204 SCRA 546
- Distinction between the power to adjudicate and the power to investigate
Some 800 public school teachers undertook “mass concerted actions” to protest the alleged failure of public authorities to act upon their grievances. The “mass actions” consisted in staying away from their classes, converging at the Liwasang Bonifacio, gathering in peacable assemblies, etc. The Secretary of Education served them with an order to return to work within 24 hours or face dismissal. For failure to heed the return-to-work order, eight teachers at the Ramon Magsaysay High School were administratively charged, preventively suspended for 90 days pursuant to sec. 41, P.D. 807 and temporarily replaced. An investigation committee was consequently formed to hear the charges.
When their motion for suspension was denied by the Investigating Committee, said teachers staged a walkout signifying their intent to boycott the entire proceedings. Eventually, Secretary Carino decreed dismissal from service of Esber and the suspension for 9 months of Babaran, Budoy and del Castillo. In the meantime, a case was filed with RTC, raising the issue of violation of the right of the striking teachers’ to due process of law. The case was eventually elevated to SC. Also in the meantime, the respondent teachers submitted sworn statements to Commission on Human Rights to complain that while they were participating in peaceful mass actions, they suddenly learned of their replacement as teachers, allegedly without notice and consequently for reasons completely unknown to them.
While the case was pending with CHR, SC promulgated its resolution over the cases filed with it earlier, upholding the Sec. Carino’s act of issuing the return-to-work orders. Despite this, CHR continued hearing its case and held that the “striking teachers” “were denied due process of law;…they should not have been replaced without a chance to reply to the administrative charges;” there had been violation of their civil and political rights which the Commission is empowered to investigate.”
- Whether or not CHR has jurisdiction to try and hear the issues involved
The Court declares the Commission on Human Rights to have no such power; and that it was not meant by the fundamental law to be another court or quasi-judicial agency in this country, or duplicate much less take over the functions of the latter.
The most that may be conceded to the Commission in the way of adjudicative power is that it may investigate, i.e., receive evidence and make findings of fact as regards claimed human rights violations involving civil and political rights. But fact finding is not adjudication, and cannot be likened to the judicial function of a court of justice, or even a quasi-judicial agency or official. The function of receiving evidence and ascertaining therefrom the facts of a controversy is not a judicial function, properly speaking. To be considered such, the faculty of receiving evidence and making factual conclusions in a controversy must be accompanied by the authority of applying the law to those factual conclusions to the end that the controversy may be decided or determined authoritatively, finally and definitively, subject to such appeals or modes of review as may be provided by law. This function, to repeat, the Commission does not have.
Power to Investigate
The Constitution clearly and categorically grants to the Commission the power to investigate all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights. It can exercise that power on its own initiative or on complaint of any person. It may exercise that power pursuant to such rules of procedure as it may adopt and, in cases of violations of said rules, cite for contempt in accordance with the Rules of Court. In the course of any investigation conducted by it or under its authority, it may grant immunity from prosecution to any person whose testimony or whose possession of documents or other evidence is necessary or convenient to determine the truth. It may also request the assistance of any department, bureau, office, or agency in the performance of its functions, in the conduct of its investigation or in extending such remedy as may be required by its findings.
But it cannot try and decide cases (or hear and determine causes) as courts of justice, or even quasi-judicial bodies do. To investigate is not to adjudicate or adjudge. Whether in the popular or the technical sense, these terms have well understood and quite distinct meanings.
“Investigate” vs. “Adjudicate”
"Investigate," commonly understood, means to examine, explore, inquire or delve or probe into, research on, study. The dictionary definition of "investigate" is "to observe or study closely: inquire into systematically. "to search or inquire into: . . . to subject to an official probe . . .: to conduct an official inquiry." The purpose of investigation, of course, is to discover, to find out, to learn, obtain information. Nowhere included or intimated is the notion of settling, deciding or resolving a controversy involved in the facts inquired into by application of the law to the facts established by the inquiry.
The legal meaning of "investigate" is essentially the same: "(t)o follow up step by step by patient inquiry or observation. To trace or track; to search into; to examine and inquire into with care and accuracy; to find out by careful inquisition; examination; the taking of evidence; a legal inquiry;" "to inquire; to make an investigation," "investigation" being in turn describe as "(a)n administrative function, the exercise of which ordinarily does not require a hearing. 2 Am J2d Adm L Sec. 257; . . . an inquiry, judicial or otherwise, for the discovery and collection of facts concerning a certain matter or matters."
"Adjudicate," commonly or popularly understood, means to adjudge, arbitrate, judge, decide, determine, resolve, rule on, settle. The dictionary defines the term as "to settle finally (the rights and duties of the parties to a court case) on the merits of issues raised: . . . to pass judgment on: settle judicially: . . . act as judge." And "adjudge" means "to decide or rule upon as a judge or with judicial or quasi-judicial powers: . . . to award or grant judicially in a case of controversy . . . ."
In the legal sense, "adjudicate" means: "To settle in the exercise of judicial authority. To determine finally. Synonymous with adjudge in its strictest sense;" and "adjudge" means: "To pass on judicially, to decide, settle or decree, or to sentence or condemn. . . . Implies a judicial determination of a fact, and the entry of a judgment."
Hence it is that the Commission on Human Rights, having merely the power "to investigate," cannot and should not "try and resolve on the merits" (adjudicate) the matters involved in Striking Teachers HRC Case No. 90-775, as it has announced it means to do; and it cannot do so even if there be a claim that in the administrative disciplinary proceedings against the teachers in question, initiated and conducted by the DECS, their human rights, or civil or political rights had been transgressed. More particularly, the Commission has no power to "resolve on the merits" the question of (a) whether or not the mass concerted actions engaged in by the teachers constitute and are prohibited or otherwise restricted by law; (b) whether or not the act of carrying on and taking part in those actions, and the failure of the teachers to discontinue those actions, and return to their classes despite the order to this effect by the Secretary of Education, constitute infractions of relevant rules and regulations warranting administrative disciplinary sanctions, or are justified by the grievances complained of by them; and (c) what where the particular acts done by each individual teacher and what sanctions, if any, may properly be imposed for said acts or omissions.
Who has Power to Adjudicate?
These are matters within the original jurisdiction of the Sec. of Education, being within the scope of the disciplinary powers granted to him under the Civil Service Law, and also, within the appellate jurisdiction of the CSC.
Manner of Appeal
Now, it is quite obvious that whether or not the conclusions reached by the Secretary of Education in disciplinary cases are correct and are adequately based on substantial evidence; whether or not the proceedings themselves are void or defective in not having accorded the respondents due process; and whether or not the Secretary of Education had in truth committed "human rights violations involving civil and political rights," are matters which may be passed upon and determined through a motion for reconsideration addressed to the Secretary Education himself, and in the event of an adverse verdict, may be reviewed by the Civil Service Commission and eventually the Supreme Court.