Abolition of Air Transportation Office (ATO)

Well entrenched in this jurisdiction is the rule that the power to abolish a public office is lodged with the legislature. This proceeds from the legal precept that the power to create includes the power to destroy. A public office is created either by the Constitution, by statute, or by authority of law. Thus, except where the office was created by the Constitution itself, it may be abolished by the same legislature that brought it into existence.[1]

Indubitably, for example, the legislature through R.A. No. 9497 abolished the Air Transportation Office (ATO) as explicitly stated in Sections 4 and 85 thereof, viz:
SEC. 4. Creation of the Authority. – There is hereby created an independent regulatory body with quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative powers and possessing corporate attributes to be known as the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), hereinafter referred to as the “Authority”, attached to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) for the purpose of policy coordination. For this purpose, the existing Air Transportation Office created under the provisions of Republic Act No. 776, as amended, is hereby abolished.

x x x x

SEC. 85. Abolition of the Air Transportation Office. – The Air Transportation Office (ATO) created under Republic Act No. 776, a sectoral office of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), is hereby abolished.

All powers, duties and rights vested by law and exercised by the ATO is hereby transferred to the [Civil Aviation] Authority.

All assets, real and personal properties, funds and revenues owned by or vested in the different offices of the ATO are transferred to the Authority. All contracts, records and documents relating to the operations of the abolished agency and its offices and branches are likewise transferred to the Authority. Any real property owned by the national government or government-owned corporation or authority which is being used and utilized as office or facility by the ATO shall be transferred and titled in favor of the Authority. (Emphasis supplied)
Verily, the question on whether a law abolishes an office is a question of legislative intent. Because of this, a petitioner may attempt to raise doubts as to the real intention of Congress in abolishing an office. However, there should not be any controversy if there is an explicit declaration of abolition in the law itself.[2] For where a statute is clear, plain and free from ambiguity, it must be given its literal meaning and applied without attempt to interpret. Verba legis non est recedendum, index animi sermo est. There should be no departure from the words of the statute, for speech is the index of intention.[3] The legislature, through Sections 4 and 85 of R.A. No. 9497, has so clearly provided. As the Court merely interprets the law as it is, it has no discretion to give statutes a meaning detached from the manifest intendment and language thereof.[4]

There are two pieces of jurisprudence regarding the abolition of the ATO and the emergence of the CAAP by virtue of R.A. No. 9497. One such case is CAAP-EU and CAAP[5]. Another case, ATO v. Ramos,[6] held that the CAAP, as the legal successor of the ATO, is liable for obligations incurred by ATO; in said case, in no uncertain terms, it was held that the ATO was abolished by virtue of Sections 4 and 85 of R.A. No. 9497.

[1] Malaria Employees and Workers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (MEWAP) v. Romulo, 555 Phil. 629, 637 (2007), citing Buklod ng Kawaning EIIB v. Zamora, 413 Phil. 281, 289-290 (2001) at 291.

[2] Kapisanan ng mga Kawani ng Energy Regulatory Board v. Barin, 553 Phil. 1, 7 (2007).

[3] Limson v. Wack Wack Condominium Corporation, G.R. No. 188802, February 14, 2011, 642 SCRA 772, 780.

[4] Ortega v. People, 584 Phil. 429, 460 (2008).

[5] G.R. No. 190120, November 11, 2014.

[6] G.R. No. 159402, February 23, 2011, 644 SCRA 36, 47-49.