Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence

Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1925 > December 1925 Decisions > G.R. No. 24672 December 2, 1925 - PHILIPPINE SHIPOWNER’S ASSOCIATION, ET AL. v. MARIANO CUI

048 Phil 377:



[G.R. No. 24672. December 2, 1925. ]


Fisher, DeWitt, Perkins & Brady, for Petitioners.

Acting Attorney-General Reyes and Attorney-General

Jaranilla for Respondent.


1. PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION CANNOT REVIEW A FINAL DECISION OF THIS COURT. — Where on November 27, 1923, the N. C. Co. filed a petition before the Public Utility Commission praying for the issuance of a license to operate its steamship Pompey on the Manila-Davao run upon which a hearing was had and the petition denied, and an appeal was taken from that decision to this court in and by which the decision of the Commission was affirmed, and where on April 20, 1925, the N. C. Co. filed another petition before the Public Utility Commission similar in form and substance, in which the N. C. Co. in legal effect sought to review and modify the former decision of this court rendered on the merits between the same parties, hearing on the second petition should be enjoined, and the proceedings should be dismissed for want of authority of the Public Utility Commission to modify or review the final decision of this court.

2. POWERS OF PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION. — Under the provisions of Act No. 3108, known as the Public Utility Law, the Public Utility Commission has general supervision over all public utilities and the power to investigate, upon its initiative or a complaint in writing, any just cause of grievance against any public utility, to make and enforce reasonable rules and regulations, and to provide for and grant relief in all proper cases.


It is alleged that the Philippine Shipowners’ Association is a domestic corporation composed of numerous persons and entities, each of whom is engaged in the business of common carrier, of freight and passengers, in the coastwise trade of the Philippine Islands. That the petitioner Compañia Maritima, is a domestic corporation, and that Fernandez Hermanos is a duly registered mercantile partnership. That on October 13, 1922, and upon petition of the National Coal Company, a certificate of public convenience was issued by the respondent to the said company to operate the steamship Pompey, a government-owned vessel, in the coastwise trade. That on February 27, 1923, the Coal Company filed another petition in which it was requested that it be authorized to include the port of Davao in its regular schedule. That on March 2, 1923, your petitioners filed a petition with the respondent to the effect that the continued operation of the steamship Pompey in the coastwise trade was prejudicial to the public interest for five different reasons specified in the petition. That in due course, after numerous hearings, a decision was rendered by the Acting Public Utility Commissioner, the Honorable M. V. del Rosario, in which he found that it would not be justified, under the principles which protect the public against unfair and ruinous competition, to permit the National Coal Company to compete with existing commercial public utilities operating between Manila and Davao. That from that decision an appeal was taken to this court in which a decision was rendered on January 30, 1925, confirming that decision of the Public Utility Commissioner. That notwithstanding the decision of this court, the National Coal Company, on April 20, 1925, filed a petition with the Public Utility Commission again requesting that it be permitted to operate on the Manila-Davao run, which petition was supported by an argument showing dissatisfaction with the decision of this court, based upon the contention that this court, in making its decision, "acted without knowledge of the true facts." That in June, 1925, your petitioners filed a motion with the Acting Public Utility Commissioner requesting that the application be dismissed upon the grounds that the questions therein presented have already been decided by the Commission and the Supreme Court. That when the motion came on to be heard before the Honorable M. V. del Rosario, he suggested that it be transferred to the respondent, for the reason that, having rendered the former decision, which had been sustained by this court, it was embarrassing for him to decide the motion. That on July 6, 1925, the respondent herein rendered a decision denying petitioners’ motion that the application of the National Coal Company be dismissed. That on July 16, 1925, your petitioners filed a motion requesting a reconsideration of the order of July 6, 1925, in which it was stated, among other things, "that the situation of the parties had not changed and that in fact there was not even a pretense that there had been any change; and that the Pompey continued to be a government-owned vessel." That on August 19, 1925, the respondent denied petitioners’ motion for a reconsideration, and set the case down for a rehearing on the merits on August 25, 1925. It is then alleged "that said orders reopening this controversy merely because the National Coal Company is dissatisfied with the former decision of the Acting Public Utility Commissioner and of this Honorable Court are unjust and prejudicial to public interest, and in issuing said orders the respondent Commissioner has not regularly pursued its authority, but has exceeded its jurisdiction in the premises."cralaw virtua1aw library

Petitioners pray that this court require the respondent Public Utility Commissioner to certify the records of all proceedings had before the Commissioner of the matter, and that upon such hearing, the order of the respondent be held improper and set aside, and they also pray for a preliminary injunction, which was granted.

Based upon the petition, an order was made to show cause.

August 27, the respondent made his return, in which it is alleged that on March 31, 1925, the shippers of the ports of Cebu, Zamboanga and Davao filed their petitions with the Public Utility Commission, asking that steamship Pompey be permitted to make regular calls at the port of Davao. Then follows a specification by them of ten different grounds.

"III. That, consistent with these petitions, the National Coal Company, agent for steamship Pompey, filed an application with the Public Utility Commission asking that the certificate of public convenience of said steamship Pompey be amended so as to include the authority for regular calls at the port of Davao.

"IV. That the petitions, mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, were granted by the respondent because the pubIic convenience so demands.

"V. That the order granting said petitions is based upon the new facts presented — different from those involved in the case of the National Coal Company v. the Public Utility Commission, supra.

"VI. That the proceedings under the Public Utility Act are administrative or quasi-judicial, and the doctrines of res judicata and stare decisis, invoked by the petitioners herein, are not applicable."cralaw virtua1aw library

Wherefore, the respondent prays that the petition be dismissed, without any finding as to costs.

The entire record before the Commission was certified and brought up to this court, and the question now presented is whether or not the petitioners are entitled to the relief prayed for, or whether, as the respondent contends, the petition should be dismissed.



By comparison, it will be found that the grounds stated in the original petition of the National Coal Company, which was filed on February 27, 1923, are almost identical with those stated in its petition filed on April 20, 1925. In both petitions, the National Coal Company is the moving party, and the steamship Pompey is the bone of contention.

There is no claim or pretense that there has been a change in the ownership of the vessel, or any change in the vessel itself. On the first petition, there was an exhaustive hearing in which in legal effect the same showing was made by the shippers that is now made by them in their respective affidavits in support of the second petition. It appears upon the face of the record that there has not been any change in the steamship Pompey or the situation of the parties, the shippers or the ports of call, or the route of travel. In other words, it does not appear that there has been any change in the situation as it existed at the time the former decision of the Public Utility Commissioner was rendered, which was later affirmed by the decision of this court. In the original petition, the National Coal Company was the moving party, and it is the moving party in the second petition. The shippers were not parties to the first petition, and they are not parties to the second petition. In the first petition, the purpose and intent of the shippers was to aid and assist the National Coal Company in obtaining a license to have the steamship Pompey placed on the Davao run, and their evidence was introduced for that purpose, and that is true as to the second petition. There are no legal grounds shown or alleged in the second petition that were not shown or alleged in the first. In its final analysis, the National Coal Company, in its second petition, seeks to have the respondent set aside the decision of the Commissioner in the first petition, which was affirmed by this court on the appeal of the National Coal Company. In other words, to not only have the Commission review its former decision, but in legal effect to review a final decision of this court.

If it be a fact, as appears from their affidavits, that the shippers have a cause of grievance against any vessel operated as a public utility, the law gives them a complete, speedy and adequate remedy. That is the purpose of Act No. 3108 "creating a Public Utility Commission and prescribing its duties and powers, and for other purposes," and the reason why it was enacted, section 13 of which

"The Commission shall have general supervision and regulation of, jurisdiction and control over, all public utilities, and also over their property, property rights, equipment, facilities and franchises so far as may be necessary for the purposes of carrying out the provisions of this Act. . .

"SEC. 14. The Commission shall have

"(a) To investigate, upon its own initiative, or upon complaint in writing, any matter concerning any public utility as herein defined.

x       x       x

"(e) After hearing, by order in writing, to fix just and reasonable standards, classifications, regulations, practices, measurements, or service to be furnished, imposed, observed, and followed thereafter by any public utility as herein defined.

"SEC. 15. The Commission shall have power, after hearing, upon notice, by order in writing to require every public utility:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

x       x       x

"(b) To furnish safe, adequate, and proper service as regards the manner of furnishing the same as well as the maintenance of the necessary material and equipment: Provided, however, That the inspection and regulation, for the purposes of sanitation and safety, of the vessels operated within the Philippine Islands, shall be under the jurisdiction and authority of the Insular Collector of Customs or his duly authorized agents.

"SEC. 16. No public utility as herein defined

"(a) Make, impose, or exact any unjust or unreasonable, unjustly discriminatory or unduly preferential individual or joint rate, commutation rate, mileage, and other special rate, toll, fare, charge, or schedule for any product or service supplied or rendered by it within the Philippine Islands.

x       x       x

"(c) Adopt, maintain, or-enforce any regulation, practice, or measurement which shall be unjust, unreasonable, unduly preferential, arbitrarily or unjustly discriminatory, or otherwise in violation of law, nor shall any public utility as herein defined provide or maintain any service that is unsafe, improper, or inadequate, or withhold or refuse any service which can reasonably be demanded and furnished when ordered by said Commission.

"(d) Make or give, directly or indirectly, by itself or through its agents, attorneys or freight brokers, or any of them, discounts or rebates on authorized freight rates, or any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any person or corporation or to any locality or to any particular description of traffic in any respect whatsoever, or subject any particular person or corporation or locality or any particular description of traffic to any prejudice or disadvantage in any respect whatsoever.

"SEC. 23. All hearings and investigations before the Commission shall be governed by rules adopted by the Commission, and in the conduct thereof the Commission shall not be bound by the technical rules of legal evidence."cralaw virtua1aw library

It will thus be seen that the law affords any shipper a complete and adequate remedy for any just cause of grievance against a public utility, and that the Commission not only has the right, but that it is its duty to hear and grant relief in all proper cases, and that it not only has the authority, but that it has the power to make and enforce all reasonable rules and regulations for the operation of any public utility, including water crafts, vessels and steamships. That is to say, if the steamships now used on the Davao run are not adequate for the service, or they are not properly equipped to care for and handle the Davao business, the Commission has the authority to make reason able rules and regulations for such service and equipment and to enforce them.

Assuming, without deciding, that the shippers have a just cause of grievance, that. alone would not be a valid reason to grant a license to the National Coal Company to operate the steamship Pompey on that route, so long as it is owned by the government and is used for and operated in the business of the government.

The real question involved here is whether or not upon the same state of facts, the Public Utility Commission has the legal right to review a final decision of this court.

The authorities cited in respondent’s brief are good law, but upon the facts, they are not in point. Based upon the petition and the facts in the record, we are clearly of the opinion that all of the proceedings before the Commission on the second petition are null and void.

It is the judgment of the court that the temporary injunction, which was granted upon the filing of the petition, shall be, and is hereby, made permanent, and that neither party recover costs. So ordered.

Avanceña, C.J., Street, Malcolm, Villamor and Romualdez, JJ., concur.

Johnson and Villa-Real, JJ., took no part in the consideration of this case.

Separate Opinions

OSTRAND, J., dissenting:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

I dissent. It is well settled that a Public Utilities Commission is an administrative body and that its decisions are not res judicata; it is conceded in the majority opinion that the cases cited to that effect by the defendant (In Re Swan Creek Electric Co., P. U. R. 1915-F; In Re Random Lake Telephone Company, P. U. R. 1916-A; In Re Long Island R. Co., N. Y. 1st Dist., Case No. 1,727, April 4, 1917; Stratton v. Railroad Commission, 198 Pac., 1051; etc.) are good law.

But without stating any reasons, it is asserted that these cases are not in point. If they are not in point, it must be because the Commission’s decision in the case upon which the petitioners rely for their plea of res judicata (Public Utilities case No. 2875) was reviewed and affirmed by this court whereas in the cases cited there was no such affirmance. That is a distinction without a difference in principle. Under section 35 of the Public Utilities Act, all that the court was called upon to do in the case, was to determine whether the Commission had been acting within its jurisdiction and whether there was evidence to reasonably support the decision under review. Upon these points the court found in favor of the Commission and simply affirmed its order or decision.

Now, it seems clear that such an affirmance of an order cannot change its character; an administrative order affirmed is none the less an administrative order, and if so, it is not res judicata. And if the Public Utilities Commission is an administrative body and its decisions are not res judicata, it necessarily follows that it at any time, if it so sees fit, may reinvestigate or re-examine the facts upon which one of its former decisions was based. It must respect the law laid down by this court, but as to conducting investigations of facts, the Public Utilities Act gives it a free hand within the limits of its jurisdiction. It is dealing with constantly changing conditions and in order to properly exercise its functions, it must have this freedom of investigation; to hold that just because a court has found that one of the Commission’s orders was reasonably supported by the evidence then before it, the Commission is forever barred from further investigations of the subject matter of the order, would necessarily lead to results of which the Legislature never dreamed and would be disastrous in its consequences.

But the court holds that because the petition in this case contains substantially the same allegations as the petition in the former case, the Commission has no jurisdiction to reinvestigate the matter and inquire into the facts. This, I think, is an erroneous conception of the powers of the Commission. The pleadings in a case before the Public Utilities Commission are of little importance as far as the jurisdiction is concerned; the Public Utilities Act expressly gives it power to institute investigations on its own initiative and that must necessarily mean that it may proceed without any complaint or petition whatever.

There is therefore nothing in the law to prevent it from investigating shipping conditions in Davao at any time upon its own initiative, and in view of the positive provisions of the statute, I do not think it can be honestly disputed that if upon such investigation and hearing the Commission finds that the situation so requires, it has jurisdiction upon application to order the issuance of a certificate of convenience to the National Coal Company for the operation of its ships on the Davao route. If the Commission’s order should not be reasonably supported by the evidence, that would be a matter for review by this court, but not for the issuance of a writ of certiorari.

The preliminary injunction hereinbefore issued orders the Commission to abstain from further proceeding in the case before it and the decision of the court makes this injunction permanent. Carrying the decision to its logical conclusion it means that if there were no petition in the case, the Commission might proceed, but that with the petition in the record, it cannot do so. This is technicality with a vengeance. It does not seem to be good sense and it is not good law. It is significant that though public utility commissions have for many years existed in practically every state in the Union, no case can be found where the courts have by certiorari or otherwise prevented such commissions from carrying out investigations within their jurisdiction.

There is no danger that the Public Utility Commission will undertake unnecessary investigations; its burden of work is heavy and it will no doubt know how to protect itself against frivolous demands upon its time. Undue and unnecessary judicial interference with its functions is bound to do more harm than good.

The decision of the Court contains the following

"Assuming, without deciding, that the shippers have a just cause of grievance, that alone would not be a valid reason to grant a license to the National Coal Company to operate the steamship Pompey on that route, so long as it is owned by the government and is used for and operated in the business of the government." (Emphasis supplied.)

I find it difficult to speak of this statement with patience and in fairness to the court I think it proper to say that, as far as I know, neither in this case nor in the case of the National Coal Co. v. Public Utility Commission, (47 Phil., 356), was the proposition that government owned vessels should be discriminated against in the granting of certificates of public convenience submitted to the vote of the court. That is a political or legislative question, wholly outside of the province of the courts. In view of this fact and the further fact that in this country, with its very limited capital and still more limited shipping facilities, it has in the past often been found necessary to supplement the privately owned shipping with government owned vessels, I do not think this court will deliberately give its assent to the view expressed upon this point by the writer of the decision. By our oath of office we are bound to administer evenhanded justice without regard to parties. Government competition in shipping need not necessarily be unfair; the Public Utilities Commission has ample power to so adjust rates as to eliminate such unfairness.


1. National Coal Co. v. Public Utility Commission, 47 Phil., 366.

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