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257.

BIRAOGO vs PT 637 SCRA 78

FACTS:
Pres. Aquino signed E. O. No. 1 establishing Philippine Truth Commission of 2010
(PTC) dated July 30, 2010.

PTC is a mere ad hoc body formed under the Office of the President with the primary
task to investigate reports of graft and corruption committed by third-level public officers
and employees, their co-principals, accomplices and accessories during the previous
administration, and to submit its finding and recommendations to the President,
Congress and the Ombudsman. PTC has all the powers of an investigative body. But it
is not a quasi-judicial body as it cannot adjudicate, arbitrate, resolve, settle, or render
awards in disputes between contending parties. All it can do is gather, collect and
assess evidence of graft and corruption and make recommendations. It may have
subpoena powers but it has no power to cite people in contempt, much less order their
arrest. Although it is a fact-finding body, it cannot determine from such facts if probable
cause exists as to warrant the filing of an information in our courts of law.

Petitioners asked the Court to declare it unconstitutional and to enjoin the PTC from
performing its functions. They argued that: E.O. No. 1 violates the equal protection
clause as it selectively targets for investigation and prosecution officials and personnel
of the previous administration as if corruption is their peculiar species even as it
excludes those of the other administrations, past and present, who may be indictable.

Respondents, through OSG, questioned the legal standing of petitioners and argued
that:

1] E.O. No. 1 does not arrogate the powers of Congress because the President’s
executive power and power of control necessarily include the inherent power to conduct
investigations to ensure that laws are faithfully executed and that, in any event, the
Constitution, Revised Administrative Code of 1987, PD No. 141616 (as amended), R.A.
No. 9970 and settled jurisprudence, authorize the President to create or form such
bodies.

ISSUES:
Whether or not, E. O. No. 1 violates the equal protection clause.

RULING:

Court finds difficulty in upholding the constitutionality of Executive Order No. 1 in view of
its apparent transgression of the equal protection clause enshrined in Section 1, Article
III (Bill of Rights) of the 1987 Constitution.
Equal protection requires that all persons or things similarly situated should be treated
alike, both as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed. It requires public bodies
and institutions to treat similarly situated individuals in a similar manner. The purpose of
the equal protection clause is to secure every person within a state’s jurisdiction against
intentional and arbitrary discrimination, whether occasioned by the express terms of a
statue or by its improper execution through the state’s duly constituted authorities.

There must be equality among equals as determined according to a valid classification.


Equal protection clause permits classification. Such classification, however, to be valid
must pass the test of reasonableness. The test has four requisites: (1) The classification
rests on substantial distinctions; (2) It is germane to the purpose of the law; (3) It is not
limited to existing conditions only; and (4) It applies equally to all members of the same
class.

The classification will be regarded as invalid if all the members of the class are not
similarly treated, both as to rights conferred and obligations imposed.

Executive Order No. 1 should be struck down as violative of the equal protection clause.
The clear mandate of truth commission is to investigate and find out the truth
concerning the reported cases of graft and corruption during the previous administration
only. The intent to single out the previous administration is plain, patent and manifest.

Arroyo administration is but just a member of a class, that is, a class of past
administrations. It is not a class of its own. Not to include past administrations similarly
situated constitutes arbitrariness which the equal protection clause cannot sanction.
Such discriminating differentiation clearly reverberates to label the commission as a
vehicle for vindictiveness and selective retribution. Superficial differences do not make
for a valid classification.

The PTC must not exclude the other past administrations. The PTC must, at least, have
the authority to investigate all past administrations.

The Constitution is the fundamental and paramount law of the nation to which all other
laws must conform and in accordance with which all private rights determined and all
public authority administered. Laws that do not conform to the Constitution should be
stricken down for being unconstitutional.

WHEREFORE, the petitions are GRANTED. Executive Order No. 1 is hereby declared
UNCONSTITUTIONAL insofar as it is violative of the equal protection clause of the
Constitution.