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PNB v. Palma, GR 157279, 9 August 2004
Whether or not unconstitutionality of RA 6758 on the ground of violation of equal protection clause be attacked collaterally?
No. Respondents further argue that upholding the distinction among the employees on the basis of the date of their hiring is violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. For reasons of public policy, the constitutionality of a law cannot be attacked in a collateral way. A law is deemed valid unless declared null and void by a competent court; more so when the issue has not been duly pleaded in the trial court. The question of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest opportunity. Respondents not only failed to challenge the constitutionality of RA 6758; worse, they used it in seeking compensation from petitioners. The settled rule is that courts will not anticipate a question of constitutional law in advance of the necessity of deciding it. A valid classification was made by the law in segregating other employees from the incumbents who were already receiving the benefits on July 1, 1989.
This Court sympathizes with the plight of respondents. In these tough economic times, it understands their difficult situation. But as a court, even as the highest one, it can only apply the letter and the spirit of the law; it cannot reinvent or modify it. Unfortunately, law and jurisprudence are ranged against their stance. The Supreme Court has no choice but to apply them accordingly, if it must be true to its mission under the rule of law.