Doctrine of judicial supremacy

Judicial Supremacy is the liberal view that courts are "supreme" over the other two branches of government and the Constitution, and that courts have the authority to tell the president and Congress what they may or may not do.

"Textbooks still say that we have three balanced branches of government – but textbooks are badly behind the times because one branch has assumed authority over the other two. Today, we are suffering from the oppressive rule of judicial supremacists who have replaced the rule of law with the rule of judges." (The Supremacists, 2nd Ed. 2006)

Section 1, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution now states in part that: "Judicial power includes the duty of courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government."

As early as 1936, the Philippine Supreme Court has unequivocally asserted its constitutional authority to engage in judicial review. This power was affirmed in the Supreme Court decision in Angara v. Electoral Commission, 63 Phil. 139 (1936).

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court would, in the next several decades, often decline to exercise judicial review by invoking the political question doctrine. In 1987, the constitutional convention formed to draft a new charter decided to provide for a definition of "judicial power" as a means of inhibiting the Supreme Court from frequently resorting to the political question doctrine.

The political question doctrine is closely linked to the concept of justiciability, as it comes down to a question of whether or not the court system is an appropriate forum in which to hear the case. Put in simpler terms, there are issues that the courts cannot pass upon and only the political components of government -- the Executive and the Legislative -- can decide.

The concept of justiciability was touched on in the case of Silverio v. Republic (G.R. No. 174689). In that case, a biological male underwent surgery to change his sexual organ. Back in the Philippines, he wanted to have his name and sex on his birth certificate "corrected," invoking the Cagandahan doctrine. However, the Supreme Court held that the Judiciary has not power to do so because it is up to Congress and the President to pass a law that would allow such a remedy.

In the above case, justiciability and political questions were not mentioned but they were basically what the Court invoked to deny Silverio's petition.
The Constitution is a definition of the powers of government. Who is to determine the nature, scope and extent of such powers?

According to our Supreme Court, judicial supremacy is but the power of judicial review in actual and appropriate cases and controversies, and is the power and duty to see that no one branch or agency of the government transcends the Constitution, which is the source of all authority.

The Constitution itself has provided for the instrumentality of the judiciary as the rational way. And when the judiciary mediates to allocate constitutional boundaries, it does not assert any superiority over the other departments; it does not in reality nullify or invalidate an act of the legislature, but only asserts the solemn and sacred obligation assigned to it by the Constitution to determine conflicting claims of authority under the Constitution and to establish for the parties in an actual controversy the rights which that instrument secures and guarantees to them. This is in truth all that is involved in what is termed "judicial supremacy" which properly is the power of judicial review under the Constitution. Even then, this power of judicial review is limited to actual cases and controversies to be exercised after full opportunity of argument by the parties, and limited further to the constitutional question raised or the very lis mota presented.

Any attempt at abstraction could only lead to dialectics and barren legal questions and to sterile conclusions unrelated to actualities. Narrowed as its function is in this manner, the judiciary does not pass upon questions of wisdom, justice or expediency of legislation. More than that, courts accord the presumption of constitutionality to legislative enactments, not only because the legislature is presumed to abide by the Constitution but also because the judiciary in the determination of actual cases and controversies must reflect the wisdom and justice of the people as expressed through their representatives in the executive and legislative departments of the governments of the government. (G.R. No. L-45081)

The discussion above is based on Anna Leah Fidelis T. CastaƱeda (2001). "The Origins of Philippine Judicial Review, 1900-1935" (PDF). Ateneo Law Journal (republished online by Harvard law School). Cited in "Judicial review in the Philippines". From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Also based on The Supremacists (2nd Ed. 2006). Cited in "Judicial supremacy".