Provincial jails - G.R. No. 175457

G.R. No. 175457

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Section 28 of the Local Government Code draws the extent of the power of local chief executives over the units of the Philippine National Police within their jurisdiction:

SEC. 28. Powers of Local Chief Executives over the Units of the Philippine National Police.—The extent of operational supervision and control of local chief executives over the police force, fire protection unit, and jail management personnel assigned in their respective jurisdictions shall be governed by the provisions of Republic Act Numbered Sixty-nine hundred seventy-five (R.A. No. 6975), otherwise known as “The Department of the Interior and Local Government Act of 1990,” and the rules and regulations issued pursuant thereto.

In particular, Section 61, Chapter 5 of R.A. No. 6975[32] on the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology provides:

Sec. 61. Powers and Functions. - The Jail Bureau shall exercise supervision and control over all city and municipal jails. The provincial jails shall be supervised and controlled by the provincial government within its jurisdiction, whose expenses shall be subsidized by the National Government for not more than three (3) years after the effectivity of this Act.

The power of control is the power of an officer to alter or modify or set aside what a subordinate officer had done in the performance of his duties and to substitute the judgment of the former for that of the latter.[33] An officer in control lays down the rules in the doing of an act. If they are not followed, he may, in his discretion, order the act undone or re-done by his subordinate or he may even decide to do it himself.[34]

On the other hand, the power of supervision means “overseeing or the authority of an officer to see to it that the subordinate officers perform their duties.”[35] If the subordinate officers fail or neglect to fulfill their duties, the official may take such action or step as prescribed by law to make them perform their duties. Essentially, the power of supervision means no more than the power of ensuring that laws are faithfully executed, or that subordinate officers act within the law.[36] The supervisor or superintendent merely sees to it that the rules are followed, but he does not lay down the rules, nor does he have discretion to modify or replace them.[37]

Significantly, it is the provincial government and not the governor alone which has authority to exercise control and supervision over provincial jails. In any case, neither of said powers authorizes the doing of acts beyond the parameters set by law. On the contrary, subordinates must be enjoined to act within the bounds of law. In the event that the subordinate performs an act ultra vires, rules may be laid down on how the act should be done, but always in conformity with the law.

In a desperate attempt to stretch the scope of his powers, petitioner Ambil, Jr. cites Section 1731, Article III of the Administrative Code of 1917 on Provincial jails in support. Section 1731 provides:

SEC. 1731. Provincial governor as keeper of jail.—The governor of the province shall be charged with the keeping of the provincial jail, and it shall be his duty to administer the same in accordance with law and the regulations prescribed for the government of provincial prisons. The immediate custody and supervision of the jail may be committed to the care of a jailer to be appointed by the provincial governor. The position of jailer shall be regarded as within the unclassified civil service but may be filled in the manner in which classified positions are filled, and if so filled, the appointee shall be entitled to all the benefits and privileges of classified employees, except that he shall hold office only during the term of office of the appointing governor and until a successor in the office of the jailer is appointed and qualified, unless sooner separated. The provincial governor shall, under the direction of the provincial board and at the expense of the province, supply proper food and clothing for the prisoners; though the provincial board may, in its discretion, let the contract for the feeding of the prisoners to some other person. (Emphasis supplied.)

This provision survived the advent of the Administrative Code of 1987. But again, nowhere did said provision designate the provincial governor as the “provincial jailer,” or even slightly suggest that he is empowered to take personal custody of prisoners. What is clear from the cited provision is that the provincial governor’s duty as a jail keeper is confined to the administration of the jail and the procurement of food and clothing for the prisoners. After all, administrative acts pertain only to those acts which are necessary to be done to carry out legislative policies and purposes already declared by the legislative body or such as are devolved upon it[38] by the Constitution. Therefore, in the exercise of his administrative powers, the governor can only enforce the law but not supplant it.

Besides, the only reference to a transfer of prisoners in said article is found in Section 1737[39] under which prisoners may be turned over to the jail of the neighboring province in case the provincial jail be insecure or insufficient to accommodate all provincial prisoners. However, this provision has been superseded by Section 3, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended. Section 3, Rule 114 provides:

SEC. 3. No release or transfer except on court order or bail.-No person under detention by legal process shall be released or transferred except upon order of the court or when he is admitted to bail.

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