THE Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed a Makati court decision declaring unconstitutional a provision of Republic Act (RA) 8479 or the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998 giving the Department of Energy (DOE) power to temporarily take over operations of the oil industry in times of national emergency.
The Court’s 9th Division through Associate Justice Socorro Inting ruled that the Makati City Regional Trial Court was right when it ruled that Section 14 (e) of RA 8479 is unconstitutional as it gives the DOE unbridled power to perform essential acts which only Congress is constitutionally mandated to do.
Pilipinas Shell and Petroleum Corp. sought redress with the Makati RTC when former President Gloria Arroyo issued an order pursuant to Section 14 (e) of the Oil Deregulation Law instructing an oil price halt arising from the occurrence of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009.
“In times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires, the DOE may, during the emergency and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operation of any person or entity engaged in the industry,” the provision of the law states.
Pilipinas Shell won its case after the Makati Court ruled in its favor, prompting the energy department to elevate the matter to the appeals tribunal.
In its decision, the appellate court held that the President has no power to determine the existence of an emergency because only the Congress can do that as required under the law.
“Clearly, the power to determine whether the exceptional circumstances exist to warrant the power to take over or direct the operation of businesses affected with public interest such as the oil industry is reposed upon Congress,” the ruling pointed out.
The appeals court stated that the Office of the Solicitor General used a wrong remedy when it brought the issue to the appeals court instead of the high court.
The ruling said that the issues involved are pure questions of law and the proper venue is the highest tribunal.