Gonzales vs. Hechanova
RAMON A. GONZALES, petitioner,
RUFINO G. HECHANOVA, as Executive Secretary, MACARIO PERALTA, JR., as Secretary of Defense, PEDRO GIMENEZ, as Auditor General, CORNELIO BALMACEDA, as Secretary of Commerce and Industry, and SALVADOR MARINO, Secretary of Justice, respondents.
9 SCRA 230
October 22, 1963
Respondent Executive Secretary authorized the importation of tons of foreign rice to be purchased from private sources. Petitioner Gonzales – a rice planter, and president of the Iloilo Palay and Corn Planters Association filed this petition, averring that, in making or attempting to make said importation of foreign rice, the aforementioned respondents “are, acting without jurisdiction or in excess of jurisdiction”, because RA No. 3452 which allegedly repeals or amends RA No. 2207 – explicitly prohibits the importation of rice and corn by “the Rice and Corn Administration or any other government agency.Respondent contended among others that the Government of the Philippines has already entered into two contracts for the purchase of rice, one with the Republic of Vietnam, and another with the Government of Burma; that these contracts constitute valid executive agreements under international law; that such agreements became binding and effective upon signing thereof by representatives of the parties thereto; that in case of conflict between Republic Act Nos. 2207 and 3452 on the one hand, and the aforementioned contracts, on the other, the latter should prevail, because, if a treaty and a statute are inconsistent with each other, the conflict must be resolved – under the American jurisprudence – in favor of the one which is latest in point of time.
WON the respondents, in attempting to import foreign rice, are acting without jurisdiction or in excess of jurisdiction.
Yes. The respondents acted without jurisdiction or in excess of jurisdiction. It is respondents contend that the Government of the Philippines has already entered into two (2) contracts for the purchase of rice, one with the Republic of Viet Nam, and another with the Government of Burma; that these contracts constitute valid executive agreements under international law; that such agreements became binding and effective upon signing thereof by representatives of the parties thereto; that in case of conflict between Republic Act Nos. 2207 and 3452 on the one hand, and the aforementioned contracts, on the other, the latter should prevail, because, if a treaty and a statute are inconsistent with each other, the conflict must be resolved — under the American jurisprudence — in favor of the one which is latest in point of time; that petitioner herein assails the validity of acts of the executive relative to foreign relations in the conduct of which the Supreme Court cannot interfere; and that the aforementioned contracts have already been consummated, the Government of the Philippines having already paid the price of the rice involved therein through irrevocable letters of credit in favor of the sellers of said commodity. We find no merit in this pretense. The Court is not satisfied that the status of said contracts as alleged executive agreements has been sufficiently established. The parties to said contracts do not appear to have regarded the same as executive agreements. But, even assuming that said contracts may properly be considered as executive agreements, the same are unlawful, as well as null and void, from a constitutional viewpoint, said agreements being inconsistent with the provisions of Republic Acts Nos. 2207 and 3452. Although the President may, under the American constitutional system, enter into executive agreements without previous legislative authority, he may not, by executive agreement, enter into a transaction which is prohibited by statutes enacted prior thereto. Under the Constitution, the main function of the Executive is to enforce laws enacted by
Congress. The former may not interfere in the performance of the legislative powers of the latter, except in the exercise of his veto power. He may not defeat legislative enactments that have acquired the status of laws, by indirectly repealing the same through an executive agreement providing for the performance of the very act prohibited by said laws.
The American theory to the effect that, in the event of conflict between a treaty and a statute, the one which is latest in point of time shall prevail, is not applicable to the case at bar, for respondents not only admit, but, also, insist that the contracts adverted to are not treaties. Said theory may be justified upon the ground that treaties to which the United States is signatory require the advice and consent of its Senate, and, hence, of a branch of the legislative department. No such justification can be given as regards executive agreements not authorized by previous legislation, without completely upsetting the principle of separation of powers and the system of checks and balances which are fundamental in our constitutional set up and that of the United States.
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