LEGAL NOTE 0026-A: EXCEPTION TO THE RULE ON EXHAUSTION OF ADMINSTRATIVE REMEDIES. 

SOURCE: GREGORIO R. VIGILAR, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS (DPWH), DPWH UNDERSECRETARIES TEODORO E. ENCARNACION AND EDMUNDO E. ENCARNACION AND EDMUNDO V. MIR, DPWH ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOEL L. ALTEA, DPWH REGIONAL DIRECTOR VICENTE B. LOPEZ, DPWH DISTRICT ENGINEER ANGELITO M. TWAÑO, FELIX A. DESIERTO OF THE TECHNICAL WORKING GROUP VALIDATION AND AUDITING TEAM, AND LEONARDO ALVARO, ROMEO N. SUPAN, VICTORINO C. SANTOS OF THE DPWH PAMPANGA 2ND ENGINEERING DISTRICT VS. ARNULFO D. AQUINO (G.R. No. 180388, 18 JANUARY 2011, SERENO, J.) SUBJECTS: EXCEPTION TO EXHAUSTION OF ADMIN REMEDIES; GOVT IMMUNITY FROM SUIT NOT APPLIED. (BRIEF TITLE: VIGILAR ET AL VS. AQUINO)

x – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -x

 

AQUINO SUED DPWH IN COURT FOR COLLECTION. DPWH ARGUES THAT AQUINO SHOULD HAVE FIRST EXHAUSTED ADMIN REMEDIES BY FILING ITS CLAIM AT COA. IS DPWH CORRECT.

THE DEFENSE OF DPWH IS NOT CORRECT. 

 AQUINO’S CASE FALSE UNDER THE EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE ON EXHAUSTION OF ADMIN REMEDIES BECAUSE THERE IS UNREASONABLE DELAY OR OFFICIAL INACTION THAT WILL IRRETRIEVABLY PREJUDICE THE COMPLAINANT AND THE QUESTION INVOLVED IS PURELY LEGAL AND WILL ULTIMATELY HAVE TO BE DECIDED BY THE COURTS OF JUSTICE.

Said the Court:

Firstly, petitioners claim that the Complaint filed by respondent before the Regional Trial Court was done without exhausting administrative remedies. Petitioners aver that respondent should have first filed a claim before the Commission on Audit (COA) before going to the courts. However, it has been established that the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies and the doctrine of primary jurisdiction are not ironclad rules. In Republic of the Philippines v. Lacap,[1][9] this Court enumerated the numerous exceptions to these rules, namely: (a) where there is estoppel on the part of the party invoking the doctrine; (b) where the challenged administrative act is patently illegal, amounting to lack of jurisdiction; (c) where there is unreasonable delay or official inaction that will irretrievably prejudice the complainant; (d) where the amount involved is relatively so small as to make the rule impractical and oppressive; (e) where the question involved is purely legal and will ultimately have to be decided by the courts of justice; (f) where judicial intervention is urgent; (g) where the application of the doctrine may cause great and irreparable damage; (h) where the controverted acts violate due process; (i) where the issue of non-exhaustion of administrative remedies has been rendered moot; (j) where there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy; (k) where strong public interest is involved; and (l) in quo warranto proceedings. In the present case, conditions (c) and (e) are present.

The government project contracted out to respondent was completed almost two decades ago. To delay the proceedings by remanding the case to the relevant government office or agency will definitely prejudice respondent.

More importantly, the issues in the present case involve the validity and the enforceability of the “Contract of Agreement” entered into by the parties. These are questions purely of law and clearly beyond the expertise of the Commission on Audit or the DPWH. In Lacap, this Court said:

… It does not involve an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the parties. There is a question of law when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain state of facts, and not as to the truth or the falsehood of alleged facts. Said question at best could be resolved only tentatively by the administrative authorities. The final decision on the matter rests not with them but with the courts of justice. Exhaustion of administrative remedies does not apply, because nothing of an administrative nature is to be or can be done. The issue does not require technical knowledge and experience but one that would involve the interpretation and application of law. (Emphasis supplied.)