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G.R. No.

L-3629 March 19, 1951


ELISEO SILVA, petitioner,
vs.
BELEN CABRERA, respondent.
Rivera, Castao, Medina and Lozada and Roman Cruz for petitioner.
Evaristo R. Sandoval for respondent.
MONTEMAYOR, J.:
In the Public Service Commission Belen Cabrera filed an application for a certificate of
public convenience to install, maintain, and operate in the City of Lipa, an ice plant with a
15ton daily productive capacity and to sell the produce of said plant in several
municipalities of Batan!as province as well as in the City of Lipa. Eliseo Silva andOpulencia
& Lat, holdres of certificates of public convenience to operate each a 15ton ice plant,
opposed the application on the !round that their service was ade"uate for the needs of the
public, and that public convenience did not re"uire the operation of the ice plant applied for
by Cabrera. Instead of the Commission conductin! the correspondin! hearin! in order to
receive the evidence to be presented by applicant and oppositors, Commissioner #eliciano
$campo by order dated %uly 1&, 1'&', commissioned (tty. (ntonio ). (spillera, Chief of the
Le!al *ivision +to ta,e the testimony of witnesses+ in this case pursuant to the provisions of
section -. of Commonwealth (ct /o. 1&0 ,nown as the Public (ct (ttorney (spillera
conducted hearin!s, and received e1tensive evidence, oral and documentary, the transcript
of the steno!raphic notes ta,en consistin! of ..2 pa!es. 3hereafter, the Commission in
banc rendered a decision, the dispositive part of which reads as follows4
In view of the fore!oin!, and findin! from the evidence that public interests and
convenience will be promoted in a proper and suitable manner by authori5in! the
applicant to operate a 16ton ice plant in Lipa City, and that applicant is a #ilipino
citi5en and is financially "ualified to install and operate a 16ton ice plant, the
oppositions of 7liseo Silva and $pulencia 8 Lat are hereby overruled, and a
certificate of public convenience to operate a 16ton ice plant in the City of Lipa is
hereby !ranted to the applicant herein, Belen Cabrera, the said certificate to be
sub9ect to the followin!.
7liseo Silva, one of the oppositors filed the present petition for review assi!nin! two errors,
to wit4
7::$: I. ; 3hat section - prohibits a hearin! before any person other than a
Commissioner in contested cases< conse"uently, the dele!ation made by the
Commission to (ttorney (spillera is ille!al and contrary to law.
7::$: II. ; 3hat the decision is not supported by evidence to warrant the =rant of
the certificate to applicantrespondent Belen Cabrera.
>e shall address ourselves to the first assi!ned error because the determination of the
same disposes of this appeal. 3he le!al point raised in this assi!nment of error was also
raised before the Commission. (t the be!innin! of the hearin! before (ttorney (spillera,
counsel for oppositors, Silva, now petitioner, as,ed that the hearin! be had before one of
the Commissioners because it was a contested case. >hen his petition was overruled, he
made it of record that his continuin! +with the hearin! of this case shall not be understood
as a waiver of our ob9ection+ ?t. s. n., p. -@. It is therefore clear that petitioner is not raisin!
this issue here for the first time.
>hile petitioner Silva contends that the dele!ation made by the Commission to (ttorney
(spillera to ta,e the testimony of witnesses was ille!al and contrary to the provisions of
section - of the Public Service (ct as amended by :epublic (ct /o. 12A, respondent
e"ually claims that said dele!ation is perfectly proper and le!al. It will be remembered that
the dele!ation to receive testimony was made under the provisions of section -. of the
Public Service (ct ?Com. (ct /o. 1&0@. Said section reads as follows4
S7C. -.. 3he Commission may, in any investi!ation or hearin!, by its order in
writin!, cause the depositions of witnesses residin! within or without the Philippines
to be ta,en in the manner prescribed by the Code of Civil Procedure. 3he
Commission may also, by proper order, commission any of the attorneys of the
Commission or chiefs of division to receive evidence, and it may li,ewise
commission any cler, the court of first instance of 9ustice of the Peace of the
Philippines to ta,e the testimony of the witnesses any case pendin! before the
Commission where such witnesses reside in places distant from Banila and it would
be inconvenient and e1pensive for them to appear personally before the
Commission. It shall be the duty of the cler, of the Court of #irst Instance or 9ustice
of the peace so commissioned to desi!nate promptly a date or dates for the ta,in! of
such evidence, !ivin! timely notice to the parties, and on such date to proceed to
ta,e the evidence, reducin! it to writin!. (fter the evidence has been ta,en, the
9ustice of the peace shall forthwith certify to the correctness of the testimony of the
witnesses and forward it to the Commission. It shall be the duty of the respective
parties to furnish steno!raphers for ta,in! and transcribin! the testimony ta,en. In
case there was no steno!raphers available, the testimony shall be ta,en in lon!
hand by such person as the 9ustice of the peace may desi!nate. #or the convenience
of the parties the Commission may also commission any other person to ta,e the
evidence in the same manner.
#or purpose of reference we are also reproducin! the pertinent portion of section - of the
same (ct as amended by :epublic (ct /o. 12A, relied upon by the petitioner4
(ll the powers herein vested upon the Commission shall be considered vested upon
any of the Commissioner, actin! either individually or 9ointly as hereinafter provided.
3he Commissioners shall e"uitably divide amon! themselves all pendin! cases and
those that may hereafter be submitted to the Commission, in such manner and from
as they determine, and shall proceed to hear and determine the cases assi!ned to
each< Provided, hoever, 3hat ?1@ all contested cases, ?.@ all cases involvin! the
fi1in! of rates, and ?-@ all petitions for reconsideration of orders or decisions shall be
heard by the Commission in !anc, and the affirmative vote of at least two
Commissioner shall be necessary for the promul!ation of a decision or a non
interlocutory order4 (nd, provided, further, 3hat in cases ?1@ and ?.@ the Commission
may dele!ate the reception of the evidence to one of the Commissioners, who shall
report to the Commission in banc, the evidence so received by him to enable it to
render its decision. ?Cnderlinin! is ours@
(fter e1aminin! the law, particularly the lan!ua!e used in section - and -., above"uoted,
we a!ree with the petitioner that the dele!ation made to (ttorney (spillera especially
considerin! the manner in which he received the evidence, was contrary to the provisions of
the public Service (ct.
3he law ?sec. -@ is clear that in a contested case li,e the present, only the Commission in
banc is authori5ed to conduct the hearin!, althou!h said Commission may dele!ate the
reception of the evidence to one of the Commissioners who shall report to the
Commission in !anc, the evidence so received by him.
Cnder Commonwealth (ct /o. 1&0 before it was amended by :epublic (ct /o. 12A, the
Public Service Commission only of a Public Service Commissioner and a deputy
Commissioner. 3he *eputy Commissioner acted only on matters dele!ated to him by the
Public Service Commissioner, and in case of the latterDs absence, illness or incapacity, he
acted in his stead. 3he Public Service Commissioner alone heard and disposed of all cases,
contested and noncontested. 3here could therefore be no hearin! or decision in banc. 3he
Le!islature in promul!atin! Commonwealth (ct 1&0 evidently believed that one
Commissioner, either the Public Service Commissioner or his deputy if properly
commissioned, was sufficient to hear and decide even contested cases and cases involvin!
the fi1in! of rates. Cnder said Commonwealth (ct 1&0 before amendment, particularly
section -. thereof, the Commission besides authori5in! the ta,in! of depositions and the
testimonies of the witnesses by cler, of courts of first instance and 9ustice of the peace in
the provinces, also authori5ed the reception of evidence by the CommissionDs attorneys and
chiefs of divisions. 3hen came :epublic (ct 12A amendin! sections . and - of
Commonwealth (ct 1&0 ma,in! the Commission to consist of one Public Service
Commissioners and two (ssociate Public Service Commissioner under the second section,
and under section -, as already seen from the reproduction of said section, re"uirin! that all
contested cases involvin! the fi1in! of rates, he heard and decided by the three
Commissioners in banc althou!h the reception of evidence may be dele!ated to one of the
Commissioners alone. 3he inference is obvious. In contested cases li,e present, the
Le!islature did not wish to entrust the holdin! of a hearin! and the reception of evidence to
anyone but the three Commissioners actin! in banc or one of them when properly
authori5ed.
It is ur!ed on the part of the respondent that the order of dele!ation in favor of (tty.
(spillera +was a mere authority Eto ta,e the testimony of witnesses in the aboveentitled
caseD, which in fact is in the form of a deposition and not a reception of evidence, much less
a hearin!+ ?p. ', brief for respondent@, and so does not violate section -. (n e1amination of
the record does not support this contention. >hat (tty. (spillera did was to represent the
Commission, act as a sort of Commissioner, conduct hearin!s, receive evidence, oral and
documentary, and pass upon petitions and ob9ections as they came up in the course of said
hearin!. )e even addressed "uestions to the witnesses. )e passed upon the competency
and admissibility of e1hibits and admitted them. In the transcript of the steno!raphic notes,
(tty. (spillera is repeatedly referred to as the +Commission+ and the proceedin!s had
before him on different dates as +hearin!s+. ?t. s. n. pp. 1, -, 5., 0., A0, '6.@ (fter the
submission of the evidence (tty. (spillera declared the +Case submitted+. ?t. s. n. p. ..2.@ It
is obvious that the evidence received by (tty. (spillera were not mere depositions or
testimonies, and that his actuation that of a mere official li,e a 9ustice of the peace receivin!
a deposition under the provisions of :ule 1A of the :ules of Court. 3he role played by (tty.
(spillera was rather that of a Commissioner under :ule -& wherein he acted as a
representative of the Commission that made the dele!ation to him, passed upon petitions
and ob9ections durin! the trial, either overrulin! or sustainin! the same and ordered
witnesses to answer if the ob9ection to the "uestion was overruled, and then ma,in! his
findin!s and report to the body that commissioned him.
:espondent cites the case of (bel =. #lores, applicant vs. (. L. (mmen 3ransportation Co.,
Inc., oppositor, case /o. .21&1 of the Public Service Commission wherein the same point
of the le!ality of a dele!ation to ta,e testimony was involved. 3he oppositor in that case
believin! that the Commission e1ceeded its 9urisdiction in ma,in! the dele!ation, brou!ht
the case to this Supreme Court under =.:. /o. L10-2 but its petition for certiorari was
dismissed for lac, of merit. #rom this, respondent infers that even in contested cases the
reception of evidence may be dele!ated to a person other than one of the Commissioners.
>e have e1amined that case and we find that the authority !iven there was not to receive
evidence but to ta,e a deposition and that the person dele!ated was a 9ustice of the peace.
>e "uote a portion of the order of (ssociate Commissioner =abriel P. Prieto in that case4
7s verdad "ue el articulo - de la Ley claramente dispone "ue en los asuntos
contenciosos y en "ue envuelven la fi9acion de tarifas la Comision solo puede
dele!ar la recepcion de lads pruebas a cual"uiera de sus Comisionados. Pero
tambien es cierto, "ue la deposicion no una dele!acion de la recepcion de las
pruebas, por"ue al funcionario "ue la toma, la ley no le concede las facultades del
tribunal "ue ha ordenado dicha deposicion. 7n efecto, la :e!la 1A de los
:e!lamentos "ue re!ula esta actuacion, no autori5a al funcionario "ue toma la
deposicion para resolver las cuestiones "ue sur!en o se suscitan durante su
actuacion< no le faculta para hacer sus conclusiones de hecho o de derecho< ni le
permite, si"uiera, rendir informe o report de todo lo actuado. Su unica o!li!acion es
certificar la declaracion tal como ha sido prestada por el deponente. 7l "ue toma la
deposicion no es como el arbitro o comisionado de "ue habla la :e!la -& de los
:e!lamentos, "ue actua por dele!acion y obra en representacion del tribunal "ue le
ha nombrado.
It will readily be noticed from the portion of the order above"uoted that Commissioner
Prieto admits that under section - as amended, in contested cases and cases involvin! the
fi1in! of rates, the Commission may dele!ate the reception of evidence only to one of the
Commissioners and to no one else.
3he respondent also calls our attention to the case of Ce!u "ransit Co. #nc., vs. $ereza, ?5A
Phil., 206@, wherein this court held that the Commission was authori5ed to desi!nate
Commissioners for the purpose of receivin! evidence, and that the law did not contain any
prohibition. 3hat case is inapplicable for at that time in the year 1'-- when the case was
decided, :epublic (ct 12A had not yet been promul!ated, said (ct havin! passed only in
1'&2.
In conclusion, we hold that under the provisions of section - of the Public Service (ct as
amended by :epublic (ct 12A, the reception of evidence in a contested case may be
dele!ated only to one of the Commissioners and to no one else, it bein! understood that
such reception of evidence consists in conductin! hearin!s, receivin! evidence, oral and
documentary, passin! upon the relevancy and competency of the same, rulin! upon
petitions and ob9ections that come up in course of the hearin!s, and receivin! and re9ectin!
evidence in accordance with said rulin!s. )owever, under section -., of the same (ct, even
in contested cases or cases involvin! the fi1in! of rates, any attorney of chief of division of
the Commission, a cler, of court of Courts of #irst Instance, or a %ustice of the Peace, may
be authori5ed to ta,e depositions or receive the testimonies of witnesses, provided that the
same is done under provisions of :ule 1A of the :ules of Court.
>e reali5e that our present rulin! will !reatly handicap the Public Service Commission and
slow down its tempo in the disposal of contested cases and cases involvin! the fi1in! of
rates, especially where the witnesses reside in the provinces< but where the law is clear,
neither this court nor the commission may on !rounds of convenience, e1pediency or
prompt dispatch of cases, disre!ard the law or circumvent the same. 3he remedy lies with
the Le!islature if it could be convinced of the necessity of amendin! the law, and persuaded
to approve a suitable amendment.
#indin! that the dele!ation of the reception of evidence in this case as well as the e1ercise
of the authority so !iven, are in violation of section - of the Public Service (ct as amended,
we set aside the order of dele!ation of %uly 1&, 1'&', and declare all the proceedin!s had
thereunder to be null and void. Settin! aside the decision appealed from, let this case be
returned to the Public Service Commission so that evidence may be submitted by the
parties in a hearin!s before the Commission in !anc of before any of the Commissioners if
properly authori5ed, unless of course, said parties a!ree at said hearin! or hearin!s to re
submit the evidence already presented and ta,en down, with such modifications and under
such conditions as they may a!ree upon, includin! such other evidence which they may
wish to present. 3here is no pronouncement as to costs. So ordered.
Paras, %eria, Pa!lo, &en'zon, Padilla, "uason, Re(es, $u'o and &autista )n'elo,
$$., concur.