Mandamus never issues in doubtful cases

In Cudia v. Superintendent of PMA (G.R. No. 211362, February 24, 2015), respondents argued that the mandamus aspect of the petition praying that Cadet 1CL Cudia be included in the list of graduating cadets and for him to take part in the commencement exercises was already rendered moot and academic when the graduation ceremonies of the PMA Siklab Diwa Class took place on March 16, 2014. Also, a petition for mandamus is improper since it does not lie to compel the performance of a discretionary duty.

Invoking Garcia v. The Faculty Admission Committee, Loyola School of Theology ((160-A Phil. 929, 1975), respondents assert that a mandamus petition could not be availed of to compel an academic institution to allow a student to continue studying therein because it is merely a privilege and not a right. In this case, there is a clear failure on petitioners’ part to establish that the PMA has the ministerial duty to include Cadet 1CL Cudia in the list, much less award him with academic honors and commission him to the Philippine Navy. Similar to the case of University of San Agustin, Inc. v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 100588, March 7, 1994), it is submitted that the PMA may rightfully exercise its discretionary power on who may be admitted to study pursuant to its academic freedom.

In response, petitioners contended that while the plea to allow Cadet 1CL Cudia to participate in the PMA 2014 commencement exercises could no longer be had, the Court may still grant the other reliefs prayed for. They add that Garcia enunciated that a respondent can be ordered to act in a particular manner when there is a violation of a constitutional right, and that the certiorari aspect of the petition must still be considered because it is within the province of the Supreme Court to determine whether a branch of the government or any of its officials has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess thereof.

Under Section 3, Rule 65 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, a petition for mandamus may be filed when any tribunal, corporation, board, officer, or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust, or station. It may also be filed when any tribunal, corporation, board, officer, or person unlawfully excludes another from the use and enjoyment of a right or office to which such other is entitled.

For mandamus to lie, the act sought to be enjoined must be a ministerial act or duty. An act is ministerial if the act should be performed "[under] a given state of facts, in a prescribed manner, in obedience to the mandate of a legal authority, without regard to or the exercise of [the tribunal or corporation's] own judgment upon the propriety or impropriety of the act done." The tribunal, corporation, board, officer, or person must have no choice but to perform the act specifically enjoined by law. This is opposed to a discretionary act whereby the officer has the choice to decide how or when to perform the duty. (Buena v. Benito, G.R. No. 181760)

Certainly, mandamus is never issued in doubtful cases. It cannot be availed against an official or government agency whose duty requires the exercise of discretion or judgment. (G.R. No. 110280, October 21, 1993) For a writ to issue, petitioners should have a clear legal right to the thing demanded, and there should be an imperative duty on the part of respondents to perform the act sought to be mandated.(G.R. No. 103142, November 8, 1993)

In the absence of a clear and unmistakable provision of a law, a mandamus petition does not lie to require anyone to a specific course of conduct or to control or review the exercise of discretion. It will not issue to compel an official to do anything which is not his duty to do or which is his duty not to do or give to the applicant anything to which he is not entitled by law. (G.R. No. 100588, March 7, 1994)