Case Digest: General v. Urro, et al.

G.R. No. 191560 : March 29, 2011.




When Roces, a former NAPOLCOM Commissioner, died in September 2007, PGMA appointed the petitioner on July 21, 2008 as acting NAPOLCOM Commissioner in place of Roces. On the same date, PGMA appointed Eduardo U. Escueta (Escueta) as acting NAPOLCOM Commissioner and designated him as NAPOLCOM Vice Chairman.

Later, PGMA appointed Alejandro S. Urro(Urro) in place of the petitioner, Constancia Guzman in place of Celia Leones, and Escuetaas permanent NAPOLCOM Commissioners. In a letter dated March 19, 2010, DILG Head Executive Assistant/Chief-of-Staff Pascual V. Veron Cruz, Jr. issued separate congratulatory letters to the respondents, for being appointed as NAPOLCOM Commissioners. The petitioner then filed the present quo warranto petition questioning the validity of the respondents appointments mainly on the ground that it violates the constitutional prohibition against midnight appointments. On July 30, 2010, Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III, issued Executive Order No. 2 (E.O. No. 2) "Recalling, Withdrawing, and Revoking Appointments Issued by the Previous Administration in Violation of the Constitutional Ban on Midnight Appointments."

The petitioner argues that the appointment issued to him was really a "regular" appointment, and as such, he cannot be removed from office except for cause. Since the appointment paper of respondent Urro, while bearing a date prior to the effectivity of the constitutional ban on appointments,was officially released (perthe congratulatory letter dated March 19, 2010 issued to Urro) when the appointment ban was already in effect, then the petitioners appointment, though temporary in nature, should remain effective as no new and valid appointment was effectively made. The petitioner assails the validity of the appointments of respondents De Guzman and Escueta on the same grounds.

Both parties dwelt lengthily on the issue of constitutionality of the respondents appointments in light of E.O. No. 2.

ISSUE: Whether or not the Court can exercise its power of judicial review


The petition lacks merit.

POLITICAL LAW: Judicial power; kinds of appointments.

When questions of constitutional significance are raised, the Court can exercise its power of judicial review only if the following requisites are present: (1) the existence of an actual and appropriate case; (2) the existence of personal and substantial interest on the part of the party raising the constitutional question; (3)recourse to judicial review is made at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the constitutional question is the lis mota of the case. Lis mota literally means "the cause of the suit or action. In the present case, the constitutionality of the respondents appointments is not the lis mota of the case. From the submitted pleadings, what is decisive is the determination of whether the petitioner has a cause of action to institute and maintain this present petition: a quo warranto against respondent Urro.

The Court already held that for a petition for quo warranto to be successful, the suing private individual must show a clear right to the contested office. Since the petitioner merely holds an acting appointment (and an expired one at that), he clearly does not have a cause of action to maintain the present petition. The essence of an acting appointment is its temporariness and its consequent revocability at any time by the appointing authority.

Generally, the power to appoint vested in the President includes the power to make temporary (acting) appointments,unless he is otherwise specifically prohibited by the Constitution or by the law, or where an acting appointment is repugnant to the nature of the office involved. Here, nothing in the enumeration of functions of the members of the NAPOLCOM that would be subverted or defeated by the President's appointment of an acting NAPOLCOM Commissioner pending the selection and qualification of a permanent appointee. Viewed as an institution, a survey of pertinent laws and executive issuances will show that the NAPOLCOM has always remained as an office under or within the Executive Department.Clearly, there is nothing repugnant between the petitioners acting appointment, on one hand, and the nature of the functions of the NAPOLCOM Commissioners or of the NAPOLCOM as an institution, on the other.

Estoppel also clearly militates against the petitioner. From the time he was appointed until apprised of the appointment of Urro, the petitioner discharged the functions of his office without expressing any misgivings on his appointment. He cannot later on be heard to say that the appointment was really a permanent one so that he could not be removed except for cause.