Springer v. Government of the Philippine Islands Agoncillo v. Same, s. 564

Decision Date14 May 1928
Docket Number573,Nos. 564,s. 564
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 189-191 intentionally omitted] Messrs. John W. Davis, of New York City, and Jose Abad Santos and James Ross, both of Manila, P. I., for petitioners.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 191-195 intentionally omitted] Mr. Wm. D. Mitchell, Sol Gen., of Washington, D. C., Frederick C. Fisher, Special Counsel, of Manila, P. I., William Cattron Rigby, Lieutenant Colonel, Judge Advocate, of Washington, D. C., Hugh C. Smith, Lieutenant Colonel, Judge Advocate, and Robert P. Reeder, Special Assistant to the Atty. Gen., for Government of Philippine Islands.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 195-197 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases, presenting substantially the same question, were argued and will be considered and disposed of together. In each case an action in the nature of quo warranto was brought in the court below challenging the right to hold office of directors of certain corporations organized under the legislative authority of the Philippine Islands; No. 564 involving directors of the National Coal Company, and No. 573 involving directors of the Philippine National Bank.

The National Coal Company was created by Act 2705, approved March 10, 1917, subsequently amended by Act 2822, approved March 5, 1919. The Governor General, under the provisions of the amended act, subscribed on behalf of the Philippine Islands for substantially all of the capital stock. The act provides:

'The voting power of all such stock owned by the government of the Philippine Islands shall be vested exclusively in a committee, consisting of the Governor General, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.'

The National Bank was created by Act 2612, approved February 4, 1916, subsequently amended by Act 2747, approved February 20, 1918, and Act 2938, approved January 30, 1921. The authorized capital of the bank, as finally fixed, was 10,000,000 pesos, consisting of 100,000 shares, of which, in pursuance of the legislative provisions, the Philippine Government acquired and owns 97,332 shares; the reaminder being held by private persons. By the original act the voting power of the government-owned stock was vested exclusively in the Governor General, but by the amended acts now in force that power was 'vested exclusively in a board, the short title of which shall be 'board of control,' composed of the Governor General, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.' The Governor General was also divested of the power of appointment of the president and vice president of the bank, originally vested in him, and their election was authorized to be made by the directors from among their own number. Provision was also made for a general manager, to be appointed or removed by the board of directors with the advice and consent of the board of control. The manager was to be chief executive of the bank, with an annual salary to be fixed by the board of directors with the approval of the board of control. Further duties were conferred upon the board of control in connection with the management of the bank which it does not seem necessary to set forth.

It is worthy of note that this voting power has been similarly devolved by the Legislature upon at least four other corporations: The National Petroleum Company, by Act 2814; the National Development Company, by Act 2849; the National Cement Company, by Act 2855; and the National Iron Company, by Act 2862-and the suggestion of the Solicitor General that this indicates a systematic plan on the part of the Legislature to take over, through its presiding officers, the direct control generally of nationally organized or controlled stock corporations would seem to be warranted.

In pursuance of the first-quoted provision, petitioners in No. 564 were elected directors of the National Coal Company by a vote of the government-owned shares cast by the Presidnet of the Senate and the Speaker of the House; and, in purusance of the second quoted provision, petitioners in No. 573 were elected directors of the National Bank in the same way. The Governor General, challenging the validity of the legislation, did not participate in either election. While there are some differences between the two actions in respect of the facts, they are differences of detail which do not affect the substantial question to be determined.

On behalf of the Philippine government, respondent in both cases, it is contended that the election of directors and managing agents by a vote of the government-owned stock was an executive function intrusted by the Organic Act of the Philippine Islands to the Governor General, and that the acts of the Legislature divesting him of that power and vesting it, in the one case, in a 'board,' and, in the other, in a 'committee,' the majority of which in each instance consisted of officers and members of the Legislature, were invalid as being in conflict with the Organic Act. The court below sustained the contention of the government and entered judgments of ouster against the petitioners in each case.

The congressional legislation referred to as the Organic Act is the enactment of August 29, 1916, c. 416, 39 Stat. 545 (48 USCA § 1001 et seq.), which constitutes the fundamental law of the Philippine Islands, and bears a relation to their governmental affairs not unlike that borne by a state Constitution to the state. The act contains a Bill of Rights, many of the provisions of which are taken from the Federal Constitution. It lays down fundamental rules in respect of taxation, shipping, customs duties, etc. Section 8 of the act (48 USCA § 1041) provides:

'That general legislative power, except as otherwise herein provided, is hereby granted to the Philippine Legislature, authorized by this act.'

And by section 12 (48 USCA § 1043) this legislative power is vested in a Legislature, to consist of two houses, one the Senate and the other the House of Representatives. Provision is made (sections 13, 14 and 17 (48 USCA §§ 1044, 1045, 1048)) for memberships, terms, and qualifications of the members of each house. By section 21 (48 USCA § 1111) it is provided 'that the supreme executive power shall be vested in an executive officer, whose official title shall be 'the Governor General of the Philippine Islands." He is given 'general supervision and control of all of the departments and bureaus of the government in the Philippine Islands as far as is not inconsistent with the provisions of this act.' He is made 'responsible for the faithful execution of the laws of the Philippine Islands and of the United States operative within the Philippine Islands.' Other powers of an important and comprehensive character also are conferred upon him. By section 22 (48 USCA § 1114) the executive departments of the Philippine government, as then authorized by law, are continued until otherwise provided by the Legislature. The Legislature is authorized by appropriate legislation to 'increase the number or abolish any of the executive departments, or make such changes in the names and duties thereof as it may see fit,' and 'provide for the appointment and removal of the heads of the executive departments by the Governor General.' Then follows the proviso:

'That all executive functions of the government must be directly under the Governor General or within one of the executive departments under the supervision and control of the Governor General.'

Section 26 (48 USCA §§ 1071-1074, 1078) recognizes the existing Supreme Court and courts of first instance of the Islands, and continues their jurisdiction as heretofore provided, with such additional jurisdiction as should thereafter be prescribed by law.

Thus the Organic Act, following the rule established by the American Constitutions, both state and federal, divides the government into three separate departments-the legislative, executive, and judicial. Some of our state Constitutions expressly provide in one form or another that the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the government shall be forever separate and distinct from each other. Other Constitutions, including that of the United States, do not contain such an express provision. But it is implicit in all, as a conclusion logically following from the separation of the several departments. See Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U. S. 168, 190, 191, 26 L. Ed. 377. And this separation and the consequent exclusive character of the powers conferred upon each of the three departments is basic and vital-not merely a matter of governmental mechanism. That the principle is implicit in the Philippine Organic Act does not admit of doubt. See Abueva v. Wood, 45 Phil. Rep. 612, 622, 628, et seq.

It may be stated then, as a general rule inherent in the American constitutional system, that, unless otherwise expressly provided or incidental to the powers conferred, the Legislature cannot exercise either executive or judicial power; the executive cannot exercise either legislative or judicial power; the judiciary cannot exercise either executive or legislative power. The existence in the various Constitutions of occasional provisions expressly giving to one of the departments powers which by their nature otherwise would fall within the general scope of the authority of another department emphasizes, rather than casts doubt upon, the generally inviolate character of this basic rule.

Legislative power, as distinguished from executive power, is the authority to make laws, but not to enforce them or appoint the agents charged with the duty of such enforcement. The latter are executive functions. It is unnecessary to enlarge further upon the general subject, since it has so recently received the full consideration...

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