Endencia vs. David

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Separation of Powers

Saturnino David, the then Collector of Internal Revenue, ordered the taxing of Justice Pastor Endencia’s and Justice Fernando Jugo’s salary pursuant to Sec 13 of RA 590 which provides that “SEC. 13.   No salary wherever received by any public officer of the Republic of the Philippines shall be considered as exempt from the income tax, payment of which is hereby declared not to be a diminution of his compensation fixed by the Constitution or by law.” According to the brief of the Solicitor General on behalf of appellant Collector of Internal Revenue, our decision in the case of Perfecto vs. Meer, supra, was not received favorably by Congress, because immediately after its promulgation, Congress enacted Republic Act No. 590. To bring home his point, the Solicitor General reproduces what he considers the pertinent discussion in the Lower House of House Bill No. 1127 which became Republic Act No. 590.

ISSUE: Whether or not Sec 13 of RA 590 is constitutional.

HELD: By legislative fiat as enunciated in section 13, Republic Act No. 590, Congress says that taxing the salary of a judicial officer is not a decrease of compensation. This is a clear example of interpretation or ascertainment of the meaning of the phrase “which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office,” found in section 9, Article VIII of the Constitution, referring to the salaries of judicial officers. This act of interpreting the Constitution or any part thereof by the Legislature is an invasion of the well-defined and established province and jurisdiction of the Judiciary. “The rule is recognized elsewhere that the legislature cannot pass any declaratory act, or act declaratory of what the law was before its passage, so as to give it any binding weight with the courts. A legislative definition of a word as used in a statute is not conclusive of its meaning as used elsewhere; otherwise, the legislature would be usurping a judicial function in defining a term. ** The reason behind the exemption in the Constitution, as interpreted by the United States Federal Supreme Court and this Court, is to preserve the independence of the Judiciary, not only of this High Tribunal but of the other courts, whose present membership number more than 990 judicial officials. The independence of the judges is of far greater importance than any revenue that could come from taxing their salaries.

The doctrine laid down in the case of Perfecto vs. Meer,  to the effect that the collection of income tax on the salary of a judicial officer is a diminution thereof and so violates the Constitution.  The interpretation and application of the Constitution and of statutes is within the exclusive province and jurisdiction of the judicial department, and that in enacting a law, the Legislature may not legally provide therein that it be interpreted in such a way that it may not violate a Constitutional prohibition, thereby tying the hands of the courts in their task of later interpreting said statute, especially when the interpretation sought and provided in said statute runs counter to a previous interpretation already given in a case by the highest court of the land.

 

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