President's stand-by authority under VAT law

Under the VAT law, the President would proclaim, upon the Finance Secretary's recommendation, the change of rate from 10% to 12% if certain circumstances were present. The Supreme Court said that this is not an undue delegation of power. (G.R. No. 168056. September 01, 2005)

In ABAKADA v. Purisima (2005), petitioners ABAKADA GURO Party List, et al., Pimentel, Jr., et al., and Escudero, et al. contend in common that Sections 4, 5 and 6 of R.A. No. 9337, amending Sections 106, 107 and 108, respectively, of the Tax Code giving the President the stand-by authority to raise the VAT rate from 10% to 12% when a certain condition is met, constitutes undue delegation of the legislative power to tax.

According to the Supreme Court, the President's stand-by authority is NOT a delegation of power. It is simply a delegation of ascertainment of facts upon which enforcement and administration of the increase rate under the law is contingent. The legislature has made the operation of the 12% rate effective January 1, 2006, contingent upon a specified fact or condition. It leaves the entire operation or non-operation of the 12% rate upon factual matters outside of the control of the executive. No discretion would be exercised by the President. (G.R. No. 168056. September 01, 2005)

Thus, it is the ministerial duty of the President to immediately impose the 12% rate upon the existence of any of the conditions specified by Congress. This is a duty which cannot be evaded by the President.In making his recommendation to the President on the existence of either of the two conditions, the Secretary of Finance is not acting as the alter ego of the President or even her subordinate. In such instance, he is not subject to the power of control and direction of the President. He is acting as the agent of the legislative department, to determine and declare the event upon which its expressed will is to take effect.

The Secretary of Finance becomes the means or tool by which legislative policy is determined and implemented, considering that he possesses all the facilities to gather data and information and has a much broader perspective to properly evaluate them. His function is to gather and collate statistical data and other pertinent information and verify if any of the two conditions laid out by Congress is present. His personality in such instance is in reality but a projection of that of Congress. Thus, being the agent of Congress and not of the President, the President cannot alter or modify or nullify, or set aside the findings of the Secretary of Finance and to substitute the judgment of the former for that of the latter. (G.R. No. 168056. September 01, 2005)

Congress simply granted the Secretary of Finance the authority to ascertain the existence of a fact, namely, whether by December 31, 2005, the value-added tax collection as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the previous year exceeds two and four-fifth percent (24/5%) or the national government deficit as a percentage of GDP of the previous year exceeds one and one-half percent (1½%). If either of these two instances has occurred, the Secretary of Finance, by legislative mandate, must submit such information to the President. Then the 12% VAT rate must be imposed by the President effective January 1, 2006. There is no undue delegation of legislative power but only of the discretion as to the execution of a law. This is constitutionally permissible. Congress does not abdicate its functions or unduly delegate power when it describes what job must be done, who must do it, and what is the scope of his authority; in our complex economy that is frequently the only way in which the legislative process can go forward.

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