Supreme Court junks petition vs Oil Deregulation Law

Published by rudy Date posted on April 23, 2009

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – For the second time in a row, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition questioning the propriety of the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1996.

The High Court in a 16-page en banc resolution penned by Associate Justice Arturo Brion concurred by 12 justices, except Justice Dante Tinga who took no part because he was sponsor and author of the challenged law, ruled against Bataan congressman Enrique Garcia’s Constitutionality challenge of the law.

“We declare the issues (Garcia) presented to this Court are non-justifiable matters that preclude the Court from exercising its power of judicial review.” It added, “the immediate implementation of the full deregulation of the local downstream oil industry is a policy determination by Congress which this Court cannot overturn without offending the Constitution and the principle of separation of powers.”

The SC further added that “the law failed in its objectives because its adoption spawned the evils petitioner Garcia alludes to does not warrant its nullification.”

Earlier in Dec. 17, 1999, the SC first denied Garcia’s plea for nullity because it argued, “we found the question replete with policy considerations.”

The High Court insisted in its April 2 ruling that there was no actual case or controversy calling for the exercise of (SC) judicial power. What Garcia raised is more political in nature, “hence, the choice of undertaking full or partial deregulation is not for this Court to make.”

It further ruled that “we cannot, acting as a body, question to the wisdom of a co-equal department’s acts.” “The courts do not involve themselves with or delve into the policy or wisdom of a statute; it sitsπ, not to review or revise legisltative action, but to enforce the legislative will.” It further noted, “for the Court to resolve a clearly non-justiciable matter would be to debase the principle of separation of powers that has been tightly woven by the Constitution into our republican system of government.”

The High Court also ruled against Garcia’s claim of grave abuse of discretion in the SC’s first ruling.  The pleadings before us fail to disclose any act of the legislature that may be characterized as patently capricious and whimsical.  The law, it said, “was thoroughly and carefully considered.” Likewise, Garcia, the SC further ruled, “has not adequately proven that an oligopoly in fact does exists in the form of the Big 3, and that the Big 3 have actually engaged in oligopolistic practices.”

The petitioner, the SC also ruled further, failed to show there was “a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution,” and not one that is doubtful, speculative, or argumentative. –Artemio A. Dumlao, Philippine Star

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