence would result in
the inability of one branch of government to check the arbitrary or self interest
assertions of another or others. 170
Broadly speaking, there is a violation of the separation of powers
principle when one branch of government unduly encroaches on the domain
of another. US Supreme Court decisions instruct that the principle of
separation of powers may be violated in two (2) ways: firstly, "[o]ne branch
may interfere impermissibly with the other's performance of its
constitutionally assigned function"; 171 and "[a]lternatively, the doctrine
may be violated when one branch assumes a function that more properly
is entrusted to another." 172 In other words, there is a violation of the
principle when there is impermissible (a) interference with and/or (b)
assumption of another department's functions.
The enforcement of the national budget, as primarily contained in the
GAA, is indisputably a function both constitutionally assigned and properly
entrusted to the Executive branch of government. In Guingona, Jr. v. Hon.
Carague173 (Guingona, Jr.), the Court explained that the phase of budget
execution "covers the various operational aspects of budgeting" and
accordingly includes "the evaluation of work and financial plans for
individual activities," the "regulation and release of funds" as well as all
"other related activities" that comprise the budget execution cycle. 174 This
is rooted in the principle that the allocation of power in the three principal
branches of government is a grant of all powers inherent in them. 175 Thus,
unless the Constitution provides otherwise, the Executive department should
exclusively exercise all roles and prerogatives which go into the
implementation of the national budget as provided under the GAA as well as
any other appropriation law.
In view of the foregoing, the Legislative branch of government, much
more any of its members, should not cross over the field of implementing
the national budget since, as earlier stated, the same is properly the domain
of the Executive. Again, in Guingona, Jr., the Court stated that "Congress
enters the picture [when it] deliberates or acts on the budget proposals of the
President. Thereafter, Congress, "in the exercise of its own judgment and
wisdom, formulates an appropriation act precisely following the process
established by the Constitution, which specifies that no money may be paid
from the Treasury except in accordance with an appropriation made by law."
Upon approval and passage of the GAA, Congress' law-making role
necessarily comes to an end and from there the Executive's role of
implementing the national budget begins. So as not to blur the constitutional
boundaries between them, Congress must "not concern itself with details for
implementation by the Executive."176
The foregoing cardinal postulates were definitively enunciated in
Abakada where the Court held that "[f]rom the moment the law becomes
effective, any provision of law that empowers Congress or any of its
members to play any role in the implementation or enforcement of the
172 See Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer 343 U.S. 579, 587 (1952), Springer v. Philippine Islands,
277 U.S. 189, 203 (1928) cited in Justice Powell's concurring opinion in Immigration and
Naturalization Service v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983).
173 273 Phil. 443 (1991).
174 !d. at 461. "3. Bu dg et Execution. Tasked on the Executive, the third phase of the budget process covers
the various operational aspects of budgeting. The establishment of obligation authority ceilings, the
evaluation of work and financial plans for individual activities, the continuing review of government
fiscal position, the regulation of funds releases, the implementation of cash payment schedules, and
other related activities comprise this phase of the budget cycle."
1 ~ Biraogo v. Phi I ippine Trut h Commission of2010, supra note 118, at 158.
176 Guingona, Jr. v. Carague, supra note 173, at 460-461 .
Decision 38 G.R. Nos. 208566, 208493 &
law violates the principle of separation of powers and is thus
unconstitutional." 177 It must be clarified, however, that since the restriction
only pertains to "any role in the implementation or enforcement of the law,"
Congress may still exercise its oversight function which is a mechanism of
checks and balances that the Constitution itself allows. But it must be made
clear that Congress' role must be confined to mere oversight. Any postenactment-
measure allowing legislator participation beyond oversight is
bereft of any constitutional basis and hence, tantamount to impermissible
interference and/or assumption of executive functions. As the Court ruled in
A bakada: 178
[A]ny post-enactment congressional measure x x x should be limited
to scrutiny and investigation. In particular, congressional oversight must
be confined to the following:
(1) scrutiny based primarily on Congress' power of appropriation
and the budget hearings conducted in connection with it, its power
to ask heads of departments to appear before and be heard by either
of its Houses on any matter pertaining to their departments and its
power of confirmation; and
(2) investigation and monitoring of the implementation of laws
pursuant to the power of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of

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