Sarmiento v. Mison [GR L-79974, 17 December 1987]
En Banc, Padilla (p): 8 concur
Facts: Petitioners, who are taxpayers, lawyers, members of the IBP and professors of Constitutional Law, seek to enjoin Salvador Mison from performing the functions of the Office of Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and Guillermo Carague, as Secretary of the Department of Budget, from effecting disbursements in payment of Mison’s salaries and emoluments, on the ground that Mison’s appointment as Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs is unconstitutional by reason of its not having been confirmed by the Commission on Appointments. The respondents, on the other hand, maintain the constitutionality of Mison’s appointment without the confirmation of the Commission on Appointments.
The Supreme Court held that the President has the authority to appoint Mison as Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs without submitting his nomination to the Commission on Appointments for confirmation, and thus, the latter is entitled the full authority and functions of the office and receive all the salaries and emoluments pertaining thereto. Thus, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition and the petition in intervention, without costs.
- Standing to file suit / Prohibition as proper remedy: Procedural questions set aside due to demands of public interest
Because of the demands of public interest, including the need for stability in the public service, the Court resolved to give due course to the petition and decide, setting aside the finer procedural questions of whether prohibition is the proper remedy to test Mison’s right to the office of Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and of whether the petitioners have a standing to bring this suit.
- Constitutional Construction
The fundamental principle of constitutional construction is to give effect to the intent of the framers of the organic law and of the people adopting it. The intention to which force is to be given is that which is embodied and expressed in the constitutional provisions themselves. (Gold Creek Mining v. Rodriguez) The Court will thus construe the applicable constitutional provisions, not in accordance with how the executive or the legislative department may want them construed, but in accordance with what they say and provide.
- President’s power to appoint
Section 16, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution empowers the President to appoint 4 groups of officers: (1) the heads of the executive departments, ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, officers of the armed forces from the rank of colonel or naval captain, and other officers whose appointments are vested in him in this Constitution; (2) all other officers of the Government whose appointments are not otherwise provided for by law; (3) those whom the President may be authorized by law to appoint; and (4) officers lower in rank 4 whose appointments the Congress may by law vest in the President alone. The first group is clearly appointed with the consent of the Commission on Appointments. Appointments of such officers are initiated by nomination and, if the nomination is confirmed by the Commission on Appointments, the President appoints. The second and third groups of officers can be made by the President without the consent (confirmation) of the Commission on Appointments, as can be determined through the recorded proceedings of Constitutional Commission.
- Express enumeration excludes others not enumerated
It is an accepted rule in constitutional and statutory construction that an express enumeration of subjects excludes others not enumerated. In the case at bar, it would follow that only those appointments to positions expressly stated in the first group require the consent (confirmation) of the Commission on Appointments.
- Constitutional provision presumed to have been framed and adopted in light of prior laws
A constitutional provision must be presumed to have been framed and adopted in the light and understanding of prior and existing laws and with reference to them. Courts are bound to presume that the people adopting a constitution are familiar with the previous and existing laws upon the subjects to which its provisions relate, and upon which they express their judgment and opinion in its adoption. In the 1935 Constitution, almost all presidential appointments required the consent (confirmation) of the Commission on Appointments. Under the 1935 Constitution, the commission was frequently transformed into a venue of “horse-trading” and similar malpractices. On the other hand, the 1973 Constitution, consistent with the authoritarian pattern in which it was molded and remolded by successive amendments, placed the absolute power of appointment in the President with hardly any check on the part of the legislature. Given the above two in extremes, one, in the 1935 Constitution and the other, in the 1973 Constitution, it is not difficult for the Court to state that the framers of the 1987 Constitution and the people adopting it, struck a “middle ground” by requiring the consent (confirmation) of the Commission on Appointments for the first group of appointments and leaving to the President, without such confirmation, the appointment of other officers, i.e., those in the second and third groups as well as those in the fourth group, i.e., officers of lower rank. The proceedings in the 1986 Constitutional Commission support this conclusion.
- Construction of “also” in second sentence; consideration of different language of proximate sentences to determine meaning
The word “also” could mean “in addition; as well; besides, too” besides “in like manner” which meanings could stress that the word “also” in said second sentence means that the President, in addition to nominating and, with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, appointing the officers enumerated in the first sentence, can appoint (without such consent or confirmation) the officers mentioned in the second sentence, contrary to the interpretation that the President shall appoint the officers mentioned in said second sentence in the same manner as he appoints officers mentioned in the first sentence. Rather than limit the area of consideration to the possible meanings of the word “also” as used in the context of said second sentence, the Court has chosen to derive significance from the fact that the first sentence speaks of nomination by the President and appointment by the President with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, whereas, the second sentence speaks only of appointment by the President. And, this use of different language in 2 sentences proximate to each other underscores a difference in message conveyed and perceptions established. Thus, words are not pebbles in alien juxtaposition.
- Power to appoint fundamentally executive in character; Limitations construed strictly
The power to appoint is fundamentally executive or presidential in character. Limitations on or qualifications of such power should be strictly construed. Such limitations or qualifications must be clearly stated in order to be recognized. In the case at bar, the first sentence of Sec. 16, Art. VII clearly stated that appointments by the President to the positions therein enumerated require the consent of the Commission on Appointments.
- The use of word “alone” after “President” in third sentence is a lapse in draftsmanship, a literal import deemed redundant
After a careful study of the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, the Court found the use of the word “alone” after the word “President” in said third sentence of Sec. 16, Article VII is, more than anything else, a slip or lapsus in draftmanship. In the 1987 Constitution, the clear and expressed intent of its framers was to exclude presidential appointments from confirmation by the Commission on Appointments, except appointments to offices expressly mentioned in the first sentence. Consequently, there was no reason to use in the third sentence the word “alone” after the word “President” in providing that Congress may by law vest the appointment of lower-ranked officers in the President alone, or in the courts, or in the heads of departments, because the power to appoint officers whom the President may be authorized by law to appoint is already vested in him, without need of confirmation by the Commission on Appointments, in the second sentence. The word “alone” in the third sentence, as a literal import from the last part of par. 3, section 10, Article VII of the 1935 Constitution, appears to be redundant in the light of the second sentence. This redundancy cannot prevail over the clear and positive intent of the framers of the 1987 Constitution that presidential appointments, except those mentioned in the first sentence, are not subject to confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.
- President authorized Commissioner of Bureau of Customs; Commissioner not included with the first group of appointment
The position of Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs (a bureau head) is not one of those within the first group of appointments where the consent of the Commission on Appointments is required. The 1987 Constitution deliberately excluded the position of “heads of bureaus” from appointments that need the consent (confirmation) of the Commission on Appointments. Moreover, the President is expressly authorized by law to appoint the Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs (RA 1937, Tarifff and Customs Code of the Philippines, Section 601, as amended by PD34 on 27 October 1972).
- Laws approved during the effectivity of previous constitution must be read in harmony with the new one
RA 1937 and PD 34 were approved during the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution, under which the President may nominate and, with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, appoint the heads of bureaus, like the Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs. After the effectivity of the 1987 Constitution, however, RA 1937 and PD 34 have to be read in harmony with Sec. 16, Art. VII, with the result that, while the appointment of the Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs is one that devolves on the President, as an appointment he is authorized by law to make, such appointment, however, no longer needs the confirmation of the Commission on Appointments.