Mandamus Is Not A Proper Remedy To Execute Money Judgments Against The Local Government Unit

Petitioners, SSWDA Inc., Celso and Manuel were the owners of two (2) parcels of land located in Puerto Princesa City. Before Puerto Princ...

Petitioners, SSWDA Inc., Celso and Manuel were the owners of two (2) parcels of land located in Puerto Princesa City. Before Puerto Princesa became a city, the national government established a military camp in Puerto Princesa, known as the Western Command. In building the command’s facilities and road network, encroachment on several properties of petitioners resulted. Petitioners’ property was used as a road right-of-way leading to the military camp. This road was named the "Wescom Road." Soon after, the City of Puerto Princesa decided to develop the "Wescom Road" because local residents started to build their houses alongside it.
In view of the encroachment, petitioners filed an action for Payment of Just Compensation against the respondents Puerto Princesa City, Mayor Hagedorn and the City Council of Puerto Princesa City before the RTC of Quezon City. The RTC rendered a decision in favor of petitioners.
After the RTC Decision became final and executory, a writ of execution was issued. The money judgment amounted was reduced to P12,000,000.00, subject to the condition agreed by the parties. Petitioners claimed that respondents paid the initial P2,000,000.00 but failed to give further payments after. However, records show that the total negotiated amount of P12 million was already fully paid and received by petitioners on the basis of the certification issued by then City Treasurer of Puerto Princesa.
Nevertheless, petitioners filed a complaint before the RTC-Br. 223 against respondents for collection of unpaid just compensation, including interests and rentals, in accordance with the RTC-Br. 78 Decision. If also filed complaints before the COA, Ombudsman and DILG to compel the respondents to pay the judgment but COA countered that it does not have jurisdiction over the matter.
The petitioners filed the present petition for mandamus seeking to direct, command and compel the respondents to enforce, implement or pay the petitioners the judgment award of the Decision of the Quezon City RTC.

Is mandamus a proper remedy to compel the respondents to pay the just compensation?

Mandamus is NOT the proper remedy to compel the respondents to pay the just compensation. Mandamus is a command issuing from a court of law of competent jurisdiction, in the name of the state or the sovereign, directed to some inferior court, tribunal, or board, or to some corporation or person requiring the performance of a particular duty therein specified, which duty results from the official station of the party to whom the writ is directed or from operation of law. This definition recognizes the public character of the remedy, and clearly excludes the idea that it may be resorted to for the purpose of enforcing the performance of duties in which the public has no interest. The writ is a proper recourse for citizens who seek to enforce a public right and to compel the performance of a public duty, most especially when the public right involved is mandated by the Constitution. As the quoted provision instructs, mandamus will lie if the tribunal, corporation, board, officer, or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station.
The writ of mandamus, however, will not issue to compel an official to do anything which is not his duty to do or which it is his duty not to do, or to give to the applicant anything to which he is not entitled by law. Nor will mandamus issue to enforce a right which is in substantial dispute or as to which a substantial doubt exists, although objection raising a mere technical question will be disregarded if the right is clear and the case is meritorious. As a rule, mandamus will not lie in the absence of any of the following grounds: [a] that the court, officer, board, or person against whom the action is taken unlawfully neglected the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from office, trust, or station; or [b] that such court, officer, board, or person has unlawfully excluded petitioner/relator from the use and enjoyment of a right or office to which he is entitled. On the part of the relator, it is essential to the issuance of a writ of mandamus that he should have a clear legal right to the thing demanded and it must be the imperative duty of respondent to perform the act required.
Recognized further in this jurisdiction is the principle that mandamus cannot be used to enforce contractual obligations. Generally, mandamus will not lie to enforce purely private contract rights, and will not lie against an individual unless some obligation in the nature of a public or quasi-public duty is imposed. The writ is not appropriate to enforce a private right against an individual. The writ of mandamus lies to enforce the execution of an act, when, otherwise, justice would be obstructed; and, regularly, issues only in cases relating to the public and to the government; hence, it is called a prerogative writ. To preserve its prerogative character, mandamus is not used for the redress of private wrongs, but only in matters relating to the public.
The Court cannot blame petitioners for resorting to the remedy of mandamus because they have done everything in the books to satisfy their just and demandable claim. They went to the courts, the COA, the Ombudsman, and the DILG. They resorted to the remedy of mandamus because in at least three (3) cases, the Court sanctioned the remedy in cases of final judgments rendered against a local government unit (LGU).
Moreover, an important principle followed in the issuance of the writ is that there should be no plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law other than the remedy of mandamus being invoked. In other words, mandamus can be issued only in cases where the usual modes of procedure and forms of remedy are powerless to afford relief. Although classified as a legal remedy, mandamus is equitable in its nature and its issuance is generally controlled by equitable principles. Indeed, the grant of the writ of mandamus lies in the sound discretion of the court.
The legal remedy is to seek relief with the COA pursuant to Supreme Court Administrative Circular 10-2000 dated October 25, 2000, which enjoined judges to observe utmost caution, prudence and judiciousness in the issuance of writs of execution to satisfy money judgments against government agencies and local government units. Under Commonwealth Act No. 327, as amended by Section 26 of P.D. No. 1445, it is the COA which has primary jurisdiction to examine, audit and settle "all debts and claims of any sort" due from or owing the Government or any of its subdivisions, agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries.
The settlement of the monetary claim was still subject to the primary jurisdiction of the COA despite the final decision of the RTC having already validated the claim. As such, the claimants had no alternative except to first seek the approval of the COA of their monetary claim. Considering that the COA still retained its primary jurisdiction to adjudicate money claim, petitioners should have filed a petition for certiorari with this Court pursuant to Section 50 of P.D. No. 1445. Hence, the COA's refusal to act did not leave the petitioners without any remedy at all.
Hence, petition for mandamus is not proper. Petitioners are enjoined to file its claim with the Commission on Audit.

G.R. No. 181792, April 21, 2014


The author takes no responsibility for the validity, correctness and result of this work. The information provided is not a legal advice and it should not be used  as a substitute for a competent legal advice from a licensed lawyer. See the disclaimer

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