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NITAFAN VS CIR

G.R. No. 78780 July 23 1987 [Salaries of the members of Judiciary, Tax Exemption]
FACTS:
The Chief Justice has previously issued a directive to the Fiscal Management and
Budget Office to continue the deduction of withholding taxes from salaries of the
Justices of the Supreme Court and other members of the judiciary. This was affirmed
by
the
Supreme
Court
en
banc
on
4
December
1987.
Nitafan and some others, duly qualified and appointed judges of the RTC, NCR, all
with stations in Manila, seek to prohibit and/or perpetually enjoin the Commissioner
of Internal Revenue and the Financial Officer of the Supreme Court, from making
any deduction of withholding taxes from their salaries.
They submit that "any tax withheld from their emoluments or compensation as
judicial officers constitutes a decrease or diminution of their salaries, contrary to the
provision of Section 10, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution mandating that during
their continuance in office, their salary shall not be decreased," even as it is
anathema to the Ideal of an independent judiciary envisioned in and by said
Constitution."
ISSUE: Whether or not members of the Judiciary are exempt from income taxes.
HELD:
NO. Intent to delete express grant of exemption of income taxes to members of
Judiciary
The salaries of members of the Judiciary are subject to the general income tax
applied to all taxpayers. This intent was somehow and inadvertently not clearly set
forth in the final text of the Constitution as approved and ratified in February, 1987
(infra, pp. 7-8). Although the intent may have been obscured by the failure to
include in the General Provisions a proscription against exemption of any public
officer or employee, including constitutional officers, from payment of income tax,
the Court since then has authorized the continuation of the deduction of the
withholding tax from the salaries of the members of the Supreme Court, as well as
from the salaries of all other members of the Judiciary. The Court hereby makes of
record that it had then discarded the ruling in Perfecto vs. Meer and Endencia vs.
David.
The 1973 Constitution has provided that no salary or any form of emolument of
any public officer or employee, including constitutional officers, shall be exempt
from payment of income tax (Section 6, Article XV) which was not present in the
1987 Constitution. The deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission relevant
to Section 10, Article VIII (The salary of the Chief Justice and of the Associate

Justices of the Supreme Court, and of judges of lower courts shall be fixed by law.
During their continuance in office, their salary shall not be decreased), negate the
contention that the intent of the framers is to revert to the original concept of nondiminution of salaries of judicial officers.
Equality of branches of government effected by modifications in provision.
The term diminished be changed to decreased and that the words nor
subjected to income tax be deleted so as to give substance to equality among the
three branches in the government. A period (.) after decreased was made on the
understanding that the salary of justices is subject to tax. With the period, the
doctrine in Perfecto vs. Meer and Endencia vs. David is understood not to apply
anymore. Justices and judges are not only the citizens whose income have been
reduced in accepting service in government and yet subjected to income tax. Such
is true also of Cabinet members and all other employees.
Constitutional construction adopts the intent of the framers and people adopting
the law.
The ascertainment of the intent is but in keeping with the fundamental principle of
constitutional construction that the intent of the framers of the organic law and of
the people adopting it should be given effect. The primary task in constitutional
construction is to ascertain and thereafter assure the realization of the purpose of
the framers and of the people in the adoption of the Constitution. It may also be
safely assumed that the people in ratifying the Constitution were guided mainly by
the explanation offered by the framers. In the case at bar, Section 10, Article VIII is
plain that the Constitution authorizes Congress to pass a law fixing another rate of
compensation of Justices and Judges but such rate must be higher than that which
they are receiving at the time of enactment, or if lower, it would be applicable only
to those appointed after its approval. It would be a strained construction to read
into the provision an exemption from taxation in the light of the discussion in the
Constitutional Commission.