BOCEA v. Teves (G.R. No. 181704; December 6, 2011)

CASE DIGEST: BUREAU OF CUSTOMS EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION (BOCEA), represented by its National President (BOCEA National Executive Council) Mr. Romulo A. Pagulayan,Petitioner, v. HON. MARGARITO B. TEVES, et al. (G.R. No. 181704; December 6, 2011).

FACTS: Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law R.A. No. 9335. RA [No.] 9335 was enacted to optimize the revenue-generation capability and collection of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC). The law intends to encourage BIR and BOC officials and employees to exceed their revenue targets by providing a system of rewards and sanctions through the creation of a Rewards and Incentives Fund (Fund) and a Revenue Performance Evaluation Board (Board). It covers all officials and employees of the BIR and the BOC with at least six months of service, regardless of employment status.Contending that the enactment and implementation of R.A. No. 9335 are tainted with constitutional infirmities in violation of the fundamental rights of its members, petitioners directly filed the present petition before this Court against respondents.

BOCEA asserted that in view of the unconstitutionality of R.A. No. 9335 and its IRR, and their adverse effects on the constitutional rights of BOC officials and employees, direct resort to this Court is justified. BOCEA argued, among others, that its members and other BOC employees are in great danger of losing their jobs should they fail to meet the required quota provided under the law, in clear violation of their constitutional right to security of tenure, and at their and their respective families prejudice.

Respondents countered that R.A. No. 9335 and its IRR do not violate the right to due process and right to security of tenure of BIR and BOC employees. The OSG stressed that the guarantee of security of tenure under the 1987 Constitution is not a guarantee of perpetual employment. R.A. No. 9335 and its IRR provided a reasonable and valid ground for the dismissal of an employee which is germane to the purpose of the law. Likewise, R.A. No. 9335 and its IRR provided that an employee may only be separated from the service upon compliance with substantive and procedural due process. The OSG added that R.A. No. 9335 and its IRR must enjoy the presumption of constitutionality.

In Abakada, the Court declared Section 12of R.A. No. 9335 creating a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee to approve the IRR as unconstitutional and violative of the principle of separation of powers. However, the constitutionality of the remaining provisions of R.A. No. 9335 was upheld pursuant to Section 13of R.A. No. 9335. The Court also held that until the contrary is shown, the IRR of R.A. No. 9335 is presumed valid and effective even without the approval of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee.

ISSUE: Did R.A. No. 9335 and its IRR violate the rights of BOCEAs members to: (a) equal protection of laws, (b) security of tenure and (c) due process?

HELD: Prefatorily, we note that it is clear, and in fact uncontroverted, that BOCEA has locus standi. BOCEA impugns the constitutionality of R.A. No. 9335 and its IRR because its members, who are rank-and-file employees of the BOC, are actually covered by the law and its IRR. BOCEA's members have a personal and substantial interest in the case, such that they have sustained or will sustain, direct injury as a result of the enforcement of R.A. No. 9335 and its IRR.

The principle of separation of powers ordains that each of the three great branches of government has exclusive cognizance of and is supreme in matters falling within its own constitutionally allocated sphere. Necessarily imbedded in this doctrine is the principle of non-delegation of powers, as expressed in the Latin maxim potestas delegata non delegari potest, which means "what has been delegated, cannot be delegated." This doctrine is based on the ethical principle that such delegated power constitutes not only a right but a duty to be performed by the delegate through the instrumentality of his own judgment and not through the intervening mind of another. However, this principle of non-delegation of powers admits of numerous exceptions, one of which is the delegation of legislative power to various specialized administrative agencies like the Board in this case.

Equal protection simply provides that all persons or things similarly situated should be treated in a similar manner, both as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed. The purpose of the equal protection clause is to secure every person within a states jurisdiction against intentional and arbitrary discrimination, whether occasioned by the express terms of a statute or by its improper execution through the states duly constituted authorities. In other words, the concept of equal justice under the law requires the state to govern impartially, and it may not draw distinctions between individuals solely on differences that are irrelevant to a legitimate governmental objective.

The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard, or as applied to administrative proceedings, a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain ones side. BOCEA's apprehension of deprivation of due process finds its answer in Section 7 (b) and (c) of R.A. No. 9335. The concerned BIR or BOC official or employee is not simply given a target revenue collection and capriciously left without any quarter. R.A. No. 9335 and its IRR clearly give due consideration to all relevant factors that may affect the level of collection.

As the Court is not a trier of facts, the investigation on the veracity of, and the proper action on these anomalies are in the hands of the Executive branch. Correlatively, the wisdom for the enactment of this law remains within the domain of the Legislative branch. We merely interpret the law as it is. The Court has no discretion to give statutes a meaning detached from the manifest intendment and language thereof. Just like any other law, R.A. No. 9335 has in its favor the presumption of constitutionality, and to justify its nullification, there must be a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution and not one that is doubtful, speculative, or argumentative. We have so declared in Abakada, and we now reiterate that R.A. No. 9335 and its IRR are constitutional. DISMISSED.