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BENGZON V DRILON

ISSUE

WON

the Courts Resolution is invalid otgt that it undermined Presidents

Appropriations Act is tantamount to dictating to the Judiciary how its

Aquinos veto

FACTS
1)

funds should be utilized, which is clearly repugnant to fiscal autonomy.


The freedom of the Chief Justice to make adjustments in the utilization of

As early as 1953, RA 910 was enacted to grant pensions to retired Justices

the funds appropriated for the expenditures of the judiciary, including the

of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals who have rendered at least 20

use of any savings from any particular item to cover deficits or shortages

years of service either in the judiciary or in any other branch of


government or in both, having attained 70 years or who resigned by

knows its priorities just as it is aware of the fiscal restraints. The Chief

Justice shall receive during the residue of his natural life the salary which
he was receiving at the time of his retirement of resignation.
This was amended by RA 1797 which provided for an automatic
adjustment of the pension rates. The same benefits were handed to the

in other items of the Judiciary is withheld.


Pursuant to the Constitutional mandate, the Judiciary must enjoy freedom
in the disposition of the funds allocated to it in the appropriations law. It

reason of incapacity to discharge the duties of the office. The retired

2)

In the case at bar, the veto of these specific provisions in the General

Justice must be given a free hand on how to augment appropriations

where augmentation is needed.


Furthermore, in the case of Gonzales v. Macaraig (191 SCRA 452 [1990]),

Constituional Commissions. PD 578 also extended said benefits to

the Court upheld the authority of the President and other key officials to

3)

members of the AFP.


In 1975, President Marcos issued PD 644, repealing the automatic

expediency and efficiency. The Court stated that:

4)

adjustment of pension rates to the prevailing rates of salaries


Subsequently, Marcos issued PD 1638 and 1909 restoring the adjustment

There should be no question, therefore, that statutory authority has, in

of pension rates to the AFP.


Realizing the unfairness and discrimination against the members of the

fact, been granted. And once given, the heads of the different branches of

5)

the Government and those of the Constitutional Commissions are

judiciary and Constitutional Commissions, Congress approved in 1990 a

afforded considerable flexibility in the use of public funds and resources

bill for the reenactment of the repealed provisions of RA No. 1797 and RA

(Demetria v. Alba, supra). The doctrine of separation of powers is in no

3595 to ensure that those serving in said institutions adequate old age

way endangered because the transfer is made within a department (or

pensions even during the time where the purchasing power of the peso

branch of government) and not from one department (branch) to

has been diminished by recession or inflation.


President Aquino vetoed the bill, reasoning that it would erode the

another.

6)

governments policy on standardization of compensation. Also, she said

7)

augment any item or any appropriation from savings in the interest of

that government should not grant distinct privileges to select group of

The Constitution, particularly Article VI, Section 25(5) also provides:


Sec. 25.
(5) No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of

officials whose retirement benefits under existing laws already enjoy

appropriations; however, the President, the President of the Senate, the

preferential treatment over those of the vast majority of the Civil Service

Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme

Servants.
But in 1991, a group of Justices (4) petitioned the Court for a readjustment

Court, and the heads of Constitutional Commissions may, by law, be

of their monthly pensions in accordance with RA 1797. They claimed that

their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective

authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for

PD 644 did not become law as there was no valid publication pursuant to
the ruling in Taada v. Tuvera. Since PD644 has no binding force or effect
8)
9)

of law, it therefore did not repeal RA No. 1797.


The Supreme Court, in a Resolution that same year, granted their request.
Pursuant to that resolution, Congress included in the General

savings for augmenting items for the payment of the pension differentials,

Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 1992 certain appropriations for the

Justice to augment other items in the Judiciary's appropriation, in

among others, are clearly in consonance with the abovestated


pronouncements of the Court. The veto impairs the power of the Chief

Judiciary intended for the payment of the adjusted pension rates due the
10)

retired Justices.
The Executive used her item veto power, claiming that the Courts
resolution had effectively nullified her veto of HB 16297.

DECISION

contravention of the constitutional provision on "fiscal autonomy."


NOTES
Fiscal Autonomy
-

trenches upon the constitutional grant of fiscal autonomy to the judiciary


We cannot overstress the importance of and the need for an independent
judiciary. The court has on various past occasions explained the

Commission

provision.

Office

of the

Ombudsman

resources with the wisdom and dispatch that their needs require.
It recognizes the power and authority to levy, assess and collect fees, fix

the course of the discharge of their functions.


Fiscal autonomy means freedom from outside control. If the Supreme
Court says it needs 100 typewriters but DBM rules we need only 10
typewriters and sends its recommendations to Congress without even
informing us, the autonomy given by the Constitution becomes an empty

system is based. In the interest of comity and cooperation, the Supreme

petitioners that this grant of autonomy should cease to be a meaningless

the

disburse such sums as may be provided by law or prescribed by them in

separation of powers upon which the entire fabric of our constitutional

limited their objections to constant reminders. We now agree with the

and

for compensation and pay plans of the government and allocate and

especially as regards the Supreme Court, of the independence and

Court, Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman have so far

Elections,

rates of compensation not exceeding the highest rates authorized by law

independent constitutional offices allocate and utilize the funds


violative not only of the express mandate of the Constitution but

on

contemplates a guarantee on full flexibility to allocate and utilize their

significance of Judicial Independence.


The imposition of restrictions and constraints on the manner the
appropriated for their operations is anathema to fiscal autonomy and

As envisioned in the Constitution, the fiscal autonomy enjoyed by the


Judiciary, the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Audit, the

The attempt to use the veto power to set aside a Resolution of this Court
and to deprive retirees of benefits given them by Rep. Act. No. 1797

appropriations.
In the instant case, the vetoed provisions which relate to the use of

and illusory platitude.


The Judiciary, the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman
must have the independence end flexibility needed in the discharge of
their constitutional duties.