Certiorari power despite no law granting it?

Under the law, and as confirmed by the case of City of Manila v. Cuerdo (G.R. No. 175723, February 04, 2014), the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) has exclusive appellate jurisdiction over decisions, orders or resolutions of the Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) in local tax cases originally decided or resolved by them in the exercise of their original or appellate jurisdiction. However, there is no categorical statement under RA 1125 as well as the amendatory RA 9282, which provides that the CTA has jurisdiction over petitions for certiorari assailing interlocutory orders issued by the RTC in local tax cases filed before it.

The prevailing doctrine is that the authority to issue writs of certiorari involves the exercise of original jurisdiction which must be expressly conferred by the Constitution or by law and cannot be implied from the mere existence of appellate jurisdiction.[1] Thus, in the cases of Pimentel v. COMELEC,[2] Garcia v. De Jesus,[3] Veloria v. COMELEC,[4] Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board v. Lubrica,[5] and Garcia v. Sandiganbayan,[6] the Supreme Court ruled against the jurisdiction of courts or tribunals over petitions for certiorari on the ground that there is no law which expressly gives these tribunals such power.[7] It must be observed, however, that with the exception of Garcia v. Sandiganbayan,[8] these rulings pertain not to regular courts but to tribunals exercising quasi-judicial powers. With respect to the Sandiganbayan, Republic Act No. 8249[9] now provides that the special criminal court has exclusive original jurisdiction over petitions for the issuance of the writs of mandamus, prohibition, certiorari, habeas corpus, injunctions, and other ancillary writs and processes in aid of its appellate jurisdiction.

In the same manner, Section 5 (1), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution grants power to the Supreme Court, in the exercise of its original jurisdiction, to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus. With respect to the Court of Appeals, Section 9 (1) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 (BP 129) gives the appellate court, also in the exercise of its original jurisdiction, the power to issue, among others, a writ of certiorari,whether or not in aid of its appellate jurisdiction. As to Regional Trial Courts, the power to issue a writ of certiorari, in the exercise of their original jurisdiction, is provided under Section 21 of BP 129.

The foregoing notwithstanding, while there is no express grant of such power, with respect to the CTA, Section 1, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution provides, nonetheless, that judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law and that judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.On the strength of the above constitutional provisions, it can be fairly interpreted that the power of the CTA includes that of determining whether or not there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the RTC in issuing an interlocutory order in cases falling within the exclusive appellate jurisdiction of the tax court. It, thus, follows that the CTA, by constitutional mandate, is vested with jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari in these cases.

Indeed, in order for any appellate court to effectively exercise its appellate jurisdiction, it must have the authority to issue, among others, a writ of certiorari. In transferring exclusive jurisdiction over appealed tax cases to the CTA, it can reasonably be assumed that the law intended to transfer also such power as is deemed necessary, if not indispensable, in aid of such appellate jurisdiction. There is no perceivable reason why the transfer should only be considered as partial, not total.

Consistent with the above pronouncement, the High Court has held as early as the case of J.M. Tuason & Co., Inc. v. Jaramillo, et al.[10] that “if a case may be appealed to a particular court or judicial tribunal or body, then said court or judicial tribunal or body has jurisdiction to issue the extraordinary writ of certiorari, in aid of its appellate jurisdiction.”[11] This principle was affirmed in De Jesus v. Court of Appeals,[12] where the Court stated that “a court may issue a writ of certiorari in aid of its appellate jurisdiction if said court has jurisdiction to review, by appeal or writ of error, the final orders or decisions of the lower court.”[13] The rulings in J.M. Tuason and De Jesus were reiterated in the more recent cases of Galang, Jr. v. Geronimo[14] and Bulilis v. Nuez.[15]

Furthermore, Section 6, Rule 135 of the present Rules of Court provides that when by law, jurisdiction is conferred on a court or judicial officer, all auxiliary writs, processes and other means necessary to carry it into effect may be employed by such court or officer.

If the Court were to sustain the argument that jurisdiction over their certiorari petition lies with the CA, it would be confirming the exercise by two judicial bodies, the CA and the CTA, of jurisdiction over basically the same subject matter – precisely the split-jurisdiction situation which is anathema to the orderly administration of justice.[16] The legislative motive cannot be so, especially considering that the law expressly confers on the CTA, the tribunal with the specialized competence over tax and tariff matters, the role of judicial review over local tax cases without mention of any other court that may exercise such power. To rule otherwise would lead to an absurd situation where one court decides an appeal in the main case while another court rules on an incident in the very same case.

Stated differently, it would be somewhat incongruent with the pronounced judicial abhorrence to split jurisdiction to conclude that the intention of the law is to divide the authority over a local tax case filed with the RTC by giving to the CA or the Supreme Court jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari against interlocutory orders of the RTC but giving to the CTA the jurisdiction over the appeal from the decision of the trial court in the same case. It is more in consonance with logic and legal soundness to conclude that the grant of appellate jurisdiction to the CTA over tax cases filed in and decided by the RTC carries with it the power to issue a writ of certiorari when necessary in aid of such appellate jurisdiction. The supervisory power or jurisdiction of the CTA to issue a writ of certiorari in aid of its appellate jurisdiction should co-exist with, and be a complement to, its appellate jurisdiction to review, by appeal, the final orders and decisions of the RTC, in order to have complete supervision over the acts of the latter.[17]

A grant of appellate jurisdiction implies that there is included in it the power necessary to exercise it effectively, to make all orders that will preserve the subject of the action, and to give effect to the final determination of the appeal. It carries with it the power to protect that jurisdiction and to make the decisions of the court thereunder effective. The court, in aid of its appellate jurisdiction, has authority to control all auxiliary and incidental matters necessary to the efficient and proper exercise of that jurisdiction. For this purpose, it may, when necessary, prohibit or restrain the performance of any act which might interfere with the proper exercise of its rightful jurisdiction in cases pending before it.[18]

Any court given or granted a particular jurisdiction should have powers which are necessary to enable it to act effectively within such jurisdiction. These should be regarded as powers which are inherent in its jurisdiction and the court must possess them in order to enforce its rules of practice and to suppress any abuses of its process and to defeat any attempted thwarting of such process.

Section 1 of RA 9282 states that the CTA shall be of the same level as the CA and shall possess all the inherent powers of a court of justice.

Indeed, courts possess certain inherent powers which may be said to be implied from a general grant of jurisdiction, in addition to those expressly conferred on them. These inherent powers are such powers as are necessary for the ordinary and efficient exercise of jurisdiction; or are essential to the existence, dignity and functions of the courts, as well as to the due administration of justice; or are directly appropriate, convenient and suitable to the execution of their granted powers; and include the power to maintain the court's jurisdiction and render it effective in behalf of the litigants.[19]

Thus, it has been held that “while a court may be expressly granted the incidental powers necessary to effectuate its jurisdiction, a grant of jurisdiction, in the absence of prohibitive legislation, implies the necessary and usual incidental powers essential to effectuate it, and, subject to existing laws and constitutional provisions, every regularly constituted court has power to do all things that are reasonably necessary for the administration of justice within the scope of its jurisdiction and for the enforcement of its judgments and mandates.”[20] Hence, demands, matters or questions ancillary or incidental to, or growing out of, the main action, and coming within the above principles, may be taken cognizance of by the court and determined, since such jurisdiction is in aid of its authority over the principal matter, even though the court may thus be called on to consider and decide matters which, as original causes of action, would not be within its cognizance.[21]

Finally, it would bear to point out that the above discussion is NOT TO ABANDON the rule that, insofar as quasi-judicial tribunals are concerned, the authority to issue writs of certiorari must still be expressly conferred by the Constitution or by law and cannot be implied from the mere existence of their appellate jurisdiction. This doctrine remains as it applies only to quasi-judicial bodies.

[1] Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board v. Lubrica, 497 Phil. 313, 322 (2005); Veloria v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 94771, July 29, 1992, 211 SCRA 907, 915.

[2] 189 Phil. 581 (1980).

[3] G.R. Nos. 88158 and 97108-09, March 4, 1992, 206 SCRA 779.

[4] Supra note 1.

[5] Supra note 1.

[6] G.R. No. 114135, October 7, 1994, 237 SCRA 552.

[7] Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board v. Lubrica, supra note 1; Veloria v. COMELEC, supra note 1; Garcia v. Sandiganbayan, id. at 563-564; Garcia v. De Jesus, supra note 3, at 787-788; Pimentel v. COMELEC, supra note 2, at 587.

[8] G.R. No. 114135, October 7, 1994, 237 SCRA 552.

[9] An Act Further Defining the Jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, Amending for the Purpose Presidential Decree No. 1606, As Amended, Providing Funds Therefor, And for Other Purposes.

[10] 118 Phil. 1022 (1963).

[11] J. M. Tuason & Co., Inc. v. Jaramillo, et al., supra, at 1026.

[12] G.R. No. 101630, August 24, 1992, 212 SCRA 823.

[13] De Jesus v. Court of Appeals, supra, at 827-828.

[14] G.R. No. 192793, February 22, 2011, 643 SCRA 631, 635-636.

[15] G.R. No. 195953, August 9, 2011, 655 SCRA 241, 246-247.

[16] Southern Cross Cement Corporation v. Philippine Cement Manufacturers Corp., 478 Phil. 85, 125 (2004).

[17] Breslin v. Luzon Stevedoring Company, 84 Phil. 618, 623 (1949).

[18] 4 Am Jur 2d, Appeal and Error, §5, p. 536; 2 Am Jur, Appeal and Error, §9, 850.

[19] Santiago v. Vasquez, G.R. Nos. 99289-90, January 27, 1993, 217 SCRA 633, 648.

[20] Treasurer-Assessor v. University of the Philippines, 148 Phil. 526, 539 (1971); Amalgamated Laborers' Association v. Court of Industrial Relations, 131 Phil. 374, 380 (1968); Philippine Airlines Employees' Association v. Philippine Airlines, Inc., 120 Phil. 383, 390 (1964). (Citations omitted).

[21] Id.