Exhaustion of administrative remedies; exceptions

In general, no one is entitled to judicial relief for a supposed or threatened injury until the prescribed administrative remedy has been exhausted. The rationale behind the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is that “courts, for reasons of law, comity, and convenience, should not entertain suits unless the available administrative remedies have first been resorted to and the proper authorities, who are competent to act upon the matter complained of, have been given the appropriate opportunity to act and correct their alleged errors, if any, committed in the administrative forum.”

In the U.S. case of Ringgold v. United States, it was specifically held that in a typical case involving a decision by military authorities, the plaintiff must exhaust his remedies within the military before appealing to the court, the doctrine being designed both to preserve the balance between military and civilian authorities and to conserve judicial resources.Nonetheless, there are exceptions to the rule. In the Philippines, a party may directly resort to judicial remedies if any of the following is present:
  1. when there is a violation of due process;
  2. when the issue involved is purely a legal question;
  3. when the administrative action is patently illegal amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction;
  4. when there is estoppel on the part of the administrative agency concerned;
  5. when there is irreparable injury;
  6. when the respondent is a department secretary whose acts as an alter ego of the President bear the implied and assumed approval of the latter;
  7. when to require exhaustion of administrative remedies would be unreasonable;
  8. when it would amount to a nullification of a claim;
  9. when the subject matter is a private land in land case proceedings;
  10. when the rule does not provide a plain, speedy and adequate remedy; and
  11. when there are circumstances indicating the urgency of judicial intervention.


[1] Regino v. Pangasinan Colleges of Science and Technology, 485 Phil. 446, 454-455 (2004).
[2] Ringgold v. United States. 420 F. Supp. 698 (1976).
[3] Buena v. Benito, G.R. No. 181760, October 14, 2014.

The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies allows administrative agencies to carry out their functions and discharge their responsibilities within the specialized areas of their respective competence.[1] The doctrine entails lesser expenses and provides for the speedier resolution of controversies.[2] Therefore, direct recourse to the trial court, when administrative remedies are available, is a ground for dismissal of the action.

The doctrine, however, is not without exceptions. Among the exceptions are: (1) where there is estoppel on the part of the party invoking the doctrine; (2) where the challenged administrative act is patently illegal, amounting to lack of jurisdiction; (3) where there is unreasonable delay or official inaction that will irretrievably prejudice the complainant; (4) where the amount involved is relatively so small as to make the rule impractical and oppressive; (5) where the question involved is purely legal and will ultimately have to be decided by the courts of justice; (6) where judicial intervention is urgent; (7) where the application of the doctrine may cause great and irreparable damage; (8) where the controverted acts violate due process; (9) where the issue of non-exhaustion of administrative remedies had been rendered moot; (10) where there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy; (11) where strong public interest is involved; and (12) in quo warranto proceedings.[3]

[1] Addition Hills Mandahiyong Civic & Social Organization, Inc. v. Megaworld Properties & Holdings, Inc., G.R. No. 175039, 18 April 2012, 670 SCRA 83.

[2] Id.

[3] Vigilar v. Aquino, 654 Phil. 755 (2011).