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c) Quasi-judicial body and regular court: Distinctions

To obviate confusion an administrative body is synonymous in this Annotation to

administrative quasi-judicial body, quasi-judicial body, franchising and regulatory
body or agency or merely regulatory body (the last pertains to an administrative
body or agency which issues and regulates franchises to operate public utility
1. A quasi-judicial body has limited jurisdiction unlike regular courtsAs hinted
above, an administrative body has limited jurisdiction in the sense that it
can only exercise powers and functions which are specifically vested by
law. In the famous words of Justice John A. Hull an American jurist who served in the
1930s on our Supreme Court, often relied upon through the years by public utility
lawyers like a sacrosanct mantra: The powers of the Public Service Commission (or
any quasi-judicial bodies for that matter) are found in the legislation creating that
body. Their powers are limited to those expressly granted or necessarily implied
from those granted. (Barredo, et al. vs. Public Service Commission, 58 Phil. 78;
For example, it cannot impose any sanction or penalty, like fines, suspension or
cancellation of franchises unless the offenses/violations and the penalties therefor
are specifically provided for in its charter or the law creating it.
As examples, the mere failure to appear during a hearing, failure to comply with
certain Memorandum orders or circulars, or failure to pay certain impositions or
fines, etc. cannot be a ground for suspension or cancellation of franchises unless
specifically provided for in the charter or law creating it. The fatal legal infirmity
amounting to usurpation of powers, is more patent if the sanction of suspension or
cancellation of franchise of a grantee were imposed by a quasi-judicial body against
the exercise of constitutionally guaranteed rights, e.g., freedom of expression,
freedom of assembly for redress of grievances, and similar rights under the Bill of
Rights. Even if there is a written caveat in the franchise not to exercise these rights,
is an illegality and a nullity being contrary to these Constitutional guarantees;
2. A quasi-judicial body is basically a court of law with no common law
powers unlike a regular court which is both a court of law and equityA
quasi-judicial body being mainly a court of law is governed strictly by legal/statutory
provision. It has no common law powers which means that it cannot act or rule on
matters without legal or statutory support. A regular court in our legal system is
both a court of law and equity. The issues before quasi-judicial body especially the
regulatory body kind are clear-cut like matters of violation of or compliance with the
law, as well as of rules and circulars. Questions are factually determinable on the
basis of documents/ocular inspection: e.g., was there compliance with certain
conditions imposed, was there payment of required fees, was there compliance with
requirements of publication and notice, was there submission of the listed

documents during the hearing, was there submission proofs of Filipino citizenship,
financial capacity and/or public need, and the like. No amount of oratory or
eloquence and appeal to equity or human kindness will render certain requisites as
duly complied with, if they were not. This is not to say that considerations of
fairness and equity do not enter into the picture in administrative cases. They
however, are not generally considered in the adjudicatory process unlike before
regular courts of law;
Thus interstitial legislation which at times is done by a regular court to remedy
or prevent a gross injustice is out of the question before an administrative body
since hardly any occasion for that presents itself as to cases before it;
3. A quasi-judicial body is an activist entity unlike a regular court which is a
passive oneAn administrative body is an activist entity in the sense that it
can take the initiative in the exercise of its jurisdiction and powers. A
regular court has to wait for parties to come to it for reliefs whereas an
administrative quasi-judicial body without waiting for a litigant could take
action on matters which are within its competence and power to act.
Typical example is a quasi-judicial regulatory body, which is both a source of
authorization (e.g., franchises, authorities to operate other than franchises, etc.)
and regulatory measures and actions to oversee and control the operations
pursuant to these franchises. This regulatory power enables it to motu proprio
summon offending parties or operators within its jurisdiction to answer for or show
cause why no punitive measures may be imposed upon them. It can act even on
mere media reports;
4. A quasi-judicial body is also a policy formulator and rule/circular maker unlike a
regular court which does not have such powersAn administrative quasi-judicial
body aside from the exercise adjudicatory and regulatory powers is also policy and
rulemaker but only pursuant to, in implementation of, and within the ambit of the
law creating it or legislation expanding, augmenting and/or detailing its jurisdiction.
Thus an administrative quasi-judicial body can make policy declarations,
memorandum circulars, implementing rules of a law pertaining to said
administrative body and separate Rules of Practice and Procedures before it. There
is a kind of autonomy here that opens the door to what Dean Roscoe Pound referred
to as administrative absolutism as will be further discussed later. On the other
hand, a regular court does not formulate policies, issue circulars and implementing
rules as well as prescribe its own rules of practice and procedure. The Rules of Court
uniformly govern practice before regular courts anywhere in the country. Only the
Supreme Court in the exercise of its administrative supervision over the lower
courts can make all these issuances including the Rules of Court;
5. A quasi-judicial body is not bound by the strict rules of procedure and evidence
unlike a regular court which has to follow strictly the Rules of CourtAn
administrative quasi-judicial body is not required to follow strictly the rules of

procedure and the rules of evidence under the Rules of Court. Since it usually
promulgates its own rules of practice and procedure the tendency is to simplify and
relax its rules of procedure. The Rules of Court is only made applicable in a
suppletory manner or when there is a hiatus in its rules. It was observed by Justice
Felix Frankfurter of the US Supreme Court that differences in origin and function of
these administrative bodies preclude wholesale transplantation of the rule of
procedure, trial and review which have evolved from the history and experience of
the courts. (Pacifico Agabin, Towards a Definition of Administrative Due Process in
Regulatory Proceedings, citing Mathews vs. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976), in
UNCONSTITUTIONAL ESSAYS, UP Press & UP College of Law, 47 (1996).
Then as to quantum of proof required in administrative cases, what
suffices is substantial evidencethat amount of relevant evidence which
a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion (Sec.
5, Rule 133, Rules of Court). A regular court requires proof beyond
reasonable doubt in criminal cases and preponderance of evidence in civil
cases. Preponderance of evidence has been vaguely characterized as
that the evidence as a whole adduced by one side is superior to that of
the other (Mun. of Moncada vs. Cajuigan, 21 Phil. 184 cited in Ricardo J.
Francisco, Evidence, 1996 ed., p. 554). It seems that there is hardly any
distinction between substantial evidence and preponderance of evidence. Cases are
generally decided not necessarily on substantial evidence but also by multifarious
factors which include technical, scientific or accounting data, e.g., in the
determination of rate, return of investment, margin of profits and the like.
6. A quasi-judicial body is a trier of facts unlike a regular court which is a trier of
facts and lawAn administrative quasi-judicial body is tasked to inquire whether
certain situations or requisites exist or have been duly complied with and then it
can act on the basis of such factual support. It cannot delve into the wisdom,
insufficiency or interpretation of the law. It cannot hold that requisite facts or
conditions are absent or lacking but human considerations or the interest of justice
still warrants the grant of the franchise or authorization of the proposed service
applied for. Very little discretion if any is allowed a quasi-judicial body. If the
conditions for the grant of a relief are not there, its grant cannot be justified by
oratory or motherhood statements or rhetorical incantations. The service authorized
has a definite impact upon the public as end-users. And if the quality of service
would suffer because important requisites were simply glossed over, far worse
mischiefs will result e.g., authorizing vehicles or vessels wanting in safety
requirements in a transport service would be risky to the lives and limbs of
On the other hand, a regular court is empowered not only to try or verify facts as
presented by the parties but also to go into the intendment or wisdom of the law
applicable to the case before it;

7. A quasi-judicial body has an institutional set-up for reverse Stockholm

Syndrome unlike a regular court which has noneLitigants before a regular court
vary and seldom appear twice even for a different case in the same sala considering
the number of salas of regular courts. However, a regulatory body for a specific
public utility area has about the same regular clientele e.g., Maritime Industry
Authority (MARINA), the shipping operators or their lawyers; National Labor
Relations Court (NLRC), management companies and labor unions or their
respective lawyers; Energy Regulatory Board (ERB), electric companies or their
lawyers, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), land
transport operators or their lawyers; NTC, for telecommunications or their lawyers,
etc. Before these bodies are utility operators or companies/groups and their lawyers
or representatives/ liaison that regularly appear or transact business. The innate
human capacity for warming up between the regulator and regulated that meet
regularly could result in a kind of reverse Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm
Syndrome is some kind of sympathy developed by a captive towards the captor. In
administrative regulation, we have the regulator/watchdog and the regulated
relationship. According to British philosopher Harold J. Laski, constant exposure
dulls the sensibilities - or nibbles into the wall of formality. This may or may not be
a factor in the adjudicatory process but it is there.
To highlight this point, a Labor official once asked a non-lawyer union
representative, at the time when the latter was still allowed to represent laborers
before the NLRC. The question was why he always ran rings around a management
lawyer who was brilliant, valedictorian of his class in law school, high honors
recipient and No. 1 in the bar. His explanation was simple: Kasi Sir, hindi naman
siya nakikipaginuman sa mga arbiter. Perhaps, this story is apocryphal.
[Administrative Flip-Flopping: Bashing the National Telecommunications
Commission, 435 SCRA 154(2004)]