Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

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 Mayor’s Executive Order No. 011, Series of 2002,2 dated 15 August 2002 , for being patently contrary to law.

The antecedents are as follows:

Petitioner Liga ng mga Barangay National (Liga for brevity) is the national organization of all the barangays in the Philippines, which pursuant to Section 492 of Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as The Local Government Code of 1991, constitutes the duly elected presidents of highly-urbanized cities, provincial chapters, the metropolitan Manila Chapter, and metropolitan political subdivision chapters.

Section 493 of that law provides that "[t]he liga at the municipal, city, provincial, metropolitan political subdivision, and national levels directly elect a president, a vice-president, and five (5) members of the board of directors." All other matters not provided for in the law affecting the internal organization of the leagues of local government units shall be governed by their respective constitution and by-laws, which must always conform to the provisions of the Constitution and existing laws.3

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:

All other election matters not covered in this Article shall be governed by the "Liga Election Code" or such other rules as may be promulgated by the National Liga Executive Board in conformity with the provisions of existing laws.

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:

1.2 Liga ng mga Barangay Provincial, Metropolitan, HUC/ICC Chapters. There shall be nationwide synchronized elections for the provincial, metropolitan, and HUC/ICC chapters to be held on the third Monday of the month immediately after the month when the synchronized elections in paragraph 1.1 above was held. The incumbent Liga chapter president concerned duly assisted by the proper government agency, office or department, e.g. Provincial/City/NCR/Regional Director, shall convene all the duly elected Component City/Municipal Chapter Presidents and all the current elected Punong Barangays (for HUC/ICC) of the respective chapters in any public place within its area of jurisdiction for the purpose of reorganizing and electing the officers and directors of the provincial, metropolitan or HUC/ICC Liga chapters. Said president duly assisted by the government officer aforementioned, shall notify, in writing, all the above concerned at least fifteen (15) days before the scheduled election meeting on the exact date, time, place and requirements of the said meeting.

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.lawphi1.net

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:

SEC. 3. Representation Chapters. — Every Barangay shall be represented in the said Liga Chapters … by the Punong Barangay…or, in his absence or incapacity, by the kagawad duly elected for the purpose among its members….

A. District Chapter

All elected Barangay Chairman in each District shall elect from among themselves the President, Vice-President and five (5) members of the Board….

B. City Chapter

The District Chapter representatives shall automatically become members of the Board and they shall elect from among themselves a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Auditor and create other positions as it may deem necessary for the management of the chapter.

The assailed ordinance was later transmitted to respondent City Mayor Jose L. Atienza, Jr., for his signature and approval.

On 16 July 2002, upon being informed that the ordinance had been forwarded to the Office of the City Mayor, still unnumbered and yet to be officially released, the Liga sent respondent Mayor of Manila a letter requesting him that said ordinance be vetoed considering that it encroached upon, or even assumed, the functions of the Liga through legislation, a function which was clearly beyond the ambit of the powers of the City Council.7

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:

I

WHETHER OR NOT THE RESPONDENT CITY COUNCIL OF MANILA COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF OR IN EXCESS OF JURISDICTION, WHEN IT ENACTED CITY ORDINANCE NO. 8039 S. 2002 PURPOSELY TO GOVERN THE ELECTIONS OF THE MANILA CHAPTER OF THE LIGA NG MGA BARANGAYS AND WHICH PROVIDES A DIFFERENT MANNER OF ELECTING ITS OFFICERS, DESPITE THE FACT THAT SAID CHAPTER’S ELECTIONS, AND THE ELECTIONS OF ALL OTHER CHAPTERS OF THE LIGA NG MGA BARANGAYS FOR THAT MATTER, ARE BY LAW MANDATED TO BE GOVERNED BY THE LIGA CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS AND THE LIGA ELECTION CODE.

II

WHETHER OR NOT THE RESPONDENT CITY MAYOR OF MANILA COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF OR IN EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN HE ISSUED EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 011 TO IMPLEMENT THE QUESTIONED CITY ORDINANCE NO. 8039 S. 2002.

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:

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, or 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.

Elsewise stated, for a writ of certiorari to issue, the following requisites must concur: (1) it must be directed against a tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions; (2) the tribunal, board, or officer must have acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting lack or excess of jurisdiction; and (3) there is no appeal or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.

A respondent is said to be exercising judicial function where he has the power to determine what the law is and what the legal rights of the parties are, and then undertakes to determine these questions and adjudicate upon the rights of the parties.11

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:

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

(1) Exercise original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus.

(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. (Italics supplied).

As such, this petition must necessary fail, as this Court does not have original jurisdiction over a petition for declaratory relief even if only questions of law are involved.15

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 Court’s 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

This concurrence of jurisdiction is not, however, to be taken as according to parties seeking any of the writs an absolute, unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which application therefor0 will be directed. There is after all a hierarchy of courts. That hierarchy is determinative of the venue of appeals, and also serves as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for petitions for the extraordinary writs. A becoming regard of that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level ("inferior") courts should be filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals. A direct invocation of the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is [an] established policy. It is a policy necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Court’s time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Court’s docket.

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

Petitioner’s 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.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur.
Panganiban, J., in the result.


Footnotes


1 Entitled An Ordinance Prescribing a Procedure for the Election of Officers of the Liga ng mga Barangay and the Panlungsod na Pederasyon ng Sangguniang Kabataan in the City of Manila. Rollo, 16-17.

2 Entitled Creating the Committee on Election to Supervise and Implement the Election of the Liga ng mga Barangay and the Panlungsod na Pederasyon ng Sangguniang Kabataan in the City of Manila. Rollo, 18-19.

3 Section 507, R.A. No. 7160.

4 Rollo, 20-39.

5 Id., 40-52.

6 Rollo, 53-56.

7 Rollo, 61-64.

8 Rollo, 69-77.

9 Id., 103-111.

10 Rollo, 130-136.

11 1 Florenz D. Regalado, Remedial Law Compendium 706 (1999) citing Ruperto v. Torres, L-8785, 25 February 1957, and Municipal Council of Lemery v. Provincial Board of Batangas, 56 Phil. 260, 268 (1931).

12 Midland Insurance Corp. v. Intermediate Appellate Court, L-71905, 13 August 1986, 143 SCRA 458, 462. See also Villarosa v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 133927, 29 November 1999, 319 SCRA 470, 479; United Residents of Dominican Hill, Inc. v. Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems, G.R. No. 135945, 7 March 2001, 353 SCRA 782,797.

13 Santiago v. Bautista, 143 Phil. 209, 219 (1970).

14 Philnabank Employees Association v. Estanislao, G.R. No. 104209, 16 November 1993, 227 SCRA 804, 811.

15 Tano v. Socrates, G.R. No. 110249, 21 August 1997, 278 SCRA 154, 172; Macasiano v. National Housing Authority, G.R. No. 107921, 1 July 1993, 224 SCRA 236, 243.

16 G.R. No. 67787, 18 April 1989, 172 SCRA 415, 424.

17 G.R. Nos. 99289-90, 27 January 1993, 217 SCRA 633.

18 Tano v. Socrates, supra note 15, at 174.

19 G.R. No. 132988, 19 July 2000, 336 SCRA 201.

20 Veluz v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 139951, 23 November 2000, 345 SCRA 756, 764-765.


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