Friday, September 26, 2008

Bill of Attainder?

Last week, the Provincial Board (PB) of Pampanga passed a resolution declaring running priest Fr. Robert Reyes as a “persona non grata” or an undesirable person. The PB’s action stemmed from the lambasting it received from Fr. Reyes for the former’s continuing opposition to Gov. Ed Panlilio’s governance.

A prominent lawyer-journalist in Pampanga described the resolution as a bill of attainder saying that such resolution has all the earmarks of a bill of attainder which are, (1) the unwanted characterization is a form of punishment; (2) The PB resolution was a legislative act; and (3) Fr. Reyes was neither invited nor given the opportunity to explain himself before the PB prior to making its “persona non grata” resolution.

I disagree.

One of the constitutive elements of a bill of attainder is that there must be a law enacted by a legislative body. Settled is the rule that a municipal resolution does not partake of the nature of a law. Said the Supreme Court in Municipality of Paranaque vs. VM Realty Corp., G.R. No. 127820, 20 July 1998)

We are not convinced by petitioner's insistence that the terms "resolution" and "ordinance" are synonymous. A municipal ordinance is different from a resolution. An ordinance is a law, but a resolution is merely a declaration of the sentiment or opinion of a lawmaking body on a specific matter. An ordinance possesses a general and permanent character, but a resolution is temporary in nature. Additionally, the two are enacted differently - a third reading is necessary for an ordinance, but not for a resolution, unless decided otherwise by a majority of all the Sanggunian members.

Absent the most essential element of a bill of attainder (i.e., there must be a law enacted by a legislative body), I submit the view the PB’s resolution on Fr. Reyes does not amount to a bill of attainder.

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