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U.S. Supreme Court

Springer v. Government of the Philippine Islands, 277 U.S. 189 (1928)

Springer v. Government of the Philippine Islands

Nos. 564 and 573

Argued April 10, 1928

Decided May 14, 1928

277 U.S. 189


1. Acts of the Philippine Legislature creating a coal company and a bank, the stock of which is largely owned by the Philippine government, provide that the power to vote the stock shall be vested in a "Committee," in the one case, and in a "Board of Control," in the other, each consisting of the Governor-General, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Held, that the voting of the stock in the election of directors and managing agents of the corporations is an executive function, and that the attempt to repose it in the legislative officers named violates the Philippine Organic Act. P. 277 U. S. 199.

2. In the Philippine Organic Act, which divides the government into three departments -- legislative, executive, and judicial -- the principle is implicit, as it is in state and federal constitutions, that these three powers shall be forever separate and distinct from each other. P. 201..

3. This separation, and the consequent exclusive character of the powers conferred upon each of the three departments of the government, is basic and vital -- not merely a matter of governmental mechanism. Id.

4. It may be stated as a general rule inherent in the American constitutional system that, unless otherwise expressly provided or incidental to the powers conferred, the legislature cannot exercise either executive or judicial power, the executive cannot exercise either legislative or judicial power, and the judiciary cannot exercise either executive or legislative power. Id. chanrobles.com-red

Page 277 U. S. 190

5. Legislative power, as distinguished from executive power, is the authority to make laws, but not to enforce them or to appoint the agents charged with the duty of enforcing them. The latter are executive functions. P. 277 U. S. 202.

6. Not having the power of appointment unless expressly granted or incidental to its powers, the legislature cannot engraft executive duties upon a legislative office, since that would be to usurp the power of appointment by indirection. Id.

7. The appointment of managers (in this instance, corporate directors) of property or a business in which the government is interested is essentially an executive act which the legislature is without capacity to perform, directly or through its members. P. 277 U. S. 203.

8. Whether or not the members of the "board" or "committee" are public officers in the strict sense, they are at least public agents charged with executive functions, and therefore beyond the appointing power of the legislature. Id.

9. The instances in which Congress has devolved on persons not executive officers the power to vote in nonstock corporations created for governmental purposes lend no support to a construction of the Constitution which would justify Congressional legislation like that here involved, considering the limited number of such instances, the peculiar character of the institutions there dealt with, and the contrary attitude of Congress towards governmentally owned or controlled stock corporations. P. 277 U. S. 204.

10. The powers here asserted by the Philippine Legislature are vested in the Governor-General by the Organic Act -- viz., by the provision vesting in him the supreme executive power, with general supervision and control over all the departments and bureaus of the government; the provision placing on him the responsibility for the faithful execution of the laws, and the provision that all executive functions of the government must be directly under him or within one of the executive departments under his supervision and control. P. 277 U. S. 205.

11. Where a statute contains a grant of power enumerating certain things which may be done, and also a general grant of power which, standing alone, would include those things and more, the general grant may be given full effect if the context shows that the enumeration was not intended to be exclusive. P. 277 U. S. 206.

12. In § 22 of the Organic Act, the clause in the form of a proviso placing all the executive functions directly under the Governor-General or in one of the executive departments under his direction chanrobles.com-red

Page 277 U. S. 191

and control, and the proviso preceding it which grant certain powers to the legislature, are both to be construed as independent and substantive provisions. P. 277 U. S. 207.

13. An inference that Congress has approved an Act of the Philippine Legislature reported to it under § 10 of the Organic Act cannot be drawn from the failure of Congress to exercise its power to annul, reserved in that section, where the Act reported contravenes the Organic Act, and is therefore clearly void. P. 277 U. S. 208.


Certiorari, 275 U.S. 519, to two judgments of ouster rendered by the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands in proceedings in the nature of quo warranto, which were brought in that court by the Philippine government against the present petitioners to test their right to be directors in certain corporations described in the opinion. chanrobles.com-red

Page 277 U. S. 197


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