Anent the 1st, 2nd and 4th assigned errors, petitioner argues that the refusal of the OP to act on her petition could not be justified as falling within the ambit of the doctrine of qualified political agency; that while the DOJ Secretary is the President’s alter ego, the President’s absolute abandonment of her power of control delegating exclusively to the DOJ Secretary the power to determine the existence of probable cause in complaints where the imposable penalty is less than reclusion perpetuais not justified. Petitioner claims that MC No. 58 ties the hands of the Chief Executive in the exercise of her constitutional power of control over all the executive departments as mandated by the Constitution and the Administrative Code of 1987; hence, an invalid issuance of the OP. She claims that since the validity of MC No. 58 is the principal reason why the OP dismissed her petition, the validity of the circular is a key issue in this petition which must be resolved.
We are not persuaded.
In Angeles v. Gaite, wherein petitioner raised the same arguments, we find the same unmeritorious and ruled in this wise:
x x x Petitioner argues in the main that Memorandum Circular No. 58 is an invalid regulation, because it diminishes the power of control of the President and bestows upon the Secretary of Justice, a subordinate officer, almost unfettered power. This argument is absurd. The President’s act of delegating authority to the Secretary of Justice by virtue of said Memorandum Circular is well within the purview of the doctrine of qualified political agency, long been established in our jurisdiction.
Under this doctrine, which primarily recognizes the establishment of a single executive, “all executive and administrative organizations are adjuncts of the Executive Department; the heads of the various executive departments are assistants and agents of the Chief Executive; and, except in cases where the Chief Executive is required by the Constitution or law to act in person or the exigencies of the situation demand that he act personally, the multifarious executive and administrative functions of the Chief Executive are performed by and through the executive departments, and the acts of the secretaries of such departments, performed and promulgated in the regular course of business, are, unless disapproved or reprobated by the Chief Executive, presumptively the acts of the Chief Executive.” The CA cannot be deemed to have committed any error in upholding the Office of the President’s reliance on the Memorandum Circular as it merely interpreted and applied the law as it should be.
As early as 1939, in Villena v. Secretary of Interior, this Court has recognized and adopted from American jurisprudence this doctrine of qualified political agency, to wit:
x x x With reference to the Executive Department of the government, there is one purpose which is crystal-clear and is readily visible without the projection of judicial searchlight, and that is, the establishment of a single, not plural, Executive. The first section of Article VII of the Constitution, dealing with the Executive Department, begins with the enunciation of the principle that “The executive power shall be vested in a President of thePhilippines.” This means that the President of thePhilippinesis the Executive of the Government of thePhilippines, and no other. The heads of the executive departments occupy political positions and hold office in an advisory capacity, and, in the language of Thomas Jefferson, “should be of the President’s bosom confidence” (7 Writings, Ford ed., 498), and, in the language of Attorney-General Cushing (7 Op., Attorney-General, 453), “are subject to the direction of the President.” Without minimizing the importance of the heads of the various departments, their personality is in reality but the projection of that of the President. Stated otherwise, and as forcibly characterized by Chief Justice Taft of the Supreme Court of the United States, “each head of a department is, and must be, the President’s alter ego in the matters of that department where the President is required by law to exercise authority” (Myers v. United States, 47 Sup. Ct. Rep., 21 at 30; 272U.S., 52 at 133; 71 Law. ed., 160).
Memorandum Circular No. 58, promulgated by the Office of the President onJune 30, 1993reads:
In the interest of the speedy administration of justice, the guidelines enunciated in Memorandum Circular No. 1266 (4 November 1983) on the review by the Office of the President of resolutions/orders/decisions issued by the Secretary of Justice concerning preliminary investigations of criminal cases are reiterated and clarified.
No appeal from or petition for review of decisions/orders/resolutions of the Secretary of Justice on preliminary investigations of criminal cases shall be entertained by the Office of the President, except those involving offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua to death x x x.
Henceforth, if an appeal or petition for review does not clearly fall within the jurisdiction of the Office of the President, as set forth in the immediately preceding paragraph, it shall be dismissed outright x x x.
It is quite evident from the foregoing that the President himself set the limits of his power to review decisions/orders/resolutions of the Secretary of Justice in order to expedite the disposition of cases. Petitioner’s argument that the Memorandum Circular unduly expands the power of the Secretary of Justice to the extent of rendering even the Chief Executive helpless to rectify whatever errors or abuses the former may commit in the exercise of his discretion is purely speculative to say the least. Petitioner cannot second-guess the President’s power and the President’s own judgment to delegate whatever it is he deems necessary to delegate in order to achieve proper and speedy administration of justice, especially that such delegation is upon a cabinet secretary – his own alter ego.
Nonetheless, the power of the President to delegate is not without limits. No less than the Constitution provides for restrictions. Justice Jose P. Laurel, in his ponencia in Villena, makes this clear:
x x x x
x x x There are certain presidential powers which arise out of exceptional circumstances, and if exercised, would involve the suspension of fundamental freedoms, or at least call for the supersedence of executive prerogatives over those exercised by co-equal branches of government. The declaration of martial law, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, and the exercise of the pardoning power, notwithstanding the judicial determination of guilt of the accused, all fall within this special class that demands the exclusive exercise by the President of the constitutionally vested power. The list is by no means exclusive, but there must be a showing that the executive power in question is of similar gravitas and exceptional import.
In the case at bar, the power of the President to review the Decision of the Secretary of Justice dealing with the preliminary investigation of cases cannot be considered as falling within the same exceptional class which cannot be delegated. Besides, the President has not fully abdicated his power of control as Memorandum Circular No. 58 allows an appeal if the imposable penalty is reclusion perpetua or higher. Certainly, it would be unreasonable to impose upon the President the task of reviewing all preliminary investigations decided by the Secretary of Justice. To do so will unduly hamper the other important duties of the President by having to scrutinize each and every decision of the Secretary of Justice notwithstanding the latter’s expertise in said matter.
x x x x
Based on the foregoing considerations, this Court cannot subscribe to petitioner’s position asking this Court to allow her to appeal to the Office of the President, notwithstanding that the crimes for which she charges respondent are not punishable by reclusion perpetua to death.
It must be remembered that under the Administrative Code of 1987 (EO No. 292), the Department of Justice, under the leadership of the Secretary of Justice, is the government’s principal law agency. As such, the Department serves as the government’s prosecution arm and administers the government’s criminal justice system by investigating crimes, prosecuting offenders and overseeing the correctional system, which are deep within the realm of its expertise. These are known functions of the Department of Justice, which is under the executive branch and, thus, within the Chief Executive’s power of control.
Petitioner’s contention that Memorandum Circular No. 58 violates both the Constitution and Section 1, Chapter 1, Book III of EO No. 292, for depriving the President of his power of control over the executive departments deserves scant consideration. In the first place, Memorandum Circular No. 58 was promulgated by the Office of the President and it is settled that the acts of the secretaries of such departments, performed and promulgated in the regular course of business are, unless disapproved or reprobated by the Chief Executive, presumptively the acts of the Chief Executive Memorandum Circular No. 58 has not been reprobated by the President; therefore, it goes without saying that the said Memorandum Circular has the approval of the President.