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Case Digest: Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Zamora, G.R. No. 141284, 15 August 2000

Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Zamora,  G.R. No. 141284, 15 August 2000

TOPIC: Political Question or Justiciable Controversy


At bar is a special civil action for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for issuance of a temporary restraining order seeking to nullify on constitutional grounds the order of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada commanding the deployment of the Philippine Marines (the “Marines”) to join the Philippine National Police (the “PNP”) in visibility patrols around the metropolis.

In view of the alarming increase in violent crimes in Metro Manila, like robberies, kidnappings and carnappings, the President, in a verbal directive, ordered the PNP and the Marines to conduct joint visibility patrols for the purpose of crime prevention and suppression. The Secretary of National Defense, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (the “AFP”), the Chief of the PNP and the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government were tasked to execute and implement the said order. In compliance with the presidential mandate, the PNP Chief, through Police Chief Superintendent Edgar B. Aglipay, formulated Letter of Instruction 02/20001 (the “LOI”) which detailed the manner by which the joint visibility patrols, called Task Force Tulungan, would be conducted.2 Task Force Tulungan was placed under the leadership of the Police Chief of Metro Manila.

Subsequently, the President confirmed his previous directive on the deployment of the Marines in a Memorandum, dated 24 January 2000, addressed to the Chief of Staff of the AFP and the PNP Chief.3 In the Memorandum, the President expressed his desire to improve the peace and order situation in Metro Manila through a more effective crime prevention program including increased police patrols.4 The President further stated that to heighten police visibility in the metropolis, augmentation from the AFP is necessary. Invoking his powers as Commander-in-Chief under Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution, the President directed the AFP Chief of Staff and PNP Chief to coordinate with each other for the proper deployment and utilization of the Marines to assist the PNP in preventing or suppressing criminal or lawless violence.6 Finally, the President declared that the services of the Marines in the anti-crime campaign are merely temporary in nature and for a reasonable period only, until such time when the situation shall have improved.


  1. WON the IBP has legal standing
  2. WON the the act of the President in deploying the Marines is justiciable controversy
  3. WON  President did not commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction nor did he commit a violation of the civilian supremacy clause of the Constitution


  1. Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.

When questions of constitutional significance are raised, the Court can exercise its power of judicial review only if the following requisites are complied with, namely: (1) the existence of an actual and appropriate case; (2) a personal and substantial interest of the party raising the constitutional question; (3) the exercise of judicial review is pleaded at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the constitutional question is the lis mota of the case.12

The IBP has not sufficiently complied with the requisites of standing in this case.

“Legal standing” or locus standi has been defined as a personal and substantial interest in the case such that the party has sustained or will sustain direct injury as a result of the governmental act that is being challenged. The term “interest” means a material interest, an interest in issue affected by the decree, as distinguished from mere interest in the question involved, or a mere incidental interest.14 The gist of the question of standing is whether a party alleges “such personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.

Having stated the foregoing, it must be emphasized that this Court has the discretion to take cognizance of a suit which does not satisfy the requirement of legal standing when paramount interest is involved.16 In not a few cases, the Court has adopted a liberal attitude on the locus standi of a petitioner where the petitioner is able to craft an issue of transcendental significance to the people.17 Thus, when the issues raised are of paramount importance to the public, the Court may brush aside technicalities of procedure.18 In this case, a reading of the petition shows that the IBP has advanced constitutional issues which deserve the attention of this Court in view of their seriousness, novelty and weight as precedents. Moreover, because peace and order are under constant threat and lawless violence occurs in increasing tempo, undoubtedly aggravated by the Mindanao insurgency problem, the legal controversy raised in the petition almost certainly will not go away. It will stare us in the face again. It, therefore, behooves the Court to relax the rules on standing and to resolve the issue now, rather than later.

  1. As a general proposition, a controversy is justiciable if it refers to a matter which is appropriate for court review.  It pertains to issues which are inherently susceptible of being decided on grounds recognized by law. Nevertheless the Court does not automatically assume jurisdiction over actual constitutional cases brought before it even in instances that are ripe for resolution. One class of cases wherein the Court hesitates to rule on are “political questions.” The reason is that political questions are concerned with issues dependent upon the wisdom, not the legality, of a particular act or measure being assailed. Moreover, the political question being a function of the separation of powers, the courts will not normally interfere with the workings of another co-equal branch unless the case shows a clear need for the courts to step in to uphold the law and the Constitution.

As Tañada v. Cuenco23 puts it, political questions refer “to those questions which, under the Constitution, are to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the legislative or executive branch of government.” Thus, if an issue is clearly identified by the text of the Constitution as matters for discretionary action by a particular branch of government or to the people themselves then it is held to be a political question. In the classic formulation of Justice Brennan in Baker v. Carr, “[p]rominent on the surface of any case held to involve a political question is found a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department; or a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it; or the impossibility of deciding without an initial policy determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial discretion; or the impossibility of a court’s undertaking independent resolution without expressing lack of the respect due coordinate branches of government; or an unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made; or the potentiality of embarassment from multifarious pronouncements by various departments on the one question.”

The 1987 Constitution expands the concept of judicial review by providing that “(T)he Judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law. Judicial power includes the duty of the 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.”25 Under this definition, the Court cannot agree with the Solicitor General that the issue involved is a political question beyond the jurisdiction of this Court to review. When the grant of power is qualified, conditional or subject to limitations, the issue of whether the prescribed qualifications or conditions have been met or the limitations respected, is justiciable – the problem being one of legality or validity, not its wisdom. Moreover, the jurisdiction to delimit constitutional boundaries has been given to this Court. When political questions are involved, the Constitution limits the determination as to whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the official whose action is being questioned.

By grave abuse of discretion is meant simply capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment that is patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion or hostility.

Under this definition, a court is without power to directly decide matters over which full discretionary authority has been delegated. But while this Court has no power to substitute its judgment for that of Congress or of the President, it may look into the question of whether such exercise has been made in grave abuse of discretion. A showing that plenary power is granted either department of government, may not be an obstacle to judicial inquiry, for the improvident exercise or abuse thereof may give rise to justiciable controversy.

When the President calls the armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion, he necessarily exercises a discretionary power solely vested in his wisdom. This is clear from the intent of the framers and from the text of the Constitution itself. The Court, thus, cannot be called upon to overrule the President’s wisdom or substitute its own. However, this does not prevent an examination of whether such power was exercised within permissible constitutional limits or whether it was exercised in a manner constituting grave abuse of discretion. In view of the constitutional intent to give the President full discretionary power to determine the necessity of calling out the armed forces, it is incumbent upon the petitioner to show that the President’s decision is totally bereft of factual basis. The present petition fails to discharge such heavy burden as there is no evidence to support the assertion that there exist no justification for calling out the armed forces. There is, likewise, no evidence to support the proposition that grave abuse was committed because the power to call was exercised in such a manner as to violate the constitutional provision on civilian supremacy over the military. In the performance of this Court’s duty of “purposeful hesitation”32 before declaring an act of another branch as unconstitutional, only where such grave abuse of discretion is clearly shown shall the Court interfere with the President’s judgment. To doubt is to sustain.

There is a clear textual commitment under the Constitution to bestow on the President full discretionary power to call out the armed forces and to determine the necessity for the exercise of such power. Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution, which embodies the powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief, provides in part:

The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.

  1. The deployment of the Marines does not violate the civilian supremacy clause nor does it infringe the civilian character of the police force. Prescinding from its argument that no emergency situation exists to justify the calling of the Marines, the IBP asserts that by the deployment of the Marines, the civilian task of law enforcement is “militarized” in violation of Section 3, Article II36 of the Constitution.

We disagree. The deployment of the Marines does not constitute a breach of the civilian supremacy clause. The calling of the Marines in this case constitutes permissible use of military assets for civilian law enforcement. The participation of the Marines in the conduct of joint visibility patrols is appropriately circumscribed. The limited participation of the Marines is evident in the provisions of the LOI itself, which sufficiently provides the metes and bounds of the Marines’ authority. It is noteworthy that the local police forces are the ones in charge of the visibility patrols at all times, the real authority belonging to the PNP. In fact, the Metro Manila Police Chief is the overall leader of the PNP-Philippine Marines joint visibility patrols.37 Under the LOI, the police forces are tasked to brief or orient the soldiers on police patrol procedures.38 It is their responsibility to direct and manage the deployment of the Marines. It is, likewise, their duty to provide the necessary equipment to the Marines and render logistical support to these soldiers. In view of the foregoing, it cannot be properly argued that military authority is supreme over civilian authority. Moreover, the deployment of the Marines to assist the PNP does not unmake the civilian character of the police force. Neither does it amount to an “insidious incursion” of the military in the task of law enforcement in violation of Section 5(4), Article XVI of the Constitution.

In this regard, it is not correct to say that General Angelo Reyes, Chief of Staff of the AFP, by his alleged involvement in civilian law enforcement, has been virtually appointed to a civilian post in derogation of the aforecited provision. The real authority in these operations, as stated in the LOI, is lodged with the head of a civilian institution, the PNP, and not with the military. Such being the case, it does not matter whether the AFP Chief actually participates in the Task Force Tulungan since he does not exercise any authority or control over the same. Since none of the Marines was incorporated or enlisted as members of the PNP, there can be no appointment to civilian position to speak of. Hence, the deployment of the Marines in the joint visibility patrols does not destroy the civilian character of the PNP.

Considering the above circumstances, the Marines render nothing more than assistance required in conducting the patrols. As such, there can be no “insidious incursion” of the military in civilian affairs nor can there be a violation of the civilian supremacy clause in the Constitution.


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