Respondent Philex Mining seeks the dismissal of the petition on the ground that petitioner should have filed a motion for reconsideration giving the appellate court an opportunity to correct itself.
Rule 65, §1 of the 1964 Rules of Court in part provides:
Section 1. Petition for certiorari. – When any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial functions has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion and there is no appeal, nor any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered annulling or modifying the proceedings, as the law requires, of such tribunal, board or officer.
With some modifications, Rule 65, §1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure similarly provides:
Section 1. Petition for certiorari. – When any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, nor any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered annulling or modifying the proceedings of such tribunal, board or officer, and granting such incidental reliefs as law and justice may require.
It is settled that the writ of certiorari lies only when petitioner has no other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. Thus, a motion for reconsideration, as a general rule, must be filed before the tribunal, board, or officer against whom the writ of certiorari is sought.
Ordinarily, certiorari as a special civil action will not lie unless a motion for reconsideration is first filed before the respondent tribunal, to allow it an opportunity to correct its assigned errors.
This rule, however, is not without exceptions. In Pajo v. Ago and Ortiz we held:
Respondent contends that petitioners should have filed a motion for reconsideration of the order in question, or asked for the dissolution of the preliminary injunction issued by the trial court, before coming to us.
This is not always so. It is only when the questions are raised for the first time before this Court in a certiorari proceeding that the writ shall not issue unless the lower court had first been given the opportunity to pass upon the same. In fine, when the questions raised before this Court are the same as those which have been squarely raised in and passed upon by, the court below, the filing of a motion for reconsideration in said court before certiorari can be instituted in this Court, is no longer prerequisite.
In Locsin v. Climaco it was stated:
When a definite question has been properly raised, argued, and submitted to a lower court, and the latter has decided the question, a motion for reconsideration is no longer necessary as a condition precedent to the filing of a petition for certiorari in this Court.
And in Central Bank v. Cloribel, it was explained:
It is true that Petitioner herein did not seek a reconsideration of the order complained of, and that, as a general rule, a petition for certiorari will not be entertained unless the respondent has had, through a motion for reconsideration, a chance to correct the error imputed to him. This rule is subject, however, to exceptions, among which are the following, namely: 1) where the issue raised is one purely of law; 2) where public interest is involved; and 3) in case of urgency. These circumstances are present in the case at bar. Moreover, Petitioner herein had raised – in its answer in the main case and in the rejoinder to the memorandum of the Banco Filipino in support of the latter’s application for a writ of preliminary injunction – the very same questions raised in the Petition herein. In other words, Judge Cloribel has already had an opportunity to consider and pass upon those questions, so that a motion for reconsideration of his contested order would have served no practical purpose. The rule requiring exhaustion of remedies does not call for an exercise in futility.
The issues raised by petitioners in this petition are substantially the same as those asserted by them in their Motion to Dismiss Appeal, dated February 14, 1994, before the Court of Appeals. The argument that respondent has no right to expropriate petitioners’ mineral areas under Presidential Decree No. 463 has already been raised, argued, and submitted by petitioners for resolution by the appellate court in their Motion to Dismiss Appeal. To further file a motion for reconsideration before the Court of Appeals would simply be to repeat their arguments. For this reason, we hold that petitioners’ failure to file a motion for reconsideration is not fatal to the allowance of their action.
We therefore come to the main question: Did the Court of Appeals commit grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioners’ Motion to Dismiss Appeal? We find that it did.
To begin with, the writ of certiorari lies when a court, in denying a motion to dismiss, acts without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. By “grave abuse of discretion” is meant, such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be grave as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility and must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined by or to act all in contemplation of law.
Petitioners contend that the Court of Appeals gravely abused its discretion in denying their motion to dismiss the appeal. According to petitioners, respondent’s appeal raises only questions of law and, therefore, it should be brought to the Supreme Court by means of a petition for review on certiorari and not, as Philex Mining did, by bringing an ordinary appeal to the Court of Appeals. Petitioners argue that the question whether respondent has a right to expropriate petitioners’ mining areas under §59 of Presidential Decree No. 463 is a question of law.
On the other hand, Philex Mining maintains that the issues raised in its appeal are factual and, therefore, the appellate court is the proper forum for the ventilation of such issues.
Supreme Court Circular No. 2-90, which is based on the Resolution of the Court En Banc in UDK-9748 (Anacleto Murillo v. Rodolfo Consul), March 1, 1990, provides in §4(c) thereof:
c) Raising issues purely of law in the Court of Appeals, or appeal by wrong mode. – If an appeal under Rule 41 is taken from the regional trial court to the Court of Appeals and therein the appellant raises only questions of law, the appeal shall be dismissed, issues purely of law not being reviewable by said Court. So, too, if an appeal is attempted from the judgment rendered by a Regional Trial Court in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction by notice of appeal, instead of by petition for review, the appeal is inefficacious and should be dismissed.
Thus, judgments of the regional trial courts in the exercise of their original jurisdiction are to be elevated to the Court of Appeals in cases where the appellant raises questions of fact or mixed questions of fact and law. On the other hand, appeals from judgments of the regional trial courts in the exercise of their original jurisdiction must be brought directly to the Supreme Court in cases where the appellant raises only questions of law.
This procedure is now embodied in Rule 41, §2 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure which distinguishes the different modes of appeal from judgments of regional trial courts as follows:
Modes of appeal.-
(a) Ordinary appeal. – The appeal to the Court to Appeals in cases decided by the Regional Trial Court in the exercise of its original jurisdiction shall be taken by filing a notice of appeal with the court which rendered the judgment or final order appealed from and serving a copy thereof upon the adverse party. No record on appeal shall be required except in special proceedings and other cases of multiple or separate appeals where the law or these Rules so require. In such cases, the record on appeal shall be filed and served in like manner.
(b) Petition for review. – The appeal to the Court of Appeals in cases decided by the Regional Trial Court in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction shall be by petition for review in accordance with Rule 42.
(c) Appeal by certiorari. – In all cases where only questions of law are raised or involved, the appeal shall be to the Supreme Court by petition for review on certiorari in accordance with Rule 45.
On the other hand, Rule 42 provides that appeals from judgments of the regional trial courts in the exercise of their appellate jurisdiction must be brought to the Court of Appeals, whether the appellant raises questions of fact, of law, or mixed questions of fact and law.
The rules on appeals from the judgments of the regional trial courts in civil cases may thus be summarized as follows:
(1) Original Jurisdiction – In all cases decided by the regional trial courts in the exercise of their original jurisdiction, appeal may be made to:
(a) Court of Appeals – where the appellant raises questions of fact or mixed questions of fact and law, by filing a mere notice of appeal.
(b) Supreme Court – where the appellant solely raises questions of law, by filing a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45.
(2) Appellate Jurisdiction
All appeals from judgments rendered by the regional trial courts in the exercise of their appellate jurisdiction, whether the appellant raises questions of fact, of law, or mixed questions of fact and law, shall be by filing a petition for review under Rule 42.
The question is whether the issues raised in the appeal of respondent Philex Mining are questions of law or of fact.
[F]or a question to be one of law, the same must not involve an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants or any of them. And the distinction is well-known: There is a question of law in a given case when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain state of facts; there is a question of fact when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or the falsehood of alleged facts.
Respondent’s assignment of errors before the appellate court should therefore be considered in order to determine the nature of the questions therein raised. Respondent Philex Mining argued before the Court of Appeals:
A. The trial court erred in finding that Philex has no right to expropriate; P.D. 463 expressly grants to Philex, as operator of the Nevada claims, the right of eminent domain.
B. The trial court erred in finding that Philex cannot expropriate land belonging to a mining company; Section 59 in relation to Section 58 of P.D. 463 allows an operator of a mining claim to expropriate mining claims or lands owned, occupied, or leased by other persons or claim owners.
C. The trial court erred in finding that Philex is attempting to subvert the Supreme Court decision and is engaged in forum-shopping. Philex is merely exercising its rights under the law.
D. The trial court erred in finding that the expropriation of the land will divide the surface from the subsurface.
E. The trial court erred in dismissing the complaint. Philex’s alternative cause of action was disregarded.
The respondent’s arguments may thus be summarized as follows:
(1) Section 59, in relation to Section 53 of Presidential Decree No. 463, expressly grants respondent the right to expropriate mining claims or lands owned, occupied, or leased by other persons once the conditions justifying expropriation are present. The power of eminent domain expressly granted under Sections 58 and 59 of P.D. No. 463 is not inferior to the possessory right of other claimowners.
(2) There is nothing absurd in allowing a mining company to expropriate land belonging to another mining company. Pursuant to the ruling laid down in Benguet Consolidated, Inc. v. Republic, land covered by mining claims may be the subject of expropriation. Moreover, a general grant of the power of eminent domain only means that the court may inquire into the necessity of the expropriation.
(3) Respondent could not be held guilty of forum-shopping or subverting the Supreme Court’s decision in Poe Mining v. Garcia. Forum-shopping, which refers to filing the same or repetitious suits, is not resorted to in the present case since respondent seeks to expropriate petitioners’ mining areas, not as operator of the Poe mining claims, but as operator of the Nevada mining claims.
(4) Respondent’s expropriation of the land will not divide the surface from the subsurface for the reason that respondent seeks to expropriate all rights that petitioners, as well as the Pigoro heirs, have over the 21.9 hectare area.
(5) The trial court erred in disregarding respondent’s alternative cause of action, even on the assumption that respondent does not have the right to expropriate, for the reason that an alternative statement in a pleading, if sufficient, is not vitiated by the insufficiency of the other alternative statements.
The first four arguments advanced by respondent Philex Mining raise the sole issue of whether it has, under Presidential Decree No. 463, the right to expropriate the 21.9 hectare mining areas where petitioners’ mining claims are located. On the other hand, its final argument raises the issue of whether the rules on the allegation of alternative causes of action in one pleading under Rule 8, §1 of the Rules of Court are applicable to special civil actions. These are legal questions whose resolution does not require an examination of the probative weight of the evidence presented by the parties but a determination of what the law is on the given state of facts. These issues raise questions of law which should be the subject of a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 filed directly with this Court. The Court of Appeals committed a grave error in ruling otherwise.