SC on decision-writing period May 2 to June 9; no division, full court sessions

The Supreme Court (SC) starts its five-week recess on May 2 to concentrate on decision writing on pending cases.

With its recess until June 9, the SC will not conduct sessions in its divisions and in the full court unless a very urgent case that needs swift action is filed within the period.

If an urgent case is filed, Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo will call the holding of a special session either in the division or full court.

When Gesmundo assumed the top post in the judiciary in April 2021, he assured the expeditious resolution of cases pending with the SC.  Since then, the SC has been coming out with decisions on cases which had stayed unresolved for the past six or eight years.

The SC had just concluded its summer sessions that started last April 11 in Baguio City.  One of the petitions tackled during the summer sessions was the challenge on the alleged unconstitutionality of the SIM (subscriber identity module) registration under Republic Act No. 11934.

It did not issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the petition.  Instead, it merely asked several government agencies and telecommunication firms to comment on the petition within 10 days.

But President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. ordered a 90-day extension on SIM registration that expired last April 26.

Aside from the challenge on the SIM Registration Act, the SC is also expected to study for deliberation after the recess, the petition against the alleged unconstitutionality of the no-contact apprehension policy (NCAP) for traffic violations in several cities in Metro Manila.

On Aug. 30, 2022, the SC issued a TRO that stopped the implementation of NCAP and thereafter conducted oral arguments.  Two petitions were filed against NCAP.

At the time the first petition was filed, the NCAP was being implemented in Metro Manila by the local governments of Quezon City, Manila, Valenzuela City, Muntinlupa City, and Parañaque City through their ordinances based on the 2016 resolution of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) which ordered the re-implementation of the policy.

Also set for study during the recess is the petition against Republic Act No. 11935 that mandated the postponement of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) from Dec. 5, 2022 to Oct. 30, 2023.

Under RA 11935 which was signed into law by President Marcos Jr. last Oct. 10, the BSKE will be held on the last Monday of October 2023 or on Oct. 30, 2023.

The law provides that all incumbent barangay and SK (Sangguniang Kabataan) officials will remain in office until their successors are elected and qualified or unless they are sooner removed or suspended.

Barangay and SK officials, who are ex-officio members of the Sangguniang Bayan, Sangguniang Panlungsod, or Sangguniang Panlalawigan will continue to serve until the next BSKE, unless removed under existing rules, the new law also stated.

The SC had also issued a Writ of Kalikasan that effectively stopped temporarily the government from commercially propagating genetically modified rice and eggplant, known as Golden Rice and BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) eggplant.

The writ was issued last April 18 during the SC’s full court session in Baguio City.

In a resolution, the SC directed the secretaries of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Health (DOH), the director of the Bureau of Plant Industry, the Philippine Rice Research Institute, and the University of the Philippines in Los Baños in Laguna to file a verified return within 10 days from notice.

The SC acted on the petition for a Writ of Kalikasan filed by several groups led by the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag).

A Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy for the protection of one’s right to “a balanced and healthful environment….”

On election cases, the SC is also expected to study for decision the petition of ousted Albay Gov. Noel E. Rosal who was removed as the province’s governor for alleged violation of Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code on the 45-day spending ban in the May 9, 2022 elections.

Rosal had told the SC that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) issued the disqualification ruling based on “mere allegations” and despite the failure of the complainant to “adduce evidence” that he had actually disbursed funds during a period specified by the Omnibus Election Code.

He pleaded the SC to respect the manifest will of the electorate of Albay. Rosal got 469,481 votes as against his closest rival’s 238,746 votes or a commanding vote-lead of 230,735 votes, despite a pending disqualification petition during the election.

Rosal asked the SC “to apply the very recent decision of the court in the disqualification case of the mayor of Agoo, La Union where the court resolved all doubts in favor of the manifest will of the people electing the latter as their mayor despite a pending disqualification case.”

He was referring to the very recent SC decision which upheld the election of Frank Ong Sibuma as municipal mayor of Agoo, La Union as it reversed two resolutions issued against him by the Comelec in May and June 2022.