Administrative agency's power to award damages

CASE DIGEST: RADIO COMMUNICATIONS OF THE PHILIPPINES, INC. (RCPI), petitioner, vs. BOARD OF COMMUNICATIONS and DIEGO MORALES, respondents. (G.R. No. L-43653. November 29, 1977. 80 SCRA 471).

FACTS: Two complaints were filed against RCPI with the Board of Communications for damages for failure of complainant to receive a telegram sent to them informing him of the death of his wife, and the other complainant, of the death of his father. The Board, after hearing, imposed disciplinary fine against RCPI. As successor-in-interest of the Public Service Commission, the Board of Communications exercises the same powers, jurisdiction and functions as those provided for in the Public Service Act for the Public Service Commission, one of which is to issue certificates of public convenience.

ISSUE: Does the Board of Communications have jurisdiction over cases involving complaints for injury caused by failure of RCPI to transmit telegrams and impose fines for such failure?

HELD: None. The Board of Communications has no jurisdiction over the complaints for injury.

Administrative agencies only exercise such powers as are expressly or by necessary implication conferred on them by law. They can only adjudicate matters coming within their jurisdiction.The complaint of the respondents in the two cases was that they were allegedly inconvenienced or injured by the failure of the petitioners to transmit to them telegrams informing them of the death of close relatives which, according to them, constitute breach of contractual obligations through negligence under the Civil Code. The charges, however, do not necessarily involve petitioner's failure to comply with its certificate of public convenience or any order, decision or regulation of the Board. The charge does not relate to the management of the facilities and system of transmission of message by petitioner in accordance with its certificate of public convenience.

There can be no justification then for the Board of Communications imposing the fines. The law cannot be any clearer. The only power it has over radio companies is to fix rates. It cannot take to task a radio company for an negligence or misfeasance. It is not vested with such authority.

If in the two cases, complainants allegedly suffered injury due to petitioner's breach of contractual obligations arising from negligence, the proper forum for them to ventilate their grievances for possible recovery of damages against petitioner should be in the regular courts.