G.R. No. 118295 May 2, 1997
WIGBERTO E. TAÃ‘ADA and ANNA DOMINIQUE COSETENG, as members of the Philippine Senate and as taxpayers; petitioners, vs.EDGARDO ANGARA, , respondents.
The emergence on January 1, 1995 of the World Trade Organization, abetted by the membership thereto of the vast majority of countries has revolutionized international business and economic relations amongst states. It has irreversibly propelled the world towards trade liberalization and economic globalization. Liberalization, globalization, deregulation and privatization, the third-millennium buzz words, are ushering in a new borderless world of business by sweeping away as mere historical relics the heretofore traditional modes of promoting and protecting national economies like tariffs, export subsidies, import quotas, quantitative restrictions, tax exemptions and currency controls. Finding market niches and becoming the best in specific industries in a market-driven and export-oriented global scenario are replacing age-old "beggar-thy-neighbor" policies that unilaterally protect weak and inefficient domestic producers of goods and services.
The Petition in Brief
Arguing mainly (1) that the WTO requires the Philippines "to place nationals and products of member-countries on the same footing as Filipinos and local products" and (2) that the WTO "intrudes, limits and/or impairs" the constitutional powers of both Congress and the Supreme Court, the instant petition before this Court assails the WTO Agreement for violating the mandate of the 1987 Constitution to "develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos . . . (to) give preference to qualified Filipinos (and to) promote the preferential use of Filipino labor, domestic materials and locally produced goods."
Simply stated, does the Philippine Constitution prohibit Philippine participation in worldwide trade liberalization and economic globalization? Does it proscribe Philippine integration into a global economy that is liberalized, deregulated and privatized? These are the main questions raised in this petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court praying (1) for the nullification, on constitutional grounds, of the concurrence of the Philippine Senate in the ratification by the President of the Philippines of the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO Agreement, for brevity).
In their Memorandum dated March 11, 1996, petitioners summarized the issues as follows:
C. Whether the provisions of the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization contravene the provisions of Sec. 19, Article II, and Secs. 10 and 12, Article XII, all of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
Second Issue: The WTO Agreementand Economic Nationalism
This is the lis mota, the main issue, raised by the petition.
Petitioners vigorously argue that the "letter, spirit and intent" of the Constitution mandating "economic nationalism" are violated by the so-called "parity provisions" and "national treatment" clauses scattered in various parts not only of the WTO Agreement and its annexes but also in the Ministerial Decisions and Declarations and in the Understanding on Commitments in Financial Services.
Specifically, the "flagship" constitutional provisions referred to are Sec 19, Article II, and Secs. 10 and 12, Article XII, of the Constitution, which are worded as follows:
DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLESAND STATE POLICIES
xxx xxx xxx
Sec. 19. The State shall develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos.
xxx xxx xxx
NATIONAL ECONOMY AND PATRIMONY
xxx xxx xxx
Sec. 10. . . . The Congress shall enact measures that will encourage the formation and operation of enterprises whose capital is wholly owned by Filipinos.
In the grant of rights, privileges, and concessions covering the national economy and patrimony, the State shall give preference to qualified Filipinos.
xxx xxx xxx
Sec. 12. The State shall promote the preferential use of Filipino labor, domestic materials and locally produced goods, and adopt measures that help make them competitive.
It is petitioners' position that the foregoing "national treatment" and "parity provisions" of the WTO Agreement "place nationals and products of member countries on the same footing as Filipinos and local products," in contravention of the "Filipino First" policy of the Constitution. They allegedly render meaningless the phrase "effectively controlled by Filipinos."
We shall now discuss and rule on these arguments.
Declaration of PrinciplesNot Self-Executing
By its very title, Article II of the Constitution is a "declaration of principles and state policies."
These principles in Article II are not intended to be self-executing principles ready for enforcement through the courts. 23 They are used by the judiciary as aids or as guides in the exercise of its power of judicial review, and by the legislature in its enactment of laws. As held in the leading case of Kilosbayan, Incorporated vs. Morato, 24 the principles and state policies enumerated in Article II and some sections of Article XII are not "self-executing provisions, the disregard of which can give rise to a cause of action in the courts. They do not embody judicially enforceable constitutional rights but guidelines for legislation."
Economic Nationalism Should Be Read withOther Constitutional Mandates to AttainBalanced Development of Economy
All told, while the Constitution indeed mandates a bias in favor of Filipino goods, services, labor and enterprises, at the same time, it recognizes the need for business exchange with the rest of the world on the bases of equality and reciprocity and limits protection of Filipino enterprises only against foreign competition and trade practices that are unfair. 32 In other words, the Constitution did not intend to pursue an isolationist policy. It did not shut out foreign investments, goods and services in the development of the Philippine economy. While the Constitution does not encourage the unlimited entry of foreign goods, services and investments into the country, it does not prohibit them either. In fact, it allows an exchange on the basis of equality and reciprocity, frowning only on foreign competition that is unfair.
Constitution Does NotRule Out Foreign Competition
Furthermore, the constitutional policy of a "self-reliant and independent national economy" 35 does not necessarily rule out the entry of foreign investments, goods and services. It contemplates neither "economic seclusion" nor "mendicancy in the international community."
Sovereignty Limited byInternational Law and Treaties
However, while sovereignty has traditionally been deemed absolute and all-encompassing on the domestic level, it is however subject to restrictions and limitations voluntarily agreed to by the Philippines, expressly or impliedly, as a member of the family of nations. Unquestionably, the Constitution did not envision a hermit-type isolation of the country from the rest of the world.
In its Declaration of Principles and State Policies, the Constitution "adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land, and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation and amity, with all nations." 43 By the doctrine of incorporation, the country is bound by generally accepted principles of international law, which are considered to be automatically part of our own laws. 44 One of the oldest and most fundamental rules in international law is pacta sunt servanda ï¿½ international agreements must be performed in good faith. "A treaty engagement is not a mere moral obligation but creates a legally binding obligation on the parties . . . A state which has contracted valid international obligations is bound to make in its legislations such modifications as may be necessary to ensure the fulfillment of the obligations undertaken." 45
By their inherent nature, treaties really limit or restrict the absoluteness of sovereignty. By their voluntary act, nations may surrender some aspects of their state power in exchange for greater benefits granted by or derived from a convention or pact. After all, states, like individuals, live with coequals, and in pursuit of mutually covenanted objectives and benefits, they also commonly agree to limit the exercise of their otherwise absolute rights. Thus, treaties have been used to record agreements between States concerning such widely diverse matters as, for example, the lease of naval bases, the sale or cession of territory, the termination of war, the regulation of conduct of hostilities, the formation of alliances, the regulation of commercial relations, the settling of claims, the laying down of rules governing conduct in peace and the establishment of international organizations.
In praying for the nullification of the Philippine ratification of the WTO Agreement, petitioners are invoking this Court's constitutionally imposed duty "to determine whether or not there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction" on the part of the Senate in giving its concurrence therein via Senate Resolution No. 97. Procedurally, a writ of certiorari grounded on grave abuse of discretion may be issued by the Court under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court when it is amply shown that petitioners have no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
It is true, as alleged by petitioners, that broad constitutional principles require the State to develop an independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos; and to protect and/or prefer Filipino labor, products, domestic materials and locally produced goods. But it is equally true that such principles ï¿½ while serving as judicial and legislative guides ï¿½ are not in themselves sources of causes of action. Moreover, there are other equally fundamental constitutional principles relied upon by the Senate which mandate the pursuit of a "trade policy that serves the general welfare and utilizes all forms and arrangements of exchange on the basis of equality and reciprocity" and the promotion of industries "which are competitive in both domestic and foreign markets," thereby justifying its acceptance of said treaty. So too, the alleged impairment of sovereignty in the exercise of legislative and judicial powers is balanced by the adoption of the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and the adherence of the Constitution to the policy of cooperation and amity with all nations.
That the Senate, after deliberation and voting, voluntarily and overwhelmingly gave its consent to the WTO Agreement thereby making it "a part of the law of the land" is a legitimate exercise of its sovereign duty and power. We find no "patent and gross" arbitrariness or despotism "by reason of passion or personal hostility" in such exercise.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit.