G.R. No. L-19850 January 30, 1964
VIGAN ELECTRIC LIGHT COMPANY, INC., Petitioner, vs. THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION, Respondent.
Raymundo A. Armovit for petitioner.
CONCEPCION, J.:chanrobles virtual law library
This is an original action for certiorari to annul an order of respondent Public Service Commission. Upon the filing of the petition and the submission and approval of the corresponding bond, we issued a writ of injunction restraining said respondent from enforcing the order complained of Republic Act No. 316, approved on June 19, 1948, granted petitioner Vigan Electric Light Company, Inc., a franchise to construct, maintain and operate an electric light, heat and/or power plant for the purpose of generating and distributing light, heat and/or power, for sale within the limits of several municipalities of the province of Ilocos Sur. Accordingly, petitioner secured from respondent on May 31, 1950, a certificate of public convenience to render electric light, heat and/or power services in said municipalities and to charge its customers and/or consumers the following rates:chanrobles virtual law library
On May 22, 1957, petitioner, acting with respondent's approval, entered into a contract for the purchase of electric power and energy from the National Power Corporation, for resale, in the course of the business of said petitioner, to its customers, to whom, in fact, petitioner resold said electric power and energy, in accordance with the above schedule of rates. About five (5) years later, or on January 16, 1962, respondent advised petitioner of a conference to be held on February 12, 1962 for the purpose of revising its authorized rates. Soon thereafter, petitioner received a letter of respondent informing the former of an alleged letter-petition of "Congressman Floro Crisologo and 107 alleged residents of Vigan Ilocos Sur", charging the following:
and directing the petitioner to comment on these charges. In reply to said communications, petitioner's counsel wrote to respondent, on February 1, 1962, a letter asking that the conference scheduled for February 12 be postponed to March 12, and another letter stating inter alia:
On March 15, 1962, petitioner received a communication form the General Auditing Office notifying him that one Mr. Cesar A. Damole had "been instructed to make an audit and examination of the books and other records of account" of said petitioner, "under the provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 325 and in accordance with the request of the Public Service Commission contained in its letter dated March 12, 1962", and directing petitioner to cooperate with said Mr. Damole "for the successful accomplishment of his work". Subsequently, respondent issued a subpoena duces tecum requiring petitioner to produce before the former, during a conference scheduled for April 10, 1962, certain books of account and financial statements specified in said process. On the date last mentioned petitioner moved to quash the subpoena duces tecum. The motion was not acted upon in said conference of April 10, 1962. However, it was then decided that the next conference be held on April 30, 1962, which was later postponed to May 21, 1962. When petitioner's representatives appeared before respondent, on the date last mentioned, they were advised by the latter that the scheduled conference had been cancelled, that the petition to quash the subpoena duces tecum had been granted, and that, on May 17, 1962, respondent had issued an order, from which we quote:
METER RATE - 24-HOUR SERVICE
Billings to customers shall be made to the nearest multiple of five centavos. The above rates may be revised, modified or altered at anytime for any just cause and/or in the public service.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Soon later, or on June 25, 1962, petitioner herein instituted the present action for certiorari to annul said order of May 17, 1962, upon the ground that, since its Corporate inception in 1948, petitioner it "never was able to give and never made a single dividend declaration in favor of its stockholders" because its operation from 1949 to 1961 had resulted in an aggregate loss of P113,351.523; that in the conference above mentioned petitioner had called the attention of respondent to the fact that the latter had not furnished the former a "copy of the alleged letter-petition of Congressman Crisologo and others"; that respondent then expressed the view that there was no necessity of serving copy of said letter to petitioner, because respondent was merely holding informal conferences to ascertain whether petitioner would consent to the reduction of its rates; that petitioner objected to said reduction without a hearing, alleging that its rates could be reduced only if proven by evidence validly adduced to be excessive; that petitioner offered to introduce evidence to show the reasonableness of its aforementioned rates, and even the fairness of its increase; that petitioner was then assured that it would be furnished a copy of the aforementioned letter-petition and that a hearing would be held, if a reduction of its rates could not be agreed upon; that petitioner had not even been served a copy of the auditor's report upon which the order complained of is based; that such order had been issued without notice and hearing; and that, accordingly, petitioner had been denied due process.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
In its answer respondent admitted some allegations of the complaint and denied other allegations thereof, particularly the conclusions drawn by petitioner. Likewise, respondent alleged that it granted petitioner's motion to quash the aforementioned subpoena duces tecum because the documents therein referred to had already been audited and examined by the General Auditing Office, the report on which was on file with said respondent; that the latter had directed that petitioner be served a copy of said report; and that, although this has not, as yet, been actually done, petitioner could have seen and examined said report had it really wanted to do so. By way of special defenses, respondent, moreover, alleged that the disputed order had been issued under its delegated legislative authority, the exercise of which does not require previous notice and hearing; and that petitioner had not sought a reconsideration of said order, and had, accordingly, failed to exhaust all administrative remedies.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
In support of its first special defense respondent maintains that rate-fixing is a legislative function; that legislative or rule-making powers may constitutionally be exercised without previous notice of hearing; and that the decision in Ang Tibay vs. Court of Industrial Relations (69 Phil., 635) - in which we held that such notice and hearing are essential to the validity of a decision of the Public Service Commission - is not in point because, unlike the order complained of - which respondent claims to be legislative in nature - the Ang Tibay case referred to a proceeding involving the exercise of judicial functions.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
At the outset, it should be noted, however, that, consistently with the principle of separation of powers, which underlies our constitutional system, legislative powers may not be delegated except to local governments, and only to matters purely of local concern (Rubi vs. Provincia Board, 39 Phil., 660; U.S. vs. Heinszen, 206 U.S. 370). However, Congress may delegate to administrative agencies of the government the power to supply the details in the execution or enforcement of a policy laid down by a which is complete in itself (Calalang vs. Williams, 70 Phil. 726; Pangasinan Trans. Co. vs. Public Service Commission, 70 Phil., 221; People vs. Rosenthal, 68 Phil., 328; People vs. Vera, 65 Phil., 56; Cruz vs. Youngberg, 56 Phil. 234; Alegre vs. Collector of Customs, 53 Phil., 394; U.S. vs. Ang Tang Ho 43 Phil., 1; Schechter vs. U.S., 295 U.S., 495 Mulford vs. Smith, 307 U.S., 38; Bowles vs. Willingham, 321 U.S., 503). Such law is not deemed complete unless it lays down a standard or pattern sufficiently fixed or determinate, or, at least, determinable without requiring another legislation, to guide the administrative body concerned in the performance of its duty to implement or enforce said Policy (People vs. Lim Ho, L-12091, January 28, 1960; Araneta vs. Gatmaitan, L-8895, April 30, 1957; Cervantes vs. Auditor General, L-4043, May 26, 1952; Philippine Association of Colleges vs. Secretary of Education, 51 Off. Gaz., 6230; People vs. Arnault, 48 Off. Gaz., 4805; Antamok Gold Fields vs. Court of Industrial Relations, 68 Phil., 340; U.S. vs. Barrias, 11 Phil., 327; Yakus vs. White, 321 U.S., 414; Ammann vs. Mallonce, 332 U.S., 245; U.S. vs. Rock Royal Corp. 307 U.S., 533; Mutual Film Corp. vs. Industrial Commission, 276 U.S., 230). Otherwise, there would be no reasonable means to ascertain whether or not said body has acted within the scope of its authority, and, as a consequence, the power of legislation would eventually be exercised by a branch of the Government other than that in which it is lodged by the Constitution, in violation, not only of the allocation of powers therein made, but, also, of the principle of separation of powers. Hence, Congress his not delegated, and cannot delegate legislative powers to the Public Service Commission.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Moreover, although the rule-making power and even the power to fix rates - when such rules and/or rates are meant to apply to all enterprises of a given kind throughout the Philippines - may partake of a legislative character, such is not the nature of the order complained of. Indeed, the same applies exclusively to petitioner herein. What is more, it is predicated upon the finding of fact - based upon a report submitted by the General Auditing Office - that petitioner is making a profit of more than 12% of its invested capital, which is denied by petitioner. Obviously, the latter is entitled to cross-examine the maker of said report, and to introduce evidence to disprove the contents thereof and/or explain or complement the same, as well as to refute the conclusion drawn therefrom by the respondent. In other words, in making said finding of fact, respondent performed a function partaking of a quasi-judicial character the valid exercise of which demands previous notice and hearing.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Indeed, sections 16(c) and 20 (a) of Commonwealth Act No. 146, explicitly require notice Indeed hearing. The pertinent parts thereof provide:
Since compliance with law must be presumed, it should be assumed that petitioner's current rates were fixed by respondent after proper notice and hearing. Hence, modification of such rates cannot be made, over petitioner's objection, without such notice and hearing, particularly considering that the factual basis of the action taken by respondent is assailed by petitioner. The rule applicable is set forth in the American Jurisprudence the following language:
Wherefore, we hold that the determination of the issue involved in the order complained of partakes of the nature of a quasi-judicial function and that having been issued without previous notice and hearing said order is clearly violative of the due process clause, and, hence, null and void, so that a motion for reconsideration thereof is not an absolute prerequisite to the institution of the present action for certiorari (Ayson vs. Republic. 50 Off. Gaz., 5810). For this reason considering that said order was being made effective on June 1, 1962, or almost immediately after its issuance (on May 17, 1962), we find that petitioner was justified in commencing this proceedings without first filing said motion (Guerrero vs. Carbonell, L-7180, March 15, 1955).chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
WHEREFORE, the writ prayed for is granted and the preliminary injunction issued by this Court hereby made permanent. It is so ordered.
Bengzon, C.J., Padilla, Bautista Angelo, Labrador, Reyes, J.B.L., Paredes, Dizon, Regala and Makalintal, JJ., concur.
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