Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT

Manila

 

 

G.R. 161113

 

 

August 9, 2005

 

 

FREEDOM FROM DEBT COALITION

 

 

vs.

 

 

ERC and Manila Electric Company

 

 

EN BANC

 

Sirs/Mesdames:

 

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated AUG 9 2005.

 

G.R. 161113 (Freedom From Debt Coalition, Ana Maria Nemenzo, as President of Freedom From Debt Coalition, Ma.  Teresa I.  Diokno-Pascual, represented by.  Loretta Ann Rosales (Party List Akbayan), REP. Jose Virgilio Bautista (Party-List Sanlakas), Rep. Renato Magtubo (Party-List Partido Manggagawa) vs. Energy Regulatory Commission, Manila Electric Company [MERALCO].)

 

We resolved the motions for reconsideration1 both dated July 1, 2004 filed by Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) seeking reconsideration of the Court’s Decision2 dated June 15, 2004 which declared void the Order of the ERC dated November 27, 2003 granting Meralco’s application for provisional rate increase.

 

In its Decision, the Court upheld the ERC’s authority to grant provisional rate adjustments under Republic Act No. 9136, otherwise known as the “Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001” (EPIRA), but ruled that its Order granting Meralco’s application for provisional rate adjustment was tainted with grave abuse of discretion.

 

According to the Court, the EPIRA and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) ordain, first, that the application be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the locality where the applicant operates; and second, that the ERC should consider the comments or pleadings of the customers and local government unit concerned in its action on the application or motion for provisional rate adjustment.

 

According to the Court, these requirements are aimed at protecting the consumers and diminishing the disparity or imbalance between the utility and the consumers.  The publication requirement gives consumers enhanced opportunity to consciously weigh the application in terms of the additional financial burden which the proposed rate increase entails vis-ŕ-vis the basis for the application.  With the publication of the application itself, the consumers will inceptively be equipped with essential information to determine for themselves whether to contest the application or take further steps to repulse it.  On the other hand, the imposition on the ERC to consider the comments of the consumers and the LGUs concerned addresses the right of the consuming public to due process and advances the cause of people empowerment.  The requirements also seek to temper the implicit unfairness of the ex parte modality previously followed in regard to provisional rate increase applications.3

 

Accordingly, the Court declared ERC’s Order dated November 27, 2003 void for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion after finding that at least three infirmities attended the issuance of the Order, particularly:   (1) Meralco’s failure to published its Application or at least a summary thereof; (2) ERC failed to resolved the motions for production of documents filed by oppositors to Meralco’s Application before acting on the motion for provisional rate adjustment; and (3) ERC failed to consider the arguments raised by oppositors in their respective pleadings prior to the issuance of the assailed Order.

 

In its instant Motion for Reconsideration, Meralco adverts to the deliberations of the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) which approved the IRR to demonstrate the alleged intent to require the applicant to published only a notice that a petition or application will be filed, and not the petition or application itself, or even a summary thereof.  The JCPC discussion allegedly provided the basis for the policy adopted by the ERC that publication of the intent to file an application is sufficient compliance with the rule, the same policy which guided Meralco when it published merely its intent to file its application for rate increase instead of the entire application.

 

Meralco extensively quotes the dissenting opinion of Justice Puno who opines that the requirement to publish the application or its summary is too onerous and inconvenient for applicants.  The publication of the intent to file an application allegedly served the purpose of the rule since petitioners were actually able to secure copies of Meralco’s application after the publication of its Notice of Application.  Besides, none of the parties pointed to any prejudice having been caused by the publication of just the notice of intent to file the application for rate increase.  Even petitioners themselves did not raise the deficient publication as a ground for their petition.

 

Moreover, Meralco avers that there is nothing in the IRR which requires the ERC to resolve the motions for production filed by petitioners especially considering that the IRR envisions an expedited proceeding whereby an application for provisional relief should be resolved within seventy-five (75) days from its filing.  Since the production of documents is allegedly a discovery procedure pertinent only during trial proper, it could not have been the intent of the IRR to require the ERC to resolve any motion for production of documents prior to, and sine qua non for, the grant or denial of a provisional relief.

 

Meralco further asserts that there is no showing that the ERC did not consider the oppositions filed by various parties to Meralco’s application.  Besides, the IRR allegedly does not contain a directive for the ERC to state clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which its order is based.

 

Finally, Meralco presents several questions for clarification, including the prospective application of the Decision, whether the IRR requirement is satisfied by the publication of the entire application or only a summary thereof, and whether the Decision applies to all applications, except rate unbundling petitions, filed with the ERC.

 

The Motion for Reconsideration4 dated July 1, 2004 filed by the ERC similarly quotes and refers to the deliberations of the JCPC to show that the intent of the framers of the law was allegedly only to require the publication of a notice of application and not the application itself.  Contending that there is ambiguity in the IRR as regards the publication requirement, the ERC entreats the Court to consider the JCPC proceedings to assist in ascertaining the meaning of the IRR.

 

Likewise, the ERC asserts that the IRR does not enjoin it to hold in abeyance the issuance of a provisional authority pending the resolution of motions for production since the only requirement is for it to consider the comments or pleadings filed by consumers or the legislative body of the LGU concerned.  The ERC submits that it duly considered the comments and oppositions filed in this case but found nothing that could have warranted the denial of Meralco’s application for provisional authority.

 

The ERC also points out that the provisional authorities granted to 118 electric cooperatives, which published only the notices of application for rate reduction, will be considered void as a consequence of the Decision in this case.  The fallout of this scenario is allegedly too enormous for the ERC to handle.

 

Petitioners adopted5 the Consolidated Comment6 dated November 30, 2004 filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

 

The OSG maintains that the IRR is clear, plain and free from ambiguity.  Hence, resort to the deliberations to ascertain legislative intent is not warranted.  The IRR expresses the legislative mandate to cause the publication of the application for rate adjustment, particularly if the rate adjustment will entail additional burden to the public, in order to notify the consumers in the applicant’s franchise area of the proposed burden being imposed on them and the reasons therefore.  The notice published in this case falls short of the statutory requirement as it does not even state that the application to be filed with the ERC will entail an increase in the rate paid by consumers for electricity within Meralco’s franchise area.

 

Furthermore, the OSG argues that due process requires the ERC, in the exercise of its quasi-judicial powers, to state in its findings that the submissions of the oppositors have been previously passed upon by it and have been found lacking, insufficient and unacceptable.  After all, it is a fundamental precept that decisions or rulings of quasi-judicial bodies must be rendered on the evidence presented at the hearing, or at least contained in the record and disclosed to the parties.

 

The ERC’s motion must be denied.

 

Before we discuss the reasons therefor, the Court shall rule on the disparate submissions of respondents regarding the question of whether the motions for reconsideration have been rendered moot by Meralco’s withdrawal of the application for rate increase subject of this case.  It has been brought to our attention that Meralco has filed a new petition for rate increase with the ERC to replace the provisional rate increase which we have earlier struck down.7

 

In its Manifestation8 dated July 4, 2005, Meralco avers that on December 30, 2004, the ERC adopted the guidelines for Performance Based Ratemaking (PBR), an internationally accepted rate-setting methodology.  These guidelines provide that the first distribution utilities to enter the PBR methodology shall be given two entry options, i.e., (a) through a rate adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index, or (b) through an application for rate adjustment under the Return on Rate Base methodology.  Meralco, which manifested its intent to be one of the first distribution utilities to enter the PBR, chose option (b).  While it could have simply supplemented its application for rate adjustment subject of this case, Meralco opted to withdraw the said application and filed a motion to this effect which was granted by the ERC.  Given these circumstances, Meralco claims that its motion for reconsideration has been rendered moot and academic.

 

On the other hand, the ERC filed its own Manifestation9 dated June 28, 2005, asserting that while Meralco’s motion for reconsideration may have been rendered moot and academic by reason of the latter’s withdrawal of the application for rate increase subject of this case, its own motion for reconsideration should nonetheless be resolved.  The ERC contends that a categorical interpretation of Sec. 4 (e), Rule 3 of the EPIRA IRR should be made to enable it to correctly resolve several other applications filed before it similar to this case where only an intent to file a petition for rate increase was published.

 

The motion for reconsideration of Meralco has been rendered moot and academic by its withdrawal of the petition for rate increase subject of this case and subsequently filing of a new application in conformity with the DecisionAs to Meralco, there no longer exists an actual controversy which it is our duty to resolve.

 

However, the motion for reconsideration of ERC raises a significant legal question as yet unresolved, the definitive interpretation of the EPIRA and its IRR.  The resolution of this question requires the exercise of the Court’s judicial power, more specifically its exclusive and final authority to interpret laws.

 

Moreover, the likelihood that the same substantive issue raised in ERC’s motion for reconsideration will recur, given its submission that it has pending applications of the same nature, compels us to resolve its motion.

 

Our pronouncement in Province of Batangas v. Romulo10 bears relevance on this matter.  We held that even in cases where supervening events had made the cases moot, courts will not hesitate to resolve the legal or constitutional issues raised in order to formulate controlling principles to guide the bench, bar and public.  Moreover, courts will decide a question, otherwise moot and academic, if it is capable of repetition yet evading review.

 

Now the main issue.

 

The ERC asserts a purported legislative intent making the publication of a mere notice of application sufficient compliance with Sec. 4, Rule 3 of the EPIRA IRR.  Allegedly, during the JCPC deliberations on January 24, 2002, Rep. Jaraula clarified that the aforementioned rule merely requires the publication of a notice that a petition will be filed.11

 

The Court may well engage in a little semantic analysis of its own.  The provision in question states:

 

Sec. 4.  Responsibilities of the ERC.

 

.  .  .  .

 

(e) Any application or petition for rate adjustment or for any relief affecting the consumers must be verified, and accompanied with an acknowledgement of receipt of a copy thereof by the LGU Legislative Body of the locality where the applicant or petitioner principally operates together with the certification of the notice of publication thereof in a newspaper of general circulation in the same locality.

 

The ERC may grant provisionally or deny the relief prayed for not later than seventy-five (75) calendar days from the filing of the application or petition, based on the same and the supporting documents attached thereto and such comments or pleadings the consumers or the LGU concerned may have filed within thirty (30) calendar days from receipt of a copy of the application or petition or from the publication thereof as the case may be.

 

Thereafter, the ERC shall conduct a formal hearing on the application or petition, giving proper notices to all parties concerned, with at least one public hearing in the affected locality, and shall decide the matter on the merits not later than twelve (12) months from the issuance of the aforementioned provisional order.

 

This Section 4 (e) shall not apply to those applications or petitions already filed as of 26 December 2001 in compliance with Section 36 of the Act.  [Emphasis supplied.]

 

The ERC theorizes that this provision requires the publication of the notice that a petition or application will be filed and not of the petition or application itself.  We cannot sustain this theory.  As can be seen from this passage, the adverb “thereof” is used to modify the clause “Any application or petition for rate adjustment or for any relief affecting the consumers.”  The rule, therefore, clearly requires that the application or petition be accompanied first, by an acknowledgment or receipt of a copy of the application or petition by the LGU legislative body of the locality where the applicant or petitioner principally operates, and second, by a certification of the notice of publication of the application or petition.

 

This should leave no doubt as to the legislative intent, exemplified and expressed in the clear language of the rule, to require the publication of the application or petition for rate increase itself and not just the intent to file an application as the ERC insists.  There is no imprecision in the language used in the afore-quoted rule that would lend to the interpretation that a notice of intent to file a petition is acceptable.  Otherwise, it would have been quite easy to just state that the publication of the notice of intention to file an application is sufficient.

 

A more forthright examination of the pertinent parts of the deliberations quoted by the ERC reveals that in order for the publication of the notice to be deemed sufficient, it must substantially declared that an application for rate increase will be filed.  Hence, Rep. Jaraula said:

 

REP. JARAULA.  Anyway, may I read it:  ‘Any application or petition for rate adjustment or for any relief affecting the consumers must be verified and accompanied with an acknowledgement of receipt of a copy thereof by the LGU legislative body of the locality where the applicant/petitioner principally operates, together with the certification of the notice of publication thereof in newspaper of general circulation in the same locality…

 

REP. JARAULA.  No, Mr. Chairman, This is a very simple requirement, as suggested by Senator Serge.  Earlier you will recall that we suggested that it must be furnished not only to the local LGU legislative body but also to established consumer groups.  But this particular group may exist or may not exist in some localities.  And so, Senator Serge suggested that instead of established consumer group, it must be a publication of a notice, not the entire petition but a notice that a petition substantially, according to this, will be filed.12  [Emphasis supplied.]

 

This is seconded by Ms. Barin, then chairperson of the ERC, when she explained during the JCPC deliberations “that now, we will require the applicant already to notify—to published a notice of his intention to file an application to increase his rate.13

 

Hence, if we were to look into the JCPC deliberations at all, we would at once realize that the JCPC intended, at the very least, that the applicant must specify in the notice what kind of application or petition is being filed, i.e., whether it is an application or petition for rate increase or for other relief.  This is evident in Rep. Jaraula’s statement, with particular emphasis on his use of the word “substantially,” and Ms. Barin’s enunciation that the applicant must file a notice of its intention to file an application to increase its rate.

 

The ERC, moreover, understandably downplayed the most vital thread running through the deliberations on the aforementioned rule, i.e., that the avowed purpose for requiring publication of the application for rate increase was to ensure that the application is made known to all so that, in turn, everyone so minded may be heard and be able to make an informed opposition thereto.

 

Certainly, this purpose will not be fulfilled by the publication of a notice which makes a mere passing, if not altogether vague, mention that an “Application dated October 8, 2003, for the approval of revised rate schedule and provisional authority, will be filed.”14  The notice as published does not even hint that the application is for a rate increase.

 

The ERC’s insistence on the sufficiency of the published notice in this case is, therefore, unwarranted.  Its position is not supported by the plain language of the IRR and even by reference to the legislative deliberations.

 

All effort at inquiring into the alleged legislative intent, however, is inconsequential and irrelevant considering that, as this Court has repeatedly enunciated, resort to the congressional records to ascertain legislative intent is not warranted if the statute is clear, plain and free from ambiguity.  The legislature, after all, is presumed to know the meaning of the words, to have used words advisedly, and to have expressed its intent by the use of such words as are found in the statute.15  The legislative record, if at all to be availed of, should be approached with extreme caution, as legislative debates and proceedings are powerless to vary the terms of the statute when the meaning is clear.16

 

The EPIRA is a landmark piece of legislation that articulates Congress’ effort to uphold the due process clause most notably in its emphasis on market competition and people empowerment.  In accordance with the principle underlying the enactment of the EPIRA as elucidated in the Decision, the inexorable conclusion is that that law requires a utility seeking to increase its rates to afford as meaningful a notice as possible to its customers.17  It certainly strains the rationale of the EPIRA beyond the breaking point to argue that the notice as published in this case satisfies the requirement of the law.

 

As a related sidebar, § 824d, Subchapter II, Chapter 12, Title 16 of the United States Code Annotated18 provides that no change in any rate, charge, classification, or service shall be made by any public utility except after sixty (60) days’ notice to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission) and the public.  Such notice shall be given by filing with the Commission and keeping open for public inspection new schedules stating plainly the change or changes to be made in the schedule or schedules then in force and the time when the change or changes will go into effect.

 

The above provision expresses an intent not unlike the EPIRA to give the public meaningful notice of any proposed change in rate schedules.  It mandates that the notice that a rate change is in the offing be given to the Commission and to the public at least sixty (60) days prior to such change and that new schedules plainly stating the changes to be made and when the change or changes will go into effect be made available for public inspection.

 

The Federal Power Act, in fact, directs the chairman of the Commission to conduct a study of the legal requirements and administrative procedures involved in the consideration and resolution of proposed wholesale electric rate increases to the end that due process in such proceedings is assured.19

 

The IRR requirement that the petition or application for rate increase itself be published to afford notice to the public and thereby satisfy due process also finds a parallel in the Rules of Court provisions on special proceedings.  Some notable examples are:  Rule 91 on Escheats; Rule 101 on Proceedings for Hospitalization of Insane Persons; Rule 103 on Change of Name; and Rule 105 on Judicial Approval of Voluntary Recognition of Minor Natural Children, all of which require the publication of the court order reciting the purpose of the petition.20  Likewise, the Rule on Adoption directs the publication of the order containing the registered name of the adoptee and the names by which he/she has been known, purpose of the petition, complete name which the adoptee will use if the petition is granted, and the date and place of hearing.21

 

In special proceedings such as the foregoing, publication is often a jurisdictional requirement.22  Likewise, the publication requirement under the IRR has a dual purpose:  first, it is jurisdictional because without it, the ERC would be powerless to assume jurisdiction over the petition; and second, it is a necessary component of procedural due process aimed at giving the petition as wide publicity as possible so that all persons having an interest in the proceedings may be notified thereof.

 

The mandatory language employed by the EPIRA and its IRR, as well as the jurisdictional due process components underlying the publication requirement, ordain that such requirement be strictly complied with.  Otherwise, persons who may be interested or whose rights may be adversely affected by the proceedings would be barred from contesting an application of which they had no knowledge.23  Inarguably then, publication is an indispensable requirement, the inadequacy of which rendered the proceedings and subsequent decision of the ERC void.

 

The ineluctable conclusion we can gather from the foregoing is that the explicit language of the IRR commands that the petition for rate increase itself, even without the annexes, be published.  The publication should sufficiently apprise and inform the public of the impending petition for rate increase, and empower them to challenge the application.  The anticipated consequence of this requirement is irrelevant.  The applicant or petitioner, which bears the burden of publishing the petition in accordance with the IRR, should ensure that its petition is concisely and succinctly couched to enable uncomplicated publication.

 

The other arguments presented by the ERC, such as non-necessity of resolving the motions for production and of stating the facts and the law on which the provisional order was based, shall be discussed jointly.

 

The proceedings before the ERC partake of a quasi-judicial or administrative adjudicatory nature.  In carrying out its quasi-judicial functions, the ERC is required to investigate facts or ascertain the existence of facts, hold hearings, weigh evidence, and draw conclusions from them as basis for its official action and exercise of discretion.24  In such proceedings, the cardinal rights enumerated in the landmark case of Ang Tibay v. Court of Industrial Relations25 must be respected.  These primary rights are:  (1) the right to a hearing, which includes the right of the party interested or affected to present his own case and submit evidence in support thereof; (2) the tribunal must consider the evidence presented; (3) the decision must have something to support itself; (4) the evidence must be substantial; (5) the decision must be rendered on the evidence presented at the hearing, or at least contained in the record and disclosed to the parties affected; (6) the tribunal or any of its judges must act on its or his own independent consideration of the law and facts of the controversy, and not simply accept the view of a subordinate in arriving at a decision; and (7) the tribunal should in all controversial questions render its decision in such manner that the parties to the proceeding may know the various issues involved and the reasons for the decision rendered.

 

The ERC contends that it is not required to resolve the motions for production filed by petitioners before it issues a provisional order.  It is wrong.

 

Proceeding from the directive under the IRR that any provisional order issued by the ERC should be based not only on the application and its supporting documents, but also the comments or pleadings filed by consumers, it stands to reason that the ERC should have resolved the motions for production of documents filed by petitioners to enable them to file their comments or opposition to the application, more so because Meralco did not even publish its application for rate increase and thus did not give the public sufficient notice and basis for any comment or opposition.

 

The excuse proffered by ERC that it was pressed for time given that the IRR requires it to grant or deny the relief prayed for not later than seventy-five (75) days from the filing of the application is belied by the fact that it issued the provisional order after only thirty-eight (38) days from the filing of the application.26  The unwarranted precepitateness and heedless rush which attended the issuance of the provisional order certainly cast a gloomy cloud over the procedure followed by the ERC.

 

Moreover, the ERC’s submission to the effect that it duly considered the comments and opposition filed by various parties is contradicted by its admission during oral argument27 that it no longer considered the contentions of the oppositors, and worse, did not even wait for the comments filed by the latter, because it was of the opinion that it had authority to act on the application ex parte or based solely on the petition and supporting documents filed by Meralco.  In answer to the queries of Mdme. Justice Alicia Austria-Martinez, Atty. Francis Saturnino Juan, General Counsel of the ERC, declared:

 

JUSTICE MARTINEZ:

 

A group of consumers have filed motions for the production of documents, so they may be assisted in the preparation of their oppositions.

 

ATTY. JUAN:

 

Yes, Your Honor.

 

JUSTICE MARTINEZ:

 

Now, under Section 4E, they are given that leeway and it is provided there that the ERC should determine whether or not to provisionally the relief prayed for after considering the comments of the consumers but in this case ERC just issued the provisional order without waiting or without ordering first the request documents to be given to the movants and without waiting for the comments of the intended oppositors.

 

ATTY. JUAN:

 

There were several motions for production of voluminous for production of documents Your Honor, asking for production of records and all these documents requested were evaluated on the ground of whether they are relevant or material to the application, so it took some time as to that.

 

JUSTICE MARTINEZ:

 

So you found them irrelevant that’s why you issued the provisional order.

 

ATTY. JUAN:

 

No your Honor, the Commission believe that based on the submission it can already make initial determination that MERALCO is entitled to the provisional increase, subject of course, to final determination later on, should it turns out that based on the evidence, that it is not entitled to the increase tasked.

 

JUSTICE MARTINEZ:

 

So we are shakened by itself also disregard the provisions of the IRR.

 

ATTY. JUAN:

 

We say that there was a violation your Honor, of the provisions of the IRR in that case, in the sense that, we interpret it to mean that upon the filing of the application the Commission has a period of 75 days within which to grant or deny the application for provisional order.  Now, if it will decide to grant or deny the provisional order prayed for, it may based its decision on the verified application, also on the document and affidavit submitted with it that we did and such other comments filed by oppositors.  But we interpret it to mean that, whatever comments there are as of the time that the Commission considers the application for provisional increase, the Commission will take into account, but the Commission cannot wait forever to act on the application since it has only a window of 75 days.

 

JUSTICE MARTINEZ:

 

Yes, how many days had expired, before the issuance of the provisional order.

 

ATTY. JUAN:

 

From October 10 your Honor to November 27.

 

JUSTICE MARTINEZ:

 

That’s only how many days?  27 days?  37 days.

 

ATTY. JUAN:

 

37 days more or less your Honor.

 

JUSTICE MARTINEZ:

 

So there is another 38 days, you couldn’t wait for the submission of this document and submission of the comments of the other oppositors.

 

ATTY. JUAN:

 

The Commission, your Honor, was of the impression your Honor that since it is allowed to act on the application ex-parte and since it believes that there is already a prima facie showing that the applicant is entitled to the relief prayed, then it is within its authority to act or to grant the assailed order your Honor.

 

JUSTICE MARTINEZ:

 

In other words you did not consider the other side because you did not wait for the oppositions of the consumers?  You just concentrated on the application of MERALCO but not on the opportunity of the consumers to file their respective oppositions.

 

ATTY. JUAN:

 

The nature of the application your Honor was that the grounds cited or relief upon where the financial difficulties of MERALCO the deferment of certain capital projects, which if it would be allowed to be continued hanging might affect the services also of MERALCO to its customers.  So in the exercise of its discretion the commission proceeded to act on the application, bearing in mind the requirement that it has to be satisfied by the verified application, the affidavits, whatever other documents submitted and also whatever comments or opposition that were submitted at the time of the consideration of the application your Honor.28

 

In the case of Citizens’ Alliance for Consumer Protection v. Energy Regulatory Board,29 we held that petitioners were not denied due process because the applications for rate increase were duly published and formal hearings and informal conferences were conducted.  In other words, petitioners were given ample opportunity initially to raise formal objections to the applications for price increases.

 

Similarly, in Bautista v. Board of Energy,30 we upheld the right of the Board of Energy to grant provisional relief upon the filing of an application or petition therefore but cautioned that the order granting such provisional relief must be based on substantial evidence, such as supporting papers duly verified or authenticated.

 

In these two cases, the respondents were authorized by law or the rules to grant provisional relief upon the filing of an application, petition or complaint without prior hearing and based only on supporting documents accompanying the application.31

 

In contrast to these cases, however, the IRR of the EPIRA specifically commands the ERC to grant or deny the relief prayed for based not only on the application and its supporting documents but also on the comments or pleadings filed by the consumers of the LGU concerned.  Hence, the ERC unqualifiedly committed grave abuse of discretion when it failed to give petitioners an opportunity to make an informed judgment whether they will oppose the application or file a comment thereto by allowing the publication of a mere intent to file an application and failing to resolved petitioners motion for production, and by not even considering the comments filed by petitioners.  The general rule that an adjudicatory administrative decision cannot be rested upon evidence obtained without the presence of and notice to the interested parties, and not made known to them prior to the decision, applies to decisions affecting the rates of public utilities,32 such as Meralco.

 

Parenthetically, it is the duty of the ERC to at least mention the arguments of the oppositors which it adopts or give its reasons why it does not uphold them.  One of the essential requirements of due process laid down in Ang Tibay, supra, is that the tribunal should, in all controversial questions, render its decision in such manner that the parties to the proceeding may know the various issues involved and the reasons for the decision rendered.  This cardinal primary right is not less obligatory in the issuance of provisional or interim orders.

 

WHEREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration dated July 1, 2004 filed by respondent Manila Electric Company is deemed MOOT AND ACADEMIC.  The Motion for Reconsideration dated July 1, 2004 of the Energy Regulatory Commission is hereby DENIED WITH FINALITY.

 

 

 

Corona, J., on leave.

 

Very truly yours,

 

 

 

MA. LUISA D. VILLARAMA

Acting Clerk of Court


__________________________________

 

1Rollo, pp. 1246-1272; 1633-1670.

 

2Id. at 1075-1136.

 

3Id. at 1122-1123.

 

4Id. at 1633-1670.

 

5Id. at 1919-1922.

 

6Id. at 1882-1913.

 

7GMA Pinoy TV, Meralco increases proposed rate hike, <http://money.inq7.net>, 6/2/2005.

 

8Rollo, pp. 1928-1932.

 

9Id. at 1946-1952.

 

10G.R. No. 152774, May 27, 2004, 429 SCRA 736.

 

11JCPC hearing, January 24, 2002, p. 61, Rollo, p. 1436.

 

12Id. at 1434-1436.

 

13Id. at 1437.

 

14Rollo, p. 53.

 

15Republic v. Court of Appeals.  G.R. Nos. 103882 & 105276, November 25, 1998, 299 SCRA 1998.

 

16Civil Liberties Union v. Executive Secretary, G.R. Nos. 83896 & 83815, February 22, 1991, 194 SCRA 317.

 

17See City of Groton v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, C.A.D.C.  1978, 584 F.2d 1067, 190 U.S. App. D.C.  86, which held that “[E]ven though Commission’s discretion to reject an electric rate filing is limited, it has authority to structure its filing requirements so as to afford as meaningful notice as possible to a utility’s customers and to avoid possibility of detrimental reliance upon inaccurate filing submissions,” <http://www.westlaw.com>, 7/14/2005.

 

1816 U.S.C.A. § 824d.  <http://www.westlaw.com>, 7/14/2005.

 

19Pub. L. 95-617, Title II, § 207 (b), Nov. 9, 1978, 92 Stat. 3142.  <http://www.westlaw.com>, 7/14/2005.

 

20Rule 106 on the Constitution of Family Home also requires the publication of the petition for constitution of family home.  It provides:

 

Sec. 3.  Notice and Publication. – The court shall notify the creditors, mortgagees and all other persons who have an interest in the state, of the filing of the petition, causing copies thereof to be served upon them, and published once a week for three (3) consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation.  The petition shall, moreover, be caused to be posted in a conspicuous place in the parcel of land mentioned therein, and also in a conspicuous place of the municipal building of the municipality or city in which the land is situated, for at least fourteen (14) days prior to the day of the hearing.  [Emphasis supplied.]

 

However, in view of the provisions of the Family Code which ordain that the family home is deemed constituted on a house and lot from the time it is occupied as a family residence, the provisions on the judicial constitution of a family home are applicable only to such proceedings which took place prior to the effectivity of the Family Code on August 3, 1988. F. REGALADO, REMEDIAL LAW COMPENDIUM, Vol. II (2000 ed.), pp. 178-183.

 

21Sec. 12, Part A (Domestic Adoption), Rule on Adoption, A.M. No. 02-6-02-SC, August 22, 2002.

 

22F. REGALADO, REMEDIAL COMPENDIUM, Vol. II (2000 ed.), p. 3.

 

23Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 102858, July 28, 1997, 276 SCRA 276.

 

24Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 119761, August 29, 1995, 261 SCRA 236, Separate Opinion of Mr. Justice Bellosillo.

 

2569 Phil. 635 (1940).

 

26The application was filed on October 10, 2003, while the provisional order was issued on November 27, 2003.

 

27January 27, 2004.

 

28TSN, January 27, 2004, pp. 305-310.

 

29Nos. L-78888-90, L-79501-03, and L-79590-92, June 23, 1988, 162 SCRA 521.

 

30G.R. No. 75016, January 13, 1989, 169 SCRA 167.

 

31Sec. 8 of E.O. 172 dated May 8, 1987, the applicable law in the case of Citizens’ Alliance for Consumer Protection v. ERB, provides:

 

Sec. 8.  Authority to Grant Provisional Relief.  – The Board may, upon the filing of an application, petition or complaint or at any stage thereafter and without prior hearing, on the basis of supporting papers duly verified or authenticated, grant provisional relief on motion of a party in the case or on its own initiative, without prejudice to a final decision after hearing, should the Board find that the pleadings, together with such affidavits, documents and other evidence which may be submitted in support of the motion, substantially support the provisional order:  Provided, That the Board shall immediately schedule and conduct a hearing thereon within thirty (30) days thereafter, upon publication and notice to all affected parties.

 

Sec. 2, Rule 12 of the Rules of Practice of the BOE, on the other hand, provides:

 

Provisional Relief – Upon the filing of an application petition or complaint or at any stage thereafter, the Board may grant on motion of the pleader or on its own initiative the relief prayed for without prejudice to a final decision after completion of the hearing should the Board find that the pleading, together with the affidavits and supporting documents attached thereto and such additional evidence as may be presented, substantially support the provisional order, and such action will be consistent with the public interest.

 

3264 AM JUR 2d, Public Utilities, §269, citing 2 AM JUR 2d, Administrative Law, §384; Ohio Bell Tel. Co. v. Public Utilities Com., 301 US 292, 81 L Ed 1093, 57 S Ct 724 (state telephone rates); Chicago & E. I. R. Co. v. Commerce Com., 341 III 277, 173 NE 380 (order fixing freight rates); Trustees of Saratoga Springs v. Saratoga Gas, E.L. & P. Co., 191 NY 123, 87 NE 693.

 

What do you want to do now?

Go back to the Top; Go back to art’s home page; Laugh or Be Entertained; Destroy Cartels and Monopolies; Invest or Find a Job; Check Software or a Computer; Check out the latest News; Look for a School; Greet a Friend; Dip Into Black Gold and be Electrified; Express Yourself; Relive the Past; Get Involved in the Law. Government & Politics; Read Some Classics; Consult the laws of the Philippine Energy Sector; Philosophize; or Search.

This page is best viewed using Microsoft Internet Explorer 11.0.

Last revised:  February 17, 2017 03:21 PM.

Caveat EmptorOwners of the sites included herein do not explicitly endorse this page.

Comments, suggestions, objections, or violent reactions?

Let me know.