Administrative law vs. Constitutional law

Both administrative law and constitutional law are parts of political law, a field of study of law. Obviously, as branches of the same field, they are NOT the same.

Please not that, strictly speaking, political law deals with the structure of government while constitutional law deals with the balance between the rights of the people, on one hand, and the powers and duties of the State, on the other hand. Political law (proper) is a branch of political law.

STRUCTURE vs. DETAILS. Constitutional law prescribes the general plan or framework of governmental organization, while administrative law gives and carries out this plan in its minutest details. Here, "constitutional law" refers to political law proper.

PROTECTION vs. LIMITATION. Constitutional law treats of the rights of the individual, while administrative law treats them from the standpoint of the powers of the government. The first treats rights as a shield of protection against the vast powers of the State; the second treats people's rights as a limitation to the exercise by the Executive Branch of its power of implementing the law.

RIGHTS vs. DUTIES. Constitutional law lays stress upon rights. Administrative law emphasizes the powers of government and duties of the citizens.

SUBSTANCE vs. REMEDY. Constitutional law prescribes limitations on the powers of the government to protect the rights of individuals against abuse in their exercise, while administrative law indicates to individuals, remedies for the violation of their rights. While constitutional law lays down the substantive aspect of rights, administrative law establishes the remedy of an aggrieved individual within the Executive Branch.

According to De Leon and De Leon, Jr. (2010), insofar as it fixes or regulates the administrative organization of the government, administrative law is the necessary supplement of constitutional law. But administrative law not only supplements constitutional law; it also complements constitutional law insofar as it determines the rules relative to the activity of the administrative authorities.

CASE #1: For we cannot divide the branches of government into water-tight compartment. Even if such is possible, it is neither desirable nor feasible. Bernard Schwartz, in his work Administrative Law, A Casebook, thus states: To be sure, if we think of the separation of powers as carrying out the distinction between legislation and administration with mathematical precision and as dividing the branches of government into watertight compartments, we would probably have to conclude that any exercise of lawmaking authority by an agency is automatically invalid. Such a rigorous application of the constitutional doctrine is neither desirable nor feasible; the only absolute separation that has ever been possible was that in the theoretical writings of a Montesquieu, who looked across at foggy England from his sunny Gascon vineyards and completely misconstrued what he saw. (G.R. No. 127685. July 23, 1998)
CASE #2: In administrative law, a quasi-judicial proceeding involves: (a) taking and evaluation of evidence; (b) determining facts based upon the evidence presented; and (c) rendering an order or decision supported by the facts proved (De Leon, Administrative Law: Text and Cases, 1993 ed., p. 198, citing Morgan vs. United States, 304 U.S. 1). Inquisitorial power, which is also known as examining or investigatory power, is one or the determinative powers of an administrative body which better enables it to exercise its quasi-judicial authority (Cruz, Phil. Administrative Law, 1996 ed., p. 26). This power allows the administrative body to inspect the records and premises, and investigate the activities, of persons or entities coming under its jurisdiction, or to require disclosure of information by means or accounts, records, reports, testimony of witnesses, production of documents, or otherwise (G.R. No. 139465. January 18, 2000, citing De Leon, op. cit., p. 64).

CASE #3: The case at bar takes us to a most difficult area of constitutional law where man stands accountable to an authority higher than the state. To be held on balance are the state’s interest and the respondent’s religious freedom. In this highly sensitive area of law, the task of balancing between authority and liberty is most delicate because to the person invoking religious freedom, the consequences of the case are not only temporal. The task is not made easier by the American origin of our religion clauses and the wealth of U.S. jurisprudence on these clauses for in the United States, there is probably no more intensely controverted area of constitutional interpretation than the religion clauses. The U.S. Supreme Court itself has acknowledged that in this constitutional area, there is "considerable internal inconsistency in the opinions of the Court." As stated by a professor of law, "(i)t is by now notorious that legal doctrines and judicial decisions in the area of religious freedom are in serious disarray. In perhaps no other area of constitutional law have confusion and inconsistency achieved such undisputed sovereignty." Nevertheless, this thicket is the only path to take to conquer the mountain of a legal problem the case at bar presents. Both the penetrating and panoramic view this climb would provide will largely chart the course of religious freedom in Philippine jurisdiction. That the religious freedom question arose in an administrative case involving only one person does not alter the paramount importance of the question for the "constitution commands the positive protection by government of religious freedom -not only for a minority, however small- not only for a majority, however large- but for each of us."

CASE #4: Political Law has been defined as that branch of public law which deals with the organization and operation of the governmental organs of the State and define the relations of the state with the inhabitants of its territory (People vs. Perfecto, 43 Phil. 887, 897 [1922]). It may be recalled that political law embraces constitutional law, law of public corporations, administrative law including the law on public officers and elections. Specifically, Article 14 of the Code of Commerce partakes more of the nature of an administrative law because it regulates the conduct of certain public officers and employees with respect to engaging in business: hence, political in essence. (A.M. No. 133-J. May 31, 1982)

The discussion above is based on an outline by De Leon and De Leon, Jr. (2010) in their book on administrative law, available in fine bookstores nationwide. SOURCE: De Leon and De Leon, Jr. (2010). Administrative Law: Text and Cases. 6th edition. ISBN 978-971-23-5670-4. Rex Books Store.

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