It is petitioner’s threshold posture that the preventive suspension imposed against him and the relevant IRR provision authorizing it are invalid inasmuch as PD 1986 does not expressly authorize the MTRCB to issue preventive suspension.
Petitioner’s contention is untenable.
Administrative agencies have powers and functions which may be administrative, investigatory, regulatory, quasi-legislative, or quasi-judicial, or a mix of the five, as may be conferred by the Constitution or by statute. They have in fine only such powers or authority as are granted or delegated, expressly or impliedly, by law. And in determining whether an agency has certain powers, the inquiry should be from the law itself. But once ascertained as existing, the authority given should be liberally construed.
A perusal of the MTRCB’s basic mandate under PD 1986 reveals the possession by the agency of the authority, albeit impliedly, to issue the challenged order of preventive suspension. And this authority stems naturally from, and is necessary for the exercise of, its power of regulation and supervision.
Sec. 3 of PD 1986 pertinently provides the following:
Section 3. Powers and Functions.—The BOARD shall have the following functions, powers and duties:
x x x x
c) To approve or disapprove, delete objectionable portions from and/or prohibit the x x x production, x x x exhibition and/or television broadcast of the motion pictures, television programs and publicity materials subject of the preceding paragraph, which, in the judgment of the board applying contemporary Filipino cultural values as standard, are objectionable for being immoral, indecent, contrary to law and/or good customs, injurious to the prestige of the Republic of the Philippines or its people, or with a dangerous tendency to encourage the commission of violence or of wrong or crime such as but not limited to:
x x x x
vi) Those which are libelous or defamatory to the good name and reputation of any person, whether living or dead;
x x x x
(d) To supervise, regulate, and grant, deny or cancel, permits for the x x x production, copying, distribution, sale, lease, exhibition, and/or television broadcast of all motion pictures, television programs and publicity materials, to the end that no such pictures, programs and materials as are determined by the BOARD to be objectionable in accordance with paragraph (c) hereof shall be x x x produced, copied, reproduced, distributed, sold, leased, exhibited and/or broadcast by television;
x x x x
k) To exercise such powers and functions as may be necessary or incidental to the attainment of the purposes and objectives of this Act x x x. (Emphasis added.)
The issuance of a preventive suspension comes well within the scope of the MTRCB’s authority and functions expressly set forth in PD 1986, more particularly under its Sec. 3(d), as quoted above, which empowers the MTRCB to “supervise, regulate, and grant, deny or cancel, permits for the x x x exhibition, and/or television broadcast of all motion pictures, television programs and publicity materials, to the end that no such pictures, programs and materials as are determined by the BOARD to be objectionable in accordance with paragraph (c) hereof shall be x x x exhibited and/or broadcast by television.”
Surely, the power to issue preventive suspension forms part of the MTRCB’s express regulatory and supervisory statutory mandate and its investigatory and disciplinary authority subsumed in or implied from such mandate. Any other construal would render its power to regulate, supervise, or discipline illusory.
Preventive suspension, it ought to be noted, is not a penalty by itself, being merely a preliminary step in an administrative investigation. And the power to discipline and impose penalties, if granted, carries with it the power to investigate administrative complaints and, during such investigation, to preventively suspend the person subject of the complaint.
To reiterate, preventive suspension authority of the MTRCB springs from its powers conferred under PD 1986. The MTRCB did not, as petitioner insinuates, empower itself to impose preventive suspension through the medium of the IRR of PD 1986. It is true that the matter of imposing preventive suspension is embodied only in the IRR of PD 1986. Sec. 3, Chapter XIII of the IRR provides:
Sec. 3. PREVENTION SUSPENSION ORDER.––Any time during the pendency of the case, and in order to prevent or stop further violations or for the interest and welfare of the public, the Chairman of the Board may issue a Preventive Suspension Order mandating the preventive x x x suspension of the permit/permits involved, and/or closure of the x x x television network, cable TV station x x x provided that the temporary/preventive order thus issued shall have a life of not more than twenty (20) days from the date of issuance.
But the mere absence of a provision on preventive suspension in PD 1986, without more, would not work to deprive the MTRCB a basic disciplinary tool, such as preventive suspension. Recall that the MTRCB is expressly empowered by statute to regulate and supervise television programs to obviate the exhibition or broadcast of, among others, indecent or immoral materials and to impose sanctions for violations and, corollarily, to prevent further violations as it investigates. Contrary to petitioner’s assertion, the aforequoted Sec. 3 of the IRR neither amended PD 1986 nor extended the effect of the law. Neither did the MTRCB, by imposing the assailed preventive suspension, outrun its authority under the law. Far from it. The preventive suspension was actually done in furtherance of the law, imposed pursuant, to repeat, to the MTRCB’s duty of regulating or supervising television programs, pending a determination of whether or not there has actually been a violation. In the final analysis, Sec. 3, Chapter XIII of the 2004 IRR merely formalized a power which PD 1986 bestowed, albeit impliedly, on MTRCB.
Sec. 3(c) and (d) of PD 1986 finds application to the present case, sufficient to authorize the MTRCB’s assailed action. Petitioner’s restrictive reading of PD 1986, limiting the MTRCB to functions within the literal confines of the law, would give the agency little leeway to operate, stifling and rendering it inutile, when Sec. 3(k) of PD 1986 clearly intends to grant the MTRCB a wide room for flexibility in its operation. Sec. 3(k), we reiterate, provides, “To exercise such powers and functions as may be necessary or incidental to the attainment of the purposes and objectives of this Act x x x.” Indeed, the power to impose preventive suspension is one of the implied powers of MTRCB. As distinguished from express powers, implied powers are those that can be inferred or are implicit in the wordings or conferred by necessary or fair implication of the enabling act. As we held in Angara v. Electoral Commission, when a general grant of power is conferred or a duty enjoined, every particular power necessary for the exercise of one or the performance of the other is also conferred by necessary implication. Clearly, the power to impose preventive suspension pending investigation is one of the implied or inherent powers of MTRCB.
We cannot agree with petitioner’s assertion that the aforequoted IRR provision on preventive suspension is applicable only to motion pictures and publicity materials. The scope of the MTRCB’s authority extends beyond motion pictures. What the acronym MTRCB stands for would suggest as much. And while the law makes specific reference to the closure of a television network, the suspension of a television program is a far less punitive measure that can be undertaken, with the purpose of stopping further violations of PD 1986. Again, the MTRCB would regretfully be rendered ineffective should it be subject to the restrictions petitioner envisages.
Just as untenable is petitioner’s argument on the nullity of the preventive suspension order on the ground of lack of hearing. As it were, the MTRCB handed out the assailed order after petitioner, in response to a written notice, appeared before that Board for a hearing on private respondents’ complaint. No less than petitioner admitted that the order was issued after the adjournment of the hearing, proving that he had already appeared before the MTRCB. Under Sec. 3, Chapter XIII of the IRR of PD 1986, preventive suspension shall issue “[a]ny time during the pendency of the case.” In this particular case, it was done after MTRCB duly apprised petitioner of his having possibly violated PD 1986 and of administrative complaints that had been filed against him for such violation.
At any event, that preventive suspension can validly be meted out even without a hearing.[22