Supreme Court declares K-12 constitutional

Lian Buan
Supreme Court declares K-12 constitutional
The law is an exercise of the state’s police power, the High Court says

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has declared the K-12 curriculum constitutional, saying that it was an exercise of the state’s police power, and that problems that may result from the policy are not concerns of the Court.

The 94-page ponencia was promulgated October 9, and penned by Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa with unanimous votes. Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Alexander Gesmundo, and Jose Reyes Jr were on leave and did not cast a vote.

The en banc denied the consolidated petitions of groups who questioned K-12, declared the law constitutional, and even lifted the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in 2015 that stopped the exclusion of Filipino in the General Education (GE) curriculum.

Police power and Filipino

Police power is the power of the state to enforce laws that will benefit the general welfare of its people. 

For the en banc, the Philippines has revised its education laws throughout history and passing the K-12 law was another revision that is in compliance with the State’s police power.

“One can easily discern that the enactment of education laws, including the K to 12 Law and the Kindergarten Education Act, their respective implementing rules and regulations and the issuances of the government agencies, are an exercise of the State’s police power,” said the en banc.

The en banc also said that the Congress had the right to add years to basic education because “by no means did the Constitution foreclose the possibility that the legislature provides beyond the minimum set by the Constitution.”

In declaring K-12 constitutional, the en banc also lifted the 2015 TRO that stopped the exclusion of Filipino in the GE.

The en banc said that the petitioner’s basis, which is Section 6, Article XIV of the Constitution, is a non-self-executing provision.

Self-executing provisions are the parts of the Constitution that do not need a law to be enforceable. Non-self-executing provisions need a law. Section 6, Article XIV says “the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.”

Because it is a non-self-executing provision, the en banc said they are not “judicially enforceable constitutional rights.”

Effect on teachers, jobs

One of the arguments against K-12 is the supposed job losses that would result from the shift.

The en banc reasoned that the right to security of tenure is already “set in stone” in the Labor Code and civil service law.

The en banc also did not give merit to the argument that K-12 discriminated against a sector of students. The petitioners argued that K-12 gave premium to preparing students for international standards, when not every student intends to join global industries.

For the en banc, the intent of K-12 as seen by the “spiral approach” that claims to address congestion and responsiveness, means that the “law caters to the interest of the public in general, as opposed to a particular group of people.”

The Manila Science High School also disputed the global preparedness aspect of K-12, saying its students are not trained for immediate employment, but for further studies to become experts based in the Philippines. The en banc said the Manila Science High School was not able to prove why it must be given a valid classification.

Policy not Court’s concern

Throughtout the decision, the en banc made disclaimers that it was in no way ruling whether or not K-12 was effective.

The Court claimed its only concerns were judicial in nature, and not on effectiveness.

“Policy matters are not the concern of the Court. To reiterate, government policy is within the exclusive dominion of the political branches of the government. It is not for the Court to look into the wisdom or propriety of legislative determination,” said the en banc.

Higher Education Institutions (HEI) teachers complained that they were being moved out of colleges to senior high school, and that this supposedly violated their academic freedom.

The Court reminded teachers that they could still be fired for valid cause under labor and civil laws.

“While the Court agrees, in principle, that security of tenure is an important aspect of academic freedom -that the freedom is only meaningful if the faculty members are assured that they are free to pursue their academic endeavors without fear of reprisals -it is likewise equally true that convergence of security of tenure and academic freedom does not preclude the termination of a faculty member for a valid cause,”said the en banc.

Finally, the Court said: “Absent any showing of a violation of any Constitutional self-executing right or any international law, the Court cannot question the desirability, wisdom, or utility of the K to 12 Law as this is best addressed by the wisdom of Congress.” – 

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.