The different branches of government are so divided so as to maintain harmony and efficiency in our government. The legislature’s main function, representing the people is mainly to come up with laws for the good of the society. The executive branch then executes these laws but the Interpretation is the exclusive power of the judiciary. Despite the efforts of legislators and their staff in drafting good laws, some of these still suffer infirmities that sometimes cause confusion when it comes to their implementation and interpretation. There were even decisions of the Supreme Court that were considered or criticized as “judicial legislation” but the High Court itself has pronounced that courts cannot, in the interpretation of laws, pass upon or look into the wisdom of the same.
Republic Act No. 1180
R.A. No. 1180 “An Act to Regulate the Retail Business” was enacted in 1954 nationalizing the retail trade in the country. (This law was subsequently repealed by R.A. 8762 enacted in 2000 which liberalized the business). The law essentially limited the conduct of retail business to Filipino nationals. Lao Ichong brought a case questioning the constitutionality of the law for himself and on behalf of other nationalities adversely affected by said law. The main issues raised were on due process, equal protection and on whether there is justification in passing the law in the first place. The law aimed at protecting the country from the dominance of foreigners in the retail business. The statistics at that time showed an alarming situation where Filipinos are almost being overtaken by foreigners in the field of retail. The law passed all the tests on constitutionality but on the question of the justification of passing the law, the Supreme Court refused to pass upon it.
Not Subject to Review
The Supreme Court said that legislative discretion is not subject to review. Meaning, the Court cannot examine the reason behind why congress passed the law. This, according to the SC: “It must not be overlooked, in the first place, that the legislature, which is the constitutional repository of police power and exercises the prerogative of determining the policy of the State, is by force of circumstances primarily the judge of necessity, adequacy or reasonableness and wisdom, of any law promulgated in the exercise of the police power, or of the measures adopted to implement the public policy or to achieve public interest. On the other hand, courts, although zealous guardians of individual liberty and right, have nevertheless evinced a reluctance to interfere with the exercise of the legislative prerogative. They have done so early where there has been a clear, patent or palpable arbitrary and unreasonable abuse of the legislative prerogative. Moreover, courts are not supposed to override legitimate policy, and courts never inquire into the wisdom of the law.” (G.R. L-7995, May 31, 1957) The Court found that the the law is a valid enactment which springs form the police power of the state which is exercised by the legislature. The Supreme Court clearly delineated its own powers and it could not intervene with the discretion clearly within the territory of a co-equal branch of the government. It took decades for the legislature to retract the policy, a move which it alone can undertake in its own time. This, the Court cannot interfere with.