Leopoldo Bacani vs National Coconut Corporation

November 6, 2011
  • Political Law
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100 Phil. 468 – Political Law – Two-fold Function of the Government – Constituent vs Ministrant Functions

Leopoldo Bacani and Mateo Matoto were court stenographers assigned in a court in Manila. During the pendency of a particular case in said court, counsel for one of the parties, National Coconut Corporation or NACOCO, requested said stenographers for copies of the transcript of the stenographic notes taken by them during the hearing. Bacani et al complied with the request and sent 714 pages and thereafter submitted to said counsel their bills for the payment of their fees. The National Coconut Corporation paid the amount of P564 to Bacani and P150 to Matoto for said transcripts at the rate of P1 per page.

However, in January 1953, the Auditor General required Bacani et al to reimburse said amounts on the strength of a circular of the Department of Justice. It was expressed that NACOCO, being a government entity, was exempt from the payment of the fees in question. Bacani et al counter that NACOCO is not a government entity within the purview of section 16, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court. NACOCO set up as a defense that the NACOCO is a government entity within the purview of section 2 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 and, hence, it is exempt from paying the stenographers’ fees under Rule 130 of the Rules of Court.

ISSUE: Whether or not NACOCO is a government entity.

HELD: No. Government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) do not acquire the status of being part of the government because they do not come under the classification of municipal or public corporation. Take for instance the NACOCO. While it was organized with the purpose of “adjusting the coconut industry to a position independent of trade preferences in the United States” and of providing “Facilities for the better curing of copra products and the proper utilization of coconut by-products“, a function which our government has chosen to exercise to promote the coconut industry,  it was, however, given a corporate power separate and distinct from our government, for it was made subject to the provisions of our Corporation Law in so far as its corporate existence and the powers that it may exercise are concerned (sections 2 and 4, Commonwealth Act No. 518 – the law creating NACOCO). It may sue and be sued in the same manner as any other private corporations, and in this sense it is an entity different from our government.

The Supreme Court also noted the constituent functions of the government. Constituent functions are those which constitute the very bonds of society and are compulsory in nature.  According to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, they are  as follows:

1. The keeping of order and providing for the protection of persons and property from violence and robbery.

2. The fixing of the legal relations between man and wife and between parents and children.

3. The regulation of the holding, transmission, and interchange of property, and the determination of its liabilities for debt or for crime.

4. The determination of contract rights between individuals.

5. The definition and punishment of crime.

6. The administration of justice in civil cases.

7. The determination of the political duties, privileges, and relations of citizens.

8. Dealings of the state with foreign powers: the preservation of the state from external danger or encroachment and the advancement of its international interests.

On the other hand, ministrant functions are those that are undertaken only by way of advancing the general interests of society, and are merely optional. The most important of the ministrant functions are: public works, public education, public charity, health and safety regulations, and regulations of trade and industry. The principles to consider whether or not a government shall exercise certain of these optional functions are: (1) that a government should do for the public welfare those things which private capital would not naturally undertake and (2) that a government should do these things which by its very nature it is better equipped to administer for the public welfare than is any private individual or group of individuals.

 

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