Case Brief: Tanada v Angara

G.R. No. 118295   May 2, 1997

WIGBERTO E. TAÑADA et al, petitioners,

vs.

EDGARDO ANGARA, et al, respondents.

Facts:

Petitioners prayed for the nullification, on constitutional grounds, of the concurrence of the Philippine Senate in the ratification by the President of the Philippines of the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO Agreement, for brevity) and for the prohibition of its implementation and enforcement through the release and utilization of public funds, the assignment of public officials and employees, as well as the use of government properties and resources by respondent-heads of various executive offices concerned therewith.

They contended that WTO agreement violates the mandate of the 1987 Constitution to “develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos x x x (to) give preference to qualified Filipinos (and to) promote the preferential use of Filipino labor, domestic materials and locally produced goods” as (1) the WTO requires the Philippines “to place nationals and products of member-countries on the same footing as Filipinos and local products” and (2) that the WTO “intrudes, limits and/or impairs” the constitutional powers of both Congress and the Supreme Court.

Issue:

Whether provisions of the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization unduly limit, restrict and impair Philippine sovereignty specifically the legislative power which, under Sec. 2, Article VI, 1987 Philippine Constitution is ‘vested in the Congress of the Philippines.

Held:

No, the WTO agreement does not unduly limit, restrict, and impair the Philippine sovereignty, particularly the legislative power granted by the Philippine Constitution. The Senate was acting in the proper manner when it concurred with the President’s ratification of the agreement.

While sovereignty has traditionally been deemed absolute and all-encompassing on the domestic level, it is however subject to restrictions and limitations voluntarily agreed to by the Philippines, expressly or impliedly, as a member of the family of nations. Unquestionably, the Constitution did not envision a hermit-type isolation of the country from the rest of the world. In its Declaration of Principles and State Policies, the Constitution “adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land, and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation and amity, with all nations.” By the doctrine of incorporation, the country is bound by generally accepted principles of international law, which are considered to be automatically part of our own laws. One of the oldest and most fundamental rules in international law is pacta sunt servanda — international agreements must be performed in good faith. “A treaty engagement is not a mere moral obligation but creates a legally binding obligation on the parties x x x. A state which has contracted valid international obligations is bound to make in its legislations such modifications as may be necessary to ensure the fulfillment of the obligations undertaken.”

By their inherent nature, treaties really limit or restrict the absoluteness of sovereignty. By their voluntary act, nations may surrender some aspects of their state power in exchange for greater benefits granted by or derived from a convention or pact. After all, states, like individuals, live with coequals, and in pursuit of mutually covenanted objectives and benefits, they also commonly agree to limit the exercise of their otherwise absolute rights. Thus, treaties have been used to record agreements between States concerning such widely diverse matters as, for example, the lease of naval bases, the sale or cession of territory, the termination of war, the regulation of conduct of hostilities, the formation of alliances, the regulation of commercial relations, the settling of claims, the laying down of rules governing conduct in peace and the establishment of international organizations. The sovereignty of a state therefore cannot in fact and in reality be considered absolute. Certain restrictions enter into the picture: (1) limitations imposed by the very nature of membership in the family of nations and (2) limitations imposed by treaty stipulations. As aptly put by John F. Kennedy, “Today, no nation can build its destiny alone. The age of self-sufficient nationalism is over. The age of interdependence is here.”

The WTO reliance on “most favored nation,” “national treatment,” and “trade without discrimination” cannot be struck down as unconstitutional as in fact they are rules of equality and reciprocity that apply to all WTO members. Aside from envisioning a trade policy based on “equality and reciprocity,” the fundamental law encourages industries that are “competitive in both domestic and foreign markets,” thereby demonstrating a clear policy against a sheltered domestic trade environment, but one in favor of the gradual development of robust industries that can compete with the best in the foreign markets. Indeed, Filipino managers and Filipino enterprises have shown capability and tenacity to compete internationally. And given a free trade environment, Filipino entrepreneurs and managers in Hongkong have demonstrated the Filipino capacity to grow and to prosper against the best offered under a policy of laissez faire.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

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