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D. Judicial review

Quasi-judicial powers will always be subject to true judicial power—that which is held by the courts. Quasi-judicial power is defined as that power of adjudication of an administrative agency for the “formulation of a final order.” This function applies to the actions, discretion and similar acts of public administrative officers or bodies who are required to investigate facts, or ascertain the existence of facts, hold hearings, and draw conclusions from them, as a basis for their official action and to exercise discretion of a judicial nature. (NHA v. Almeida, G.R. No. 162784, 22 June 2007)

Under the expanded jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, it is empowered to “determine whether or not there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.” (Ibid.)

1. Doctrine of primary administration jurisdiction

a. CONCEPT

The doctrine of primary jurisdiction holds that if a case is such that its determination requires the expertise, specialized training and knowledge of an administrative body, relief must first be obtained in an administrative proceeding before resort to the courts is had even if the matter may well be within their proper jurisdiction. (Euro-Med Laboratories, Phil., Inc. v. The Province of Batangas, G.R. No. 148106, 17 July 2006)

The doctrine of primary jurisdiction applies where a claim is originally cognizable in the courts and comes into play whenever enforcement of the claim requires the resolution of issues which, under a regulatory scheme, has been placed within the special competence of an administrative agency. (SAMELCO II v. Seludo, Jr., G.R. No. 173840, 25 April 2012)

b. EFFECT ON COURTS

In such a case, the court in which the claim is sought to be enforced may:

1) Suspend the judicial process pending referral of such issues to the administrative body for its view; or,

2) If the parties would not be unfairly disadvantaged, dismiss the case without prejudice. (SAMELCO II v. Seludo, Jr., G.R. No. 173840, 25 April 2012)

2. Doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies

Under the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies, before a party is allowed to seek the intervention of the courts, it is a pre-condition that he avail himself of all administrative processes afforded him. Hence, if a remedy within the administrative machinery can be resorted to by giving the administrative officer every opportunity to decide on a matter that comes within his jurisdiction, then such remedy must be exhausted first before the court’s power of judicial review can be sought. The premature resort to the court is fatal to one’s cause of action. Accordingly, absent any finding of waiver or estoppel, the case may be dismissed for lack of cause of action. (SAMELCO II v. Seludo, Jr., G.R. No. 173840, 25 April 2012)

The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is based on practical and legal reasons. The availment of administrative remedy entails lesser expenses and provides for a speedier disposition of controversies. Furthermore, the courts of justice, for reasons of comity and convenience, will shy away from a dispute until the system of administrative redress has been completed and complied with, so as to give the administrative agency concerned every opportunity to correct its error and dispose of the case. (SAMELCO II v. Seludo, Jr., G.R. No. 173840, 25 April 2012)

1) Exceptions to doctrines of primary jurisdiction and exhaustion of administrative remedies

The doctrines of primary jurisdiction and exhaustion of administrative remedies are subject to certain exceptions, to wit:

1) Where there is estoppel on the part of the party invoking the doctrine;

2) Where the challenged administrative act is patently illegal, amounting to lack of jurisdiction;

3) Where there is unreasonable delay or official inaction that will irretrievably prejudice the complainant;

4) Where the amount involved is relatively so small as to make the rule impractical and oppressive;

5) Where the question involved is purely legal and will ultimately have to be decided by the courts of justice;

6) Where judicial intervention is urgent;

7) Where the application of the doctrine may cause great and irreparable damage;

8) Where the controverted acts violate due process;

9) Where the issue of non-exhaustion of administrative remedies has been rendered moot;

10) Where there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy;

11) Where strong public interest is involved; and 1

12) In quo warranto proceedings. (SAMELCO II v. Seludo, Jr., G.R. No. 173840, 25 April 2012)

2) Reconsideration, required

In every case, remedies within the agency’s administrative process must be exhausted before external remedies can be applied. Thus, even if a governmental entity may have committed a grave abuse of discretion, litigants should, as a rule, first ask reconsideration from the body itself, or a review thereof before the agency concerned. This step ensures that by the time the grave abuse of discretion issue reaches the court, the administrative agency concerned would have fully exercised its jurisdiction and the court can focus its attention on the questions of law presented before it. (Association of Medical Clinics for Overseas Workers, Inc. v. GCC Approved Medical Centers Association, Inc., G.R. Nos. 207132 & 207205, 06 December 2016)

3) Ripeness, required

In connection with acts of administrative agencies, ripeness is ensured under the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies. Courts may only take cognizance of a case or controversy if the petitioner has exhausted all remedies available to it under the law. The doctrine ensures that the administrative agency exercised its power to its full extent, including its authority to correct or reconsider its actions. It would, thus, be premature for courts to take cognizance of the case prior to the exhaustion of remedies, not to mention it would violate the principle of separation of powers. (Kilusang Mayo Uno v. Aquino III, En Banc, G.R. No. 210500, 02 April 2019)

Additionally, the failure to exhaust administrative remedies affects the ripeness to adjudicate the constitutionality of a governmental act, which in turn affects the existence of the need for an actual case or controversy for the courts to exercise their power of judicial review. The need for ripeness — an aspect of the timing of a case or controversy — does not change regardless of whether the issue of constitutionality reaches the Court through the traditional means, or through the Court’s expanded jurisdiction. In fact, separately from ripeness, one other concept pertaining to judicial review is intrinsically connected to it: the concept of a case being moot and academic. (Association of Medical Clinics for Overseas Workers, Inc. v. GCC Approved Medical Centers Association, Inc., G.R. Nos. 207132 & 207205, 06 December 2016)

4) Procedural law

Where the enabling statute indicates a procedure for administrative review and provides a system of administrative appeal or reconsideration, therefore, the courts – for reasons of law, comity and convenience – will not entertain a case unless the available administrative remedies have been resorted to and the appropriate authorities have been given an opportunity to act and correct the errors committed in the administrative forum. (Ejera v. Merto, G.R. No. 163109, 22 January 2014)

5) Petition for Certiorari

The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies applies to a petition for certiorari, regardless of the act of the administrative agency concerned, i.e., whether the act concerns a quasi-judicial, or quasi-legislative function, or is purely regulatory. (Association of Medical Clinics for Overseas Workers, Inc. v. GCC Approved Medical Centers Association, Inc., G.R. Nos. 207132 & 207205, 06 December 2016)

3. Doctrine of finality of administrative action

a. CONCEPT

Once a decision becomes final and executory, it is removed from the power and jurisdiction of the court which rendered it to further alter or amend it, much less revoke it. This doctrine of finality of judgment is grounded on fundamental considerations of public policy and sound practice that at the risk of occasional error, the judgments of the courts must become final at some definite date fixed by law. To allow courts to amend final judgments will result in endless litigation. (Young v. CA, G.R. No. 83271, 08 May 1991)

This doctrine applies equally to quasi-judicial agencies. (Mendiola v. CSC, En Banc, G.R. No. 100671, 07 April 1993)

1) No amendement or correction

GENERAL RULE: A judgment which has become final and executory can no longer be amended or corrected by the court. (Filcon Manufacturing Corporation v. NLRC, G.R. No. 78576, 31 July 1991)

EXCEPTIONS:

1) For clerical errors or mistakes (Ibid.);

2) Parties execute a compromise agreement prior or even after the finality of the decision (Cosmos Bottling Corporation v. Nagrama, Jr., G.R. No. 164403, 04 March 2008).

a) Clerical errors or mistakes

A judgment which has become final and executory can no longer be amended or corrected by the court except for clerical errors or mistakes. (Filcon Manufacturing Corporation v. NLRC, supra.)

An executory and final decision cannot be lawfully altered or modified even by the court which rendered the same, especially where the alteration or modification is material or substantial. In such a situation, the trial court loses jurisdiction over the case except for execution of the final judgment. (Ibid.)

Any amendment or alteration made which substantially affects the final and executory judgment is null and void for lack of jurisdiction, including the entire proceedings held for that purpose. (Ibid.)

b) Compromise agreement

The parties may execute a compromise agreement even after the finality of the decision. They are not precluded from doing so. Even final and executory judgments may be compromised. The Court has previously recognized the right to compromise final and executory judgments, as long as such right was exercised by the proper party litigants. (Cosmos Bottling Corporation v. Nagrama, Jr., supra.)

The Court has upheld the right to compromise prior to the execution of a final judgment. The Court held that the final judgment had been novated and superseded by a compromise agreement. In a previous case, the Court also sustained a compromise agreement, notwithstanding a final judgment in which only the amount of back wages was left to be determined. The Court found no evidence of fraud or of any showing that the agreement was contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy. (Ibid.)

2) Doctrine of Conclusive finality and Doctrine of Great Respect and Finality

The doctrine of conclusive finality and doctrine of great respect and finality both apply to factual findings of administrative agencies in the exercise of their quasi-judicial function. (Cosmos Bottling Corporation v. Nagrama, Jr., G.R. No. 164403, 04 March 2008)

The doctrine of conclusive finality is defined as the comity that courts extend to the executive branch and the recognition of the expertise of administrative agencies in dealing with particular questions of fact. Simply put, the appellate court may defer to the factual findings of the administrative agency due to comity… However, the prevailing doctrine with respect to administrative findings of fact has no conclusive finality. Rather, factual findings made by quasi-judicial and administrative bodies when supported by substantial evidence are accorded great respect and even finality by the appellate courts. (Ibid.)

a) Substantial evidence

GENERAL RULE: Findings of fact of an administrative agency are binding and conclusive upon this court, for as long as substantial evidence supports said factual findings. (Salazar v. De Leon, G.R. No. 127965, 20 January 2009)

EXCEPTIONS:

1) When the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures;

2) When the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible;

3) When there is grave abuse of discretion;

4) When the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;

5) When the findings of facts are conflicting;

6) When in making its findings the Court of Appeals went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee;

7) When the findings are contrary to the trial court;

8) When the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based;

9) When the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner’s main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent;

10) When the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; and

11) When the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion. (The Insular Life Assurance Company, Ltd. v. CA, G.R. No. 126850, 28 April 2004)

3) Comparisons and contrasts

1) The doctrine of conclusive finality has no evidentiary requirement, while the doctrine of great respect and finality must be supported by substantial evidence.

2) The doctrine of conclusive finality is based on comity, the doctrine of great respect and finality is based on the doctrine that administrative agencies possess specialized knowledge and expertise in their respective fields.

3) The doctrine of conclusive finality is not used in the Philippine legal system while the doctrine of great respect and finality is the established standard. (Cosmos Bottling Corporation v. Nagrama, Jr., supra.)

a) Application: NLRC and Labor Arbiter

Factual findings of the NLRC affirming those of the Labor Arbiter, both bodies deemed to have acquired expertise in matters within their jurisdictions, when sufficiently supported by evidence on record, are accorded respect if not finality, and are considered binding on this Court. As long as their decisions are devoid of any unfairness or arbitrariness in the process of their deduction from the evidence proffered by the parties, all that is left is for the Court to stamp its affirmation and declare its finality. (Ignacio v. Coca-Cola Bottlers Phils., Inc., G.R. No. 144400, 19 September 2001)

4) Appellate courts may still review factual findings

Appellate courts may still review the factual findings of administrative agencies. The CA may resolve factual issues by express mandate of law under Batas Pambansa Blg. 129. (Cosmos Bottling Corporation v. Nagrama, Jr., supra.)

The Court of Appeals shall have the power to try cases and conduct hearings, receive evidence and perform any and all acts necessary to resolve factual issues raised in cases falling within its original and appellate jurisdiction, including the power to grant and conduct new trials or Appeals must be continuous and must be completed within three (3) months, unless extended by the Chief Justice. (Paragraph 2, Section 9, B.P. Blg. 129)

Despite the respect given by the appellate courts to administrative findings of fact, the CA is empowered to resolve factual issues. A mere doctrine espousing comity cannot overcome the statutory mandate of the CA to resolve factual issues. (Cosmos Bottling Corporation v. Nagrama, Jr., supra.)

4. Doctrine of Necessary Implication Added

a. CONCEPT

Doctrine of necessary implication – No statute can be enacted that can provide all the details involved in its application. There is always an omission that may not meet a particular situation. What is thought, at the time of enactment, to be an all-embracing legislation may be inadequate to provide for the unfolding events of the future. So-called gaps in the law develop as the law is enforced. One of the rules of statutory construction used to fill in the gap is the doctrine of necessary implication. The doctrine states that what is implied in a statute is as much a part thereof as that which is expressed. Every statute is understood, by implication, to contain all such provisions as may be necessary to effectuate its object and purpose, or to make effective rights, powers, privileges or jurisdiction which it grants, including all such collateral and subsidiary consequences as may be fairly and logically inferred from its terms. And every statutory grant of power, right or privilege is deemed to include all incidental power, right or privilege. This is so because the greater includes the lesser. (Chua v. CSC, En Banc, G.R. No. 88979, 07 February 1992)

Following the doctrine of necessary implication, this grant of express power to formulate implementing rules and regulations must necessarily include the power to amend, revise, alter, or repeal the same. (Yazaki Torres Manufacturing, Inc. v. CA, G.R. No. 130584, 27 June 2006)

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