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Case Digest: RE: Petition for recognition of exemption of the GSIS from payment of legal fees 612 SCRA 193 (2010)
ISSUE: Whether or not the legislature can exempt the GSIS from legal fees imposed by the Court on GOCCs and local government units
FACTS: The GSIS seeks exemption from the payment of legal fees imposed on GOCCs under Sec 22, Rule 141 (Legal Fees) of the ROC. The GSIS anchors its petition on Sec 39 of its charter, RA 8291 (The GSIS Act of 1997) Required to comment on the GSIS’ petition, the OSG maintains that the petition should be denied. On this Court’s order, the Office of the Chief Attorney (OCAT) submitted a report and recommendation on the petition of the GSIS and the comment of the OSG thereon. According to the OCAT, the claim of the GSIS for exemption from the payment of legal fees has no legal basis.
RATIO DECIDENDI: The GSIS is a corporate entity whose personality is separate and distinct from that of its individual members. The rights of its members are not its rights; its rights, powers and functions pertain to it solely and are not shared by its members. More importantly, the Congress could not have carved out an exemption for the GSIS from the payment of legal fees without transgressing another equally important institutional safeguard of the Court’s independence — fiscal autonomy. Legal fees therefore do not only constitute a vital source of the Court’s financial resources but also comprise an essential element of the Court’s fiscal independence. The 1987 Constitution also took away the power of Congress to repeal, alter, or supplement rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure.