Intention on the rule on the exhaustion of administrative remedies; exception

It is true that the general rule is that before a party is allowed to seek the intervention of the court, he or she should have availed himself or herself of all the means of administrative processes afforded him or her. Hence, if resort to a remedy within the administrative machinery can still be made by giving the administrative officer concerned every opportunity to decide on a matter that comes within his or her jurisdiction, then such remedy should be exhausted first before the courts judicial power can be sought. The premature invocation of the intervention of the court is fatal to ones cause of action. The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is based on practical and legal reasons. The availment of administrative remedy entails lesser expenses and provides for a speedier disposition of controversies. Furthermore, the courts of justice, for reasons of comity and convenience, will shy away from a dispute until the system of administrative redress has been completed and complied with, so as to give the administrative agency concerned every opportunity to correct its error and dispose of the case. However, there are several exceptions to this rule. [26]

The rule on the exhaustion of administrative remedies is intended to preclude a court from arrogating unto itself the authority to resolve a controversy, the jurisdiction over which is initially lodged with an administrative body of special competence. Thus, a case where the issue raised is a purely legal question, well within the competence; and the jurisdiction of the court and not the administrative agency, would clearly constitute an exception.[27] Resolving questions of law, which involve the interpretation and application of laws, constitutes essentially an exercise of judicial power that is exclusively allocated to the Supreme Court and such lower courts the Legislature may establish. [28]

In this case, the parties are not disputing any factual matter on which they still need to present evidence. The sole issue petitioners raised before the RTC in Civil Case No. 25843 was whether Municipal Ordinance No. 98-01 was valid and enforceable despite the absence, prior to its enactment, of a public hearing held in accordance with Article 276 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Local Government Code. This is undoubtedly a pure question of law, within the competence and jurisdiction of the RTC to resolve.

Paragraph 2(a) of Section 5, Article VIII of the Constitution, expressly establishes the appellate jurisdiction of this Court, and impliedly recognizes the original jurisdiction of lower courts over cases involving the constitutionality or validity of an ordinance:

Section 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:

x x x x

(2) Review, revise, reverse, modify or affirm on appeal or certiorari, as the law or the Rules of Court may provide, final judgments and orders of lower courts in:

(a) All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question. (Emphases ours.)

In J.M. Tuason and Co., Inc. v. Court of Appeals,[29] Ynot v. Intermediate Appellate Court,[30] and Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Santos,[31] the Court has affirmed the jurisdiction of the RTC to resolve questions of constitutionality and validity of laws (deemed to include local ordinances) in the first instance, without deciding questions which pertain to legislative policy.

Although not raised in the Petition at bar, the Court is compelled to discuss another procedural issue, specifically, the declaration by the RTC, and affirmed by the Court of Appeals, that petitioners availed themselves of the wrong remedy in filing a Petition for Prohibition/Mandamus before the RTC.

 G.R. No. 182065, EVELYN ONGSUCO and ANTONIA SALAYA, Petitioners, – versus – HON. MARIANO M. MALONES, both in his private and official capacity as Mayor of the Municipality of Maasin, Iloilo, Respondent.

About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
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