LEGAL NOTE 0026-B: EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE THAT THE STATE CANNOT BE SUED WITHOUT ITS CONSENT. 

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)

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AQUINO SUED DPWH FOR COLLECTION. DPWH ARGUES THAT THE STATE IS IMMUNED FROM SUIT. IS DPWH CORRECT?

NO.

 SC RULED THAT THE DOCTRINE ON IMMUNITY FROM SUIT CANNOT BE USED AS AN INSTRUMENT TO PERPETUATE INJUSTICE.

 Said the Court: 

Neither can petitioners escape the obligation to compensate respondent for services rendered and work done by invoking the state’s immunity from suit.  This Court has long established in Ministerio v. CFI of Cebu,[8][16] and recently reiterated in Heirs of Pidacan v. ATO,[9][17] that the doctrine of governmental immunity from suit cannot serve as an instrument for perpetrating an injustice to a citizen. As this Court enunciated in EPG Construction:[10][18]

To our mind, it would be the apex of injustice and highly inequitable to defeat respondent’s right to be duly compensated for actual work performed and services rendered, where both the government and the public have for years received and accepted benefits from the project and reaped the fruits of respondent’s honest toil and labor.

…                                 …                                 …

Under these circumstances, respondent may not validly invoke the Royal Prerogative of Dishonesty and conveniently hide under the State’s cloak of invincibility against suit, considering that this principle yields to certain settled exceptions. True enough, the rule, in any case, is not absolute for it does not say that the state may not be sued under any circumstance.

…                                 …                                 …

Although the Amigable and Ministerio cases generously tackled the issue of the State’s immunity from suit vis a vis the payment of just compensation for expropriated property, this Court nonetheless finds the doctrine enunciated in the aforementioned cases applicable to the instant controversy, considering that the ends of justice would be subverted if we were to uphold, in this particular instance, the State’s immunity from suit.

To be sure, this Court — as the staunch guardian of the citizens’ rights and welfare — cannot sanction an injustice so patent on its face, and allow itself to be an instrument in the perpetration thereof. Justice and equity sternly demand that the State’s cloak of invincibility against suit be shred in this particular instance, and that petitioners-contractors be duly compensated — on the basis of quantum meruit — for construction done on the public works housing project. (Emphasis supplied.)


[1][9] G.R. No. 158253, March 2, 2007, 517 SCRA 255.

[2][10]Supreme Court Resolution En Banc, G.R. No. 84202, November 22, 1988, cited in Eslao v. COA, 195 SCRA 730.

[3][11] G.R. No. 89745, April 8, 1991, 195 SCRA 730.

[4][12] G.R. No. 95938, August 16, 1991, 200 SCRA 705.

[5][13] G.R. 131544, March 16, 2001, 354 SCRA 566.

[6][14] Supra at note 7.

[7][15] DOH v. C.V. Canchela Associates, Architects, G.R. Nos. 151373-74, November 17, 2005, 475 SCRA 218.

[8][16] G.R. No. L-31635, August 31, 1971, 40 SCRA 464.

[9][17] G.R. No. 186192, August 25, 2010.

[10][18] G.R. No. 131544, March 16, 2001, 354 SCRA 566.