FRANCISCO I. CHAVEZ, petitioner, vs. PUBLIC ESTATES AUTHORITY and AMARI COASTAL BAY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, respondents. [G.R. No. 133250. July 9, 2002].
“x x x.
Third issue: whether the petition merits dismissal for non-exhaustion of administrative remedies.
PEA faults petitioner for seeking judicial intervention in compelling PEA to disclose publicly certain information without first asking PEA the needed information. PEA claims petitioners direct resort to the Court violates the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies. It also violates the rule that mandamus may issue only if there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
PEA distinguishes the instant case from Taada v. Tuvera[i] where the Court granted the petition for mandamus even if the petitioners there did not initially demand from the Office of the President the publication of the presidential decrees. PEA points out that in Taada, the Executive Department had an affirmative statutory duty under Article 2 of the Civil Code[ii] and Section 1 of Commonwealth Act No. 638[iii] to publish the presidential decrees. There was, therefore, no need for the petitioners in Taada to make an initial demand from the Office of the President. In the instant case, PEA claims it has no affirmative statutory duty to disclose publicly information about its renegotiation of the JVA. Thus, PEA asserts that the Court must apply the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies to the instant case in view of the failure of petitioner here to demand initially from PEA the needed information.
The original JVA sought to dispose to AMARI public lands held by PEA, a government corporation. Under Section 79 of the Government Auditing Code,[iv]2 the disposition of government lands to private parties requires public bidding. PEA was under a positive legal duty to disclose to the public the terms and conditions for the sale of its lands. The law obligated PEA to make this public disclosure even without demand from petitioner or from anyone. PEA failed to make this public disclosure because the original JVA, like the Amended JVA, was the result of a negotiated contract, not of a public bidding. Considering that PEA had an affirmative statutory duty to make the public disclosure, and was even in breach of this legal duty, petitioner had the right to seek direct judicial intervention.
Moreover, and this alone is determinative of this issue, the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies does not apply when the issue involved is a purely legal or constitutional question.[v] The principal issue in the instant case is the capacity of AMARI to acquire lands held by PEA in view of the constitutional ban prohibiting the alienation of lands of the public domain to private corporations. We rule that the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies does not apply in the instant case.
X x x.”
[i] 136 SCRA 27 (1985).
[ii] Article 2 of the Civil Code (prior to its amendment by EO No. 200) provided as follows: Laws shall take effect after fifteen days following the completion of their publication in the Official Gazette, unless it is provided otherwise, x x x.
[iii] Section 1 of CA No. 638 provides as follows: There shall be published in the Official Gazette all important legislative acts and resolutions of the Congress of the Philippines; all executive and administrative orders and proclamations, except such as have no general applicability; x x x.
[iv] Section 79 of the Government Auditing Codes provides as follows: When government property has become unserviceable for any cause, or is no longer needed, it shall, upon application of the officer accountable therefor, be inspected by the head of the agency or his duly authorized representative in the presence of the auditor concerned and, if found to be valueless or unsaleable, it may be destroyed in their presence. If found to be valuable, it may be sold at public auction to the highest bidder under the supervision of the proper committee on award or similar body in the presence of the auditor concerned or other authorized representative of the Commission, after advertising by printed notice in the Official Gazette, or for not less than three consecutive days in any newspaper of general circulation, or where the value of the property does not warrant the expense of publication, by notices posted for a like period in at least three public places in the locality where the property is to be sold. In the event that the public auction fails, the property may be sold at a private sale at such price as may be fixed by the same committee or body concerned and approved by the Commission.
[v] Paat v. Court of Appeals, 266 SCRA 167 (1997); Quisumbing v. Judge Gumban, 193 SCRA 520 (1991); Valmonte v. Belmonte, Jr., 170 SCRA 256 (1989).