• The importance of publication

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    IN 1957, President Carlos Garcia issued Proclamation No. 423, reserving parcels of land in Pasig, Taguig, Parañaque, Rizal, and Pasay City as a military reservation, more commonly known as Fort Bonifacio.

    In 1967, President Ferdinand Marcos amended Proclamation No. 423 and reserved a portion of Fort Bonifacio for a national shrine. Today, this area is known as Libingan ng mga Bayani. In 1986, President Marcos issued Proclamation No. 2476, further amending Proclamation No. 423 by excluding certain barangays in Lower Bicutan, Upper Bicutan and Signal Village from forming part of the military reservation. At the bottom of Proclamation No. 2476, President Marcos made a handwritten addendum, which read: “P.S.—This includes Western Bicutan (SGD.) Ferdinand E. Marcos.” That same year, Proclamation No. 2476 was published in the Official Gazette without the addendum.

    In 1999, members of Nagkakaisang Maralita ng Sitio Masigasig, Inc. (NMSMI) filed a petition with the Commission on Settlement of Land Problems (COSLAP) to convert the areas they were occupying in Western Bicutan from public land to alienable land pursuant to Proclamation No. 2476. COSLAP granted the request, ruling that despite the lack of publication of the addendum, the “intention of President Marcos could not be defeated by the negligence or inadvertence of others.”

    The Court of Appeals (CA) reversed the decision of COSLAP. On appeal, the Supreme Court (SC) sustained the CA. It ruled that the “Court cannot rely on a handwritten note that was not part of Proclamation No. 2476 as published. Without publication, the note never had any legal force and effect.”

    It was undisputed that the handwritten addendum was not included when Proclamation No. 2476 was published in the Official Gazette. The SC, however, noted that the issue of whether President Marcos intended to include Western Bicutan in Proclamation No. 2476 was not only “irrelevant but speculative.” Courts cannot speculate on the probable intent of the legislature apart from the words appearing in the law.

    Citing Tañada v. Hon. Tuvera, the SC also reiterated that requirement of publication is indispensable in order to give effect to the law, unless the law itself has otherwise provided. The phrase “unless otherwise provided” refers to a different effectivity date other than after fifteen days following the completion of the law’s publication in the Official Gazette. Nevertheless, this does not imply that the requirement of publication may be dispensed with –

    Publication is indispensable in every case, but the legislature may in its discretion provide that the usual fifteen-day period shall be shortened or extended . . . It is not correct to say that under the disputed clause publication may be dispensed with altogether. The reason is that such omission would offend due process insofar as it would deny the public knowledge of the laws that are supposed to govern it.

    The Court also cited those covered under the indispensible rule of publication –

    [a]ll statutes, including those of local application and private laws, shall be published as a condition for their effectivity, which shall begin fifteen days after publication unless a different effectivity date is fixed by the legislature. Covered by this rule are presidential decrees and executive orders promulgated by the President in the exercise of legislative powers.

    It is important to note that publication “must be in full or it is no publication at all since its purpose is to inform the public of the contents of the laws” (Nagkakaisang Maralita ng Sitio Masigasig v. Military Shrine Services, G.R. No. 187587, 5 June 2013, C.J. Sereno).

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