Gov't duty and power of control over economic affairs

THE PROMOTION OF GENERAL WELFARE IS A GOVERNMENT FUNCTION, REPUDIATION OF THE CONCEPT OF LAISSEZ FAIRE. - The growing complexities of modern society, however, have rendered this traditional classification of the functions of government quite unrealistic, not to say obsolete. The areas which used to be left to private enterprise and initiative and which the government was called upon to enter optionally, and only 'because it was better equipped to administer for the public welfare than is any private individual or group of individuals,' continue to lose their well-defined boundaries and to be absorbed within activities that the government must undertake in its sovereign capacity if it is to meet the increasing social challenges of the times. Here as almost everywhere else the tendency is undoubtedly towards a greater socialization of economic forces. Here of course this development was envisioned, indeed adopted as a national policy, by the Constitution itself in its declaration of principle concerning the promotion of social justice." Thus was laid to rest the doctrine in Bacani v. National Coconut Corporation, based on the Wilsonian classification of the tasks incumbent on government into constituent and ministrant in accordance with the laissez faire principle. That concept, then dominant in economics, was carried into the governmental sphere, as noted in a textbook on political science, the first edition of which was published in 1898, its author being the then Professor, later American President, Woodrow Wilson. He took pains to emphasize that what was categorized by him as constituent functions had its basis in a recognition of what was demanded by the "strictest [concept of] laissez faire, [as they] are indeed the very bonds of society." The other functions he would minimize as ministrant or optional.

It is a matter of law that in the Philippines, the laissez faire principle hardly commanded the authoritative position which at one time it held in the United States. As early as 1919, Justice Malcolm in Rubi v. Provincial Board, could affirm: "The doctrines of laissez faire and of unrestricted freedom of the individual, as axioms of economic and political theory, are of the past. The modern period has shown a widespread belief in the amplest possible demonstration of government activity." The 1935 Constitution, as was indicated earlier, continued that approach. As noted in Edu v. Ericta: "What is more, to erase any doubts, the Constitutional Convention saw to it that the concept of laissez-faire was rejected. It entrusted to our government the responsibility of coping with social and economic problems with the commensurate power of control over economic affairs. Thereby it could live up to its commitment to promote the general welfare through state action." Nor did the opinion in Edu stop there: "To repeat, our Constitution which took effect in 1935 erased whatever doubts there might be on that score. Its philosophy is a repudiation of laissez-faire. One of the leading members of the Constitutional Convention, Manuel A. Roxas, later the first President of the Republic, made it clear when he disposed of the objection of Delegate Jose Reyes of Sorsogon, who noted the 'vast extensions in the sphere of governmental functions' and the 'almost unlimited power to interfere in the affairs of industry and agriculture as well as to compete with existing business' as 'reflections of the fascination exerted by [the then] current tendencies' in other jurisdictions. He spoke thus: 'My answer is that this constitution has a definite and well defined philosophy, not only political but social and economic. . . . If in this Constitution the gentlemen will find declarations of economic policy they are there because they are necessary to safeguard the interest and welfare of the Filipino people because we believe that the days have come when in self-defense, a nation may provide in its constitution those safeguards, the patrimony, the freedom to grow, the freedom to develop national aspirations and national interests, not to be hampered by the artificial boundaries which a constitutional provision automatically imposes."
It would be then to reject what was so emphatically stressed in the Agricultural Credit Administration decision about which the observation was earlier made that it reflected the philosophy of the 1935 Constitution and is even more in consonance with the expanded role of government accorded recognition in the present Charter if the plea of petitioner that it discharges governmental function were not heeded. That path this Court is not prepared to take. That would be to go backward, to retreat rather than to advance. Nothing can thus be clearer than that there is no constitutional obstacle to a government pursuing lines of endeavor, formerly reserved for private enterprise. This is one way, in the language of Laski, by which through such activities, "the harsh contract which [does] obtain between the levels of the rich and the poor" may be minimized. It is a response to a trend noted by Justice Laurel in Calalang v. Williams for the humanization of laws and the promotion of the interest of all component elements of society so that man's innate aspirations, in what was so felicitously termed by the First Lady as "a compassionate society" be attained. (Philippine Virginia Tobacco Adm. vs. CIR; G.R. No. L-32052, July 25, 1975)

PHOTO SOURCE:; 1-Greenbelt Community Center Preamble to the Constitution of the US by WPA Sculptress Leonore Thomas Strauss.JPG; Created: 30 September 2012; ArtistsInResidence - Own work