Sunday, January 3, 2016

Denial of due process; where there is a violation of basic constitutional rights, courts are ousted from their jurisdiction.

"x x x.

Sections 22330 (on preliminary conference), 22431 (on hearing), and 22732 (on the proceedings before the POA), as well as Sections 22133 (on due course) and 22234 (on answers) of DENR DAO95-23, or the Implementing Rules of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995,35 clearly require that the parties involved in mining disputes be given the opportunity to be heard. These rules – which were already in effect36 during the time the dispute between the parties arose – flesh out the core requirement of due process; thus, a stark and unjustified contravention of the same would oust the errant tribunal of its jurisdiction and, in effect, render its decision null and void. As explained in PO2 Montoya v. Police Director Varilla:37

The cardinal precept is that where there is a violation of basic constitutional rights, courts are ousted from their jurisdiction. The violation of a party’s right to due process raises a serious jurisdictional issue which cannot be glossed over or disregarded at will. Where the denial of the fundamental right of due process is apparent, a decision rendered in disregard of that right is void for lack of jurisdiction.38 (Emphases supplied)

Here, it has been established that the POA proceeded to resolve the present mining dispute without affording either party any fair and reasonable opportunity to be heard in violation of the aforementioned provisions of DENR DAO 95-23. Thus, as correctly ruled by the DENR MAB and later affirmed by the CA, Mingson’s due process rights were violated, thereby rendering the POA’s Decision null and void.

In this relation, the Court finds it apt to clarify that the DENR MAB did not err in taking cognizance of the due process issue. While such issue was not assigned as an error in Mingson’s Appeal39 dated July 27, 1996, the same was squarely raised in Mingson’s August 8, 1996 letter40 to the DENR MAB. Given the lack of any formalprocedure on appeals at that time,41 the DENR MAB cannot be faulted for considering the letter and the issues raised therein as part of Mingson’s appeal. It must be added that the DENR MAB is not a court of law but an administrative body; hence, it is not bound by strict rules of procedure and evidence, and is allowed to use all reasonable means to ascertain the facts of each case speedily and objectively without resort to technical rules,42 as in this case.

Besides, an apparent lack of due process may be raised by a party at any time since due process is a jurisdictional requisite that all tribunals, whether administrative or judicial, are duty bound to observe. In Salva v. Valle,43 the Court pronounced that "[a]decision rendered without due process is void ab initio and may be attacked at anytime directly or collaterally by means of a separate action, or by resisting such decision in any action or proceeding where it is invoked." The Court sees no defensible reason as to why this principle should not be herein applied.

x x x."

G.R. No. 206728 November 12, 2014