Justiciability on the other hand, limits the reach of judicial power. What is not
justiciable is beyond the province of the courts. On the other hand, it enhances it, for
whether or not an issue is justiciable or political is itself a justiciable question.
Is the Supreme Court at liberty to decide which questions it would like to rule on, and
those it would decline from passing upon?
Is “justiciability” a matter of what the courts would like to deal with?
The majority opinion in the Pineda and companion-cases penned by Madame Justice
Conchita Carpio-Morales suggests an answer. The divide between questions the
courts must pass upon and those it must keep off “lies in the answer to the question of
whether there are constitutionally imposed limits on powers or functions conferred
upon political bodies. If there are, then our courts are duty-bound to examine whether
the branch or instrumentality of the government properly acted within such limits.”
The Philippine Supreme Court dealt directly with the question of justifiability when a
group of congressmen attempted, quite precipitously and insidiously, to unseat the
Chief Justice through impeachment proceedings, after similar attempts at impeaching a
considerable membership of the High Court failed.
How far did the Court’s power reach? And if this was the issue, would not something be
terribly amiss for the Court itself to resolve this issue with definitiveness?
In his Separate Opinion, Mr. Justice Adolf Azcuna acutely remarked:
“The function of the Court is a necessary element not only of the system of checks and
balances, but also of a workable and living Constitution. For absent an agency organ
that can rule, with finality, as to what the term of Constitution mean, there will be
uncertainty if not chaos in the governance.”
This, for the Supreme Court today, is the expanse of its judicial power – the scope of its
judicial power. But it should also be clear that for all its amplitude, judicial power recognizes
Where there are no constitutional standards – as in purely policy matters – there
is nothing to take judicial cognizance of.
Where there are constitutional standards – then there is susceptibility to judicial
scrutiny. In a sense then it is a political decision – understood as a decision made by
the framers of the organic law – to render some matters justiciable, other than nonjusticiability.
It is for the courts to determine whether, in any particular case, the issues fall on the side of
justiciability or of non-justiciability.
“Justiciability” submits an issue to that kind of resolution mediated by the courts that
apply laws. Of later there has been much whining about the technicalities in which courts,
it is complained, allow themselves to be enmeshed.
When an issue is within the province of the judicial power of State, it is dealt
with and resolved by reference to the specific set of norms – or technical
precepts – called laws. In this sense, “justiciability” is circumscribing and
A course of action constituted by the trial or judicial
process, where the pronouncement of judgment
constitutes the endpoint.
Ricoeur’s Four Conditions
Intervention of qualified, competent,
independent persons who are in
charged of judging.
of written law
Philippine law does void contracts that run contrary to morals, it makes action contrary to
morals ground for the award of damages and it holds civil servants liable for the conduct
offensive to morality.
The respondent was estranged from
her husband and living with a married
man, likewise estranged from his wife.
She asked her church to pass judgment on
their union, and the church gave its
consent and approval based, apparently,
on theological grounds.
If she had asked her church to evaluate the morality of their union and had sought its
guidance, and she had acted in accordance with her church’s prescriptions, was she liable
for immorality as dealt by civil service law?
For the purposes the judgment in this case demonstrates judicial philosophizing
particularly in penumbral cases. Lest it be thought that penumbral cases are the
exception rather than the rule, it need only be remembered that such cases arise
precisely because no legislator or legislature – though endowed perhaps with superior
providence and foresight –can anticipate every possible case to which the law will apply.
Administrative Code and
civil service laws make
There are religious,
sectarian norms by which
the respondent guided her
actions, and there is the
constitutional guarantee of
the freedom of religion.
The Court racalls that by appeal to what it characterizes as “utilitarian theory” and a
protective theory in criminal law, what fall under the label “immoral” – and therefore
defined as criminal – are actions “which are detrimental to those conditions upon which
depend the existence and progress of human society.”
It is quite paradoxical that in order for the members of a society to exercise their
freedoms, including their religious liberty, the law must set a limit when their exercise
offends the higher interest of the State. To do otherwise is self-defeating for unlimited
freedom would erode order in the state and foment anarchy, eventually destroying the
very state its members established to protect their freedoms.
The explanation of course is as convincingly only as the social contract theory it
supposes , but makes for a compelling argument. The State exists to protect
individual freedoms and liberties, and therefore the exercise of these freedoms
and liberties must be such as to enable the State to continue in their defense and