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Prof. Joselito Guianan Chan's The Labor Code of the Philippines, Annotated Labor Standards & Social Legislation Volume I of a 3-Volume Series 2019 Edition (3rd Revised Edition)
 

 
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UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT JURISPRUDENCE
 

 
PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT JURISPRUDENCE
 

   
May-2009 Jurisprudence                 

  • A.M. No. P-07-2356 - VIRGINIA L. APRIETO v. NOEL C. LINDO

  • A.C. No. 5704 - WILLEM KUPERS v. ATTY. JOHNSON B. HONTANOSAS

  • G.R. No. 120935 and G.R. NO. 124557 - LUCAS G. ADAMSON, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL./COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 136978 - GD EXPRESS WORLDWIDE N.V., ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 141001 and G.R. NO. 141018 - BANK OF AMERICA, NT AND SA v. ASSOCIATED CITIZENS BANK, ET AL./ASSOCIATED CITIZENS BANK v. BA FINANCE CORPORATION, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 147437 - LARRY V. CAMINOS, JR. v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

  • G.R. No. 152071 - PRODUCERS BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES v. EXCELSA INDUSTRIES, INC.

  • G.R. No. 153983 - SAN MIGUEL CORPORATION v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 154427 - ZACARIAS DELOS SANTOS v. CONSUELO B. PAPA AND MARIA C. MATEO

  • G.R. No. 156087 - KUWAIT AIRWAYS CORPORATION v. PHILIPPINE AIRLINES, INC.

  • G.R. NOS. 156687-88 - PANFILO D. BONGCAC v. SANDIGANBAYAN, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 162033 - HEIRS OF TRANQUILINO LABISTE, ET AL. v. HEIRS OF JOSE LABISTE, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 162467 - MINDANAO TERMINAL AND BROKERAGE SERVICE, INC. v. PHOENIX ASSURANCE COMPANY OF NEW YORK/MCGEE & CO., INC.

  • G.R. No. 162987 - SOFIA GUILLANG REPRESENTED BY SUSAN GUILLANG-CABATBAT, ET AL. v. RODOLFO BEDANIA, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 163495 - SAMUEL MALABANAN v. RURAL BANK OF CABUYAO, INC.

  • G.R. No. 163891 - CHARTER CHEMICAL AND COATING CORPORATION v. HERBERT TAN AND AMALIA SONSING

  • G.R. No. 164025 - LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES v. HEIRS OF HONORIO DE LEON, REPRESENTED BY AMBROSIO DE LEON

  • G.R. No. 164108 - ALFREDO HILDAO, LOPEZ SUGAR CORPORATION, FIRST FARMERS HOLDING CORPORATION v. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 164437 - HECTOR C. VILLANUEVA v. PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER, INC., ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 167195 - ASSET PRIVITAZATION TRUST v. T.J. ENTERPRISES

  • G.R. NOS. 168992-93 - IN RE: PETITION FOR ADOPTION OF MICHELLE P. LIM, MONINA P. LIM / IN RE: PETITION FOR ADOPTION OF MICHAEL JUDE P. LIM, MONINA P. LIM

  • G.R. No. 171399 - VICENTA CANTEMPRATE v. CRS REALTY DEVELOPMENT CORP., ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 171814 - SOUTH DAVAO DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, INC., ET AL. v. SERGIO L. GAMO, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 173049 - GOVERNMENT SERVICE INSURANCE SYSTEM (GSIS) v. TERESITA S. DE GUZMAN

  • G.R. No. 173215 - CEBU WINDLAND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION v. ONG SIAO HUA

  • G.R. No. 173565 and G.R. NO. 173607 - TRANSPACIFIC BATTERY CORP., ET AL. v. SECURITY BANK AND TRUST COMPANY / MELCHOR G. SAY AND JOSEPHINE G. SAY v. SECURITY BANK AND TRUST COMPANY

  • G.R. No. 174269 - POLO S. PANTALEON v. AMERICAN EXPRESS INTERNATIONAL, INC.

  • G.R. No. 174981 - TELECOMMUNICATIONS DISTRIBUTORS SPECIALIST, INC., ET AL. v. RAYMUND GARRIEL

  • G.R. No. 175647 - GUIDO CATUIRAN Y NECUDEMUS v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

  • G.R. NOS. 175728 & 178914 - DEVELOPMENT BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES v. PRIME NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION

  • G.R. No. 176308 - ANGEL M. PAGADUAN v. SPOUSES ESTANISLAO & FE POSADAS OCUMA

  • G.R. No. 176709 - FORT BONIFACIO DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION v. HON. EDWIN D. SORONGON, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 176832 - GOVERNMENT SERVICE INSURANCE SYSTEM v. MARIAN T. VICENCIO

  • G.R. NO. 178188, G.R. NO. 180674, G.R. NO. 181141 and G.R. NO. 183527 - OLYMPIC MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORP., v. PLATINUM GROUP OF METALS CORP. / CITINICKEL MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORP. v. HON. JUDGE BEIENVENIDO C. BLANCAFLOR, ET AL. / PLATINUM GROUP OF MET

  • G.R. No. 179652 - PEOPLE'S BROADCASTING v. THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 179934 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. ERLINDA ABORDO AND VINA CABANLONG

  • G.R. No. 180668 - MARIETTA C. AZCUETA v. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES AND THE CA

  • G.R. No. 182191 - THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. LORENZO LAYCO, SR.

  • G.R. No. 182418 - THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. EDWIN PARTOZA Y EVORA

  • G.R. No. 183566 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. BONIFACIO BADRIAGO

  • G.R. No. 184050 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. BIENVENIDO MARA Y BOLAQUE A

  • G.R. No. 184172 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. LUIS ANTONIO GARCHITORENA

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    G.R. NO. 178188, G.R. NO. 180674, G.R. NO. 181141 and G.R. NO. 183527 - OLYMPIC MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORP., v. PLATINUM GROUP OF METALS CORP. / CITINICKEL MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORP. v. HON. JUDGE BEIENVENIDO C. BLANCAFLOR, ET AL. / PLATINUM GROUP OF MET

      G.R. NO. 178188, G.R. NO. 180674, G.R. NO. 181141 and G.R. NO. 183527 - OLYMPIC MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORP., v. PLATINUM GROUP OF METALS CORP. / CITINICKEL MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORP. v. HON. JUDGE BEIENVENIDO C. BLANCAFLOR, ET AL. / PLATINUM GROUP OF METALS v. CITINICKEL MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORP. ETC. / PLATINUM GROUP OF METALS CORPORATION v. COURT OF APPEALS AND POLLY C. DY

    PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

    SECOND DIVISION

    [G.R. NO. 178188 : May 8, 2009]

    OLYMPIC MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORP., Petitioner, v. PLATINUM GROUP METALS CORPORATION, Respondent.

    [G.R. NO. 180674 : May 8, 2009]

    CITINICKEL MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, Petitioner, v. HON. JUDGE BIENVENIDO C. BLANCAFLOR, in his capacity as the Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Palawan, Branch 95, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, and PLATINUM GROUP METAL CORPORATION, Respondents.

    [G.R. NO. 181141 : May 8, 2009]

    PLATINUM GROUP METALS CORPORATION, Petitioner, v. CITINICKEL MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, acting for its own interest and on behalf of OLYMPIC MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, Respondent.

    [G.R. NO. 183527 : May 8, 2009]

    PLATINUM GROUP METALS CORPORATION, Petitioner, v. COURT OF APPEALS and POLLY C. DY, Respondents.

    D E C I S I O N

    BRION, J.:

    Before the Court are the following inter-related and subsequently consolidated cases:

    1. G.R. No. 178188 is a Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by Olympic Mines and Development Corporation (Olympic) assailing the decision dated February 28, 2007,1 and resolution dated May 30, 20072 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 97259, which effectively upheld the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Puerto Princesa City, Branch 95, in Civil Case No. 4199, and affirmed the injunctive writs issued therein;

    2. G.R. No. 180674 is a Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by Citinickel Mines and Develoment Corporation (Citinickel) assailing the decision dated November 20, 2007 of the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 99422, which dismissed the Petition for Certiorari filed by Citinickel against the injunctive writ3 issued by the RTC of Puerto Princesa, Branch 95 in Civil Case No. 4199;

    3. G.R. No. 183527 is a Petition for Certiorari filed by Platinum Group Metals Corporation (Platinum), assailing the resolution dated March 3, 2008 of the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 101544, which ordered the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining the RTC of Puerto Princesa, Branch 95, from conducting further proceedings in Civil Case No. 4199; andcralawlibrary

    4. G.R. No. 181141 is a Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by Platinum against the resolution dated January 18, 2007 of the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 97288, which dismissed the Petition for Certiorari filed by Platinum against the Panel of Arbitrators (POA) Resolution cancelling the Operating Agreement and its Small Scale Mining Permits (SSMPs).

    These four (4) petitions stem from the Operating Agreement entered into by Olympic and Platinum, and the subsequent attempts made by Olympic, and thereafter its successor-in-interest Citinickel, to unilaterally terminate the same.

    FACTUAL BACKGROUND

    Operating Agreement between Olympic and Platinum

    In 1971 and 1980, Olympic was granted "Mining Lease Contracts"4 by the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) covering mining areas located in the municipalities of Narra and Espanola, Palawan.

    On July 18, 2003, Olympic entered into an Operating Agreement5 with Platinum, by virtue of which Platinum was given the exclusive right to control, possess, manage/operate, and conduct mining operations, and to market or dispose mining products on the Toronto Nickel Mine in the Municipality of Narra, with an area of 768 hectares, and the Pulot Nickel Mine in the Municipality of Espanola, covering an area of 1,408 hectares (referred to as subject mining areas), for a period of twenty five years. In return, Platinum would pay Olympic a royalty fee of 2' % of the gross revenues.

    Olympic and Platinum applied for, and were subsequently granted the necessary government permits and environmental compliance certificates.

    On April 24, 2006, Olympic sent a letter to Platinum, informing the latter of the immediate termination of the Operating Agreement on account of Platinum's gross violations of its terms, and directing Platinum to immediately surrender possession of the subject mining areas under the Operating Agreement.

    Civil Case No. 4181 and
    the Branch 52 Order

    On April 25, 2006, Olympic instituted an action for the issuance of an injunctive writ before the RTC of Puerto Princesa, Branch 52 (docketed as Civil Case No. 4181) against Platinum. In its prayer, Olympic sought to enjoin Platinum from conducting mining operations on the subject mining areas, and also to recover possession thereof. Civil Case No. 4181 essentially involved the issue of whether Olympic can unilaterally terminate the Operating Agreement on account of the alleged gross violations committed by Platinum, and accordingly, prevent the latter from continuing its mining operations. The RTC, through an Order dated May 16, 2006 (Branch 52 Order), ruled that it did not; the trial court found that Platinum substantially complied with the terms of the Operating Agreement and declared that Olympic's unilateral termination thereof was legally impermissible.6 The RTC thus dismissed Olympic's complaint.

    Administrative Complaints

    Instituted by Olympic

    Instead of seeking relief against the Branch 52 Order (which thus became final and executory), Olympic then filed two cases with different agencies of the DENR:

    A. Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) Case No. 001-06 (filed on May 18, 2006) for the revocation of the SSMPs of Platinum, on the ground of Olympic's termination of the Operating Agreement because of the alleged gross violations thereof by Platinum. This was dismissed through a Resolution dated August 16, 2006, on the basis of the Branch 52 Order which found Olympic's unilateral rescission of the Operating Agreement to be illegal7 ; andcralawlibrary

    b. POA Case No. 2006-01-B (filed on June 8, 2006) for the cancellation of the Operating Agreement and the revocation of the SSMPs of Platinum. This case was subsequently withdrawn by Olympic on June 20, 2006

    Assignment of Rights under the Operating Agreement

    While these two administrative cases were pending, Olympic transferred its applications for mineral agreements, including its rights under the Operating Agreement, to Citinickel via a Deed of Assignment dated June 9, 2006, without the knowledge or consent of Platinum. This assignment was thereafter approved by the Regional Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) on September 6, 2006.

    Civil Case No. 06-0185

    After the assignment, Citinickel filed Civil Case No. 06-0185 before the RTC of Parañaque, Branch 258, on June 21, 2006, seeking to invalidate the Operating Agreement based on Platinum's alleged violation of its terms. This action was also dismissed by the trial court, citing forum shopping and improper venue as among the grounds for dismissal.8 Citinickel did not bother to appeal this dismissal, opting instead to find other remedies.

    Administrative Cases

    Instituted by Citinickel

    Citinickel thereafter filed three administrative cases: PMRB Case No. 002-06, DENR Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Case No. 8253, and POA Case No. 2006-02-B.

    PMRB Case No. 002-06, where Citinickel sought the cancellation of Platinum's SSMPs, was dismissed through a Resolution dated September 12, 2006, on the basis of the injunctive writ issued in Civil Case No. 4199, as well as the finding of the PMRB that Citinickel committed forum shopping.9

    DENR EMB Case No. 8253 was instituted by Citinickel requesting for the cancellation of the Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs) of Platinum; although granted by the EMB, and later affirmed by the DENR Secretary, the cancellation of Platinum's ECCs was reversed by the Office of the President.

    While Civil Case No. 06-0185 (for the rescission of the Operating Agreement) was pending before the RTC of Paranaque, Citinickel filed a complaint, docketed as POA Case No. 002-06-B, with the POA of DENR, asking for a writ of injunction against Platinum and for the cancellation of the Operating Agreement. This time, Citinickel's relentless efforts to have the Operating Agreement cancelled bore fruit - the POA issued a Resolution dated October 30, 2006 (POA Resolution)10 that cancelled the Operating Agreement as well as Platinum's SSMPs, and ordered Platinum to cease and desist from operating the subject mining areas.

    Through a Petition for Certiorari, Platinum questioned the POA Resolution before the CA; the case was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 97288. The appellate court, however, dismissed Platinum's certiorari petition,11 upon finding that Platinum failed to file a motion for reconsideration of the POA Resolution with the Mines Adjudication Board (MAB) - the body which has appellate jurisdiction over decisions or orders of the POA pursuant to Section 78 of the Republic Act No. 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (Mining Act) - before elevating the case to the CA.

    Protesting the dismissal of its certiorari petition, Platinum filed before the Court one of the four petitions involved in these consolidated cases - G.R. No. 181141. Platinum contends that the non-filing of an appeal (through a motion for reconsideration) with the MAB would be useless, as the POA declared that its decision to cancel the Operating Agreement was not just its own, but also that of the DENR, which includes the MAB. Additionally, Platinum claimed that the POA Resolution12 was patently illegal, as it contravened the injunctive writs issued in Civil Case No. 4199 (discussed next), thus the immediate need to invoke the appellate court's certiorari jurisdiction.

    Civil Case No. 4199
    and the Injunctive Writs

    Civil Case No. 4199 involved a complaint for quieting of title, damages, breach of contract, and specific performance filed by Platinum against Olympic before the RTC of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Branch 95 on June 14, 2006. The proceedings and the orders issued in this case became the subject of three of the four consolidated petitions now pending with the Court - G.R. NOS. 178188, 180674, and 183527. The RTC's narration provides us with a background of Civil Case No. 4199:

    Alleging that Olympic's claims and misrepresentation in the letters dated April 24, 2006 [referring to the termination letter sent by Olympic to Platinum], May 18, 2006 [referring to the letter-complaint of Olympic filed in PMRB Case No. 001-06 which sought the revocation of Platinum's SSMPs], and June 6, 2008 [referring to the letter of Olympic notifying Platinum of its intention to file legal action against Platinum for gross violations of the Operating Agreement], xxx Platinum filed with Branch 95 of the RTC of Puerto Princessa City on June 14, 2006, a complaint to quiet Platinum's title/interest over the subject mining areas, to recover damages and to compel Olympic to perform its obligations under the Operating Agreement.

    x x x

    On July 21, 2006, upon xxx Platinum's motion, xxx Blancaflor, in his capacity as the presiding judge of the RTC of Puerto Princesa, Branch 95, issued [an] xxx order in Civil Case No. 4199, granting xxx Platinum's application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction xxx directing Olympic, and its successor-in-interest, xxx Citinickel, to cease and desist from performing any act that would tend to impede, hamper, limit, or adversely affect xx Platinum's full enjoyment of its rights under the Operating Agreement xxx.

    x x x

    Meanwhile, on August 28, 2006, xxx Platinum filed a Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint, attaching thereto the Amended Complaint, which impleaded Olympic's Board of Directors and Rockworks Resources Corporation (Rockworks) and the latter's Board of Directors as additional defendants.13 [Emphasis supplied.]

    Olympic sought the dismissal of Platinum's Civil Case No. 4199 through a motion to dismiss where Olympic alleged that the trial court was without jurisdiction to rule on the issues raised in the case. Olympic contended that the case involved a mining dispute requiring the technical expertise of the POA; accordingly, jurisdiction should be with the POA. The RTC denied the motion to dismiss in a Resolution dated August 15, 2006. When Olympic failed to secure a reversal of the RTC's August 15 Resolution, it filed an appeal with the CA, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 97259. The CA declared that the trial court properly exercised jurisdiction over Civil Case No. 4199 because the main issue therein was whether Platinum had a claim and/or right over the subject mining areas pursuant to the Operating Agreement. The dismissal of its petition before the CA prompted Olympic to elevate the matter with this Court, through a Petition for Review on Certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 178188.

    Citinickel, for its part, filed its own certiorari petition before the CA (CA-G.R. SP No. 99422), and questioned the injunctive writs issued in Civil Case No. 4199. It claimed that the writ of preliminary injunction cannot be enforced against it since it was not impleaded in the case even if it was an indispensable party; Olympic's rights under the Operating Agreement had already been transferred to it by virtue of the June 9, 2006 Deed of Assignment. The appellate court nonetheless dismissed Citinickel's petition, prompting the latter to file an appeal by certiorari with this Court, docketed as G.R. No. 180674.

    Polly Dy, as a member of Rockworks' Board of Directors who was impleaded as co-defendant of Olympic in Civil Case No. 4199, filed her own certiorari petition (docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 101544) against the injunctive writs issued by the trial court in the same case. Acting favorably for Polly Dy, the CA directed the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction against the RTC of Puerto Princesa, Branch 95, enjoining it from conducting further proceedings in Civil Case No. 4199. Through a Petition for Certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 183527, Platinum asks the Court to annul the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 101544.

    Civil Case No. Q-07-59855

    Notwithstanding the injunctive writ issued in Civil Case No. 4199 ordering Olympic/Citinickel to respect the rights of Platinum under the Operating Agreement (including its right to control, possess, and operate the subject mining areas), Citinickel instituted a mandamus petition with the RTC of Quezon City, Branch 100 (docketed as Civil Case No. Q-07-59855), for the DENR Secretary to confiscate and maintain custody and possession of the mineral ores stockpiled at the Palawan Pier until the determination of the rights of Citinickel and Platinum under the Operating Agreement. While the trial court initially issued a status quo order, it eventually dismissed the Citinickel's petition for mandamus in its Decision dated May 4, 2007, for Citinickel's failure to prove a clear legal right on its part to justify the issuance of a mandamus writ in its favor, and also for forum shopping.14

    For a more graphic presentation, these cases are presented hereunder in tabular form:

    Case Number Parties Cause of Action Status
    Civil Case No. 4181
    (RTC Palawan, Branch 52)
    Olympic v. Platinum Complaint for injunction to enjoin Platinum from continuing mining activities filed on April 25, 2006 May 16, 2006 Order dismissing the complaint for injunction after finding that unilateral termination of the Operating Agreement was illegal (Branch 52 Order).
    Olympic did not appeal the Order.
    PMRB Case No. 001-06 Olympic v. Platinum Complaint for revocation of Platinum's SSMPs dated May 18, 2006 August 16, 2006 Resolution dismissing complaint on the basis of the Branch 52 Order, which had become final and executory.
    Civil Case No. 4199
    (RTC Palawan, Branch 95)
    Platinum v. Olympic Complaint for quieting of title, damages, and specific performance July 21, 2005 Order granting the writ of preliminary injunction against Olympic and Citinickel
    August 15, 2006 Order denying Olympic's motion to dismiss/suspend proceedings
    DENR POA Case No. 2006-01-B Olympic v. Platinum Petition to cancel Operating Agreement and revoke Platinum's SSMPs dated June 8, 2006 June 20, 2006 Notice of Withdrawal filed by Olympic
    Civil Case No. 06-0185
    (RTC Paranaque)
    Citinickel v. Platinum Complaint to rescind Operating Agreement dated June 21, 2006 December 22, 2006 Order dismissing complaint on the ground of forum shopping and improper venue.
    Citinickel did not appeal the Order.
    PMRB Case No. 002-06 Citinickel v. Platinum Petition to cancel Platinum's SSMPs dated July 12, 2006 September 12, 2006 Resolution dismissing the petition on the basis of the injunctive writ issued in Civil Case No. 4199 and the forum shopping committed by Citinickel.
    DENR POA Case No. 2006-02-B Citinickel v. Platinum Complaint to cancel Operating Agreement and to issue injunction against Platinum dated July 19, 2006 October 30, 2006 Resolution cancelling OA and SSMP of Platinum (POA Resolution)
    EMB letter - complaints filed as DENR EMB Case No. 8253 Citinickel v. Platinum Complaint to cancel ECCs issued to Platinum dated July 31, 2006 Elevated to DENR Secretary by Citinickel on account of alleged inaction of EMB
    Sept 25, 2006 Order of DENR Secretary cancelling the ECCs issued to Platinum
    Nov 22 Order denying MR of Platinum
    Feb 26, 2007 Decision of the Office of the President reversing DENR Secretary's Order that cancelled the ECCs
    Civil Case No. Q-07-59855
    (RTC Quezon City, Branch 76)
    Citinickel v. DENR Petition for mandamus to compel DENR Secretary to confiscate and hold mineral ores stockpiled in Palawan pier May 4, 2007 Order dismissing the petition for lack of merit and forum shopping.

    THE PETITIONS

    G.R. No. 178188 on Jurisdiction and Venue in Civil Case No. 4199

    In its petition before the Court,15 Olympic assails the CA Decision16 dated February 28, 2007 in CA-G.R. SP No. 97259, in which the appellate court affirmed the October 4,17 and 518 2006 Orders of the RTC of Puerto Princesa, Palawan in Civil Case No. 4199. The CA declared that the trial court properly exercised jurisdiction over Platinum's complaint in Civil Case No. 4199 because the main issue raised therein was whether Platinum had a claim and/or right over the subject mining areas, pursuant to the Operating Agreement, and the resolution of this issue did not require the technical expertise of the POA. Moreover, the CA declared that venue was properly laid in the RTC of Puerto Princesa (where the disputed mining areas are located) because it was an action affecting an interest in real property that was commenced and tried in a court that has jurisdiction over the area of the real property. Lastly, the CA found that the lower court had not abused its discretion when it issued the writ of preliminary injunction prayed for by Platinum. Olympic's motion for reconsideration of the CA's decision was denied in the May 30, 2007 Resolution of the CA for lack of merit.

    Olympic however asserts that it is the POA which has exclusive jurisdiction over the complaint filed by Platinum in Civil Case No. 4199 because the case involves a mining dispute that requires the technical expertise of the POA. Olympic additionally contends that the complaint is a personal action because Platinum sought a declaration that it did not violate the Operating Agreement, and was asking its enforcement; as a personal action, the case should have been filed in the place where either the plaintiff or the defendant resides, at the election of the plaintiff, and not the court where the property is located.

    Platinum, on the other hand, opposes Olympic's contentions, claiming that Olympic itself had already recognized the authority of the trial court to resolve the dispute by instituting Civil Case No. 4181 before the RTC of Puerto Princesa, Branch 52 (the injunction case filed by Olympic against Platinum that was dismissed for lack of merit). Incidentally, Platinum points out that Olympic had committed forum shopping because aside from Civil Case No. 4181, it filed several other administrative cases, all grounded on Platinum's alleged violation of the Operating Agreement.

    With regard to the issue of venue, Platinum claims that its principal objective in instituting Civil Case No. 4199 was to retain possession of the subject mining areas - it was therefore a real action properly filed in the Puerto Princesa court that had jurisdiction over the areas.

    G.R. No. 183527 on the

    Injunction against the Proceedings in Civil Case No. 4199

    While the jurisdiction of the RTC of Puerto Princesa, Branch 95 was upheld by the CA's Special Fifth Division in CA-G.R. SP No. 97259, the 15th Division of the appellate court, on the other hand, enjoined (through a Resolution19 dated March 2, 2008, in CA-G.R. SP No. 101544) the same trial court from conducting further proceedings in Civil Case No. 4199 and from implementing its Orders dated July 21, 2006,20 October 26, 2006,21 and April 13, 2007.22

    In assailing the CA's 15th Division's Resolution dated March 2, 2008 (through the present Petition for Review on Certiorari )23, Platinum principally argues that Polly Dy - the petitioner in CA-G.R. SP No. 97259 - had no standing to question the injunctive writs issued in Civil Case No. 4199 because none of the writs were directed against Polly Dy. Additionally, Polly Dy did not file a motion for reconsideration of the assailed Orders of the trial court, rendering her CA certiorari petition fatally defective for being premature.

    G.R. 180674 on Citinickel's inclusion in the injunctive writs issued in Civil Case No. 4199

    Citinickel questions the CA Decision24 in CA-G.R. SP No. 99422, which dismissed for lack of merit its petition for certiorari, assailing the July 21, 200625 and April 13, 200726 Orders of the RTC in Civil Case No. 4199.

    Citinickel assails the CA Decision through this petition,27 asserting that by virtue of the Deed of Assignment dated June 9, 2006, it became an assignee of Olympic - before Platinum filed its complaint (Civil Case No. 4199) on June 14, 2006, and thus claims to be an indispensable party to the case. Since it was not impleaded as a party to Civil Case No. 4199, it cannot be bound by the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the trial court; for the same reason, the POA Resolution issued in the case filed by Citinickel cannot be deemed to have contravened the writ of preliminary injunction issued in Civil Case No. 4199.

    Platinum counters that the injunction orders are binding on Citinickel because the assignment of Olympic's rights to Citinickel only took effect upon the approval thereof by the Regional Director, which approval was issued only in September 6, 2006 or after Civil Case No. 4199 was filed on June 14, 2006. Thus, Citinickel is a successor-in-interest by title, and is therefore bound by the injunction orders issued in the case. Platinum also alleges that Citinickel merely stepped into the shoes of Olympic and acted as the latter's agent.

    G.R. No. 181141 on the validity of the POA Resolution

    In its Petition for Review,28 Platinum assails the CA Resolution29 in CA-G.R. SP No. 97288, which dismissed its petition for certiorari questioning the POA Resolution for having failed to previously file a motion for reconsideration with the POA. The CA also denied Platinum's motion for reconsideration in its Resolution30 dated December 21, 2007.

    Platinum claims that it chose not to file a motion for reconsideration of the POA Resolution in DENR Case No. 2006-02-B because that motion would have been denied by the POA as it had already affirmed the cancellation of Platinum's ECCs in DENR Case No. 8253. Further, an appeal to the MAB would also be useless because the POA had declared that the decision to cancel the Operating Agreement and the SSMPs was not entirely its (POA's) own, but also that of the DENR, which includes the MAB. Platinum contends that it had to file the petition for certiorari because the POA Resolution was patently illegal as it effectively nullified the injunctive writ previously issued by the lower court in Civil Case No. 4199.

    THE COURT'S RULING

    The key matter in resolving all four petitions involves the issue of jurisdiction - that is, which body has the authority to hear and decide the dispute between Olympic/Citinickel and Platinum, as parties to the operating agreement.

    Jurisdiction of the Panel of Arbitrators

    Settled is the rule that jurisdiction of the court over the subject matter is determined by the allegations of the complaint.31

    In Civil Case No. 4199, Platinum alleges in its complaint32 the following:

    3. Plaintiff is engaged in mining operations. Defendant holds mining rights/claims over the Toronto Nickel Mine in the Municipality of Narra and the Pulot Nickel Mine in the Municipality of Espanola (hereinafter, the "subject mining areas") in Palawan.

    4. On 18 July 2003, plaintiff, as the SECOND PARTY, and defendant, as the FIRST PARTY, entered into an Operating Agreement. The said Agreement vested plaintiff with, among others, the following rights and interests:

    2.1 To enter, occupy, possess, explore, develop, utilize and control the mineral properties subject to Section 2, hereof;

    2.2 To conduct mining and all subsidiaries, associated and other related operations in the mineral properties at a rate it deems appropriate;

    2.3 To mill, beneficiate and process the ores by appropriate methods or process within or outside the area of the mineral properties;

    x x x

    5. Section 23 of the Operating Agreement states that it shall be effective for twenty-five (25) years or for the life of the subject mining areas. Under Section 19 thereof, it may only be [pre]terminated for gross violations of its terms and provisions.

    x x x

    9. On 24 April 2006, plaintiff was shocked when it received a letter of even date from defendant's counsel alleging that plaintiff has committed gross violations of the Operating Agreement, informing plaintiff of its immediate termination and the suspension of the mining operations, and demanding that plaintiff surrender the possession of the subject mining areas.

    x x x

    17. Defendant claims and declares in the letter dated 24 April 2006, the complaint dated 25 April 2006, the letter dated 18 May 2006 and the letter dated 8 June 2006 that it has already terminated the Operating Agreement. As ground for termination as well as purported basis for its complaint and its application for TRO, defendant insidiously alleged that plaintiff committed gross violations of the Operating Agreement.

    18. Defendant's claims and misrepresentations in said letters and complaint have cast a cloud on plaintiff's rights and interests over the subject mining areas. The said letters and complaint unequivocally give the impression that, since the Operating Agreement has already been terminated, plaintiff no longer possesses any right or interest over the subject mining areas.

    x x x

    21. Defendant's actions are clearly in breach of the Operating Agreement. To repeat, the Operating Agreement provides that it may only be [pre]terminated for gross violations of its terms and provisions. As stated above, however, defendant's allegations with respect to plaintiff's violations of the terms and conditions of the Operating Agreement are merely imagined.

    22. In any case, even assuming in gratia argumenti that there is factual basis for defendant to terminate the Operating Agreement, defendant's termination thereof is clearly bereft of legal basis and in breach of the Operating Agreement. Section 20 unambiguously provides:

    The FIRST PARTY may terminate this agreement by giving thirty (30) days notice to the SECOND PARTY based on gross violation of the terms and conditions of this agreement.

    23. Clearly, the Operating Agreement may only be considered terminated after the lapse of 30 days. In the instant case, defendant served plaintiff the letter dated 24 April 2006 on even date and filed a complaint the following day. The complaint if filed and the TRO it caused to be issued were thus premature and violative of the Operating Agreement.

    From these allegations, we learn that Platinum had rights and interest in real property, specifically, the right to possess and to mine the subject mining areas for a certain period of time, as stated in the Operating Agreement. Olympic, however, had cast a cloud on its interest when: (a) Olympic sent Platinum a letter claiming that it had already terminated the Operating Agreement; (b) Olympic filed a complaint with the RTC Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Branch 52 (docketed as Civil Case No. 4181), asking the court to enjoin Platinum from conducting mining operations under the Operating Agreement, since this Agreement had already been unilaterally terminated by Olympic; and (c) Olympic wrote to the Governor of Palawan to inform him that its Operating Agreement with Platinum was already terminated and to request that the Governor revoke Platinum's SSMPs. Olympic's act clearly indicated its intent to deprive Platinum of its rights, prompting the latter to file the complaint to quiet its title or interest in the subject mining areas and remove all doubts as to the Agreement's continuous effectivity. Platinum's primary objective was to protect its interest in the subject mining areas covered by the Operating Agreement, specifically, under Section 2.12 and 3.4, both are obliged "to maintain the validity and subsistence of the mining rights subject of the agreement."33 It is thus obvious that the complaint falls within the ambit of the RTC's original jurisdiction, to the exclusion of all other judicial or quasi-judicial bodies.34

    Olympic, through its petition in G.R. No. 178188, contends that jurisdiction should instead be with the POA. It posits that to fall under the jurisdiction of the POA, the dispute must necessarily involve questions of facts or matters requiring the application of technological knowledge and expertise or which needs the interpretation and the application of particular knowledge and expertise possessed by the members of the Panel. It reads Platinum's complaint in Civil Case No. 4199, to be a matter involving a mining dispute that raises questions of facts or matters requiring the application of technical knowledge and expertise of the POA - an interpretation that we cannot sustain in light of the clear wording of the law.35

    The POA's jurisdiction is set forth in Section 77 of the Mining Act:

    Sec. 77. Panel of Arbitrators. - xxx. Within thirty (30) working days, after the submission of the case by the parties for decision, the panel shall have exclusive and original jurisdiction to hear and decide on the following:

    A. Disputes involving rights to mining areas;

    b. Disputes involving mineral agreements or permits;

    c. Disputes involving surface owners, occupants and claimholders/concessionaires; andcralawlibrary

    d. Disputes pending before the Bureau and the Department at the date of the effectivity of this Act. [Emphasis supplied.]

    Section 77, paragraphs (a) and (b) are the provisions principally invoked in this case to confer jurisdiction over the dispute between Olympic/Citinickel and Platinum - provisions which, upon closer inspection of the law and jurisprudence, belie Olympic's and Citinickel's contentions.

    In Celestial Nickel Mining Exploration Corporation v. Macroasia Corporation, et al.,36 this Court, speaking through Justice Velasco, specified the kind of disputes that fall under Section 77(a) of the Mining Act:

    The phrase "disputes involving rights to mining areas" refers to any adverse claim, protest, or opposition to an application for a mineral agreement.

    x x x

    [T]he power of the POA to resolve any adverse claim, opposition, or protest relative to mining rights under Section 77 (a) of RA 7942 is confined only to adverse claims, conflicts, and oppositions relating to applications for the grant of mineral rights. xxx. Clearly, POA's jurisdiction over "disputes involving rights to mining areas" has nothing to do with the cancellation of existing mineral agreements. [Emphasis supplied.]

    In so ruling, the Court read Section 77 (a) in relation with Sections 38 and 41 of DENR Administrative Order No. 96-40 (Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Mining Act or RIRR), which provide:

    Sec. 38. x x x. Within thirty (30) calendar days from the last date of publication/posting/radio announcements, the authorized officer(s) of the concerned office(s) shall issue a certification(s) that the publication/posting/radio announcement have been complied with. Any adverse claim, protest or opposition shall be filed directly, within thirty (30) calendar days from the last date of publication/posting/radio announcement, with the concerned Regional Office or through any concerned PENRO or CENRO for filing in the concerned Regional Office for purposes of its resolution by the Panel of Arbitrators pursuant to the provisions of this Act and these implementing rules and regulations. Upon final resolution of any adverse claim, protest or opposition, the Panel of Arbitrators shall likewise issue a certification to that effect within five (5) working days from the date of finality of resolution thereof. Where there is no adverse claim, protest or opposition, the Panel of Arbitrators shall likewise issue a Certification to that effect within five working days therefrom.

    x x x

    No Mineral Agreement shall be approved unless the requirements under this Section are fully complied with and any adverse claim/protest/opposition is finally resolved by the Panel of Arbitrators.

    Sec. 41. x x x Within fifteen (15) working days from the receipt of the Certification issued by the Panel of Arbitrators as provided in Section 38 hereof, the concerned Regional Director shall initially evaluate the Mineral Agreement applications in areas outside Mineral reservations. He/She shall thereafter endorse his/her findings to the Bureau for further evaluation by the Director within fifteen (15) working days from receipt of forwarded documents. Thereafter, the Director shall endorse the same to the secretary for consideration/approval within fifteen working days from receipt of such endorsement.

    In case of Mineral Agreement applications in areas with Mineral Reservations, within fifteen (15) working days from receipt of the Certification issued by the Panel of Arbitrators as provided for in Section 38 hereof, the same shall be evaluated and endorsed by the Director to the Secretary for consideration/approval within fifteen days from receipt of such endorsement. [Emphasis supplied.]

    Sections 38 and 41 of the RIRR pertain to the procedure involved in approving mineral agreements. These provisions are largely lifted from Sections 48 and 53 of PD 463 (or the Mining Resources Development Decree), except that instead of the POA, it was the Director of Bureau of Mines (now Mines and Geosciences Bureau or MGB) who previously had the authority to rule on pre-approval protests or adverse claims.

    To properly fall within the POA's jurisdiction under Section 77 (a) of the Mining Law, the dispute must:

    1. refer to an adverse claim, protest, or opposition to an application for a mineral agreement; andcralawlibrary

    2. be filed prior to the approval by the DENR Secretary of the mineral agreement.

    Under these terms, Section 77 (a) established a cut-off period (i.e., before the approval of the mineral agreement) when the POA's jurisdiction may be properly invoked, and this period had long lapsed insofar as the dispute between Citinickel and Platinum is concerned, as Olympic's mining lease contract and its Operating Agreement with Platinum had already been approved by the Government. Accordingly, invocation of the POA's jurisdiction under Section 77(a) finds no application in this case.

    Neither will POA be vested with jurisdiction through Section 77(b), as the nature of the agreement between Olympic and Platinum is not the "mineral agreement" contemplated under the law. The term "mineral agreement" has a specific definition under the Mining Act, Section 3 (ab) thereof states:

    Section 3. Definition of Terms. - xxx

    (ab) "Mineral Agreement" - refers to a contract between the government and a contractor, involving mineral production-sharing agreement, co-production agreement, or joint-venture agreement.

    Quite obviously, the Operating Agreement is not "a contract between the government and a contractor";37 instead, it is a purely civil contract between two private entities - one of whom happens to be a party to a mineral agreement with the government. While the enforcement of the terms of an operating agreement would necessarily relate to an existing and approved mineral agreement (as may be inferred from Section 4 of DENR Memorandum Order No. 2003-08),38 this however does not make the two concepts the same, nor does it make an operating agreement a specie of the mineral agreements contemplated under the Mining Act. Section 26 of the Mining Act39 states that a mineral agreement may be in the form of a mineral production sharing agreement, a co-production agreement or a joint-venture agreement, and does not include an operating agreement in the enumeration. Apart from this, the Mining Act and the various administrative issuances treat these two separately by providing for different requirements, rules, and procedures governing their application, approval, and cancellation. Thus, to contend that a dispute involving operating agreements can be classified as a "dispute involving mineral agreements or permits" stretches the definition of "mineral agreement" beyond the clear terms of the law.

    Indeed, the adoption of a definite meaning for "mineral agreement" reveals the intent to remove from the DENR, through the MGB, the jurisdiction over disputes involving civil contracts on mining rights. Presidential Decree No. 128140 enumerates cases that fall under the Bureau of Mines' jurisdiction:

    Section 7. In addition to its regulatory and adjudicative functions over companies, partnerships or persons engaged in mining exploration, development and exploitation, the Bureau of Mines shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide cases involving:

    (a) a mining property subject of different agreements entered into by the claim holder thereof with several mining operators;

    (b) xxx

    (c) cancellation and/or enforcement of mining contracts due to the refusal of the claimowner/operator to abide by the terms and conditions thereof. [Emphasis supplied.]

    Although Section 77 (d) of the Mining Act41 has transferred to the POA jurisdiction over disputes pending before the Bureau of Mines and the DENR, Section 77 (b) did not adopt the wording of Section 7, paragraphs (a) and (c) of PD No. 1281 so as to include all other forms of contracts - public or private - involving mining rights; Section 77 (b) in relation to Section 3 (ab) of the Mining Act did not include a general catch-all phrase to cover other agreements involving mining rights similar to those in Section 7, paragraphs (a) and (c) of PD No. 1281. Instead, the Mining Act, through the above-quoted Sections 3 (ab) and 26, has limited the jurisdiction of the POA, as successor of the adjudicatory functions of the Bureau of Mines, to mineral agreements between the government and the private contractor. Otherwise stated, while disputes between parties to any mining contract (including operating agreements) may previously fall within the Bureau of Mines' jurisdiction under Section 7 (a) or (c) of PD No. 1281, it can no longer be so placed now within the authority of the POA to settle under Section 77 (b) of the Mining Law because its jurisdiction has been limited to the resolution of disputes involving public mineral agreements.

    Parenthetically, the "permit" referred to in Section 77(b) of the Mining Act pertains to exploration permit, quarry permit, and other mining permits recognized in Chapters IV, VIII, and IX of the Mining Act. An operating agreement, not being among those listed, cannot be considered as a "mineral permit" under Section 77 (b).

    Since the Operating Agreement is not the mineral agreement contemplated by law, the contention that jurisdiction should be with the POA under Section 77(b) of the Mining Act cannot be legally correct. In plainer terms, no jurisdiction vests in the POA under the cited provision because the Operating Agreement is not the "mineral agreement" that Section 77(b) refers to.

    Even an invocation of Section 77(c) of Mining Act (referring to "disputes involving surface owners, occupants and claim-holders/concessionaires") would not suffice to confer jurisdiction over the dispute to the POA. Surface-owners, occupants, and concessionaires refer to owners or occupants of the real property affected by the mining activities conducted by the claim-holders/concessionaires (entities which are holding mining rights granted by the government).42 Neither Citinickel nor Platinum falls under this classification.

    Additionally, the Court notes that both Olympic and Citinickel have previously recognized the RTC's jurisdiction to decide the dispute when they filed civil cases before the trial courts of Palawan43 and Parañaque,44 respectively, for the cancellation of the Operating Agreement on account of Platinum's alleged gross violations. By doing so, both Olympic and Citinickel acknowledged the authority and jurisdiction of the trial court to resolve their dispute with Platinum. Not only did they acknowledge this jurisdiction, they as well failed to appeal the decisions rendered by the trial courts in these cases. Thereby, they accepted the binding effect of the trial court decision, and - more importantly - recognized the trial court's authority to rule on their dispute with Platinum regarding the Operating Agreement. In other words, they are now estopped from claiming that the POA, rather than the trial court, has the sole and exlcusive authority to resolve the issue of whether the Operating Agreement may be rescinded for Platinum's alleged violations.

    Olympic also raises the issue of venue: since one of Platinum's causes of action in Civil Case No. 4199 was specific performance in Civil Case No. 4199, Olympic claims that Platinum's action was actually a personal one that should have been filed either in Olympic's or in Platinum's place of residence, i.e., in Manila or in Makati City, respectively, and not in Puerto Princessa, Palawan.

    This contention however is negated by the allegations made by Platinum in its complaint to quiet title, filed before the RTC of Puerto Princesa, Palawan. To reiterate, according to Platinum, it had been peacefully exercising its rights under the Operating Agreement since 2003. However, Olympic cast a cloud on its interest under the Operating Agreement through its various actions, which gave the public the impression that the Operating Agreement had already been terminated, and jeopardized Platinum's right to possess and conduct mining operations in the subject mining areas. Thus, Platinum asked the court to remove this cloud on its rights over the subject mining areas.

    The controlling factor in determining venue for cases is the primary objective for which said cases are filed.45 As we had earlier stated, Platinum's primary objective in filing the complaint is to protect its interest in the subject mining areas, although it joined its claims of breach of contract, damages, and specific performance in the case. In any event, the Rules of Court allow joinder of causes of action in the RTC, provided one of the causes of action (in this case, the cause of action for quieting of title or interest in real property located in Palawan) falls within the jurisdiction of said court and venue lies therein.46 In fine, there is absolutely no reason to disturb the CA's findings that venue was properly laid in the Palawan court.

    In light of these, the Court affirms the jurisdiction of the RTC of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Branch 95, and accordingly dismiss Olympic's Petition for Review on Certiorari in G.R. 178188.

    Our conclusion on the trial court's authority to rule on Civil Case No. 4199 necessarily invalidates the injunctive writ issued by the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 101544 against the continuance of the proceedings in Civil Case No. 4199. We thus grant Platinum's petition in G.R. No. 183527. Moreover, the Court agrees with Platinum's contention that Polly Dy had no standing to assail the injunctive writs issued as these were not directed against her; her petition for certiorari before the CA (CA-G.R. SP No. 101544) should have been dismissed.

    Injunctive Writ against Citinickel, as Successor-in-Interest of Olympic

    In G.R. No. 180674, Citinickel mainly argues it cannot be bound by the injunctive writs issued in Civil Case No. 4199 as it was not impleaded in the case, despite the fact that the Deed of Assignment was executed before Civil Case No. 4199 was instituted by Platinum, thus making it an indispensable party. Citinickel further claims that the POA Resolution had already attained finality when the CA dismissed Platinum's petition for certiorari questioning the POA Resolution in its January 18, 2007 Resolution.

    We disagree.

    In this case, one fact resonates and remains unrebutted - the transfer of Olympic's rights to Citinickel was done surreptitiously, via the Deed of Assignment dated June 9, 2006, without the knowledge or consent of Platinum. Thus, when Platinum instituted Civil Case No. 4199 on June 14, 2006 - five days after the execution of the Deed of Assignment - Platinum was not notified of the assignment or even of the earlier Memorandum of Agreement between Olympic and Rockworks, contrary to the terms of Section 13 of the Operating Agreement which expressly requires any party transferring or assigning its rights under the Operating Agreement to a third party to inform the original party of the transfer or assignment. Section 13 of the Operating Agreement states:

    The rights and interests of either [Olympic] or [Platinum] in and under this Agreement are assignable and/or transferrable, in whole or in part, to persons or entities qualified xxx provided that the rights of both of the parties under this Agreement are preserved and maintained, unaffacted or unimpaired, and provided further that the assignee undertake to be bound by all the provisions of this Agreement, provided furthermore that the assigning party shall duly notify in writing the other party of such proposed assignment and/or transfer before the actual assignment and/or transfer is done. [Emphasis supplied.]

    Even if Platinum knew of the assignment/transfer, it was not bound to include Citinickel in the complaint because the assignment/transfer of a mineral agreement application would, by law, take effect only after the approval of the DENR Secretary or his representative. Section 40 of DENR Administrative Order No. 96-40 (Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Mining Act), which states:

    Section 40. Transfer or Assignment of Mineral Agreement Application. - Transfer or assignment of Mineral Agreement applications shall be allowed subject to the approval of the Director/concerned Regional Director taking into account the national interest and public welfare: Provided, That such transfer or assignment shall be subject to eligibility requirements and shall not be allowed in cases involving speculation. [Emphasis supplied.]

    The provision is clear - any transfer or assignment of a mineral agreement application is still subject to the approval of the Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau or the Regional Director concerned. In determining whether to approve the assignment or not, the Director or Regional Director has to consider the national interest, public welfare, as well as study the eligibility of the party to whom said application is being transferred to. Any assignment of a mineral agreement is thus considered provisional, pending final approval by the Director or Regional Director. Thus, although the Deed of Assignment between Olympic and Citinickel was executed on June 9, 2006, the actual transfer of rights occurred only after the Regional Director of the MGB Regional Office No. IV-B had given its approval to the assignment on September 6, 2006, or after Civil Case No. 4199 was filed on June 14, 2006. Accordingly, Citinickel, being a mere successor-in-interest of Olympic, is bound by the questioned injunction order. Even if we disregard the inclusion of Citinickel in the July 16, 2006 Order granting the application for a writ of preliminary injunction, the result would be the same - the injunction imposed on Olympic will similarly bind Citinickel.

    Thus, we resolve to dismiss Citinickel's petition for lack of merit.

    Validity of the POA Resolution

    Platinum's Rule 65 petition praying for the annulment of the POA Resolution was dismissed by the CA in its Resolution dated January 18, 2007 in CA-G.R. SP No. 97288, on the ground that Platinum failed to exhaust administrative remedies by appealing the POA Resolution to the MAB, as provided under the Mining Act.

    We disagree with the reasoning of the CA and resolve to overturn its January 18, 2007 Resolution.

    The rule of exhaustion of administrative remedies admits of numerous exceptions, such as:

    1) when there is a violation of due process;

    2) when the issue involved is purely a legal question;

    3) when the administrative action is patently illegal amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction;

    4) when there is estoppel on the part of the administrative agency concerned;

    5) when there is irreparable injury;

    6) when the respondent is a department secretary whose acts as an alter ego of the President bears the implied and assumed approval of the latter;

    7) when to require exhaustion of administrative remedies would be unreasonable;

    8) when it would amount to a nullification of a claim;

    9) when the subject matter is a private land in land case proceedings;

    10) when the rule does not provide a plain, speedy and adequate remedy; andcralawlibrary

    11) when there are circumstances indicating the urgency of judicial intervention.47

    Platinum's serious allegations amount to circumstances calling for urgent judicial intervention. More importantly, Platinum's allegations essentially attack POA's jurisdiction over Citinickel's complaint for lack or excess of jurisdiction. The CA thus committed a reversible error when it failed to recognize the POA's jurisdictional errors and instead, mistakenly placed its reliance on a procedural technicality.

    Going into the merits of G.R. No. 181141, the Court finds that the POA Resolution was issued in disregard of the injunctive writs in Civil Case No. 4199. We have earlier ruled in G.R. No. 180674 that Citinickel, as successor-in-interest of Olympic, became bound by the writ of injunction issued by the trial court, even though it was not formally impleaded as a party when Civil Case No. 4199 was instituted. The injunction prohibited the parties - Citinickel included - from performing "any act that will tend to impede, hamper, limit or adversely affect the full enjoyment by [Platinum] of its rights under the Operating Agreement xxx [and] from performing any act which will disturb the status quo." When the POA issued the assailed Resolution rescinding the Operating Agreement and cancelling Platinum's SSMPs at the instance of Citinickel, it clearly went against the prohibition.

    Not only was the POA Resolution issued in contravention of the injunctive writ, POA Case No. 2006-02-B (where the Resolution was issued) was instituted in blatant violation of the rules of forum shopping. POA Case No. 2006-02-B was instituted while Citinickel's complaint for cancellation of the Operating Agreement was pending before the RTC of Paranaque (docketed as Civil Case NO. 06-0185). And while there was yet no decisive ruling on the status and validity of the Operating Agreement in these cases, Citnickel had prematurely instituted petitions to cancel Platinum's SSMPs and ECCs before the PMRB (docketed as PMRB Case No. 002-06) and EMB, respectively. Along the same line, Citinickel filed a mandamus petition before the RTC of Quezon City (docketed as Civil Case No. Q-07-59855) to compel the DENR Secretary to confiscate and hold possession of the mineral ores of Platinumstockpiled at the Palawan pier. Over and above these cases, Olympic had, prior to the assignment, already instituted similar actions before the same courts and agencies - actions Citinickel is similarly bound as the assignee/transferee of Olympic.

    Both Olympic and Citinickel evidently trifled with the courts and abused its processes by improperly instituting several cases before various judicial and quasi-judicial bodies, one case after another (some even simultaneously filed during the pendency of other cases) once it became evident that a favorable decision will not be obtained in the previously filed case - all of which are focused on the termination of the Operating Agreement and the cancellation of Platinum's mining permits. While a party may avail himself of the remedies prescribed by law or by the Rules of Court, such party is not free to resort to them simultaneously or at his pleasure or caprice.48 The actions of Olympic and Citinickel, taken separately or collectively, betray a pattern of calculated and intentional forum shopping that warrants denial of the reliefs they pray for.ςηαñrοblεš νιr υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

    In accordance with our finding in G.R. No. 180674 that Citinickel is bound by the injunctive writ issued by the trial court in Civil Case No. 4199, as well as our observation in G.R. No. 178188 that the trial court, not POA, has jurisdiction over Platinum's complaint in Civil Case No. 4199, we can come to no other conclusion than to declare that the POA gravely abused its discretion when it issued the POA Resolution dated October 30, 2006. Thus, we grant Platinum's petition in G.R. No. 181141, and annul the POA Resolution.

    WHEREFORE, premises considered, we rule as follows:

    a) in G.R. No. 178188 (Olympic Mines v. Platinum Group Metals Corporation): Olympic's petition is denied for lack of merit and the assailed CA Decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 97259 is AFFIRMED;

    b) in G.R. No. 183527 (Platinum Group Metals Corporation v. Court of Appeals): The assailed CA Resolution in CA-G.R. SP No. 101544 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE;

    c) in G.R. No. 180674 (Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation v. Judge Bienvenido Blancaflor and Platinum Group Metals Corporation): The questioned CA Decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 99422 is AFFIRMED; andcralawlibrary

    d) in G.R. No. 181141 (Platinum Group Metals Corporation v. Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation): The CA decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 97288 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The POEA Resolution, having been issued in violation of a previously issued writ of preliminary injunction, is ANNULLED and SET ASIDE.

    SO ORDERED.

    ARTURO D. BRION
    *
    Associate Justice

    TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO**

    Endnotes:


    * Designated Acting Chairperson of the Second Division per Special Order No. 618 dated April 14, 2009.

    ** Designated additional member of the Second Division per Special Order No. 619 dated April 14, 2009.

    1 Rollo, G.R. No. 178188, pp. 41-58.

    2 Id., pp. 78-80.

    3 RTC Order dated July 21, 2006 (granting Platinum's application for writ of preliminary injunction).

    4 Numbered as PLC-V-544, PLC-V-545, PCL-V-550, MLC-MRD-127, MLC-MRC-128, MLC-MRD-129, and MLC-MRC-130. The mining lease contracts subsequently became the subject of mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA) applications by Olympic (AMA-IVB-040 and AMA-IVB-0454).

    5 Rollo, G.R. No. 178188, pp. 87-94.

    6 Rollo (G.R. No. 180674), pp. 402-404.

    7 Rollo, G.R. No. 180674, pp. 592-596, states in part:

    The PMRB Resolution

    As born out of the records, the letter-complaint does not present any other ground aside from those matters that have already been passed upon by the Court in Civil Case No. 4181. Ergo, since the ground for revocation of the [SSMPs] dwells more on the termination of the Operating Agreement between [Olympic] and [Platinum], which is contractual in nature, over which the competent court had already ruled over the same issue raised herein, this Board finds no cogent reason to disturb the said Order dated May 16, 2006, which appears to have become final and executory.

    8 Rollo, G.R. No. 178188, pp. 511-519, states in part:

    The PMRB Resolution

    With regard to the second issue that there are pending cases between the same parties for the same cause of action, the court found that there is her identity of parties in the sense that the complainants are the same because there is privity between [Olympic] and [Citinickel] which is the former's successor-in-interest who are litigating for the same subject matter and under the same title of being the awardee and in the same capacity.

    x x x

    After weighing the grounds relied upon by the parties in this regard, the court found that venue in this case has been improperly laid, since the reliefs prayed for by [Citinickel] is the return and/or surrender of the possession and control of the subject mining areas, as well as other personal equipment and documents appurtenant to the subject mining sites. The action therefore is real and not personal, contrary to the claim of [Citinickel]. [Emphasis supplied]

    9 Rollo (G.R. No. 180674), pp. 1059-1064.

    10 Id., G.R. No. 180674, pp. 436-494; The dispositive portion of the decision states:

    WHEREFORE, premises considered, the complaint, dated July 18, 2006, filed by Olympic Mines and Development Corporation, as represented by Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation, and the earlier Petition, dated June 8, 2006, filed by Olympic Mines and Development Corporation are, as they are hereby given due course.

    1. The Operating Agreement, dated July 18, 2003, by and between Olympic Mines and Development Corporation and Platinum Group Metals Corporation is hereby cancelled and declared as without force and effect.

    2. The Small Scale Mining Permits SSMP PL W No. 39 and 40, issued under the name of Platinum Group Metals Corporation are, as they are hereby cancelled and withdrawn.

    3. In order to prevent respondent, their privies and all other persons working in their behalf from further inflicting wanton damage and prejudice to the environment, it is recommended to the Mines Adjudication Board that an order be issued directing that they cease and desist from operating the mining areas subject of this case.

    4. Enjoining the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Environmental Management Bureau, of DENR Region IV-B MIMAROPA to conduct an in depth investigation and accounting of the environmental damage brought upon the areas covered for proper assignment.

    SO ORDERED.

    11 Resolution dated January 18, 2007, id.,G.R. No. 181141, pp. 79-82.

    12 Supra note 7; The POA Resolution states in part:

    The preliminary injunction issued by the [RTC] of Palawan, to our mind, should not be made to enjoin the DENR from looking into the allegations of violations of the Operating Agreement and some other environmental issues committed by [Platinum] in the conduct of its operations in the mining areas in Palawan. xxx the DENR cannot be compelled or prevented from doing what it must do under the premises on the simple reason that it was never impleaded or made party in the cases filed by Platinum that resulted in the issuance of the Order dated July 21, 2006 [referring to the injunctive writ issued in Civil Case No. 4199].

    13 Platinum sought to hold Rockworks and the members of its Board of Directors liable for the patently unlawful acts and/or bad faith under Section 31 of the Corporation Code in directing the affairs of Rockworks. According to Platinum, the Memorandum of Agreement between Olympic and Rockworks showed the intent "to oust Platinum and to take immediate possession and control of the mining areas involved in the Operating Agreement" through the creation of a joint venture company to be known as Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation. Rockworks is one of the stockholders of Citinickel; rollo (G.R. No. 183527), pp. 8-9, 13, 25; see p. 2 of Memorandum of Agreement between Olympic and Rockworks, rollo, G.R. No. 181141, pp. 164-170.

    14 Rollo (G.R. No. 178188), pp. 635-647.

    15 Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court; dated June 20, 2007; rollo (G.R. No. 178188), pp. 3-37.

    16 Supra note 1.

    17 The RTC Order dated October 4, 2006 denied Olympic's motion for reconsideration of the RTC Orders of July 21, 2006 (granting Platinum's application for writ of preliminary injunction) and July 31, 2006 (approving the bond for the writ of preliminary injunction).

    18 The RTC Order dated October 5, 2006 denied Olympic's motion for reconsideration of the RTC Oder dated August 15, 2006 (denying Olympic's motion to dismiss and suspend the proceedings).

    19 Rollo, G.R. No. 183527, pp. 37-40.

    20 Granting Platinum's application for a writ of preliminary injunction.

    21 Granting Platinum's motion to amend complaint for the purpose of impleading additional defendants (namely, the members of the Board of Directors of Rockwell).

    22 Granting Platinum's application for an extended writ of preliminary injunction.

    23 Rollo,G.R. No. 183527, pp. 3-21.

    24 Dated November 20, 2007; rollo, G.R. No. 180674, pp. 889-911.

    25 Supra notes 14 and 16.

    26 Supra note 18; the dispositive portion of the extended writ of preliminary injunction states:

    WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court GRANTS the issuance of an expanded writ of preliminary injunction as prayed for, to wit:

    Directing the DENR, Office of the Secretary of the DENR, the Secretary of DENR, as well as the Panel of Arbitrators, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), their agents, representatives or persons entities acting on their behalf or under their authority, control or influence, from interfering in any way with the possession, control and/or operation of the Pulot Nickel Mine and the Toronto Nickel Mine, including the custody, control and disposition of the mineral ores extracted pursuant to the Operating Agreement and stockpiled at the stockyards; and further, from performing any act which will disturb the status quo; and from doing any act - including the implementation/enforcement of the Order dated 27 February 2007 issued by Judge Alexander Balut and the Memorandum dated 27 February 2007 issued by the Secretary of the DENR - that will tend to impede, hamper, limit or adversely affect the full enjoyment by Platinum of its rights under the Operating Agreement.

    The plaintiff-movant is directed to increase its bond from P2,000,000.00 to P2,500,000.00 effective immediately to answer for any damage that may arise as a result of the enforcement of the original writ of preliminary injunction and this new expanded writ of preliminary injunction.

    IT IS SO ORDERED.

    27 Dated December 26, 2007; rollo, G.R. No. 180674, pp. 10-50.

    28 Dated February 28, 2008, rollo, G.R. No. 181141, pp. 14-78.

    29 Dated January 18, 2007, rollo, G.R. No. 181141, pp. 79-82.

    30 Rollo, G.R. No. 181141, pp. 84-87.

    31 See Nell & Co. v. Cubacub, G.R. No. L-20843, June 23, 1965, 14 SCRA 419; Time, Inc. v. Reyes et al., L-28882, May 31, 1971, 39 SCRA 303.

    32 Rollo, G.R. No. 180674, pp. 210-216.

    33 Supra note 5, p. 4.

    34 Batas Pambansa Bilang 129, as amended by RA No. 7691. The relevant provision states:

    Sec. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. - Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:

    x x x

    (2) In all civil actions which involve 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; x x x

    35 Rollo, G.R. No. 178188, pp. 13-25.

    36 G.R. NOS. 169080, 172936, 176226, and 176319, December 19, 2007, 541 SCRA 166.

    37 Defined in Section 3(g) of the Mining Act as a "qualified person acting alone or in consortium, who is a party to a mineral agreement or to a financial or technical assistance agreement."

    38 Section 4. Approval of Memorandum of Agreement/Option Agreement/Operating Agreement and other Similar Forms of Agreement. - Memorandum of Agreement/Option Agreement/Operating Agreement and other similar forms of Agreement, except involving transfer/assignment of mining rights, entered into involving an approved Exploration Permit, Mineral Agreement, Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement, or any other mining permit under Republic Act No. 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, shall be registered with the MGB Central Office/RO concerned and shall be subject to the approval of the MGB Director upon evaluation and recommendation by the RO concerned.

    Memorandum of Agreement/Option Agreement/Operating Agreement and other similar forms of Agreement entered into involving an application for EP, MA, FTAA, or any other mining permit application, shall be registered with the MGB Central Office/RO concerned and shall form part of the supporting documents of a mining application, subject to the evaluation of the MGB Central Office/RO concerned. Such agreement shall be deemed approved upon approval of the pertinent mining application. (Emphasis supplied)cralawlibrary

    39 Section 26. Modes of Mineral Agreement. - For purposes of mining operations, a mineral agreement may take the following forms as herein defined:

    (a) Mineral production sharing agreement - is an agreement where the Government grants to the contractor the exclusive right to conduct mining operations within a contract area and shares in the gross output. The contractor shall provide the financing, technology, management and personnel necessary for the implementation of this agreement.

    (b) Co-production agreement - is an agreement between the Government and the contractor wherein the Government shall provide inputs to the mining operations other than the mineral resource.

    (c) Joint-venture agreement - is an agreement where a joint-venture company is organized by the Government and the contractor with both parties having equity shares. Aside from earnings in equity, the Government shall be entitled to a share in the gross output.

    A mineral agreement shall grant to the contractor the exclusive right to conduct mining operations and to extract all mineral resources found in the contract area. In addition, the contractor may be allowed to convert his agreement into any of the modes of mineral agreements or financial or technical assistance agreement covering the remaining period of the original agreement subject to the approval of the Secretary. (Emphasis supplied)cralawlibrary

    40 Revising Commonwealth Act No. 136, creating the Bureau of Mines, and for other purposes.

    41 See p. 21 of this Decision.

    42 This definition can be inferred from a reading of Section 105 of the RIRR, which states:

    Section 105. Entry Into Lands - The holder(s) of mining right(s) shall not be prevented from entry into its/their contract/mining area(s) for the purpose(s) of exploration, development and/or utilization: Provided, That written notice(s) at its/their registered address(es) was/were sent to and duly received by the surface owner(s) of the land(s), occupant(s) and concessionaire(s) thereof and that a bond is posted in accordance with Section 108 hereof.

    If the surface owner(s) of the land, occupant(s) or concessionaire(s) thereof can not be found, the Permittee/Permit Holder/Contractor or concessionaire shall notify the concerned Regional Director, copy furnished the concerned local officials in case of private land or the concerned Government agency in case of concessionaires, attaching thereto a copy of the written notice and a sworn declaration by the holder(s) of mining right(s) that it/they had exerted all efforts to locate such surface owner(s)/occupant(s)/concessionaire(s). Such notice(s) to the concerned Regional Director shall be deemed notice(s) to the surface owner(s) and concessionaire(s).

    In cases where the surface owner(s) of the land(s), occupant(s) or concessionaire(s) thereof refuse(s) to allow the Permittee/Permit Holder/Contractor entry into the land(s) despite its/their receipt(s) of the written notice(s) or refuse(s) to receive said written notice(s) or in case of disagreement over such entry, the Permittee/Permit Holder/Contractor shall bring the matter before the Panel of Arbitrators for proper disposition. [Emphasis supplied.]

    43 Civil Case No. 4181; see p. 5 of this Decision.

    44 Civil Case No. 06-0185, see p. 6 of this Decision.

    45 Go v. United Coconut Planters Bank, G.R. No. 156187, November 11, 2004, 442 SCRA 264.

    46 RULES OF COURT, Rule 2, Sections 5 and 6 state:

    Section 5. Joinder of causes of action. - A party may in one pleading assert, in the alternative or otherwise, as many causes of action as he may have against an opposing party, subject to the following conditions:

    (a) The party joining the causes of action shall comply with the rules on joinder of parties;

    (b) The joinder shall not include special civil actions or actions governed by special rules;

    (c) Where the causes of action are between the same parties but pertain to different venues or jurisdictions, the joinder may be allowed in the Regional Trial Court provided one of the causes of action falls within the jurisdiction of said court and the venue lies therein; and

    (d) Where the claims in all the causes action are principally for recovery of money, the aggregate amount claimed shall be the test of jurisdiction.

    Section 6. Misjoinder of causes of action. - Misjoinder of causes of action is not a ground for dismissal of an action. A misjoined cause of action may, on motion of a party or on the initiative of the court, be severed and proceeded with separately. [Emphasis supplied.]

    47 See Paat v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 11107, January 10, 1997, 226 SCRA 167.

    48 Feliciano v. Villasin, G.R. No. 174929, June 7, 2008, 556 SCRA 348.




    CONCURRING OPINION

    CARPIO-MORALES, J.:

    I concur in the ponencia of Justice Arturo D. Brion. I proffer the following grounds to reinforce my concurrence:

    On the question of jurisdiction, going by the well-entrenched principle that jurisdiction is determined by the material allegations of the complaint and the law, irrespective of whether the plaintiff is entitled to recover all or some of the reliefs sought, I find that the main issue brought forth by Platinum's complaint for Quieting of Title/Interest and Removal of Cloud, Breach of Contract and Damages, and Specific Performance in Civil Case No. 4199 is the validity of Olympic's unilateral termination of the Operating Agreement. Consistent with the case of Gonzales cited by the dissent of J. Tinga, this is a judicial question as it involves the determination of what the law is and what the legal rights of the parties are with respect to the matter in controversy. The resolution of this question, in turn, affects the parties' title to, possession of, or interest in, the subject real property. Jurisdiction, thus, lies with the trial court and not the Panel of Arbitrators of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

    Respecting the thesis that forum shopping is a false issue for purposes of adjudicating these consolidated petitions, the same does not merit my concurrence. While indeed there are only two cases that spawned these four petitions - Civil Case No. 4199 instituted by Platinum and the complaint with the POA filed by Citinickel - the Court should not reluctantly play deaf and dumb to the fact that many other related cases were consecutively filed by Olympic and Citinickel, acting for each other, in various fora seeking essentially the same reliefs ' the nullification of the Operating Agreement between Olympic and Platinum and the surrender of the subject mining areas to either Olympic or Citinickel. The filing of such other related cases is borne by the records and admitted by the parties. As such, it is a proper subject of judicial notice.1 The proscription against forum shopping and abuse of judicial processes is far too established to even require citation of authority.

    I thus vote to GRANT the petitions in G.R. No. 181141 and G.R. No. 183527, and DENY the petitions in G.R. No. 178188 and G.R. No. 180674.

    Endnotes:


    1 Section 2, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court provides:

    SEC. 2. Judicial Notice, when discretionary. - A court may take judicial notice of matters which are of public knowledge, or are capable of unquestionable demonstration, or ought to be known to judges because of their judicial functions.




    SEPARATE OPINION

    LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

    I concur with the disposition of these cases by our esteemed colleague Justice Brion and offer my own opinion on some of the issues raised.

    The resolution of these four (4) consolidated petitions hinges upon the issue of jurisdiction over disputes arising from the Operating Agreement between Olympic Mines Development Corporation (Olympic), the recognized applicant for several mining claims, and Platinum Group Metals Corporation (Platinum), the operator of portions of Olympic's mining claims.

    A perusal of the Operating Agreement dated July 18, 2003 shows that Olympic, in consideration of royalty payments from Platinum, authorized the latter to operate its mines or conduct mining activities on portions of its mining claims for a period of 25 years. Pursuant to this agreement, both Olympic and Platinum secured and were granted Small-Scale Mining Permits (SSMPs) and Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs) over the portions under their respective responsibilities. Notwithstanding the fact Platinum was issued SSMPs and ECCs, the Operating Agreement did not assign to Platinum ownership of any portion of the mining claims and Olympic continued to be the applicant for a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with the government over all the mining areas involved.

    In April 2006, Olympic gave notice to Platinum that the former was terminating the Operating Agreement on the ground of purported gross violations of the terms of said Operating Agreement committed by Platinum. Subsequently, Olympic assigned all its rights and interests in its MSPA application to Citinickel Mining Corporation (Citinickel), a joint venture company that Olympic had formed with Rockworks Resources Corporation (Rockworks).

    As noted in the ponencia, Olympic and Citinickel individually or jointly pursued several legal actions to secure judicial or administrative confirmation or approval of the termination/cancellation of the Operating Agreement with Platinum. One such legal remedy pursued by Olympic and Citinickel was a petition with the Panel of Arbitrators for Region IV-B (MIMAROPA) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). In the petition before the Panel of Arbitrators (POA), it was alleged that Platinum was guilty of "abuse of mining rights" and had violated certain mining laws and regulations. Petitioners therein prayed for the cancellation of the Operating Agreement and the SSMPs of Platinum. The POA issued a resolution (a) declaring the Operating Agreement cancelled and of no force or effect and (b) canceling Platinum's SSMPs. This POA decision was appealed directly to the Court of Appeals (CA) by Platinum but was dismissed for failure to file a motion for reconsideration with the Mines Adjudication Board (MAB). In G.R. 181141, Platinum prayed that this Court order either (a) the reinstatement of its petition by the CA or (b) the setting aside of the POA resolution without remand to the CA in order to abbreviate the proceedings.

    Meanwhile, prior to the filing of the above-mentioned petition with the POA, Platinum filed Civil Case No. 4199 against Olympic with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Branch 95 for quieting of title, breach of contract, damages and specific performance.1 Essentially, Platinum contended that Olympic's termination of the Operating Agreement was invalid and Olympic's contract(s) with Rockworks were in breach of the Operating Agreement and violated Platinum's rights therein. The RTC issued a writ of preliminary injunction, which directed Olympic, its assignees, successors-in-interest, agents and representatives to respect the rights of Platinum under the Operating Agreement. Subsequently, the RTC likewise issued writs enjoining the DENR and its various offices and agencies from, among others, acts that will disturb the status quo or impede or affect the full enjoyment of Platinum's rights under the Operating Agreement. These injunctive writs were questioned by Olympic, Citinickel and a certain Polly Dy in separate petitions filed with the CA. The resolutions of different CA divisions on the matter of validity of the RTC's issuance of injunctive writs are the subject matter of G.R. NOS. 183527, 178188 and 180674. Also assailed before this Court in G.R. No. 178188 is the RTC's denial of Olympic's motion to dismiss, which asserted as a ground, that the RTC had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint for it is the POA that had jurisdiction over the same.

    The jurisdiction of the POA is embodied in the Section 77 of Republic Act No. 7942 (The Philippine Mining Act of 1995), to wit:

    SEC. 77. Panel of Arbitrators. There shall be a panel of arbitrators in the regional office of the Department composed of three (3) members, two (2) of whom must be members of the Philippine Bar in good standing and one [1] licensed mining engineer or a professional in a related field, and duly designated by the Secretary as recommended by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director. Those designated as members of the panel shall serve as such in addition to their work in the Department without receiving any additional compensation. As much as practicable, said members shall come from the different bureaus of the Department in the region. The presiding officer thereof shall be selected by the drawing of lots. His tenure as presiding officer shall be on a yearly basis. The members of the panel shall perform their duties and obligations in hearing and deciding cases until their designation is withdrawn or revoked by the Secretary. Within thirty (30) working days, after the submission of the case by the parties for decision, the panel shall have exclusive and original jurisdiction to hear and decide on the following:

    (a) Disputes involving rights to mining areas;

    (b) Disputes involving mineral agreements or permits;

    (c) Disputes involving surface owners, occupants and claimholders/concessionaires; andcralawlibrary

    (d) Disputes pending before the Bureau and the Department at the date of the effectivity of this Act. (emphasis supplied)

    Both the ponencia and the dissent opine that the present controversy does not fall under Section 77(a), under the parameters laid down in Celestial Nickel Mining Exploration Corporation v. Macroasia Corporation.2 However, they disagree whether the dispute falls under Section 77(b).

    On this point, I agree with the ponencia that the Operating Agreement does not come within the ambit of Section 77(b) for it is not a "mineral agreement" as defined under RA No. 7942. As defined by statute, a "mineral agreement" is a contract between the government and a contractor, involving mineral production-sharing agreement, co-production agreement, or joint-venture agreement.3 A "mineral production sharing agreement," "co-production agreement" and "joint venture agreement" likewise have technical definitions under the law and suffice it to say, that the Operating Agreement did not fit any of those definitions.

    Neither did the Operating Agreement involve an assignment or transfer of rights and obligations under a mineral agreement as contemplated by Section 30 of RA No. 7942.4

    To begin with, it is unclear if Olympic had a subsisting grant from the government over the subject mining areas at the time the Operating Agreement was executed. What is apparent from the pleadings is that Olympic was previously granted mining lease contracts over the mining areas and that Olympic was also the applicant for an MPSA for the same mining areas.

    In any event, whatever rights and obligations Olympic had as the previous grantee of mining concessions or as the recognized applicant for an MPSA over the said mining areas, none of those mining rights and obligations were transferred or assigned to Platinum. Under the Operating Agreement, Olympic was simply allowing Platinum to undertake mining activities on Olympic's mining claims or to operate Olympic's mines on the former's behalf. Their relationship under the Operating Agreement is akin to the concept of agency under civil law. Olympic allowed Platinum to do acts within the mining areas that Olympic itself could lawfully do but only for and on Olympic's behalf. In fact, Olympic and Citinickel referred to Platinum as an "agent" in their petition before the POA.

    To be sure, it is Olympic's vehement view that the Operating Agreement did not give Platinum a right to apply for an MPSA in its own name. For despite the existence of the Operating Agreement, it was Olympic who was still the grantee of, or the applicant for, mining rights from the government and it was still the one who was principally liable for compliance with the conditions of such grant or the laws governing such an application. Contrasting the Operating Agreement with the Deed of Assignment that Olympic executed in favor of Citinickel, the latter clearly stated that Olympic was transferring all its rights and interest in its MPSA application over the mining areas to Citinickel. Pursuant to this Deed of Assignment, the government eventually issued an MPSA over the mining areas in the name of Citinickel. I believe it is the Deed of Assignment that Olympic executed in favor Citinickel that is akin to the assignment/transfer of rights contemplated by Section 30, not the Operating Agreement.

    It is also doubtful that the present controversy is the sort of "dispute" over which the POA has jurisdiction. In Celestial, the Court held that a dispute is defined as "a conflict or controversy; a conflict of claims or rights; an assertion of a right, claim or demand on one side; met by contrary claims or allegations on the other." Taking this definition of a "dispute" and interpreting the provisions of DENR AO 96-40, the Court held in Celestial that the phrase "disputes involving rights to mining areas" in Section 77(a) refers to any adverse claim, protest, or opposition to an application for mineral agreement. Analogous to the reasoning in Celestial, to my mind, Section 77(b) should likewise be interpreted as referring to conflicting interests and claims with respect to a granted mineral agreement or permit.

    In the cases at bar, there were no conflicting claims or rival interests in a mineral agreement or permit granted by the government. There was only one grantee of, or applicant for, a mineral agreement and that was Olympic (later substituted by Citinickel). Any mining rights that Platinum enjoyed or exercised under the Operating Agreement was in representation of Olympic. It is conceded that Platinum had no mining grant or concession from the government in its own name over the same mining areas. Platinum was issued mining permits, not as a grantee or applicant in its own right, but as Olympic's agent/operator. In other words, there is an identity of interests between Olympic and Platinum. There could be no rival or disputing claims to a granted mineral agreement or permit.

    Premises considered, the POA had no jurisdiction to cancel the Operating Agreement nor to declare it of no force and effect. To reiterate, the Operating Agreement is not a mineral agreement. Notwithstanding the technical nature of some of the undertakings in the Operating Agreement and despite the State's interest in ensuring compliance with mining laws by the parties thereto, the Operating Agreement is primarily a civil contract between private persons and the rights and obligations of the parties thereto is properly determined by the civil courts. Platinum's commitment under the Operating Agreement to faithfully comply with mining laws and regulations was only one of the obligations involved in said agreement. The causes of action raised by Platinum in its complaint, such as the alleged (a) invalid termination of the Operating Agreement, (b) bad faith attending the termination, (c) entitlement to damages and specific performance, are well within the jurisdiction of the RTC.ςηαñrοblεš νιr υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

    As for the POA's cancellation of the SSMPs of Platinum, I am also of the considered view that the POA had no jurisdiction to issue such an order. The underlying principle in Celestial is that it is the approving/granting authority that has the power to cancel or withdraw a mineral agreement or permit on the ground of violation of the terms and conditions of the agreement or permit. SSMPs are not issued by the POA. Under Section 103 of DENR Administrative Order No. 96-40, it is the Provincial Governor/City Mayor, through the Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board, that has the power to approve SSMPs for areas outside mineral reservations. The records show that Platinum's SSMPs were approved by the Provincial Governor, through the proper provincial mining regulatory board. I believe the proposed cancellation of an SSMP for any violation of the terms thereof should be brought before the issuing/approving authority and not the POA.

    As for the purported violations by Platinum of the terms and conditions of its ECCs, I likewise believe that the Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR, as the issuing/approving authority, has the jurisdiction to investigate and pass upon the matter. Thus, the parties should exhaust their administrative remedies on the matter of environmental compliance.

    As for the injunctive writs issued by the RTC and the CA, I concur with the ponencia on the propriety of setting aside the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the CA against the RTC in Civil Case No. 4199 and in affirming the validity of the injunctive writs issued by the RTC for substantially the same reasons stated in the ponencia. I qualify my vote, however, with respect to the RTC's injunctive order against the DENR and its offices/agencies. The RTC's order should be understood as only preventing the said agencies from taking jurisdiction over disputes pertaining to the Operating Agreement. However, the RTC should not enjoin the DENR and its offices, or other executive/administrative agencies, from exercising their jurisdiction over alleged violations of the terms of Platinum's ECCs or other mining permits. To my mind, breaches of the Operating Agreement and breaches of the terms of Platinum's ECCs or mining permits are different matters. The former belongs to the jurisdiction of the regular courts while the latter belongs to the jurisdiction of the appropriate executive/administrative agencies. Each should respect the jurisdiction of the others.

    In conclusion, my vote on each of the petitions involved herein is in line with the ponencia subject only to the qualifications stated above.

    TERESITA J. LEONARDO - DE CASTRO

    Endnotes:


    1 Platinum would later amend its complaint to implead Rockworks, its directors and Olympic's directors as additional defendants and to include tortious interference and nullity of contract as additional causes of action.

    2 G.R. NOS. 169080, 172936, 176226, and 176319, December 19, 2007.

    3 Section 3(ab), RA No. 7942.

    4 Section 30 of RA No. 7942 provides:

    Section 30. Assignment/Transfer. - Any assignment or transfer of rights and obligations under any mineral agreement except a financial or technical assistance agreement shall be subject to the prior approval of the Secretary. Such assignment or transfer shall be deemed automatically approved if not acted upon by the Secretary within thirty (30) working days from official receipt thereof, unless patently unconstitutional or illegal.

    G.R. NO. 178188, G.R. NO. 180674, G.R. NO. 181141 and G.R. NO. 183527 - OLYMPIC MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORP., v. PLATINUM GROUP OF METALS CORP. / CITINICKEL MINES AND DEVELOPMENT CORP. v. HON. JUDGE BEIENVENIDO C. BLANCAFLOR, ET AL. / PLATINUM GROUP OF MET


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