G. R. No. 154599 - January 21, 2004
THE LIGA NG MGA BARANGAY NATIONAL, petitioner, vs. THE CITY MAYOR OF MANILA, HON. JOSE ATIENZA, JR., and THE CITY COUNCIL OF MANILA, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:
This petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court seeks the nullification of Manila City Ordinance No. 8039, Series of 2002,1 and respondent City Mayors Executive Order No. 011, Series of 2002,2 dated 15 August 2002 , for being patently contrary to law.
The antecedents are as follows:
On 16 March 2000, the Liga adopted and ratified its own Constitution and By-laws to govern its internal organization.4 Section 1, third paragraph, Article XI of said Constitution and By-Laws states:
By virtue of the above-cited provision, the Liga adopted and ratified its own Election Code.5 Section 1.2, Article I of the Liga Election Code states:
The Liga thereafter came out with its Calendar of Activities and Guidelines in the Implementation of the Liga Election Code of 2002,6 setting on 21 October 2002 the synchronized elections for highly urbanized city chapters, such as the Liga Chapter of Manila, together with independent component city, provincial, and metropolitan chapters.
On 28 June 2002, respondent City Council of Manila enacted Ordinance No. 8039, Series of 2002, providing, among other things, for the election of representatives of the District Chapters in the City Chapter of Manila and setting the elections for both chapters thirty days after the barangay elections. Section 3 (A) and (B) of the assailed ordinance read:
Respondent Mayor, however, signed and approved the assailed city ordinance and issued on 15 August 2002 Executive Order No. 011, Series of 2002, to implement the ordinance.
Hence, on 27 August 2002, the Liga filed the instant petition raising the following issues:
In support of its petition, the Liga argues that City Ordinance No. 8039, Series of 2002, and Executive Order No. 011, Series of 2002, contradict the Liga Election Code and are therefore invalid. There exists neither rhyme nor reason, not to mention the absence of legal basis, for the Manila City Council to encroach upon, or even assume, the functions of the Liga by prescribing, through legislation, the manner of conducting the Liga elections other than what has been provided for by the Liga Constitution and By-laws and the Liga Election Code. Accordingly, the subject ordinance is an ultra vires act of the respondents and, as such, should be declared null and void.
As for its prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order, the petitioner cites as reason therefor the fact that under Section 5 of the assailed city ordinance, the Manila District Chapter elections would be held thirty days after the regular barangay elections. Hence, it argued that the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction would be imperative to prevent the implementation of the ordinance and executive order.
On 12 September 2002, Barangay Chairman Arnel Peña, in his capacity as a member of the Liga ng mga Barangay in the City Chapter of Manila, filed a Complaint in Intervention with Urgent Motion for the Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction.8 He supports the position of the Liga and prays for the declaration of the questioned ordinance and executive order, as well as the elections of the Liga ng mga Barangay pursuant thereto, to be null and void. The assailed ordinance prescribing for an "indirect manner of election" amended, in effect, the provisions of the Local Government Code of 1991, which provides for the election of the Liga officers at large. It also violated and curtailed the rights of the petitioner and intervenor, as well as the other 896 Barangay Chairmen in the City of Manila, to vote and be voted upon in a direct election.
On 25 October 2002, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed a Manifestation in lieu of Comment.9 It supports the petition of the Liga, arguing that the assailed city ordinance and executive order are clearly inconsistent with the express public policy enunciated in R.A. No. 7160. Local political subdivisions are able to legislate only by virtue of a valid delegation of legislative power from the national legislature. They are mere agents vested with what is called the power of subordinate legislation. Thus, the enactments in question, which are local in origin, cannot prevail against the decree, which has the force and effect of law.
On the issue of non-observance by the petitioners of the hierarchy-of-courts rule, the OSG posits that technical rules of procedure should be relaxed in the instant petition. While Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended, grants original jurisdiction over cases of this nature to the Regional Trial Court (RTC), the exigency of the present petition, however, calls for the relaxation of this rule. Section 496 (should be Section 491) of the Local Government Code of 1991 primarily intended that the Liga ng mga Barangay determine the representation of the Liga in the sanggunians for the immediate ventilation, articulation, and crystallization of issues affecting barangay government administration. Thus, the immediate resolution of this petition is a must.
On the other hand, the respondents defend the validity of the assailed ordinance and executive order and pray for the dismissal of the present petition on the following grounds: (1) certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is unavailing; (2) the petition should not be entertained by this Court in view of the pendency before the Regional Trial Court of Manila of two actions or petitions questioning the subject ordinance and executive order; (3) the petitioner is guilty of forum shopping; and (4) the act sought to be enjoined is fait accompli.
The respondents maintain that certiorari is an extraordinary remedy available to one aggrieved by the decision of a tribunal, officer, or board exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions. The City Council and City Mayor of Manila are not the "board" and "officer" contemplated in Rule 65 of the Rules of Court because both do not exercise judicial functions. The enactment of the subject ordinance and issuance of the questioned executive order are legislative and executive functions, respectively, and thus, do not fall within the ambit of "judicial functions." They are both within the prerogatives, powers, and authority of the City Council and City Mayor of Manila, respectively. Furthermore, the petition failed to show with certainty that the respondents acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion.
The respondents also asseverate that the petitioner cannot claim that it has no other recourse in addressing its grievance other than this petition for certiorari. As a matter of fact, there are two cases pending before Branches 33 and 51 of the RTC of Manila (one is for mandamus; the other, for declaratory relief) and three in the Court of Appeals (one is for prohibition; the two other cases, for quo warranto), which are all akin to the present petition in the sense that the relief being sought therein is the declaration of the invalidity of the subject ordinance. Clearly, the petitioner may ask the RTC or the Court of Appeals the relief being prayed for before this Court. Moreover, the petitioner failed to prove discernible compelling reasons attending the present petition that would warrant cognizance of the present petition by this Court.
Besides, according to the respondents, the petitioner has transgressed the proscription against forum-shopping in filing the instant suit. Although the parties in the other pending cases and in this petition are different individuals or entities, they represent the same interest.
With regard to petitioner's prayer for temporary restraining order and/ or preliminary injunction in its petition, the respondents maintain that the same had become moot and academic in view of the elections of officers of the City Liga ng mga Barangay on 15 September 2002 and their subsequent assumption to their respective offices.10 Since the acts to be enjoined are now fait accompli, this petition for certiorari with an application for provisional remedies must necessarily fail. Thus, where the records show that during the pendency of the case certain events or circumstances had taken place that render the case moot and academic, the petition for certiorari must be dismissed.
After due deliberation on the pleadings filed, we resolve to dismiss this petition for certiorari.
First, the respondents neither acted in any judicial or quasi-judicial capacity nor arrogated unto themselves any judicial or quasi-judicial prerogatives. A petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is a special civil action that may be invoked only against a tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions.
Section 1, Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides:
Quasi-judicial function, on the other hand, is "a term which applies to the actions, discretion, etc., of public administrative officers or bodies required to investigate facts or ascertain the existence of facts, hold hearings, and draw conclusions from them as a basis for their official action and to exercise discretion of a judicial nature."12
Before a tribunal, board, or officer may exercise judicial or quasi-judicial acts, it is necessary that there be a law that gives rise to some specific rights of persons or property under which adverse claims to such rights are made, and the controversy ensuing therefrom is brought before a tribunal, board, or officer clothed with power and authority to determine the law and adjudicate the respective rights of the contending parties.13
The respondents do not fall within the ambit of tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions. As correctly pointed out by the respondents, the enactment by the City Council of Manila of the assailed ordinance and the issuance by respondent Mayor of the questioned executive order were done in the exercise of legislative and executive functions, respectively, and not of judicial or quasi-judicial functions. On this score alone, certiorari will not lie.
Second, although the instant petition is styled as a petition for certiorari, in essence, it seeks the declaration by this Court of the unconstitutionality or illegality of the questioned ordinance and executive order. It, thus, partakes of the nature of a petition for declaratory relief over which this Court has only appellate, not original, jurisdiction.14 Section 5, Article VIII of the Constitution provides:
Third, even granting arguendo that the present petition is ripe for the extraordinary writ of certiorari, there is here a clear disregard of the hierarchy of courts. No special and important reason or exceptional and compelling circumstance has been adduced by the petitioner or the intervenor why direct recourse to this Court should be allowed.
We have held that this Courts original jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari (as well as of prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction) is not exclusive, but is concurrent with the Regional Trial Courts and the Court of Appeals in certain cases. As aptly stated in People v. Cuaresma:16
As we have said in Santiago v. Vasquez,17 the propensity of litigants and lawyers to disregard the hierarchy of courts in our judicial system by seeking relief directly from this Court must be put to a halt for two reasons: (1) it would be an imposition upon the precious time of this Court; and (2) it would cause an inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in the adjudication of cases, which in some instances had to be remanded or referred to the lower court as the proper forum under the rules of procedure, or as better equipped to resolve the issues because this Court is not a trier of facts.
Thus, we shall reaffirm the judicial policy that this Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts, and exceptional and compelling circumstances justify the availment of the extraordinary remedy of writ of certiorari, calling for the exercise of its primary jurisdiction.18
Petitioners reliance on Pimentel v. Aguirre19 is misplaced because the non-observance of the hierarchy-of-courts rule was not an issue therein. Besides, what was sought to be nullified in the petition for certiorari and prohibition therein was an act of the President of the Philippines, which would have greatly affected all local government units. We reiterated therein that when an act of the legislative department is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, settling the controversy becomes the duty of this Court. The same is true when what is seriously alleged to be unconstitutional is an act of the President, who in our constitutional scheme is coequal with Congress.
We hesitate to rule that the petitioner and the intervenor are guilty of forum-shopping. Forum-shopping exists where the elements of litis pendentia are present or when a final judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in the other. For litis pendentia to exist, the following requisites must be present: (1) identity of parties, or at least such parties as are representing the same interests in both actions; (2) identity of rights asserted and reliefs prayed for, the reliefs being founded on the same facts; and (3) identity with respect to the two preceding particulars in the two cases, such that any judgment that may be rendered in the pending case, regardless of which party is successful, would amount to res judicata in the other case.20
In the instant petition, and as admitted by the respondents, the parties in this case and in the alleged other pending cases are different individuals or entities; thus, forum-shopping cannot be said to exist. Moreover, even assuming that those five petitions are indeed pending before the RTC of Manila and the Court of Appeals, we can only guess the causes of action and issues raised before those courts, considering that the respondents failed to furnish this Court with copies of the said petitions.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur.
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