Separate Opinion

PANGANIBAN, J.,

Concurring:

 

I concur with the lucid and convincing ponencia of Mr. Justice Reynato S. Puno.  I write to stress two points:

 

1.     The Issue Is Whether Oil Companies May Unilaterally Fix Prices, Not Whether This Court May Interfere in Economic Questions.

 

With the issuance of the status quo order on October 7, 1997 requiring the three respondent oil companies  Petron, Shell and Caltex  “to cease and desist from increasing the prices of gasoline and other petroleum fuel products for a period of thirty [30] days,” the Court has been accused of interfering in purely economic policy matters1 or, worse, of arrogating unto itself price-regulatory powers.2  Let it be emphasized that We have no desire nay, We have no power  to intervene in, to change or to repeal the laws of economics, in the same manner that We cannot and will not nullify or invalidate the laws of physics or chemistry.

 

The issue here is not whether the Supreme Court may fix the retail prices of petroleum products.  Rather, the issue is whether R. A. No. 8180, the law allowing the oil companies to unilaterally set, increase or decrease their prices, is valid or constitutional.

 

Under the Constitution,3 this Court has  in appropriate cases  the DUTY, not just the power, to determine whether a law or a part thereof offends the Constitution and, if so, to annul and set it aside.4  Because a serious challenge has been hurled against the validity of one such law, namely R. A. No. 8180 its criticality having been preliminarily determined from the petition, comments, reply and, most tellingly, the oral argument on September 30, 1997 this Court, in the exercise of its mandated judicial discretion, issued the status quo order to prevent the continued enforcement and implementation of a law that was prima facie found to be constitutionally infirm.   Indeed, after careful final deliberation, said law is now ruled to be constitutionally defective thereby disabling respondent oil companies from exercising their erstwhile power, granted by such defective statute, to determine prices by themselves.

 

Concededly, this Court has no power to pass upon the wisdom, merits and propriety of the acts of its co-equal branches in government.   However, it does have the prerogative to uphold the Constitution and to strike down and annul a law that contravenes the Charter.5  From such duty and prerogative, it shall never shirk or shy away.

 

By annulling R. A. No. 8180, this Court is not making a policy statement against deregulation.   Quite the contrary, it is simply invalidating a pseudo-deregulation law which in reality restrains free trade and perpetuates a cartel, an oligopoly.  The Court is merely upholding constitutional adherence to a truly competitive economy that releases the creative energy of free enterprise.  It leaves to Congress, as the policy-setting agency of the government, the speedy crafting of a genuine, constitutionally justified oil deregulation law.

 

2.     Everyone, Rich or Poor, Must Share in the Burdens of Economic Dislocation.

 

Much has been said and will be said about the alleged negative effect of this Court’s holding on the oil giants’ profit and loss statements.  We are not unaware of the disruptive impact of the depreciating peso on the retail prices of refined petroleum products. But such price-escalating consequence adversely affects not merely these oil companies which occupy hallowed places among the most profitable corporate behemoths in our country.  In these critical times of widespread economic dislocations, abetted by currency fluctuations not entirely of domestic origin, all sectors of society agonize and suffer.  Thus, everyone, rich or poor, must share in the burdens of such economic aberrations.

 

I can understand foreign investors who see these price adjustments as necessary consequences of the country’s adherence to the free market, for that, in the first place, is the magnet for their presence here.  Understandably, their concern is limited to bottom lines and market share.  But in all these mega companies, there are also Filipino entrepreneurs and managers.  I am sure there are patriots among them who realize that, in times of economic turmoil, the poor and the underprivileged proportionately suffer more than any other sector of society.  There is a certain threshold of pain beyond which the disadvantaged cannot endure.  Indeed, it has been wisely said that “if the rich who are few will not help the poor who are many, there will come a time when the few who are filled cannot escape the wrath of the many who are hungry.” Kaya’t sa mga kababayan nating kapitalista at may kapangyarihan, nararapat lamang na makiisa tayo sa mga walang palad at mahihirap sa mga araw ng pangangailangan.  Huwag na nating ipagdiinan ang kawalan ng tubo, o maging and panandaliang pagkalugi.  At sa mga mangangalakal na ganid at walang puso: hirap na hirap na po ang ating mga kababayan.   Makonsiyensya naman kayo!

______________________________

 

1Consolidated Memorandum of Public Respondents dated October 14, 1997.


2Petron Corporation’s Motion to Lift Temporary Restraining Order, dated October 9, 1997, p. 16; Pilipinas Shell Corporation’s Memorandum, dated October 15, 1997, pp. 36-37.


3Sections 1 and 5 of Article VIII of the Constitution provides:

 

Sec. 1.  Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.

 

Sec. 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:


(1) Exercise original jurisdiction over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus.

 

(2) Review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari, as the law or Rules of Court may provide, final judgments and orders of lower courts in:

 

(a) All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question.


                                                                       xxx   xxx   xxx

 

4Osmeña vs. Comelec, 199 SCRA 750, July 30, 1991; Angara vs. Electoral Commission, 63 Phil. 139, July 15, 1936.

 

5Tañada vs. Angara, G.R. No. 118295, May 2, 1997, p. 26.

 

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