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Demetria vs. Alba, G.R. No.

71977, February 27, 1987

FACTS:

This petition for prohibition assails the first paragraph of the Budget Reform Decree of 1977,
which provides:

Section 44 of Presidential Decree No. 1177 or The Budget Reform Decree of 1977, paragraph
1:

“The president shall have authority to transfer any fund, appropriated for the different
departments, bureaus, offices and agencies of the Executive Department, which are included in
the General Appropriations Act, to any program, project or activity of any department, bureau, or
office included in the General Appropriations Act or approved after its enactment”.

In particular, petitioners claim that the provision violates the following constitutional provision:

Section 16(5), Article VIII of the 1973 Constitution — No law shall be passed authorizing any
transfer of appropriations, however, the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court, and the heads of constitutional commissions may by law be
authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices
from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.

The petition additionally argues that:

 The provision infringes upon fundamental law by authorizing illegal transfer of public funds
 It is repugnant to the Constitution as it fails to specify objectives and purposes for which
proposed transfer of funds are to be made
 It allows the President to override safeguards, form and procedure prescribed by the
Constitution in approving appropriations
 It amounts to an undue delegation of legislative powers to the executive
 The threatened, continuing transfer of funds by the President and the implementation
thereof by the Budget Minister and the Treasurer of the Philippines are without or in
excess of their authority and jurisdiction.

The defendants assert that:

 Petitioners do not have legal standing;


 The petition asks for an advisory opinion of the Court since there was no justiciable
controversy.
 Abrogation (abolition) of Section 16(5) of the 1973 Constitution by the Freedom
Constitution of March 26, 1986, allegedly rendering instant petition moot (debatable) and
academic.

ISSUES:
1. Whether the petition can be dismissed on the grounds that the case has become moot and
academic as Section 16(5) of the 1973 Constitution has been abolished by Freedom
Constitution of March 25, 1986 – NO.

2. Whether the petitioners have standing to question the constitutionality of paragraph 1 of The
Budget Reform Decree of 1977 – YES.

3. Whether paragraph 1 of The Budget Reform Decree of 1977 is unconstitutional in light of


Section 16(5) of the 1973 Constitution – YES.

4. Whether prohibition can lie from one branch of government against a coordinate branch to
enjoin the performance of duties within the latter’s sphere of responsibility – YES.

RATIO:
1. The Court will not disregard and in effect condone wrong on the simplistic and tolerant pretext
that the case has become moot and academic. It should also be noted that the 1987
Constitution carries verbatim Section 16(5) Article 8 of the 1973 Constitution

2. The expenditure of public funds by an officer of the state for unconstitutional acts and
purposes is a misapplication of funds, which may be enjoined at the request of a taxpayer.
Taxpayers have sufficient interest in preventing illegal spending of tax money and may question
the constitutionality of statutes concerned with expenditure of public money.

3. In the 1973 Constitution, it is explicitly stated that one cannot transfer an appropriation for one
item to another. However, it allowed enactment of a law which authorized transfer of funds in
order to augment an item from savings in another item in the appropriation of the govt. branch
or constitutional body concerned. This leeway is limited, and was only granted to allow heads of
govt. branches some flexibility in the use of public funds and resources. This limitation stems
from the fact that the PURPOSE and CONDITION for fund transferring was required.

Paragraph 1 of The Budget Reform Decree of 1977 unduly overextends the privilege granted in
sec. 16(5) because the President can indiscriminately transfer funds from the Executive Dept.’s
branches to any branch in the General Appropriations Act without regard as to whether or not 1)
the funds are actually savings in the item from which it is taken, 2) the transfer is for the purpose
of augmenting the item to which the said transfer is made. Although there is no complete
disregard of the standards in the fundamental law, it goes beyond the tenor thereof. It puts the
bypasses the safeguards in Sec. 16 and 18 of Article VIII of the 1973 Constitution on the
release of money from the Treasury.

4. The Constitution apportions the powers of government, but it does not make it so that one
branch is subordinate to another. In other words, all the branches are created equal. When the
legislative or executive branch is acting within the limits of authority, the judiciary cannot
interfere with the former. But the when former acts beyond the scope of its constitutional
powers, it is the duty of the judiciary to declare what the other branches had assumed to do as
void. Respondents are not acting within their sphere of responsibility and are hence, enjoined
form acting under the unconstitutional provision in question.