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Gualberto De La Llana vs Manuel Alba

112 SCRA 294 – Political law – Constitutional Law – Political Question – if there is no question of law involved – BP 129

In 1981, Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, entitled “An Act Reorganizing the Judiciary, Appropriating Funds Therefor and for Other
Purposes”, was passed. Gualberto De la Llana, a judge in Olongapo, was assailing its validity because, first of all, he would be one
of the judges that would be removed because of the reorganization and second, he said such law would contravene the
constitutional provision which provides the security of tenure of judges of the courts. He averred that only the Supreme Court can
remove judges NOT the Congress.

ISSUE: Whether or not a judge like Judge De La Llana can be validly removed by the legislature by such statute (BP 129).

HELD: Yes. The SC ruled the following way: “Moreover, this Court is empowered “to discipline judges of inferior courts and, by a
vote of at least eight members, order their dismissal.” Thus it possesses the competence to remove judges. Under the Judiciary Act,
it was the President who was vested with such power. Removal is, of course, to be distinguished from termination by virtue of
the abolition of the office. There can be no tenure to a non-existent office. After the abolition, there is in law no occupant.
In case of removal, there is an office with an occupant who would thereby lose his position. It is in that sense that from the
standpoint of strict law, the question of any impairment of security of tenure does not arise. Nonetheless, for the incumbents
of inferior courts abolished, the effect is one of separation. As to its effect, no distinction exists between removal and the abolition of
the office. Realistically, it is devoid of significance. He ceases to be a member of the judiciary. In the implementation of the assailed
legislation, therefore, it would be in accordance with accepted principles of constitutional construction that as far as incumbent
justices and judges are concerned, this Court be consulted and that its view be accorded the fullest consideration. No fear need be
entertained that there is a failure to accord respect to the basic principle that this Court does not render advisory opinions. No
question of law is involved. If such were the case, certainly this Court could not have its say prior to the action taken by either of
the two departments. Even then, it could do so but only by way of deciding a case where the matter has been put in issue. Neither is
there any intrusion into who shall be appointed to the vacant positions created by the reorganization. That remains in the hands of
the Executive to whom it properly belongs. There is no departure therefore from the tried and tested ways of judicial power. Rather
what is sought to be achieved by this liberal interpretation is to preclude any plausibility to the charge that in the exercise of the
conceded power of reorganizing the inferior courts, the power of removal of the present incumbents vested in this Tribunal is
ignored or disregarded. The challenged Act would thus be free from any unconstitutional taint, even one not readily discernible
except to those predisposed to view it with distrust. Moreover, such a construction would be in accordance with the basic principle
that in the choice of alternatives between one which would save and another which would invalidate a statute, the former is to be
preferred.”

DE LA LLANA VS ALBA
Posted by kaye lee on 12:18 PM

GR No. L-57883 March 12 1982

FACTS:

De La Llana, et. al. filed a Petition for Declaratory Relief and/or for Prohibition, seeking to enjoin the Minister of the Budget, the
Chairman of the Commission on Audit, and the Minister of Justice from taking any action implementing BP 129 which mandates that
Justices and judges of inferior courts from the CA to MTCs, except the occupants of the Sandiganbayan and the CTA, unless
appointed to the inferior courts established by such act, would be considered separated from the judiciary. It is the termination of
their incumbency that for petitioners justify a suit of this character, it being alleged that thereby the security of tenure provision of the
Constitution has been ignored and disregarded.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the reorganization violate the security of tenure of justices and judges as provided for under the Constitution.

RULING:
What is involved in this case is not the removal or separation of the judges and justices from their services. What is important is the
validity of the abolition of their offices.

Well-settled is the rule that the abolition of an office does not amount to an illegal removal of its incumbent is the principle that, in
order to be valid, the abolition must be made in good faith.

Removal is to be distinguished from termination by virtue of valid abolition of the office. There can be no tenure to a non-existent
office. After the abolition, there is in law no occupant. In case of removal, there is an office with an occupant who would thereby lose
his position. It is in that sense that from the standpoint of strict law, the question of any impairment of security of tenure does not
arise.