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Administrative Law

Arellano, Julius A.

TOPIC: The doctrine of separation of powers and the constitutional position of


administrative agencies.
Noblejas v Teehankee
23 SCRA 405 (1968)

Facts: Petitioner Antonio H. Noblejas was appointed as Commissioner of Land


Registration, as conferred by RA No. 1151, which entitles him to the same
compensation, emoluments and privileges as those of a Judge of the Court of First
Instance (Sec 2); and the Appropriation Laws, which set his salary with the rank and
privileges of district judge.

On March 7, 1968, respondent Secretary of Justice Claudio Teehankee sent the


petitioner a letter, requiring him to explain in writing why no disciplinary action should
be taken against him for "approving or recommending approval of subdivision,
consolidation and consolidated-subdivision plans covering areas greatly in excess of
the areas covered by the original titles." Petitioner replied that he could only be
suspended and investigated by the Supreme Court, in the same manner as a Judge
of the Courts of First Instance.

Then on March 17, 1968, petitioner Noblejas received a communication signed by


the Executive Secretary, "by authority of the President", that he is suspended for
gross negligence and conduct prejudicial to the public interest.

Thus this petition to the Supreme Court, claiming that the respondent lacks
jurisdiction and abuses his discretion, thus praying for restraining writs. Respondent
denies that the Commissioner neither exercises judicial functions, nor that he may be
considered a Judge of First Instance; that the function of investigating charges
against public officers is administrative or executive in nature, and not judicial, as it
would be in violation of the principle of the separation of powers.

Issue: Whether or not the Commissioner of Land Registration may only be


investigated by the Supreme Court, on the ground that he was conferred the rank
and privileges of a Judge of the Court of First Instance, according to RA 1151 and
Appropriation Laws?

Decision: The Commissioner cannot be investigated by the Supreme Court. The


writs of prohibition and injunction applied for are denied, and the petition is ordered
dismissed.

Reason: The appointed Commissioner/Petitioner is not actually a District Judge and


member of the Judiciary. It would be unconstitutional and in violation of the
separation of powers principle if the Supreme Court would exercise administrative
functions over executive officials. Also, the Supreme Court should not and cannot be
required to exercise any power or to perform any trust or to assume any duty not
pertaining to or connected with the administration of judicial functions.