MANILA - The Supreme Court en banc junked Tuesday the first-ever legal challenge to the Bayanihan law and other quarantine measures introduced by the Philippine government to address the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement Wednesday, the Supreme Court Public Information Office said the high court dismissed the petition filed by former law Dean Jaime Ibañez because it "failed to show grave abuse of discretion committed by the respondents."
Named as respondents to the petition were Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and the Inter-Agency Task Force.
In his petition filed on June 2, Ibañez asked the SC to declare as partly unconstitutional Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act; Proclamation Nos. 922 and 929 declaring a state of calamity and a state of public health emergency, respectively; and the Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of the Community Quarantine in the Philippines for undue exercise of delegated legislative power.
"Legislative power to make laws is vested in Congress. The President is merely tasked to execute the law. Hence, it is an undue delegation of legislative power and usurpation of the same, when the President issued Proclamation No. 929 and 922, lacking legislative authority and guidelines passed by Congress in a situation of national emergency," Ibañez said in his petition for certiorari and prohibition.
A petition for certiorari seeks to annul or modify the actions of a judicial or quasi-judicial agency on the ground that it acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.
A petition for prohibition, on the other hand, seeks to stop a body or person from exercising judicial, quasi-judicial or ministerial functions if there is grave abuse of discretion.
The SC has yet to provide a copy of its resolution on Ibañez' petition but it said it was penned by Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo.
Two justices -- Marvic Leonen and Samuel Gaerlan -- dissented.
Ibañez had criticized the Philippine government's response to the pandemic, calling some of the measures taken "overbroad," "unreasonable and arbitrary" and not related to the purpose sought to be accomplished.
"[T]he better alternative, therefore, is for the government to increase the capacity of health systems and to undertake measures and programs, to test, to trace and to treat COVID-19 patients, persons under investigation (PUI's), and persons under monitoring (PUM's) covered by Republic Act No. 11469, but never to overburden or to over-intrude into private rights of an individual, including his right to liberty as protected in the Bill of Rights, unless he committed a crime or declared a leper or a COVID-19 patient," he had said.
On Tuesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte extended Metro Manila's general community quarantine status while placing Cebu City on enhanced community quarantine.
Republic Act No. 11469 expired last June 25.
From the time Ibañez filed his petition, the number of confirmed COVID cases in the Philippines jumped from 18,600 to 37,514 as of Tuesday. Of the latest figure, 1,266 patients have died, 26,015 are still active while 10,233 have recovered.