"D. Res Judicata and Stare Decisis"


Res judicata (which means a "matter adjudged") and stare decisis non quieta et movere ([or simply, stare decisis] which means "follow past precedents and do not disturb what has been settled") are general procedural law principles which both deal with the effects of previous but factually similar dispositions to subsequent cases. For the cases at bar, the Court examines the applicability of these principles in relation to its prior rulings in Philconsa and LAMP.

The focal point of res judicata is the judgment. The principle states that a judgment on the merits in a previous case rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction would bind a subsequent case if, between the first and second actions, there exists an identity of parties, of subject matter, and of causes of action.[151] This required identity is not, however, attendant hereto since Philconsa and LAMP, respectively involved constitutional challenges against the 1994 CDF Article and 2004 PDAF Article, whereas the cases at bar call for a broader constitutional scrutiny of the entire “Pork Barrel System.” Also, the ruling in LAMP is essentially a dismissal based on a procedural technicality – and, thus, hardly a judgment on the merits – in that petitioners therein failed to present any "convincing proof x x x showing that, indeed, there were direct releases of funds to the Members of Congress, who actually spend them according to their sole discretion" or "pertinent evidentiary support [to demonstrate the] illegal misuse of PDAF in the form of kickbacks [and] has become a common exercise of unscrupulous Members of Congress." As such, the Court upheld, in view of the presumption of constitutionality accorded to every law, the 2004 PDAF Article, and saw "no need to review or reverse the standing pronouncements in the said case." Hence, for the foregoing reasons, the res judicata principle, insofar as the Philconsa and LAMP cases are concerned, cannot apply.

On the other hand, the focal point of stare decisis is the doctrine created. The principle, entrenched under Article 8[152] of the Civil Code, evokes the general rule that, for the sake of certainty, a conclusion reached in one case should be doctrinally applied to those that follow if the facts are substantially the same, even though the parties may be different. It proceeds from the first principle of justice that, absent any powerful countervailing considerations, like cases ought to be decided alike. Thus, where the same questions relating to the same event have been put forward by the parties similarly situated as in a previous case litigated and decided by a competent court, the rule of stare decisis is a bar to any attempt to re-litigate the same issue.[153]

Philconsa was the first case where a constitutional challenge against a Pork Barrel provision, i.e., the 1994 CDF Article, was resolved by the Court. To properly understand its context, petitioners‘ posturing was that "the power given to the [M]embers of Congress to propose and identify projects and activities to be funded by the [CDF] is an encroachment by the legislature on executive power, since said power in an appropriation act is in implementation of the law" and that "the proposal and identification of the projects do not involve the making of laws or the repeal and amendment thereof, the only function given to the Congress by the Constitution."[154] In deference to the foregoing submissions, the Court reached the following main conclusions: one, under the Constitution, the power of appropriation, or the "power of the purse," belongs to Congress; two, the power of appropriation carries with it the power to specify the project or activity to be funded under the appropriation law and it can be detailed and as broad as Congress wants it to be; and, three, the proposals and identifications made by Members of Congress are merely recommendatory. At once, it is apparent that the Philconsa resolution was a limited response to a separation of powers problem, specifically on the propriety of conferring post-enactment identification authority to Members of Congress. On the contrary, the present cases call for a more holistic examination of (a) the inter-relation between the CDF and PDAF Articles with each other, formative as they are of the entire "Pork Barrel System" as well as (b) the intra-relation of post-enactment measures contained within a particular CDF or PDAF Article, including not only those related to the area of project identification but also to the areas of fund release and realignment. The complexity of the issues and the broader legal analyses herein warranted may be, therefore, considered as a powerful countervailing reason against a wholesale application of the stare decisis principle.

In addition, the Court observes that the Philconsa ruling was actually riddled with inherent constitutional inconsistencies which similarly countervail against a full resort to stare decisis. As may be deduced from the main conclusions of the case, Philconsa‘s fundamental premise in allowing Members of Congress to propose and identify of projects would be that the said identification authority is but an aspect of the power of appropriation which has been constitutionally lodged in Congress. From this premise, the contradictions may be easily seen. If the authority to identify projects is an aspect of appropriation and the power of appropriation is a form of legislative power thereby lodged in Congress, then it follows that: (a) it is Congress which should exercise such authority, and not its individual Members; (b) such authority must be exercised within the prescribed procedure of law passage and, hence, should not be exercised after the GAA has already been passed; and (c) such authority, as embodied in the GAA, has the force of law and, hence, cannot be merely recommendatory. Justice Vitug‘s Concurring Opinion in the same case sums up the Philconsa quandary in this wise: "Neither would it be objectionable for Congress, by law, to appropriate funds for such specific projects as it may be minded; to give that authority, however, to the individual members of Congress in whatever guise, I am afraid, would be constitutionally impermissible." As the Court now largely benefits from hindsight and current findings on the matter, among others, the CoA Report, the Court must partially abandon its previous ruling in Philconsa insofar as it validated the post-enactment identification authority of Members of Congress on the guise that the same was merely recommendatory. This postulate raises serious constitutional inconsistencies which cannot be simply excused on the ground that such mechanism is "imaginative as it is innovative." Moreover, it must be pointed out that the recent case of Abakada Guro Party List v. Purisima[155] (Abakada) has effectively overturned Philconsa‘s allowance of post-enactment legislator participation in view of the separation of powers principle. These constitutional inconsistencies and the Abakada rule will be discussed in greater detail in the ensuing section of this Decision.

As for LAMP, suffice it to restate that the said case was dismissed on a procedural technicality and, hence, has not set any controlling doctrine susceptible of current application to the substantive issues in these cases. In fine, stare decisis would not apply.



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