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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 102976 October 25, 1995 IRON AND STEEL AUTHORITY, petitioner, vs. THE COURT OF APPEALS and MARIA CRISTINA FERTILIZER CORPORATION, respondents.

FELICIANO, J.: Petitioner Iron and Steel Authority ("ISA") was created by Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 272 dated 9 August 1973 in order, generally, to develop and promote the iron and steel industry in the Philippines. The objectives of the ISA are spelled out in the following terms: Sec. 2. Objectives The Authority shall have the following objectives: (a) to strengthen the iron and steel industry of the Philippines and to expand the domestic and export markets for the products of the industry; (b) to promote the consolidation, integration and rationalization of the industry in order to increase industry capability and viability to service the domestic market and to compete in international markets; (c) to rationalize the marketing and distribution of steel products in order to achieve a balance between demand and supply of iron and steel products for the country and to ensure that industry prices and profits are at levels that provide a fair balance between the interests of investors, consumers suppliers, and the public at large; (d) to promote full utilization of the existing capacity of the industry, to discourage investment in excess capacity, and in coordination,

with appropriate government agencies to encourage capital investment in priority areas of the industry; (e) to assist the industry in securing adequate and low-cost supplies of raw materials and to reduce the excessive dependence of the country on imports of iron and steel. The list of powers and functions of the ISA included the following: Sec. 4. Powers and Functions. The authority shall have the following powers and functions: xxx xxx xxx (j) to initiate expropriation of land required for basic iron and steel facilities for subsequent resale and/or lease to the companies involved if it is shown that such use of the State's power is necessary to implement the construction of capacity which is needed for the attainment of the objectives of the Authority; xxx xxx xxx (Emphasis supplied) P.D. No. 272 initially created petitioner ISA for a term of five (5) years counting from 9 August 1973. 1 When ISA's original term expired on 10 October 1978, its term was extended for another ten (10) years by Executive Order No. 555 dated 31 August 1979. The National Steel Corporation ("NSC") then a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Development Corporation which is itself an entity wholly owned by the National Government, embarked on an expansion program embracing, among other things, the construction of an integrated steel mill in Iligan City. The construction of such a steel mill was considered a priority and major industrial project of the Government. Pursuant to the expansion program of the NSC, Proclamation No. 2239 was issued by the President of the Philippines on 16 November 1982 withdrawing from sale or settlement a large tract of public land (totalling about 30.25 hectares in area) located in Iligan City, and reserving that land for the use and immediate occupancy of NSC. Since certain portions of the public land subject matter Proclamation No. 2239 were occupied by a non-operational chemical fertilizer plant and related facilities owned by private respondent Maria Cristina Fertilizer Corporation ("MCFC"),

Letter of Instruction (LOI), No. 1277, also dated 16 November 1982, was issued directing the NSC to "negotiate with the owners of MCFC, for and on behalf of the Government, for the compensation of MCFC's present occupancy rights on the subject land." LOI No. 1277 also directed that should NSC and private respondent MCFC fail to reach an agreement within a period of sixty (60) days from the date of LOI No. 1277, petitioner ISA was to exercise its power of eminent domain under P.D. No. 272 and to initiate expropriation proceedings in respect of occupancy rights of private respondent MCFC relating to the subject public land as well as the plant itself and related facilities and to cede the same to the NSC. 2 Negotiations between NSC and private respondent MCFC did fail. Accordingly, on 18 August 1983, petitioner ISA commenced eminent domain proceedings against private respondent MCFC in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 1, of Iligan City, praying that it (ISA) be places in possession of the property involved upon depositing in court the amount of P1,760,789.69 representing ten percent (10%) of the declared market values of that property. The Philippine National Bank, as mortgagee of the plant facilities and improvements involved in the expropriation proceedings, was also impleaded as party-defendant. On 17 September 1983, a writ of possession was issued by the trial court in favor of ISA. ISA in turn placed NSC in possession and control of the land occupied by MCFC's fertilizer plant installation. The case proceeded to trial. While the trial was ongoing, however, the statutory existence of petitioner ISA expired on 11 August 1988. MCFC then filed a motion to dismiss, contending that no valid judgment could be rendered against ISA which had ceased to be a juridical person. Petitioner ISA filed its opposition to this motion. In an Order dated 9 November 1988, the trial court granted MCFC's motion to dismiss and did dismiss the case. The dismissal was anchored on the provision of the Rules of Court stating that "only natural or juridical persons or entities authorized by law may be parties in a civil case." 3 The trial court also referred to non-compliance by petitioner ISA with the requirements of Section 16, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court. 4 Petitioner ISA moved for reconsideration of the trial court's Order, contending that despite the expiration of its term, its juridical existence continued until the winding up of its affairs could be completed. In the alternative, petitioner ISA urged that the Republic of the Philippines, being the real party-in-interest, should be allowed to be substituted for petitioner ISA. In this connection, ISA referred to

a letter from the Office of the President dated 28 September 1988 which especially directed the Solicitor General to continue the expropriation case. The trial court denied the motion for reconsideration, stating, among other things that:
The property to be expropriated is not for public use or benefit [__] but for the use and benefit [__] of NSC, a government controlled private corporation engaged in private business and for profit, specially now that the government, according to newspaper reports, is offering for sale to the public its [shares of stock] in the National Steel Corporation in line with the pronounced policy of the present administration to disengage 5 the government from its private business ventures. (Brackets supplied)

Petitioner went on appeal to the Court of Appeals. In a Decision dated 8 October 1991, the Court of Appeals affirmed the order of dismissal of the trial court. The Court of Appeals held that petitioner ISA, "a government regulatory agency exercising sovereign functions," did not have the same rights as an ordinary corporation and that the ISA, unlike corporations organized under the Corporation Code, was not entitled to a period for winding up its affairs after expiration of its legally mandated term, with the result that upon expiration of its term on 11 August 1987, ISA was "abolished and [had] no more legal authority to perform governmental functions." The Court of Appeals went on to say that the action for expropriation could not prosper because the basis for the proceedings, the ISA's exercise of its delegated authority to expropriate, had become ineffective as a result of the delegate's dissolution, and could not be continued in the name of Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Solicitor General: It is our considered opinion that under the law, the complaint cannot prosper, and therefore, has to be dismissed without prejudice to the refiling of a new complaint for expropriation if the Congress sees it fit." (Emphases supplied) At the same time, however, the Court of Appeals held that it was premature for the trial court to have ruled that the expropriation suit was not for a public purpose, considering that the parties had not yet rested their respective cases. In this Petition for Review, the Solicitor General argues that since ISA initiated and prosecuted the action for expropriation in its capacity as agent of the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic, as principal of ISA, is entitled to be substituted and to be made a party-plaintiff after the agent ISA's term had expired. Private respondent MCFC, upon the other hand, argues that the failure of Congress to enact a law further extending the term of ISA after 11 August 1988

evinced a "clear legislative intent to terminate the juridical existence of ISA," and that the authorization issued by the Office of the President to the Solicitor General for continued prosecution of the expropriation suit could not prevail over such negative intent. It is also contended that the exercise of the eminent domain by ISA or the Republic is improper, since that power would be exercised "not on behalf of the National Government but for the benefit of NSC." The principal issue which we must address in this case is whether or not the Republic of the Philippines is entitled to be substituted for ISA in view of the expiration of ISA's term. As will be made clear below, this is really the only issue which we must resolve at this time. Rule 3, Section 1 of the Rules of Court specifies who may be parties to a civil action: Sec. 1. Who May Be Parties. Only natural or juridical persons or entities authorized by law may be parties in a civil action. Under the above quoted provision, it will be seen that those who can be parties to a civil action may be broadly categorized into two (2) groups: (a) those who are recognized as persons under the law whether natural, i.e., biological persons, on the one hand, or juridical person such as corporations, on the other hand; and (b) entities authorized by law to institute actions. Examination of the statute which created petitioner ISA shows that ISA falls under category (b) above. P.D. No. 272, as already noted, contains express authorization to ISA to commence expropriation proceedings like those here involved: Sec. 4. Powers and Functions. The Authority shall have the following powers and functions: xxx xxx xxx (j) to initiate expropriation of land required for basic iron and steel facilities for subsequent resale and/or lease to the companies involved if it is shown that such use of the State's power is necessary to implement the construction of capacity which is needed for the attainment of the objectives of the Authority; xxx xxx xxx

(Emphasis supplied) It should also be noted that the enabling statute of ISA expressly authorized it to enter into certain kinds of contracts "for and in behalf of the Government" in the following terms: xxx xxx xxx (i) to negotiate, and when necessary, to enter into contracts for and in behalf of the government, for the bulk purchase of materials, supplies or services for any sectors in the industry, and to maintain inventories of such materials in order to insure a continuous and adequate supply thereof and thereby reduce operating costs of such sector; xxx xxx xxx (Emphasis supplied) Clearly, ISA was vested with some of the powers or attributes normally associated with juridical personality. There is, however, no provision in P.D. No. 272 recognizing ISA as possessing general or comprehensive juridical personality separate and distinct from that of the Government. The ISA in fact appears to the Court to be a non-incorporated agency or instrumentality of the Republic of the Philippines, or more precisely of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. It is common knowledge that other agencies or instrumentalities of the Government of the Republic are cast in corporate form, that is to say, are incorporated agencies or instrumentalities, sometimes with and at other times without capital stock, and accordingly vested with a juridical personality distinct from the personality of the Republic. Among such incorporated agencies or instrumentalities are: National Power 6 7 8 Corporation; Philippine Ports Authority; National Housing Authority; Philippine National Oil Company; 9Philippine National Railways; 10 Public Estates Authority; 11 Philippine Virginia Tobacco Administration, 12 and so forth. It is worth noting that the term "Authority" has been used to designate both incorporated and non-incorporated agencies or instrumentalities of the Government. We consider that the ISA is properly regarded as an agent or delegate of the Republic of the Philippines. The Republic itself is a body corporate and juridical person vested with the full panoply of powers and attributes which are compendiously described as "legal personality." The relevant definitions are found in the Administrative Code of 1987:

Sec. 2. General Terms Defined. Unless the specific words of the text, or the context as a whole, or a particular statute, require a different meaning: (1) Government of the Republic of the Philippines refers to the corporate governmental entity through which the functions of government are exercised throughout the Philippines, including, save as the contrary appears from the context, the various arms through which political authority is made effective in the Philippines, whether pertaining to the autonomous regions, the provincial, city, municipal or barangay subdivisions or other forms of local government. xxx xxx xxx (4) Agency of the Government refers to any of the various units of the Government, including a department, bureau, office, instrumentality, or government-owned or controlled corporation, or a local government or a distinct unit therein. xxx xxx xxx (10) Instrumentality refers to any agency of the National Government, not integrated within the department framework, vested with special functions or jurisdiction by law, endowed with some if not all corporate powers, administering special funds, and enjoying operational autonomy, usually through a charter. This term includes regulatory agencies, chartered institutions and government-owned or controlled corporations. xxx xxx xxx (Emphases supplied) When the statutory term of a non-incorporated agency expires, the powers, duties and functions as well as the assets and liabilities of that agency revert back to, and are re-assumed by, the Republic of the Philippines, in the absence of special provisions of law specifying some other disposition thereof such as, e.g., devolution or transmission of such powers, duties, functions, etc. to some other identified successor agency or instrumentality of the Republic of the Philippines. When the expiring agency is an incorporated one, the consequences of such expiry must be looked for, in the first instance, in the charter of that agency and, by way of supplementation, in the provisions of the Corporation

Code. Since, in the instant case, ISA is a non-incorporated agency or instrumentality of the Republic, its powers, duties, functions, assets and liabilities are properly regarded as folded back into the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and hence assumed once again by the Republic, no special statutory provision having been shown to have mandated succession thereto by some other entity or agency of the Republic. The procedural implications of the relationship between an agent or delegate of the Republic of the Philippines and the Republic itself are, at least in part, spelled out in the Rules of Court. The general rule is, of course, that an action must be prosecuted and defended in the name of the real party in interest. (Rule 3, Section 2) Petitioner ISA was, at the commencement of the expropriation proceedings, a real party in interest, having been explicitly authorized by its enabling statute to institute expropriation proceedings. The Rules of Court at the same time expressly recognize the role of representative parties: Sec. 3. Representative Parties. A trustee of an expressed trust, a guardian, an executor or administrator, or a party authorized by statute may sue or be sued without joining the party for whose benefit the action is presented or defended; but the court may, at any stage of the proceedings, order such beneficiary to be made a party. . . . . (Emphasis supplied) In the instant case, ISA instituted the expropriation proceedings in its capacity as an agent or delegate or representative of the Republic of the Philippines pursuant to its authority under P.D. No. 272. The present expropriation suit was brought on behalf of and for the benefit of the Republic as the principal of ISA. Paragraph 7 of the complaint stated: 7. The Government, thru the plaintiff ISA, urgently needs the subject parcels of land for the construction and installation of iron and steel manufacturing facilities that are indispensable to the integration of the iron and steel making industry which is vital to the promotion of public interest and welfare. (Emphasis supplied) The principal or the real party in interest is thus the Republic of the Philippines and not the National Steel Corporation, even though the latter may be an ultimate user of the properties involved should the condemnation suit be eventually successful. From the foregoing premises, it follows that the Republic of the Philippines is entitled to be substituted in the expropriation proceedings as party-plaintiff in lieu of ISA, the statutory term of ISA having expired. Put a little differently, the

expiration of ISA's statutory term did not by itself require or justify the dismissal of the eminent domain proceedings. It is also relevant to note that the non-joinder of the Republic which occurred upon the expiration of ISA's statutory term, was not a ground for dismissal of such proceedings since a party may be dropped or added by order of the court, on motion of any party or on the court's own initiative at any stage of the action and on such terms as are just. 13 In the instant case, the Republic has precisely moved to take over the proceedings as party-plaintiff. In E.B. Marcha Transport Company, Inc. v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 14 the Court recognized that the Republic may initiate or participate in actions involving its agents. There the Republic of the Philippines was held to be a proper party to sue for recovery of possession of property although the "real" or registered owner of the property was the Philippine Ports Authority, a government agency vested with a separate juridical personality. The Court said:
It can be said that in suing for the recovery of the rentals, the Republic of the Philippines acted as principal of the Philippine Ports Authority, directly exercising the commission it had earlier conferred on the latter as its agent. . . . 15 (Emphasis supplied)

In E.B. Marcha, the Court also stressed that to require the Republic to commence all over again another proceeding, as the trial court and Court of Appeals had required, was to generate unwarranted delay and create needless repetition of proceedings:
More importantly, as we see it, dismissing the complaint on the ground that the Republic of the Philippines is not the proper party would result in needless delay in the settlement of this matter and also in derogation of the policy against multiplicity of suits. Such a decision would require the Philippine Ports Authority to refile the very same complaint already proved by the Republic of the Philippines and bring back as it were to square one. 16(Emphasis supplied)

As noted earlier, the Court of Appeals declined to permit the substitution of the Republic of the Philippines for the ISA upon the ground that the action for expropriation could not prosper because the basis for the proceedings, the ISA's exercise of its delegated authority to expropriate, had become legally ineffective by reason of the expiration of the statutory term of the agent or delegated i.e., ISA. Since, as we have held above, the powers and functions of ISA have reverted to the Republic of the Philippines upon the termination of the statutory term of ISA, the question should be addressed whether fresh legislative authority is necessary before the Republic of the Philippines may continue the expropriation proceedings initiated by its own delegate or agent.

While the power of eminent domain is, in principle, vested primarily in the legislative department of the government, we believe and so hold that no new legislative act is necessary should the Republic decide, upon being substituted for ISA, in fact to continue to prosecute the expropriation proceedings. For the legislative authority, a long time ago, enacted a continuing or standing delegation of authority to the President of the Philippines to exercise, or cause the exercise of, the power of eminent domain on behalf of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. The 1917 Revised Administrative Code, which was in effect at the time of the commencement of the present expropriation proceedings before the Iligan Regional Trial Court, provided that: Sec. 64. Particular powers and duties of the President of the Philippines. In addition to his general supervisory authority, the President of the Philippines shall have such other specific powers and duties as are expressly conferred or imposed on him by law, and also, in particular, the powers and duties set forth in this Chapter. Among such special powers and duties shall be: xxx xxx xxx (h) To determine when it is necessary or advantageous to exercise the right of eminent domain in behalf of the Government of the Philippines; and to direct the Secretary of Justice, where such act is deemed advisable, to cause the condemnation proceedings to be begun in the court having proper jurisdiction. (Emphasis supplied) The Revised Administrative Code of 1987 currently in force has substantially reproduced the foregoing provision in the following terms: Sec. 12. Power of eminent domain. The President shall determine when it is necessary or advantageous to exercise the power of eminent domain in behalf of the National Government, anddirect the Solicitor General, whenever he deems the action advisable, to institute expopriation proceedings in the proper court. (Emphasis supplied) In the present case, the President, exercising the power duly delegated under both the 1917 and 1987 Revised Administrative Codes in effect made a determination that it was necessary and advantageous to exercise the power of eminent domain in behalf of the Government of the Republic and accordingly directed the Solicitor General to proceed with the suit. 17

It is argued by private respondent MCFC that, because Congress after becoming once more the depository of primary legislative power, had not enacted a statute extending the term of ISA, such non-enactment must be deemed a manifestation of a legislative design to discontinue or abort the present expropriation suit. We find this argument much too speculative; it rests too much upon simple silence on the part of Congress and casually disregards the existence of Section 12 of the 1987 Administrative Code already quoted above. Other contentions are made by private respondent MCFC, such as, that the constitutional requirement of "public use" or "public purpose" is not present in the instant case, and that the indispensable element of just compensation is also absent. We agree with the Court of Appeals in this connection that these contentions, which were adopted and set out by the Regional Trial Court in its order of dismissal, are premature and are appropriately addressed in the proceedings before the trial court. Those proceedings have yet to produce a decision on the merits, since trial was still on going at the time the Regional Trial Court precipitously dismissed the expropriation proceedings. Moreover, as a pragmatic matter, the Republic is, by such substitution as party-plaintiff, accorded an opportunity to determine whether or not, or to what extent, the proceedings should be continued in view of all the subsequent developments in the iron and steel sector of the country including, though not limited to, the partial privatization of the NSC. WHEREFORE, for all the foregoing, the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 8 October 1991 to the extent that it affirmed the trial court's order dismissing the expropriation proceedings, is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the case is REMANDED to the court a quo which shall allow the substitution of the Republic of the Philippines for petitioner Iron and Steel Authority and for further proceedings consistent with this Decision. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. Romero, Melo, Vitug and Panganiban, JJ., concur.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC

G.R. No. 120319 October 6, 1995 LUZON DEVELOPMENT BANK, petitioner, vs. ASSOCIATION OF LUZON DEVELOPMENT BANK EMPLOYEES and ATTY. ESTER S. GARCIA in her capacity as VOLUNTARY ARBITRATOR, respondents.

ROMERO, J.: From a submission agreement of the Luzon Development Bank (LDB) and the Association of Luzon Development Bank Employees (ALDBE) arose an arbitration case to resolve the following issue: Whether or not the company has violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement provision and the Memorandum of Agreement dated April 1994, on promotion. At a conference, the parties agreed on the submission of their respective Position Papers on December 1-15, 1994. Atty. Ester S. Garcia, in her capacity as Voluntary Arbitrator, received ALDBE's Position Paper on January 18, 1995. LDB, on the other hand, failed to submit its Position Paper despite a letter from the Voluntary Arbitrator reminding them to do so. As of May 23, 1995 no Position Paper had been filed by LDB. On May 24, 1995, without LDB's Position Paper, the Voluntary Arbitrator rendered a decision disposing as follows: WHEREFORE, finding is hereby made that the Bank has not adhered to the Collective Bargaining Agreement provision nor the Memorandum of Agreement on promotion. Hence, this petition for certiorari and prohibition seeking to set aside the decision of the Voluntary Arbitrator and to prohibit her from enforcing the same.

In labor law context, arbitration is the reference of a labor dispute to an impartial third person for determination on the basis of evidence and arguments presented by such parties who have bound themselves to accept the decision of the arbitrator as final and binding. Arbitration may be classified, on the basis of the obligation on which it is based, as either compulsory or voluntary. Compulsory arbitration is a system whereby the parties to a dispute are compelled by the government to forego their right to strike and are compelled to accept the resolution of their dispute through arbitration by a third party. 1The essence of arbitration remains since a resolution of a dispute is arrived at by resort to a disinterested third party whose decision is final and binding on the parties, but in compulsory arbitration, such a third party is normally appointed by the government. Under voluntary arbitration, on the other hand, referral of a dispute by the parties is made, pursuant to a voluntary arbitration clause in their collective agreement, to an impartial third person for a final and binding resolution. 2Ideally, arbitration awards are supposed to be complied with by both parties without delay, such that once an award has been rendered by an arbitrator, nothing is left to be done by both parties but to comply with the same. After all, they are presumed to have freely chosen arbitration as the mode of settlement for that particular dispute. Pursuant thereto, they have chosen a mutually acceptable arbitrator who shall hear and decide their case. Above all, they have mutually agreed to de bound by said arbitrator's decision. In the Philippine context, the parties to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) are required to include therein provisions for a machinery for the resolution of grievances arising from the interpretation or implementation of the CBA or company personnel policies. 3 For this purpose, parties to a CBA shall name and designate therein a voluntary arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators, or include a procedure for their selection, preferably from those accredited by the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB). Article 261 of the Labor Code accordingly provides for exclusive original jurisdiction of such voluntary arbitrator or panel of arbitrators over (1) the interpretation or implementation of the CBA and (2) the interpretation or enforcement of company personnel policies. Article 262 authorizes them, but only upon agreement of the parties, to exercise jurisdiction over other labor disputes. On the other hand, a labor arbiter under Article 217 of the Labor Code has jurisdiction over the following enumerated cases:

. . . (a) Except as otherwise provided under this Code the Labor Arbiters shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide, within thirty (30) calendar days after the submission of the case by the parties for decision without extension, even in the absence of stenographic notes, the following cases involving all workers, whether agricultural or non-agricultural: 1. Unfair labor practice cases; 2. Termination disputes; 3. If accompanied with a claim for reinstatement, those cases that workers may file involving wages, rates of pay, hours of work and other terms and conditions of employment; 4. Claims for actual, moral, exemplary and other forms of damages arising from the employer-employee relations; 5. Cases arising from any violation of Article 264 of this Code, including questions involving the legality of strikes and lockouts; 6. Except claims for Employees Compensation, Social Security, Medicare and maternity benefits, all other claims, arising from employer-employee relations, including those of persons in domestic or household service, involving an amount exceeding five thousand pesos (P5,000.00) regardless of whether accompanied with a claim for reinstatement. xxx xxx xxx It will thus be noted that the jurisdiction conferred by law on a voluntary arbitrator or a panel of such arbitrators is quite limited compared to the original jurisdiction of the labor arbiter and the appellate jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) for that matter. 4 The state of our present law relating to voluntary arbitration provides that "(t)he award or decision of the Voluntary Arbitrator . . . shall be final and executory after ten (10) calendar days from receipt of the copy of the award or decision by the parties," 5 while the "(d)ecision, awards, or orders of the Labor Arbiter are final and executory unless appealed to the Commission by any or both parties within ten (10) calendar days from receipt of such decisions, awards, or orders." 6 Hence, while there is an express mode of appeal from the decision of a labor arbiter, Republic Act No. 6715 is silent with respect to an appeal from the decision of a voluntary arbitrator.

Yet, past practice shows that a decision or award of a voluntary arbitrator is, more often than not, elevated to the Supreme Court itself on a petition for certiorari, 7 in effect equating the voluntary arbitrator with the NLRC or the Court of Appeals. In the view of the Court, this is illogical and imposes an unnecessary burden upon it. In Volkschel Labor Union, et al. v. NLRC, et al., 8 on the settled premise that the judgments of courts and awards of quasi-judicial agencies must become final at some definite time, this Court ruled that the awards of voluntary arbitrators determine the rights of parties; hence, their decisions have the same legal effect as judgments of a court. In Oceanic Bic Division (FFW), et al. v. Romero, et al., 9 this Court ruled that "a voluntary arbitrator by the nature of her functions acts in a quasi-judicial capacity." Under these rulings, it follows that the voluntary arbitrator, whether acting solely or in a panel, enjoys in law the status of a quasijudicial agency but independent of, and apart from, the NLRC since his decisions are not appealable to the latter. 10 Section 9 of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended by Republic Act No. 7902, provides that the Court of Appeals shall exercise: xxx xxx xxx (B) Exclusive appellate jurisdiction over all final judgments, decisions, resolutions, orders or awards of Regional Trial Courts and quasi-judicial agencies, instrumentalities, boards or commissions, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Employees Compensation Commission and the Civil Service Commission, except those falling within the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in accordance with the Constitution, the Labor Code of the Philippines under Presidential Decree No. 442, as amended, the provisions of this Act, and of subparagraph (1) of the third paragraph and subparagraph (4) of the fourth paragraph of Section 17 of the Judiciary Act of 1948. xxx xxx xxx Assuming arguendo that the voluntary arbitrator or the panel of voluntary arbitrators may not strictly be considered as a quasi-judicial agency, board or commission, still both he and the panel are comprehended within the concept of a "quasi-judicial instrumentality." It may even be stated that it was to meet the very situation presented by the quasi-judicial functions of the voluntary arbitrators here, as well as the subsequent arbitrator/arbitral tribunal operating under the

Construction Industry Arbitration Commission, 11 that the broader "instrumentalities" was purposely included in the above-quoted provision.

term

An "instrumentality" is anything used as a means or agency. 12 Thus, the terms governmental "agency" or "instrumentality" are synonymous in the sense that either of them is a means by which a government acts, or by which a certain government act or function is performed. 13 The word "instrumentality," with respect to a state, contemplates an authority to which the state delegates governmental power for the performance of a state function. 14 An individual person, like an administrator or executor, is a judicial instrumentality in the settling of an estate, 15 in the same manner that a sub-agent appointed by a bankruptcy court is an instrumentality of the court,16 and a trustee in bankruptcy of a defunct corporation is an instrumentality of the state. 17 The voluntary arbitrator no less performs a state function pursuant to a governmental power delegated to him under the provisions therefor in the Labor Code and he falls, therefore, within the contemplation of the term "instrumentality" in the aforequoted Sec. 9 of B.P. 129. The fact that his functions and powers are provided for in the Labor Code does not place him within the exceptions to said Sec. 9 since he is a quasi-judicial instrumentality as contemplated therein. It will be noted that, although the Employees Compensation Commission is also provided for in the Labor Code, Circular No. 1-91, which is the forerunner of the present Revised Administrative Circular No. 1-95, laid down the procedure for the appealability of its decisions to the Court of Appeals under the foregoing rationalization, and this was later adopted by Republic Act No. 7902 in amending Sec. 9 of B.P. 129. A fortiori, the decision or award of the voluntary arbitrator or panel of arbitrators should likewise be appealable to the Court of Appeals, in line with the procedure outlined in Revised Administrative Circular No. 1-95, just like those of the quasijudicial agencies, boards and commissions enumerated therein. This would be in furtherance of, and consistent with, the original purpose of Circular No. 1-91 to provide a uniform procedure for the appellate review of adjudications of all quasi-judicial entities 18 not expressly excepted from the coverage of Sec. 9 of B.P. 129 by either the Constitution or another statute. Nor will it run counter to the legislative intendment that decisions of the NLRC be reviewable directly by the Supreme Court since, precisely, the cases within the adjudicative competence of the voluntary arbitrator are excluded from the jurisdiction of the NLRC or the labor arbiter. In the same vein, it is worth mentioning that under Section 22 of Republic Act No. 876, also known as the Arbitration Law, arbitration is deemed a special

proceeding of which the court specified in the contract or submission, or if none be specified, the Regional Trial Court for the province or city in which one of the parties resides or is doing business, or in which the arbitration is held, shall have jurisdiction. A party to the controversy may, at any time within one (1) month after an award is made, apply to the court having jurisdiction for an order confirming the award and the court must grant such order unless the award is vacated, modified or corrected. 19 In effect, this equates the award or decision of the voluntary arbitrator with that of the regional trial court. Consequently, in a petition for certiorari from that award or decision, the Court of Appeals must be deemed to have concurrent jurisdiction with the Supreme Court. As a matter of policy, this Court shall henceforth remand to the Court of Appeals petitions of this nature for proper disposition. ACCORDINGLY, the Court resolved to REFER this case to the Court of Appeals. SO ORDERED. Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Francisco and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur. Feliciano, J., concurs in the result. Narvasa, C.J. and Melo, J. are on leave.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION G.R. No. 84811 August 29, 1989 SOLID HOMES, INC., petitioner, vs. TERESITA PAYAWAL and COURT OF APPEALS, respondents.

CRUZ, J.: We are asked to reverse a decision of the Court of Appeals sustaining the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City over a complaint filed by a buyer, the herein private respondent, against the petitioner, for delivery of title to a subdivision lot. The position of the petitioner, the defendant in that action, is that the decision of the trial court is null and void ab initio because the case should have been heard and decided by what is now called the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board. The complaint was filed on August 31, 1982, by Teresita Payawal against Solid Homes, Inc. before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City and docketed as Civil Case No. Q-36119. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant contracted to sell to her a subdivision lot in Marikina on June 9, 1975, for the agreed price of P 28,080.00, and that by September 10, 1981, she had already paid the defendant the total amount of P 38,949.87 in monthly installments and interests. Solid Homes subsequently executed a deed of sale over the land but failed to deliver the corresponding certificate of title despite her repeated demands because, as it appeared later, the defendant had mortgaged the property in bad faith to a financing company. The plaintiff asked for delivery of the title to the lot or, alternatively, the return of all the amounts paid by her plus interest. She also claimed moral and exemplary damages, attorney's fees and the costs of the suit. Solid Homes moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the court had no jurisdiction, this being vested in the National Housing Authority under PD No. 957. The motion was denied. The defendant repleaded the objection in its answer, citing Section 3 of the said decree providing that "the National Housing Authority shall have exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the real estate trade and business in accordance with the provisions of this Decree." After trial, judgment

was rendered in favor of the plaintiff and the defendant was ordered to deliver to her the title to the land or, failing this, to refund to her the sum of P 38,949.87 plus interest from 1975 and until the full amount was paid. She was also awarded P 5,000.00 moral damages, P 5,000.00 exemplary damages, P 10,000.00 attorney's fees, and the costs of the suit. 1 Solid Homes appealed but the decision was affirmed by the respondent court, 2 which also berated the appellant for its obvious efforts to evade a legitimate obligation, including its dilatory tactics during the trial. The petitioner was also reproved for its "gall" in collecting the further amount of P 1,238.47 from the plaintiff purportedly for realty taxes and registration expenses despite its inability to deliver the title to the land. In holding that the trial court had jurisdiction, the respondent court referred to Section 41 of PD No. 957 itself providing that: SEC. 41. Other remedies.-The rights and remedies provided in this Decree shall be in addition to any and all other rights and remedies that may be available under existing laws. and declared that "its clear and unambiguous tenor undermine(d) the (petitioner's) pretension that the court a quowas bereft of jurisdiction." The decision also dismissed the contrary opinion of the Secretary of Justice as impinging on the authority of the courts of justice. While we are disturbed by the findings of fact of the trial court and the respondent court on the dubious conduct of the petitioner, we nevertheless must sustain it on the jurisdictional issue. The applicable law is PD No. 957, as amended by PD No. 1344, entitled "Empowering the National Housing Authority to Issue Writs of Execution in the Enforcement of Its Decisions Under Presidential Decree No. 957." Section 1 of the latter decree provides as follows: SECTION 1. In the exercise of its function to regulate the real estate trade and business and in addition to its powers provided for in Presidential Decree No. 957, the National Housing Authority shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide cases of the following nature: A. Unsound real estate business practices; B. Claims involving refund and any other claims filed by subdivision lot or condominium unit buyer against the project owner, developer, dealer, broker or salesman; and

C. Cases involving specific performance of contractuala statutory obligations filed by buyers of subdivision lot or condominium unit against the owner, developer, dealer, broker or salesman. (Emphasis supplied.) The language of this section, especially the italicized portions, leaves no room for doubt that "exclusive jurisdiction" over the case between the petitioner and the private respondent is vested not in the Regional Trial Court but in the National Housing Authority. 3 The private respondent contends that the applicable law is BP No. 129, which confers on regional trial courts jurisdiction to hear and decide cases mentioned in its Section 19, reading in part as follows: SEC. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases.-Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction: (1) In all civil actions in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation; (2) In all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real property, or any interest therein, except actions for forcible entry into and unlawful detainer of lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts; xxx xxx xxx

(8) In all other cases in which the demand, exclusive of interest and cost or the value of the property in controversy, amounts to more than twenty thousand pesos (P 20,000.00). It stresses, additionally, that BP No. 129 should control as the later enactment, having been promulgated in 1981, after PD No. 957 was issued in 1975 and PD No. 1344 in 1978. This construction must yield to the familiar canon that in case of conflict between a general law and a special law, the latter must prevail regardless of the dates of their enactment. Thus, it has been held that-

The fact that one law is special and the other general creates a presumption that the special act is to be considered as remaining an exception of the general act, one as a 4 general law of the land and the other as the law of the particular case.

xxx xxx xxx


The circumstance that the special law is passed before or after the general act does not change the principle. Where the special law is later, it will be regarded as an exception to, or a qualification of, the prior general act; and where the general act is later, the special statute will be construed as remaining an exception to its terms, unless repealed expressly or by necessary implication. 5

It is obvious that the general law in this case is BP No. 129 and PD No. 1344 the special law. The argument that the trial court could also assume jurisdiction because of Section 41 of PD No. 957, earlier quoted, is also unacceptable. We do not read that provision as vesting concurrent jurisdiction on the Regional Trial Court and the Board over the complaint mentioned in PD No. 1344 if only because grants of power are not to be lightly inferred or merely implied. The only purpose of this section, as we see it, is to reserve. to the aggrieved party such other remedies as may be provided by existing law, like a prosecution for the act complained of under the Revised Penal Code. 6 On the competence of the Board to award damages, we find that this is part of the exclusive power conferred upon it by PD No. 1344 to hear and decide "claims involving refund and any other claims filed by subdivision lot or condominium unit buyers against the project owner, developer, dealer, broker or salesman." It was therefore erroneous for the respondent to brush aside the well-taken opinion of the Secretary of Justice thatSuch claim for damages which the subdivision/condominium buyer may have against the owner, developer, dealer or salesman, being a necessary consequence of an adjudication of liability for nonperformance of contractual or statutory obligation, may be deemed necessarily included in the phrase "claims involving refund and any other claims" used in the aforequoted subparagraph C of Section 1 of PD No. 1344. The phrase "any other claims" is, we believe, sufficiently broad to include any and all claims which are incidental to or a necessary consequence of the claims/cases specifically included in the grant of jurisdiction to the National Housing Authority under the subject provisions. The same may be said with respect to claims for attorney's fees which are recoverable either by agreement of the parties or pursuant

to Art. 2208 of the Civil Code (1) when exemplary damages are awarded and (2) where the defendant acted in gross and evident bad faith in refusing to satisfy the plaintiff 's plainly valid, just and demandable claim. xxx xxx xxx
Besides, a strict construction of the subject provisions of PD No. 1344 which would deny the HSRC the authority to adjudicate claims for damages and for damages and for attorney's fees would result in multiplicity of suits in that the subdivision condominium buyer who wins a case in the HSRC and who is thereby deemed entitled to claim damages and attorney's fees would be forced to litigate in the regular courts for the purpose, a situation which is obviously not in the contemplation of the law . (Emphasis supplied.) 7

As a result of the growing complexity of the modern society, it has become necessary to create more and more administrative bodies to help in the regulation of its ramified activities. Specialized in the particular fields assigned to them, they can deal with the problems thereof with more expertise and dispatch than can be expected from the legislature or the courts of justice. This is the reason for the increasing vesture of quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial powers in what is now not unreasonably called the fourth department of the government. Statutes conferring powers on their administrative agencies must be liberally construed to enable them to discharge their assigned duties in accordance with the legislative purpose. 8 Following this policy in Antipolo Realty Corporation v. National Housing Authority, 9 the Court sustained the competence of the respondent administrative body, in the exercise of the exclusive jurisdiction vested in it by PD No. 957 and PD No. 1344, to determine the rights of the parties under a contract to sell a subdivision lot. It remains to state that, contrary to the contention of the petitioner, the case of Tropical Homes v. National Housing Authority 10 is not in point. We upheld in that case the constitutionality of the procedure for appeal provided for in PD No. 1344, but we did not rule there that the National Housing Authority and not the Regional Trial Court had exclusive jurisdiction over the cases enumerated in Section I of the said decree. That is what we are doing now. It is settled that any decision rendered without jurisdiction is a total nullity and may be struck down at any time, even on appeal before this Court. 11 The only exception is where the party raising the issue is barred by estoppel,12 which does not appear in the case before us. On the contrary, the issue was raised as early as in the motion to dismiss filed in the trial court by the petitioner, which continued to plead it in its answer and, later, on appeal to the respondent court.

We have no choice, therefore, notwithstanding the delay this decision will entail, to nullify the proceedings in the trial court for lack of jurisdiction. WHEREFORE, the challenged decision of the respondent court is REVERSED and the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City in Civil Case No. Q36119 is SET ASIDE, without prejudice to the filing of the appropriate complaint before the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board. No costs. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, Gancayco, Gri;o-Aquino and Medialdea, JJ., concur.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. 164789 August 27, 2009

CHRISTIAN GENERAL ASSEMBLY, INC., Petitioner, vs. SPS. AVELINO C. IGNACIO and PRISCILLA T. IGNACIO, Respondents. DECISION BRION, J.: We resolve in this Rule 45 petition the legal issue of whether an action to rescind a contract to sell a subdivision lot that the buyer found to be under litigation falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB). In this petition,1 Christian General Assembly, Inc. (CGA) prays that we set aside the decision2 issued by the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA G.R. SP No. 75717 that dismissed its complaint for rescission filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bulacan for lack of jurisdiction, as well as the CA resolution3 that denied its motion for reconsideration. FACTUAL ANTECEDENTS The present controversy traces its roots to the case filed by CGA against the Spouses Avelino and Priscilla Ignacio (respondents) for rescission of their Contract to Sell before the RTC, Branch 14, Malolos, Bulacan. The facts, drawn from the records and outlined below, are not in dispute. On April 30, 1998, CGA entered into a Contract to Sell a subdivision lot 4 (subject property) with the respondents the registered owners and developers of a housing subdivision known as Villa Priscilla Subdivision located in Barangay Cutcut, Pulilan, Bulacan. Under the Contract to Sell, CGA would pay P2,373,000.00 for the subject property on installment basis; they were to pay a down payment of P1,186,500, with the balance payable within three years on equal monthly amortization payments of P46,593.85, inclusive of interest at 24% per annum, starting June 1998.

On August 5, 2000, the parties mutually agreed to amend the Contract to Sell to extend the payment period from three to five years, calculated from the date of purchase and based on the increased total consideration ofP2,706,600, with equal monthly installments of P37,615.00, inclusive of interest at 24% per annum, starting September 2000. According to CGA, it religiously paid the monthly installments until its administrative pastor discovered that the title covering the subject property suffered from fatal flaws and defects. CGA learned that the subject property was actually part of two consolidated lots (Lots 2-F and 2-G Bsd-04-000829 [OLT]) that the respondents had acquired from Nicanor Adriano (Adriano) and Ceferino Sison (Sison), respectively. Adriano and Sison were former tenant-beneficiaries of Purificacion S. Imperial (Imperial) whose property in Cutcut, Pulilan, Bulacan5 had been placed under Presidential Decree (PD) No. 27s Operation Land Transfer.6 According to CGA, Imperial applied for the retention of five hectares of her land under Republic Act No. 6657,7 which the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) granted in its October 2, 1997 order (DAR Order). The DAR Order authorized Imperial to retain the farm lots previously awarded to the tenant-beneficiaries, including Lot 2-F previously awarded to Adriano, and Lot 2G Bsd-04-000829 awarded to Sison. On appeal, the Office of the President8 and the CA9 upheld the DAR Order. Through the Courts Resolution dated January 19, 2005 in G.R. No. 165650, we affirmed the DAR Order by denying the petition for review of the appellate decision. Understandably aggrieved after discovering these circumstances, CGA filed a complaint against the respondents before the RTC on April 30, 2002.10 CGA claimed that the respondents fraudulently concealed the fact that the subject property was part of a property under litigation; thus, the Contract to Sell was a rescissible contract under Article 1381 of the Civil Code. CGA asked the trial court to rescind the contract; order the respondents to return the amounts already paid; and award actual, moral and exemplary damages, attorneys fees and litigation expenses. Instead of filing an answer, the respondents filed a motion to dismiss asserting that the RTC had no jurisdiction over the case.11 Citing PD No. 95712 and PD No. 1344, the respondents claimed that the case falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the HLURB since it involved the sale of a subdivision lot. CGA opposed the motion to dismiss, claiming that the action is for rescission of contract, not specific performance, and is not among the actions within the exclusive jurisdiction of the HLURB, as specified by PD No. 957 and PD No. 1344. On October 15, 2002, the RTC issued an order denying the respondents motion to dismiss. The RTC held that the action for rescission of contract and damages

due to the respondents fraudulent misrepresentation that they are the rightful owners of the subject property, free from all liens and encumbrances, is outside the HLURBs jurisdiction.
1avvphi 1

The respondents countered by filing a petition for certiorari with the CA. In its October 20, 2003 decision, the CA found merit in the respondents position and set the RTC order aside; the CA ruled that the HLURB had exclusive jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint since it involved a contract to sell a subdivision lot based on the provisions of PD No. 957 and PD No. 1344. Contending that the CA committed reversible error, the CGA now comes before the Court asking us to overturn the CA decision and resolution. THE PETITION In its petition, CGA argues that the CA erred (1) in applying Article 1191 of the Civil Code for breach of reciprocal obligation, while the petitioners action is for the rescission of a rescissible contract under Article 1381 of the same Code, which is cognizable by the regular court; and (2) in holding that the HLURB has exclusive jurisdiction over the petitioners action by applying Antipolo Realty Corp v. National Housing Corporation13 and other cited cases. In essence, the main issue we are asked to resolve is which of the two the regular court or the HLURB has exclusive jurisdiction over CGAs action for rescission and damages. According to CGA, the exclusive jurisdiction of the HLURB, as set forth in PD No. 1344 and PD No. 957, is limited to cases involving specific performance and does not cover actions for rescission. Taking the opposing view, respondents insist that since CGAs case involves the sale of a subdivision lot, it falls under the HLURBs exclusive jurisdiction. THE COURTS RULING We find no merit in the petition and consequently affirm the CA decision. Development of the HLURBs jurisdiction

The nature of an action and the jurisdiction of a tribunal are determined by the material allegations of the complaint and the law governing at the time the action was commenced. The jurisdiction of the tribunal over the subject matter or nature of an action is conferred only by law, not by the parties consent or by their waiver in favor of a court that would otherwise have no jurisdiction over the subject matter or the nature of an action.14 Thus, the determination of whether the CGAs cause of action falls under the jurisdiction of the HLURB necessitates a closer examination of the laws defining the HLURBs jurisdiction and authority. PD No. 957, enacted on July 12, 1976, was intended to closely supervise and regulate the real estate subdivision and condominium businesses in order to curb the growing number of swindling and fraudulent manipulations perpetrated by unscrupulous subdivision and condominium sellers and operators. As one of its "whereas clauses" states: WHEREAS, reports of alarming magnitude also show cases of swindling and fraudulent manipulations perpetrated by unscrupulous subdivision and condominium sellers and operators, such as failure to deliver titles to the buyers or titles free from liens and encumbrances, and to pay real estate taxes, and fraudulent sales of the same subdivision lots to different innocent purchasers for value; Section 3 of PD No. 957 granted the National Housing Authority (NHA) the "exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the real estate trade and business." Thereafter, PD No. 1344 was issued on April 2, 1978 to expand the jurisdiction of the NHA to include the following: SECTION 1. In the exercise of its functions to regulate the real estate trade and business and in addition to its powers provided for in Presidential Decree No. 957, the National Housing Authority shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide cases of the following nature: A. Unsound real estate business practices; B. Claims involving refund and any other claims filed by subdivision lot or condominium unit buyer against the project owner, developer, dealer, broker or salesman; and C. Cases involving specific performance of contractual and statutory obligations filed by buyers of subdivision lot or condominium unit against the owner, developer, dealer, broker or salesman.

Executive Order No. 648 (EO 648), dated February 7, 1981, transferred the regulatory and quasi-judicial functions of the NHA to the Human Settlements Regulatory Commission (HSRC). Section 8 of EO 648 provides: SECTION 8. Transfer of Functions. -The regulatory functions of the National Housing Authority pursuant to Presidential Decree Nos. 957, 1216, 1344 and other related laws are hereby transferred to the Commission [Human Settlements Regulatory Commission]. x x x. Among these regulatory functions are: 1) Regulation of the real estate trade and business; x x x 11) Hear and decide cases of unsound real estate business practices; claims involving refund filed against project owners, developers, dealers, brokers, or salesmen; and cases of specific performance. Pursuant to Executive Order No. 90 dated December 17, 1986, the HSRC was renamed as the HLURB. Rationale for HLURBs extensive quasi -judicial powers The surge in the real estate business in the country brought with it an increasing number of cases between subdivision owners/developers and lot buyers on the issue of the extent of the HLURBs exclusive jurisdiction. In the cases that reached us, we have consistently ruled that the HLURB has exclusive jurisdiction over complaints arising from contracts between the subdivision developer and the lot buyer or those aimed at compelling the subdivision developer to comply with its contractual and statutory obligations to make the subdivision a better place to live in.15 We explained the HLURBs exclusive jurisdiction at length in Sps. Osea v. Ambrosio,16 where we said: Generally, the extent to which an administrative agency may exercise its powers depends largely, if not wholly, on the provisions of the statute creating or empowering such agency. Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1344, "Empowering The National Housing Authority To Issue Writ Of Execution In The Enforcement Of Its Decision Under Presidential Decree No. 957," clarifies and spells out the quasi-judicial dimensions of the grant of jurisdiction to the HLURB in the following specific terms: SEC. 1. In the exercise of its functions to regulate the real estate trade and business and in addition to its powers provided for in Presidential Decree No. 957, the National Housing Authority shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide cases of the following nature:

A. Unsound real estate business practices; B. Claims involving refund and any other claims filed by subdivision lot or condominium unit buyer against the project owner, developer, dealer, broker or salesman; and C. Cases involving specific performance of contractual and statutory obligations filed by buyers of subdivision lots or condominium units against the owner, developer, dealer, broker or salesman. The extent to which the HLURB has been vested with quasi-judicial authority must also be determined by referring to the terms of P.D. No. 957, "The Subdivision And Condominium Buyers' Protective Decree." Section 3 of this statute provides: x x x National Housing Authority [now HLURB]. - The National Housing Authority shall have exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the real estate trade and business in accordance with the provisions of this Decree. The need for the scope of the regulatory authority thus lodged in the HLURB is indicated in the second, third and fourth preambular paragraphs of PD 957 which provide: WHEREAS, numerous reports reveal that many real estate subdivision owners, developers, operators, and/or sellers have reneged on their representations and obligations to provide and maintain properly subdivision roads, drainage, sewerage, water systems, lighting systems, and other similar basic requirements, thus endangering the health and safety of home and lot buyers; WHEREAS, reports of alarming magnitude also show cases of swindling and fraudulent manipulations perpetrated by unscrupulous subdivision and condominium sellers and operators, such as failure to deliver titles to the buyers or titles free from liens and encumbrances, and to pay real estate taxes, and fraudulent sales of the same subdivision lots to different innocent purchasers for value; xxxx WHEREAS, this state of affairs has rendered it imperative that the real estate subdivision and condominium businesses be closely supervised and regulated, and that penalties be imposed on fraudulent practices and manipulations committed in connection therewith.

The provisions of PD 957 were intended to encompass all questions regarding subdivisions and condominiums. The intention was aimed at providing for an appropriate government agency, the HLURB, to which all parties aggrieved in the implementation of provisions and the enforcement of contractual rights with respect to said category of real estate may take recourse. The business of developing subdivisions and corporations being imbued with public interest and welfare, any question arising from the exercise of that prerogative should be brought to the HLURB which has the technical know-how on the matter. In the exercise of its powers, the HLURB must commonly interpret and apply contracts and determine the rights of private parties under such contracts. This ancillary power is no longer a uniquely judicial function, exercisable only by the regular courts. As observed in C.T. Torres Enterprises, Inc. v. Hibionada: The argument that only courts of justice can adjudicate claims resoluble under the provisions of the Civil Code is out of step with the fast-changing times. There are hundreds of administrative bodies now performing this function by virtue of a valid authorization from the legislature. This quasi-judicial function, as it is called, is exercised by them as an incident of the principal power entrusted to them of regulating certain activities falling under their particular expertise. In the Solid Homes case for example the Court affirmed the competence of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board to award damages although this is an essentially judicial power exercisable ordinarily only by the courts of justice. This departure from the traditional allocation of governmental powers is justified by expediency, or the need of the government to respond swiftly and competently to the pressing problems of the modern world. [Emphasis supplied.] Another case Antipolo Realty Corporation v. NHA17 explained the grant of the HLURBs expansive quasi-judicial powers. We said: In this era of clogged court dockets, the need for specialized administrative boards or commissions with the special knowledge, experience and capability to hear and determine promptly disputes on technical matters or essentially factual matters, subject to judicial review in case of grave abuse of discretion, has become well nigh indispensable. Thus, in 1984, the Court noted that between the power lodged in an administrative body and a court, the unmistakable trend has been to refer it to the former. xxx

In general, the quantum of judicial or quasi-judicial powers which an administrative agency may exercise is defined in the enabling act of such agency. In other words, the extent to which an administrative entity may exercise such powers depends largely, if not wholly on the provisions of the statute creating or empowering such agency. In the exercise of such powers, the agency concerned must commonly interpret and apply contracts and determine the rights of private parties under such contracts, One thrust of the multiplication of administrative agencies is that the interpretation of contracts and the determination of private rights thereunder is no longer a uniquely judicial function, exercisable only by our regular courts. [Emphasis supplied.] Subdivision cases under the RTCs jurisdiction The expansive grant of jurisdiction to the HLURB does not mean, however, that all cases involving subdivision lots automatically fall under its jurisdiction. As we said in Roxas v. Court of Appeals: 18 In our view, the mere relationship between the parties, i.e., that of being subdivision owner/developer and subdivision lot buyer, does not automatically vest jurisdiction in the HLURB. For an action to fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the HLURB, the decisive element is the nature of the action as enumerated in Section 1 of P.D. 1344. On this matter, we have consistently held that the concerned administrative agency, the National Housing Authority (NHA) before and now the HLURB, has jurisdiction over complaints aimed at compelling the subdivision developer to comply with its contractual and statutory obligations. xxx Note particularly pars. (b) and (c) as worded, where the HLURBs jurisdiction concerns cases commenced by subdivision lot or condominium unit buyers. As to par. (a), concerning "unsound real estate practices," it would appear that the logical complainant would be the buyers and customers against the sellers (subdivision owners and developers or condominium builders and realtors ), and not vice versa. [Emphasis supplied.] Pursuant to Roxas, we held in Pilar Development Corporation v. Villar 19 and Suntay v. Gocolay20 that the HLURB has no jurisdiction over cases filed by subdivision or condominium owners or developers against subdivision lot or condominium unit buyers or owners. The rationale behind this can be found in the wordings of Sec. 1, PD No. 1344, which expressly qualifies that the cases cognizable by the HLURB are those instituted by subdivision or condomium buyers or owners against the project developer or owner. This is also in keeping

with the policy of the law, which is to curb unscrupulous practices in the real estate trade and business.21 Thus, in the cases of Fajardo Jr. v. Freedom to Build, Inc.,[22] and Cadimas v. Carrion,23 we upheld the RTCs jurisdiction even if the subject matter was a subdivision lot since it was the subdivision developer who filed the action against the buyer for violation of the contract to sell. The only instance that HLURB may take cognizance of a case filed by the developer is when said case is instituted as a compulsory counterclaim to a pending case filed against it by the buyer or owner of a subdivision lot or condominium unit. This was what happened in Francel Realty Corporation v. Sycip,24 where the HLURB took cognizance of the developers claim against the buyer in order to forestall splitting of causes of action. Obviously, where it is not clear from the allegations in the complaint that the property involved is a subdivision lot, as in Javellana v. Hon. Presiding Judge, RTC, Branch 30, Manila,25 the case falls under the jurisdiction of the regular courts and not the HLURB. Similarly, in Spouses Dela Cruz v. Court of Appeals,26 we held that the RTC had jurisdiction over a case where the conflict involved a subdivision lot buyer and a party who owned a number of subdivision lots but was not himself the subdivision developer. The Present Case In the present case, CGA is unquestionably the buyer of a subdivision lot from the respondents, who sold the property in their capacities as owner and developer. As CGA stated in its complaint: 2.01. Defendants are the registered owners and developers of a housing subdivision presently known as Villa Priscilla Subdivision located at Brgy. Cutcut, Pulilan, Bulacan; 2.02 On or about April 30, 1998, the plaintiff thru its Administrative Pastor bought from defendants on installment basis a parcel of land designated at Lot 1, Block 4 of the said Villa Priscilla Subdivision xxx xxx 2.04 At the time of the execution of the second Contract to Sell (Annex "B"), Lot 1, Block 4 of the Villa Priscilla Subdivision was already covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-127776 of the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City in the name of Iluminada T. Soneja, married to Asterio Soneja

(defendant Priscilla T. Ignacios sister and brother-in-law) and the defendants as co-owners, but the latter represented themselves to be the real and absolute owners thereof, as in fact it was annotated in the title that they were empowered to sell the same. Copy of TCT No. T-127776 is hereto attached and made part hereof as Annex "C". 2.05 Plaintiff has been religiously paying the agreed monthly installments until its Administrative Pastor discovered recently that while apparently clean on its face, the title covering the subject lot actually suffers from fatal flaws and defects as it is part of the property involved in litigation even before the original Contract to Sell (Annex "A"), which defendants deliberately and fraudulently concealed from the plaintiff; 2.06 As shown in the technical description of TCT No. T-127776 (Annex "C"), it covers a portion of consolidated Lots 2-F and 2-G Bsd-04-000829 (OLT), which were respectively acquired by defendants from Nicanor Adriano and Ceferino Sison, former tenants-beneficiaries of Purificacion S. Imperial, whose property at Cutcut, Pulilan, Bulacan originally covered by TCT No. 240878 containing an area of 119,431 square meters was placed under Operation Land Transfer under P.D. No. 27; 2.07 Said Purificacion S. Imperial applied for retention of five (5) hectares of her property at Cutcut, Pulilan, Bulacan under Rep, Act No. 6657 and the same was granted by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to cover in whole or in part farm lots previously awarded to tenantsbeneficiaries, including inter alia Nicanor Adrianos Lot 2-F and Ceferino Sisons Lot 2-G Bsd-04-000829 (OLT). xxx 2.08 Said order of October 2, 1997 was affirmed and declared final and executory, and the case was considered closed, as in fact there was already an Implementing Order dated November 10, 1997. xxx 3.03 As may thus be seen, the defendants deliberately and fraudulently concealed from the plaintiff that fact that the parcel of land sold to the latter under the Contract to Sell (Annexes "A" and "B") is part of the property already under litigation and in fact part of the five-hectare retention awarded to the original owner, Purificacion S. Imperial. xxx

3.05 Plaintiff is by law entitled to the rescission of the Contracts to Sell (Annexes "A" and "B") by restitution of what has already been paid to date for the subject property in the total amount of P2,515,899.20, thus formal demand therefor was made on the defendants thru a letter dated April 5, 2002, which they received but refused to acknowledge receipt. Copy of said letter is hereto attached and made part hereof as Annex "J". 27 [Emphasis supplied.] From these allegations, the main thrust of the CGA complaint is clear to compel the respondents to refund the payments already made for the subject property because the respondents were selling a property that they apparently did not own. In other words, CGA claims that since the respondents cannot comply with their obligations under the contract, i.e., to deliver the property free from all liens and encumbrances, CGA is entitled to rescind the contract and get a refund of the payments already made. This cause of action clearly falls under the actions contemplated by Paragraph (b), Section 1 of PD No. 1344, which reads: SEC. 1. In the exercise of its functions to regulate the real estate trade and business and in addition to its powers provided for in Presidential Decree No. 957, the National Housing Authority shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide cases of the following nature: xxx B. Claims involving refund and any other claims filed by subdivision lot or condominium unit buyer against the project owner, developer, dealer, broker or salesman; and We view CGAs contention that the CA erred in applying Article 1191 of the Civil Code as basis for the contracts rescission to be a negligible point. Regardless of whether the rescission of contract is based on Article 1191 or 1381 of the Civil Code, the fact remains that what CGA principally wants is a refund of all payments it already made to the respondents. This intent, amply articulated in its complaint, places its action within the ambit of the HLURBs exclusive jurisdiction and outside the reach of the regular courts. Accordingly, CGA has to file its complaint before the HLURB, the body with the proper jurisdiction. WHEREFORE, premises considered, we DENY the petition and AFFIRM the October 20, 2003 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. SP No. 75717 dismissing for lack of jurisdiction the CGA complaint filed with the RTC, Branch 14 of Malolos, Bulacan. SO ORDERED.

ARTURO D. BRION Associate Justice WE CONCUR: LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING Associate Justice Chairperson MORALES-CONCHITA CARPIO Associate Justice MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO Associate Justice

ROBERTO A. ABAD Associate Justice ATTESTATION I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division. LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING Associate Justice Chairperson CERTIFICATION Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division. REYNATO S. PUNO Chief Justice

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC G.R. No. L-46496 February 27, 1940

ANG TIBAY, represented by TORIBIO TEODORO, manager and propietor, and NATIONAL WORKERS BROTHERHOOD, petitioners, vs. THE COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS and NATIONAL LABOR UNION, INC., respondents. Office of the Solicitor-General Ozaeta and Assistant Attorney Barcelona for the Court of Industrial Relations. Antonio D. Paguia for National Labor Unon. Claro M. Recto for petitioner "Ang Tibay". Jose M. Casal for National Workers' Brotherhood. LAUREL, J.: The Solicitor-General in behalf of the respondent Court of Industrial Relations in the above-entitled case has filed a motion for reconsideration and moves that, for the reasons stated in his motion, we reconsider the following legal conclusions of the majority opinion of this Court: 1. Que un contrato de trabajo, asi individual como colectivo, sin termino fijo de duracion o que no sea para una determinada, termina o bien por voluntad de cualquiera de las partes o cada vez que ilega el plazo fijado para el pago de los salarios segun costumbre en la localidad o cunado se termine la obra; 2. Que los obreros de una empresa fabril, que han celebrado contrato, ya individual ya colectivamente, con ell, sin tiempo fijo, y que se han visto obligados a cesar en sus tarbajos por haberse declarando paro forzoso en la fabrica en la cual tarbajan, dejan de ser empleados u obreros de la misma; 3. Que un patrono o sociedad que ha celebrado un contrato colectivo de trabajo con sus osbreros sin tiempo fijo de duracion y sin ser para una obra determiminada y que se niega a readmitir a dichos obreros que

cesaron como consecuencia de un paro forzoso, no es culpable de practica injusta in incurre en la sancion penal del articulo 5 de la Ley No. 213 del Commonwealth, aunque su negativa a readmitir se deba a que dichos obreros pertenecen a un determinado organismo obrero, puesto que tales ya han dejado deser empleados suyos por terminacion del contrato en virtud del paro. The respondent National Labor Union, Inc., on the other hand, prays for the vacation of the judgement rendered by the majority of this Court and the remanding of the case to the Court of Industrial Relations for a new trial, and avers: 1. That Toribio Teodoro's claim that on September 26, 1938, there was shortage of leather soles in ANG TIBAY making it necessary for him to temporarily lay off the members of the National Labor Union Inc., is entirely false and unsupported by the records of the Bureau of Customs and the Books of Accounts of native dealers in leather. 2. That the supposed lack of leather materials claimed by Toribio Teodoro was but a scheme to systematically prevent the forfeiture of this bond despite the breach of his CONTRACT with the Philippine Army. 3. That Toribio Teodoro's letter to the Philippine Army dated September 29, 1938, (re supposed delay of leather soles from the States) was but a scheme to systematically prevent the forfeiture of this bond despite the breach of his CONTRACT with the Philippine Army. 4. That the National Worker's Brotherhood of ANG TIBAY is a company or employer union dominated by Toribio Teodoro, the existence and functions of which are illegal. (281 U.S., 548, petitioner's printed memorandum, p. 25.) 5. That in the exercise by the laborers of their rights to collective bargaining, majority rule and elective representation are highly essential and indispensable. (Sections 2 and 5, Commonwealth Act No. 213.) 6. That the century provisions of the Civil Code which had been (the) principal source of dissensions and continuous civil war in Spain cannot and should not be made applicable in interpreting and applying the salutary provisions of a modern labor legislation of American origin where the industrial peace has always been the rule.

7. That the employer Toribio Teodoro was guilty of unfair labor practice for discriminating against the National Labor Union, Inc., and unjustly favoring the National Workers' Brotherhood. 8. That the exhibits hereto attached are so inaccessible to the respondents that even with the exercise of due diligence they could not be expected to have obtained them and offered as evidence in the Court of Industrial Relations. 9. That the attached documents and exhibits are of such far-reaching importance and effect that their admission would necessarily mean the modification and reversal of the judgment rendered herein. The petitioner, Ang Tibay, has filed an opposition both to the motion for reconsideration of the respondent National Labor Union, Inc. In view of the conclusion reached by us and to be herein after stead with reference to the motion for a new trial of the respondent National Labor Union, Inc., we are of the opinion that it is not necessary to pass upon the motion for reconsideration of the Solicitor-General. We shall proceed to dispose of the motion for new trial of the respondent labor union. Before doing this, however, we deem it necessary, in the interest of orderly procedure in cases of this nature, in interest of orderly procedure in cases of this nature, to make several observations regarding the nature of the powers of the Court of Industrial Relations and emphasize certain guiding principles which should be observed in the trial of cases brought before it. We have re-examined the entire record of the proceedings had before the Court of Industrial Relations in this case, and we have found no substantial evidence that the exclusion of the 89 laborers here was due to their union affiliation or activity. The whole transcript taken contains what transpired during the hearing and is more of a record of contradictory and conflicting statements of opposing counsel, with sporadic conclusion drawn to suit their own views. It is evident that these statements and expressions of views of counsel have no evidentiary value. The Court of Industrial Relations is a special court whose functions are specifically stated in the law of its creation (Commonwealth Act No. 103). It is more an administrative than a part of the integrated judicial system of the nation. It is not intended to be a mere receptive organ of the Government. Unlike a court of justice which is essentially passive, acting only when its jurisdiction is invoked and deciding only cases that are presented to it by the parties litigant, the function of the Court of Industrial Relations, as will appear from perusal of its organic law, is more active, affirmative and dynamic. It not only exercises judicial or quasi-judicial functions in the determination of disputes between employers

and employees but its functions in the determination of disputes between employers and employees but its functions are far more comprehensive and expensive. It has jurisdiction over the entire Philippines, to consider, investigate, decide, and settle any question, matter controversy or dispute arising between, and/or affecting employers and employees or laborers, and regulate the relations between them, subject to, and in accordance with, the provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 103 (section 1). It shall take cognizance or purposes of prevention, arbitration, decision and settlement, of any industrial or agricultural dispute causing or likely to cause a strike or lockout, arising from differences as regards wages, shares or compensation, hours of labor or conditions of tenancy or employment, between landlords and tenants or farm-laborers, provided that the number of employees, laborers or tenants of farm-laborers involved exceeds thirty, and such industrial or agricultural dispute is submitted to the Court by the Secretary of Labor or by any or both of the parties to the controversy and certified by the Secretary of labor as existing and proper to be by the Secretary of Labor as existing and proper to be dealth with by the Court for the sake of public interest. (Section 4, ibid.) It shall, before hearing the dispute and in the course of such hearing, endeavor to reconcile the parties and induce them to settle the dispute by amicable agreement. (Paragraph 2, section 4, ibid.) When directed by the President of the Philippines, it shall investigate and study all industries established in a designated locality, with a view to determinating the necessity and fairness of fixing and adopting for such industry or locality a minimum wage or share of laborers or tenants, or a maximum "canon" or rental to be paid by the "inquilinos" or tenants or less to landowners. (Section 5, ibid.) In fine, it may appeal to voluntary arbitration in the settlement of industrial disputes; may employ mediation or conciliation for that purpose, or recur to the more effective system of official investigation and compulsory arbitration in order to determine specific controversies between labor and capital industry and in agriculture. There is in reality here a mingling of executive and judicial functions, which is a departure from the rigid doctrine of the separation of governmental powers. In the case of Goseco vs. Court of Industrial Relations et al., G.R. No. 46673, promulgated September 13, 1939, we had occasion to joint out that the Court of Industrial Relations et al., G. R. No. 46673, promulgated September 13, 1939, we had occasion to point out that the Court of Industrial Relations is not narrowly constrained by technical rules of procedure, and the Act requires it to "act according to justice and equity and substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities or legal forms and shall not be bound by any technicalities or legal forms and shall not be bound by any technical rules of legal evidence but may inform its mind in such manner as it may deem just and equitable." (Section 20, Commonwealth Act No. 103.) It shall not be restricted to the specific relief claimed or demands made by the parties to the industrial or agricultural dispute, but may include in the award, order or decision any matter or determination

which may be deemed necessary or expedient for the purpose of settling the dispute or of preventing further industrial or agricultural disputes. (section 13, ibid.) And in the light of this legislative policy, appeals to this Court have been especially regulated by the rules recently promulgated by the rules recently promulgated by this Court to carry into the effect the avowed legislative purpose. The fact, however, that the Court of Industrial Relations may be said to be free from the rigidity of certain procedural requirements does not mean that it can, in justifiable cases before it, entirely ignore or disregard the fundamental and essential requirements of due process in trials and investigations of an administrative character. There are primary rights which must be respected even in proceedings of this character: (1) The first of these rights is the right to a hearing, which includes the right of the party interested or affected to present his own case and submit evidence in support thereof. In the language of Chief Hughes, in Morgan v. U.S., 304 U.S. 1, 58 S. Ct. 773, 999, 82 Law. ed. 1129, "the liberty and property of the citizen shall be protected by the rudimentary requirements of fair play. (2) Not only must the party be given an opportunity to present his case and to adduce evidence tending to establish the rights which he asserts but the tribunal must consider the evidence presented. (Chief Justice Hughes in Morgan v. U.S. 298 U.S. 468, 56 S. Ct. 906, 80 law. ed. 1288.) In the language of this court inEdwards vs. McCoy, 22 Phil., 598, "the right to adduce evidence, without the corresponding duty on the part of the board to consider it, is vain. Such right is conspicuously futile if the person or persons to whom the evidence is presented can thrust it aside without notice or consideration." (3) "While the duty to deliberate does not impose the obligation to decide right, it does imply a necessity which cannot be disregarded, namely, that of having something to support it is a nullity, a place when directly attached." (Edwards vs. McCoy, supra.) This principle emanates from the more fundamental is contrary to the vesting of unlimited power anywhere. Law is both a grant and a limitation upon power. (4) Not only must there be some evidence to support a finding or conclusion (City of Manila vs. Agustin, G.R. No. 45844, promulgated November 29, 1937, XXXVI O. G. 1335), but the evidence must be "substantial." (Washington, Virginia and Maryland Coach Co. v. national labor Relations Board, 301 U.S. 142, 147, 57 S. Ct. 648, 650, 81 Law. ed. 965.) It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind accept as adequate to support a conclusion." (Appalachian Electric Power v. National

Labor Relations Board, 4 Cir., 93 F. 2d 985, 989; National Labor Relations Board v. Thompson Products, 6 Cir., 97 F. 2d 13, 15; Ballston-Stillwater Knitting Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 2 Cir., 98 F. 2d 758, 760.) . . . The statute provides that "the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law and equity shall not be controlling.' The obvious purpose of this and similar provisions is to free administrative boards from the compulsion of technical rules so that the mere admission of matter which would be deemed incompetent inn judicial proceedings would not invalidate the administrative order. (Interstate Commerce Commission v. Baird, 194 U.S. 25, 44, 24 S. Ct. 563, 568, 48 Law. ed. 860; Interstate Commerce Commission v. Louisville and Nashville R. Co., 227 U.S. 88, 93 33 S. Ct. 185, 187, 57 Law. ed. 431; United States v. Abilene and Southern Ry. Co. S. Ct. 220, 225, 74 Law. ed. 624.) But this assurance of a desirable flexibility in administrative procedure does not go far as to justify orders without a basis in evidence having rational probative force. Mere uncorroborated hearsay or rumor does not constitute substantial evidence. (Consolidated Edison Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 59 S. Ct. 206, 83 Law. ed. No. 4, Adv. Op., p. 131.)" (5) The decision must be rendered on the evidence presented at the hearing, or at least contained in the record and disclosed to the parties affected. (Interstate Commence Commission vs. L. & N. R. Co., 227 U.S. 88, 33 S. Ct. 185, 57 Law. ed. 431.) Only by confining the administrative tribunal to the evidence disclosed to the parties, can the latter be protected in their right to know and meet the case against them. It should not, however, detract from their duty actively to see that the law is enforced, and for that purpose, to use the authorized legal methods of securing evidence and informing itself of facts material and relevant to the controversy. Boards of inquiry may be appointed for the purpose of investigating and determining the facts in any given case, but their report and decision are only advisory. (Section 9, Commonwealth Act No. 103.) The Court of Industrial Relations may refer any industrial or agricultural dispute or any matter under its consideration or advisement to a local board of inquiry, a provincial fiscal. a justice of the peace or any public official in any part of the Philippines for investigation, report and recommendation, and may delegate to such board or public official such powers and functions as the said Court of Industrial Relations may deem necessary, but such delegation shall not affect the exercise of the Court itself of any of its powers. (Section 10, ibid.) (6) The Court of Industrial Relations or any of its judges, therefore, must act on its or his own independent consideration of the law and facts of the controversy, and not simply accept the views of a subordinate in arriving at

a decision. It may be that the volume of work is such that it is literally Relations personally to decide all controversies coming before them. In the United States the difficulty is solved with the enactment of statutory authority authorizing examiners or other subordinates to render final decision, with the right to appeal to board or commission, but in our case there is no such statutory authority. (7) The Court of Industrial Relations should, in all controversial questions, render its decision in such a manner that the parties to the proceeding can know the various issues involved, and the reasons for the decision rendered. The performance of this duty is inseparable from the authority conferred upon it. In the right of the foregoing fundamental principles, it is sufficient to observe here that, except as to the alleged agreement between the Ang Tibay and the National Worker's Brotherhood (appendix A), the record is barren and does not satisfy the thirst for a factual basis upon which to predicate, in a national way, a conclusion of law. This result, however, does not now preclude the concession of a new trial prayed for the by respondent National Labor Union, Inc., it is alleged that "the supposed lack of material claimed by Toribio Teodoro was but a scheme adopted to systematically discharged all the members of the National Labor Union Inc., from work" and this avernment is desired to be proved by the petitioner with the "records of the Bureau of Customs and the Books of Accounts of native dealers in leather"; that "the National Workers Brotherhood Union of Ang Tibay is a company or employer union dominated by Toribio Teodoro, the existence and functions of which are illegal." Petitioner further alleges under oath that the exhibits attached to the petition to prove his substantial avernments" are so inaccessible to the respondents that even within the exercise of due diligence they could not be expected to have obtained them and offered as evidence in the Court of Industrial Relations", and that the documents attached to the petition "are of such far reaching importance and effect that their admission would necessarily mean the modification and reversal of the judgment rendered herein." We have considered the reply of Ang Tibay and its arguments against the petition. By and large, after considerable discussions, we have come to the conclusion that the interest of justice would be better served if the movant is given opportunity to present at the hearing the documents referred to in his motion and such other evidence as may be relevant to the main issue involved. The legislation which created the Court of Industrial Relations and under which it acts is new. The failure to grasp the fundamental issue involved is not entirely attributable to the parties adversely affected by the result. Accordingly, the motion for a new trial should be and the same is hereby granted, and the entire

record of this case shall be remanded to the Court of Industrial Relations, with instruction that it reopen the case, receive all such evidence as may be relevant and otherwise proceed in accordance with the requirements set forth hereinabove. So ordered. Avancea, C. J., Villa-Real, Imperial, Diaz, Concepcion and Moran, JJ., concur.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION G.R. No. L-30637 July 16, 1987

LIANGA BAY LOGGING, CO., INC., petitioner, vs. HON. MANUEL LOPEZ ENAGE, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of Branch II of the Court of First, Instance of Agusan, and AGO TIMBER CORPORATION, respondents. TEEHANKEE, C.J.: The Court grants the petition for certiorari and prohibition and holds that respondent judge, absent any showing of grave abuse of discretion, has no competence nor authority to review anew the decision in administrative proceedings of respondents public officials (director of forestry, secretary of agriculture and natural resources and assistant executive secretaries of the Office of the President) in determining the correct boundary line of the licensed timber areas of the contending parties. The Court reaffirms the established principle that findings of fact by an administrative board or agency or official, following a hearing, are binding upon the courts and will not be disturbed except where the board, agency and/or official(s) have gone beyond their statutory authority, exercised unconstitutional powers or clearly acted arbitrarily and without regard to their duty or with grave abuse of discretion. The parties herein are both forest concessionaries whose licensed areas are adjacent to each other. The concession of petitioner Lianga Bay Logging Corporation Co., Inc. (hereinafter referred to as petitioner Lianga) as described in its Timber License Agreement No. 49, is located in the municipalities of Tago, Cagwait, Marihatag and Lianga, all in the Province of Surigao, consisting of 110,406 hectares, more or less, while that of respondent Ago Timber Corporation (hereinafter referred to as respondent Ago) granted under Ordinary Timber License No. 1323-60 [New] is located at Los Arcos and San Salvador, Province of Agusan, with an approximate area of 4,000 hectares. It was a part of a forest area of 9,000 hectares originally licensed to one Narciso Lansang under Ordinary Timber License No. 584-'52. Since the concessions of petitioner and respondent are adjacent to each other, they have a common boundary-the Agusan-Surigao Provincial boundary-

whereby the eastern boundary of respondent Ago's concession is petitioner Lianga's western boundary. The western boundary of petitioner Lianga is described as "... Corner 5, a point in the intersection of the Agusan-Surigao Provincial boundary and Los Arcos-Lianga Road; thence following AgusanSurigao Provincial boundary in a general northerly and northwesterly and northerly directions about 39,500 meters to Corner 6, a point at the intersection of the Agusan-Surigao Provincial boundary and Nalagdao Creek ..." The eastern boundary of respondent Ago's concession is described as "... point 4, along the Agusan-Surigao boundary; thence following Agusan-Surigao boundary in a general southeasterly and southerly directions about 12,000 meters to point 5, a point along Los Arcos-Lianga Road; ..." 1 Because of reports of encroachment by both parties on each other's concession areas, the Director of Forestry ordered a survey to establish on the ground the common boundary of their respective concession areas. Forester Cipriano Melchor undertook the survey and fixed the common boundary as "Corner 5 of Lianga Bay Logging Company at Km. 10.2 instead of Km. 9.7 on the LiangaArcos Road and lines N900E, 21,000 meters; N12 W, 21,150 meters; N40 W, 3,000 meters; N31 W, 2,800 meters; N50 W, 1,700 meters" which respondent Ago protested claiming that "its eastern boundary should be the provincial boundary line of Agusan-Surigao as described in Section 1 of Art. 1693 of the Philippine Commission as indicated in the green pencil in the attached sketch" of the areas as prepared by the Bureau of Forestry. 2 The Director of Forestry, after considering the evidence, found: That the claim of the Ago Timber Corporation portrays a line (green line) far different in alignment with the line (red) as indicated in the original License Control Map of this Office; That the claim of the Ago Timber Corporation (green line does not conform to the distance of 6,800 meters from point 3 to point 4 of the original description of the area of Narciso Lansang but would project said line to a distance of approximately 13,800 meters; That to follow the claim of the Ago Timber Corporation would increase the area of Narciso Lansang from 9,000 to 12,360 hectares; That to follow the claim of the Ago Timber Corporation would reduce the area of the Lianga Bay Logging, Co., Inc. to 107,046 hectares instead of the area granted which is 110,406 hectares. and ruled that "the claim of the Ago Timber Corporation runs counter to the intentions of this Office is granting the license of Mr. Narciso Lansang; and

further, that it also runs counter to the intentions of this Office in granting the Timber License Agreement to the Lianga Bay Logging Co., Inc. The intentions of this Office in granting the two licenses (Lansang and Lianga Bay Logging Co., Inc.) are patently manifest in that distances and bearings are the controlling factors. If mention was ever made of the Agusan-Surigao boundary, as the common boundary line of both licensees, this Office could not have meant the Agusan-Surigao boundary as described under Section 1 of Act 1693 of the Philippine Commission for were it so it could have been so easy for this Office to mention the distance from point 3 to point 4 of Narciso Lansang as approximately 13,800 meters. This cannot be considered a mistake considering that the percentage of error which is more or less 103% is too high an error to be committed by an Office manned by competent technical men. The AgusanSurigao boundary as mentioned in the technical descriptions of both licensees, is, therefore, patently an imaginary line based on B.F. License Control Map. Such being the case, it is reiterated that distance and bearings control the description where an imaginary line exists. 3The decision fixed the common boundary of the licensed areas of the Ago Timber Corporation and Lianga Bay Logging Co., Inc. as that indicated in red pencil of the sketch attached to the decision. In an appeal interposed by respondent Ago, docketed in the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources as DANR Case No. 2268, the then Acting Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources Jose Y. Feliciano, in a decision dated August 9, 1965 set aside the appealed decision of the Director of Forestry and ruled that "(T)he common boundary line of the licensed areas of the Ago Timber Corporation and the Lianga Bay Logging Co., Inc., should be that indicated by the green line on the same sketch which had been made an integral part of the appealed decision." 4 Petitioner elevated the case to the Office of the President, where in a decision dated June 16, 1966, signed by then Assistant Executive Secretary Jose J. Leido, Jr., the ruling of the then Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources was affirmed. 5 On motion for reconsideration, the Office of the President issued another decision dated August 9, 1968 signed by then Assistant Executive Secretary Gilberto Duavit reversing and overturning the decision of the then Acting Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and affirming in toto and reinstating the decision, dated March 20, 1961, of the Director of Forestry. 6 Respondent Ago filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision dated August 9, 1968 of the Office of the President but after written opposition of petitioner Lianga, the same was denied in an order dated October 2, 1968, signed by then Assistant Executive Secretary Jose J. Leido, Jr. 7

On October 21, 1968, a new action was commenced by Ago Timber Corporation, as plaintiff, in the Court of First Instance of Agusan, Branch II, docketed thereat as Civil Case No. 1253, against Lianga Bay Logging Co., Inc., Assistant Executive Secretaries Jose J. Leido, Jr. and Gilberto M. Duavit and Director of Forestry, as defendants, for "Determination of Correct Boundary Line of License Timber Areas and Damages with Preliminary Injunction" reiterating once more the same question raised and passed upon in DANR Case No. 2268 and insisting that "a judicial review of such divergent administrative decisions is necessary in order to determine the correct boundary fine of the licensed areas in question." 8 As prayed for, respondent judge issued a temporary restraining order on October 28, 1968, on a bond of P20,000, enjoining the defendants from carrying out the decision of the Office of the President. The corresponding writ was issued the next day, or on October 29, 1968. 9 On November 10, 1968, defendant Lianga (herein petitioner) moved for dismissal of the complaint and for dissolution of the temporary restraining order on grounds that the complaint states no cause of action and that the court has no jurisdiction over the person of respondent public officials and respondent corporation. It also submitted its opposition to plaintiff's (herein respondent prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction.10 A supplemental motion was filed on December 6, 1968. 11 On December 19, 1968, the lower court issued an order denying petitioner Lianga's motion to dismiss and granting the writ of preliminary injunction prayed for by respondent Ago. 12 Lianga's Motion for Reconsideration of the Order was denied on May 9, 1969. 13 Hence, this petition praying of the Court (a) to declare that the Director of Forestry has the exclusive jurisdiction to determine the common boundary of the licensed areas of petitioners and respondents and that the decision of the Office of the President dated August 9, 1968 is final and executory; (b) to order the dismissal of Civil Case No. 1253 in the Court of First Instance of Agusan; (c) to declare that respondent Judge acted without jurisdiction or in excess of jurisdiction and with grave abuse of discretion, amounting to lack of jurisdiction, in issuing the temporary restraining order dated October 28, 1968 and granting the preliminary injunction per its Order dated December 19, 1968; and (d) to annul the aforementioned orders. After respondent's comments on the petition and petitioner's reply thereto, this Court on June 30, 1969 issued a restraining order enjoining in turn the enforcement of the preliminary injunction and related orders issued by the respondent court in Civil Case No. 1253. 14

The Court finds merit in the petition. Respondent Judge erred in taking cognizance of the complaint filed by respondent Ago, asking for the determination anew of the correct boundary fine of its licensed timber area, for the same issue had already been determined by the Director of Forestry, the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Office of the President, administrative officials under whose jurisdictions the matter properly belongs. Section 1816 of the Revised Administrative Code vests in the Bureau of Forestry, the jurisdiction and authority over the demarcation, protection, management, reproduction, reforestation, occupancy, and use of all public forests and forest reserves and over the granting of licenses for game and fish, and for the taking of forest products, including stone and earth therefrom. The Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, as department head, may repeal or in the decision of the Director of Forestry when advisable in the public interests, 15 whose decision is in turn appealable to the Office of the President. 16 In giving due course to the complaint below, the respondent court would necessarily have to assess and evaluate anew all the evidence presented in the administrative proceedings, 17 which is beyond its competence and jurisdiction. For the respondent court to consider and weigh again the evidence already presented and passed upon by said officials would be to allow it to substitute its judgment for that of said officials who are in a better position to consider and weigh the same in the light of the authority specifically vested in them by law. Such a posture cannot be entertained, for it is a well-settled doctrine that the courts of justice will generally not interfere with purely administrative matters which are addressed to the sound discretion of government agencies and their expertise unless there is a clear showing that the latter acted arbitrarily or with grave abuse of discretion or when they have acted in a capricious and whimsical manner such that their action may amount to an excess or lack of jurisdiction. 18 A doctrine long recognized is that where the law confines in an administrative office the power to determine particular questions or matters, upon the facts to be presented, the jurisdiction of such office shall prevail over the courts. 19 The general rule, under the principles of administrative law in force in this jurisdiction, is that decisions of administrative officers shall not be disturbed by the courts, except when the former have acted without or in excess of their jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion. Findings of administrative officials and agencies who have acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is confined to specific matters are generally accorded not only respect but at times even finality of such findings are supported by substantial evidence. 20 As recently stressed by the Court, "in this era of clogged court dockets, the need for specialized administrative boards or commissions with the special knowledge,

experience and capability to hear and determine promptly disputes on technical matters or essentially factual matters, subject to judicial review in case of grave abuse of discretion, has become well nigh indispensable." 21 The facts and circumstances in the instant case are similar to the earlier case of Pajo, et al. v. Ago, et al. 22(where therein respondent Pastor Ago is the president of herein respondent Ago Timber Corporation). In the said case, therein respondent Pastor Ago, after an adverse decision of the Director of Forestry, Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Executive Secretary in connection with his application for renewal of his expired timber licenses, filed with the Court of First instance of Agusan a petition for certiorari, prohibition and damages with preliminary injunction alleging that the rejection of his application for renewal by the Director of Forestry and Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and its affirmance by the Executive Secretary constituted an abuse of discretion and was therefore illegal. The Court held that "there can be no question that petitioner Director of Forestry has jurisdiction over the grant or renewal of respondent Ago's timber license (Sec. 1816, Rev. Adm. Code); that petitioner Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources as department head, is empowered by law to affirm, modify or reject said grant or renewal of respondent Ago's timber license by petitioner Director of Forestry (Sec. 79[c], Rev. Adm. Code); and that petitioner Executive Secretary, acting for and in behalf and by authority of the President has, likewise, jurisdiction to affirm, modify or reverse the orders regarding the grant or renewal of said timber license by the two aforementioned officials." The Court went on to say that, "(I)n the case of Espinosa, et al. v. Makalintal, et al. (79 Phil. 134; 45 Off. Gaz. 712), we held that the powers granted to the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce (Natural Resources) by law regarding the disposition of public lands such as granting of licenses, permits, leases, and contracts or approving, rejecting, reinstating, or cancelling applications or deciding conflicting applications, are all executive and administrative in nature. It is a well-recognized principle that purely administrative and discretionary functions may not be interfered with by the courts. In general, courts have no supervising power over the proceedings and actions of the administrative departments of the government. This is generally true with respect to acts involving the exercise of judgment or discretion, and findings of act. Findings of fact by an administrative board, agency or official, following a hearing, are binding upon the courts and will not be disturbed except where the board, agency or official has gone beyond his statutory authority, exercised unconstitutional powers or clearly acted arbitrarily and without regard to his duty or with grave abuse of discretion. And we have repeatedly held that there is grave abuse of discretion justifying the issuance of the writ of certiorari only when there is capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. (Abad Santos v. Province of Tarlac, 67 Phil. 480; Tan vs. People, 88 Phil. 609)"

Respondent Ago contends that the motion filed by petitioner Lianga for reconsideration of the decision of the Office of the President was denied in an alleged "decision" dated August 15, 1966, allegedly signed by then Assistant Executive Secretary Jose J. Leido, Jr. that, "however, for some mysterious, unknown if not anomalous reasons and/or illegal considerations, the "decision" allegedly dated August 15, 1966(Annex "D") was never released" and instead a decision was released on August 9, 1968, signed by then Assistant Executive Secretary Gilberto M. Duavit, which reversed the findings and conclusions of the Office of the President in its first decision dated June 16, 1966 and signed by then Assistant Executive Secretary Leido. It is elementary that a draft of a decision does not operate as judgment on a case until the same is duly signed and delivered to the clerk for filing and promulgation. A decision cannot be considered as binding on the parties until its promulgation. 23 Respondent should be aware of this rule. In still another case of Ago v. Court of Appeals,24 (where herein respondent Ago was the petitioner) the Court held that, "While it is to be presumed that the judgment that was dictated in open court will be the judgment of the court, the court may still modify said order as the same is being put into writing. And even if the order or judgment has already been put into writing and signed, while it has not yet been delivered to the clerk for filing, it is stin subject to amendment or change by the judge. It is only when the judgment signed by the judge is actually filed with the clerk of court that it becomes a valid and binding judgment. Prior thereto, it could still be subject to amendment and change and may not, therefore, constitute the real judgment of the court." Respondent alleges "that in view of the hopelessly conflicting decisions of the administrative bodies and/or offices of the Philippine government, and the important questions of law and fact involved therein, as well as the well-grounded fear and suspicion that some anomalous, illicit and unlawful considerations had intervened in the concealment of the decision of August 15, 1966 (Annex "D") of Assistant Executive Secretary Gilberto M. Duavit, a judicial review of such divergent administrative decisions is necessary in order to determine the correct boundary line of the licensed areas in question and restore the faith and confidence of the people in the actuations of our public officials and in our system of administration of justice." The mere suspicion of respondent that there were anomalies in the non-release of the Leido "decision" allegedly denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration and the substitution thereof by the Duavit decision granting reconsideration does not justify judicial review. Beliefs, suspicions and conjectures cannot overcome the presumption of regularity and legality of official actions. 25 It is presumed that an official of a department performs his official duties regularly. 26 It should be

noted, furthermore, that as hereinabove stated with regard to the case history in the Office of the President, Ago's motion for reconsideration of the Duavit decision dated August 9, 1968 was denied in the Order dated October 2, 1968 and signed by Assistant Executive Secretary Leido himself (who thereby joined in the reversal of his own first decision dated June 16, 1966 and signed by himself). The Ordinary Timber License No. 1323-'60[New] which approved the transfer to respondent Ago of the 4,000 hectares from the forest area originally licensed to Narciso Lansang, stipulates certain conditions, terms and limitations, among which were: that the decision of the Director of Forestry as to the exact location of its licensed areas is final; that the license is subject to whatever decision that may be rendered on the boundary conflict between the Lianga Bay Logging Co. and the Ago Timber Corporation; that the terms and conditions of the license are subject to change at the discretion of the Director of Forestry and the license may be made to expire at an earlier date. Under Section 1834 of the Revised Administrative Code, the Director of Forestry, upon granting any license, may prescribe and insert therein such terms, conditions, and limitations, not inconsistent with law, as may be deemed by him to be in the public interest. The license operates as a contract between the government and respondent. Respondent, therefore, is estopped from questioning the terms and stipulation thereof. Clearly, the injunctive writ should not have been issued. The provisions of law explicitly provide that Courts of First Instance shall have the power to issue writ of injunction, mandamus, certiorari, prohibition, quo warranto and habeas corpus in their respective places, 27 if the petition filed relates to the acts or omissions of an inferior court, or of a corporation, board, officer or person, within their jurisdiction. 28 The jurisdiction or authority of the Court of First Instance to control or restrain acts by means of the writ of injunction is limited only to acts which are being committed within the territorial boundaries of their respective provinces or districts 29 except where the sole issue is the legality of the decision of the administrative officials. 30 In the leading case of Palanan Lumber Plywood Co., Inc. v. Arranz 31 which involved a petition for certiorari and prohibition filed in the Court of First Instance of Isabela against the same respondent public officials as here and where the administrative proceedings taken were similar to the case at bar, the Court laid down the rule that: "We agree with the petitioner that the respondent Court acted without jurisdiction in issuing a preliminary injunction against the petitioners Executive Secretary, Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Director of Forestry, who have their official residences in Manila and Quezon

City, outside of the territorial jurisdiction of the respondent Court of First Instance of Isabela. Both the statutory provisions and the settled jurisdiction of this Court unanimously affirm that the extraordinary writs issued by the Court of First Instance are limited to and operative only within their respective provinces and districts." A different rule applies only when the point in controversy relates solely to a determination of a question of law whether the decision of the respondent administrative officials was legally correct or not. 32 We thus declared inDirector of Forestry v. Ruiz. 33 "In Palanan Lumber & Plywood Co., Inc., supra, we reaffirmed the rule of non-jurisdiction of courts of first instance to issue injunctive writs in order to control acts outside of their premises or districts. We went further and said that when the petition filed with the courts of first instance not only questions the legal correctness of the decision of administrative officials but also seeks to enjoin the enforcement of the said decision, the court could not validly issue the writ of injunction when the officials sought to be restrained from enforcing the decision are not stationed within its territory.
1avvp hi1

"To recapitulate, insofar as injunctive or prohibitory writs are concerned, the rule still stands that courts of first instance have the power to issue writs limited to and operative only within their respective provinces or districts. " The writ of preliminary injunction issued by respondent court is furthermore void, since it appears that the forest area described in the injunctive writ includes areas not licensed to respondent Ago. The forest area referred to and described therein comprises the whole area originally licensed to Narciso Lansang under the earlier Ordinary Timber License No. 58452. Only a portion of this area was in fact transferred to respondent Ago as described in its Ordinary Timber License No. 1323-'60[New]. It is abundantly clear that respondent court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of Civil Case No. 1253 of the Court of First Instance of Agusan nor has it jurisdiction to decide on the common boundary of the licensed areas of petitioner Lianga and respondent Ago, as determined by respondents public officials against whom no case of grave abuse of discretion has been made. Absent a cause of action and jurisdiction, respondent Judge acted with grave abuse of discretion and excess, if not lack, of jurisdiction in refusing to dismiss the case under review and in issuing the writ of preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of the final decision dated August 9, 1968 and the order affirming the same dated October 2, 1968 of the Office of the President. ACCORDINGLY, the petition for certiorari and prohibition is granted. The restraining order heretofore issued by the Court against enforcement of the

preliminary injunction and related orders issued by respondent judge is the case below is made permanent and the respondent judge or whoever has taken his place is hereby ordered to dismiss Civil Case No. 1253. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, Cruz, Paras and Gancayco, JJ., concur.