Gov't Functions: Constituent or Ministrant?


FUNCTIONS OF THE GOVERNMENT; CONSTITUENT AND MINISTRANT. - To begin with, it must be stated that the term "Government" may be defined as "that institution or aggregate of institutions by which an independent society makes and carries out those rules of action which are necessary to enable men to live in a social state, or which are imposed upon the people forming that society by those who possess the power or authority of prescribing them." (U.S. vs. Dorr, 2 Phil. 332) This institution, when referring to the national government, has reference to what our Constitution has established composed of three great departments, the legislative, executive, and the judicial, through which the powers and functions of government are exercised.

These functions are twofold: constituent and ministrant. The former are those which constitute the very bonds of society and are compulsory in nature; the latter are those that are undertaken only by way of advancing the general interests of society, and are merely optional. President Wilson enumerates the constituent functions as follows:

[1] The keeping of order and providing for the protection of persons and property from violence and robbery.
[2] The fixing of the legal relations between man and wife and between parents and children.
[3] The regulation of the holding, transmission, and interchange of property, and the determination of its liabilities for debt or for crime.
[4] The determination of contract rights between individuals.
[5] The definition and punishment of crime.
[6] The administration of justice in civil cases.
[7] The determination of the political duties, privileges, and relations of citizens.
[8] Dealings of the state with foreign powers: the preservation of the state from external danger or encroachment and the advancement of its international interests.'" (Malcolm, The Government of the Philippine Islands, p. 19.)
The most important of the ministrant functions are: public works, public education, public charity, health and safety regulations, and regulations of trade and industry. The principles determining whether or not a government shall exercise certain of these optional functions are:

[1] That a government should do for the public welfare those things which private capital would not naturally undertake; and
[2] That a government should do these things which by its very nature it is better equipped to administer for the public welfare than is any private individual or group of individuals. (Malcolm, The Government of the Philippine Islands, pp. 19-20.)

From the above, it may infer that, strictly speaking, there are functions which our government is required to exercise to promote its objectives as expressed in our Constitution and which are exercised by it as an attribute of sovereignty, and those which it may exercise to promote merely the welfare, progress and prosperity of the people. To this latter class belongs the organization of those corporations owned or controlled by the government to promote certain aspects of the economic life of our people such as the National Coconut Corporation. These are called government-owned or controlled corporations which may take on the form of a private enterprise or one organized with powers and formal characteristics of a private corporations under the Corporation Law. (Bacani vs. NACOCO; G.R. No. L-9657, November 29, 1956)

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