CASE DIGEST: Corales v. Republic

G.R. No. 186613 : August 27, 2013

ROSENDO R. CORALES, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS MUNICIPAL MAYOR OF NAGCARLAN, LAGUNA, AND DR. RODOLFO R. ANGELES, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS MUNICIPAL ADMINISTRATOR OF NAGCARLAN, LAGUNA, Petitioners v. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, REPRESENTED BY THE COMMISSION ON AUDIT, AS REPRESENTED BY PROVINCIAL STATE AUDITOR OF LAGUNA MAXIMO L. ANDAL, Respondent.

PEREZ, J.:


FACTS:

Petitioner Corales was the duly elected Municipal Mayor of Nagcarlan, Laguna for three (3) consecutive terms- 1998-2004. In his first term, he appointed petitioner Dr. Angeles to the position of Municipal Administrator, whose appointment was unanimously approved by the Sangguniang Bayan of Nagcarlan, Laguna (Sangguniang Bayan). During his second and third terms as municipal mayor, petitioner Corales renewed the appointment of petitioner Dr. Angeles. But, on these times, the Sangguniang Bayan per Resolution No. 2001-078dated 12 July 2001 and 26 subsequent Resolutions, disapproved petitioner Dr. Angeles appointment on the ground of nepotism, as well as the latters purported unfitness and unsatisfactory performance.

Following an audit on various local disbursements, Maximo Andal (Andal), the Provincial State Auditor of Laguna, issued an Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) No. 2006-007-100 dated 6 October 2006 addressed to petitioner Corales who was asked to comment/reply. Instead of submitting his comment/reply thereon, petitioner Corales, together with petitioner Dr. Angeles, opted to file a Petition for Prohibition and Mandamus against Andal and the then members of the Sangguniang Bayan before the RTC of San Pablo City, Laguna.

In its turn, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), on Andals behalf, who was impleaded in his official capacity, filed a Motion to Dismiss petitioners Petition for Prohibition and Mandamus grounded on lack of cause of action, prematurity and non-exhaustion of administrative remedies. The RTC dismissed the motion to dismiss. Petition for certiorari was filed before the CA and the latter court set aside the RTC decision.

Petitioners moved for reconsideration but the same was denied hence, petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 was filed by petitioner before the SC.

ISSUE: Whether or not the CA erred in granting the motion to dismiss by respondent Andal

HELD: No. CA decision affirmed.

Political Law- Actual case or controversy as a requisite for Judicial Review


The requisites of actual case and ripeness are absent in the present case. The AOM issued by Andal merely requested petitioner Corales to comment/reply thereto.

The issue in this case concerns the ripeness or prematurity of Petitioners Petition for Prohibition assailing the AOM issued by Andal against petitioner. Petitioners argue that from the tenor of the AOM it is clear that petitioner Corales is being adjudged liable and personally accountable to pay or to reimburse, in his private capacity, the salaries paid to and received by petitioner Dr. Angeles for the latters services as Municipal Administrator, as his appointment thereto was considered invalid for lack of necessary confirmation from the Sangguniang Bayan.

Petitioners contention however is unavailing. Petitioner Corales was simply required to submit his comment/reply on the observations stated in the AOM. As so keenly observed by the Court of Appeals, any mention in the AOM that petitioner Corales shall reimburse the salaries paid to petitioner Dr. Angeles in light of the repeated disapproval or rejection by the Sangguniang Bayan of his appointment as Municipal Administrator was merely an initial opinion, not conclusive, as there was no showing that Andal had taken any affirmative action thereafter to compel petitioner Corales to make the necessary reimbursement. Otherwise stated, it has not been shown that Andal carried out or enforced what was stated in the AOM.

The issuance of an AOM is, indeed, an initial step in the conduct of an investigative audit considering that after its issuance there are still several steps to be conducted before a final conclusion can be made or before the proper action can be had against the Auditee. There is, therefore, no basis for petitioner Corales claim that his comment thereon would be a mere formality. Further, even though the AOM issued to petitioner Corales already contained a recommendation for the issuance of a Notice of Disallowance, still, it cannot be argued that his comment/reply to the AOM would be a futile act since no Notice of Disallowance was yet issued. Again, the records are bereft of any evidence showing that Andal has already taken any affirmative action against petitioner Corales after the issuance of the AOM. Viewed in this light, this Court can hardly see any actual case or controversy to warrant the exercise of its power of judicial review.

Political Law- exhaustion of administrative remedies

Clearly, petitioners have all the remedies available to them at the administrative level but they failed to exhaust the same and instead, immediately sought judicial intervention. Otherwise stated, the auditing process has just begun but the petitioners already thwarted the same by immediately filing a Petition for Prohibition.

If resort to a remedy within the administrative machinery can still be made by giving the administrative officer concerned every opportunity to decide on a matter that comes within his or her jurisdiction, then such remedy should be exhausted first before the courts judicial power can be sought. The premature invocation of the intervention of the court is fatal to ones cause of action. The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is based on practical and legal reasons. The availment of administrative remedy entails lesser expenses and provides for a speedier disposition of controversies. Furthermore, the courts of justice, for reasons of comity and convenience, will shy away from a dispute until the system of administrative redress has been completed and complied with, so as to give the administrative agency concerned every opportunity to correct its error and dispose of the case.

Petition Denied.

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