Administrative agencies must decide before going to courts

The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is a cornerstone of our judicial system. The thrust of the rule is that courts must allow administrative agencies to carry out their functions and discharge their responsibilities within the specialized areas of their respective competence.[1] It has been held, however, that the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies and the doctrine of primary jurisdiction are not iron-clad rules. In the case of Republic v. Lacap,[2] the Supreme Court enumerated the numerous exceptions to these rules, namely: (a) where there is estoppel on the part of the party invoking the doctrine; (b) where the challenged administrative act is patently illegal, amounting to lack of jurisdiction; (c) where there is unreasonable delay or official inaction that will irretrievably prejudice the complainant; (d) where the amount involved is relatively so small as to make the rule impractical and oppressive; (e) where the question involved is purely legal and will ultimately have to be decided by the courts of justice; (f) where judicial intervention is urgent; (g) where the application of the doctrine may cause great and irreparable damage; (h) where the controverted acts violate due process; (i) where the issue of non-exhaustion of administrative remedies has been rendered moot; (j) where there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy; (k) where strong public interest is involved; and (1) in quo warranto proceedings.[3]

[1] Universal Robina Corp. (Corn Division) v. Laguna Lake Development Authority, G.R No. 191427, May 30, 2011, 649 SCRA 506, 511.

[2] 546 Phil. 87 (2007).

[3] Republic v. Lacap, supra, at 97-98.