Among the settled principles in administrative law is that before a party can be allowed to resort to the courts, he is expected to have exhausted all means of administrative redress available under the law. The courts for reasons of law, comity and convenience will not entertain a case unless the available administrative remedies have been resorted to and the appropriate authorities have been given opportunity to act and correct the errors committed in the administrative forum. However, the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies is subject to settled exceptions, among which is when only a question of law is involved
"matters of public concern,"
In his comment respondent raises procedural objections to the issuance of a writ of mandamus, among which is that petitioners have failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Respondent claims that actions of the GSIS General Manager are reviewable by the Board of Trustees of the GSIS. Petitioners, however, did not seek relief from the GSIS Board of Trustees. It is therefore asserted that since administrative remedies were not exhausted, then petitioners have no cause of action.
The issue raised by petitioners, which requires the interpretation of the scope of the constitutional right to information, is one which can be passed upon by the regular courts more competently than the GSIS or its Board of Trustees, involving as it does a purely legal question. Thus, the exception of this case from the application of the general rule on exhaustion of administrative remedies is warranted.
issue of whether or not mandamus hes to compel respondent to perform the acts sought by petitioners to be done, in pursuance of their right to information.
Yet, like all the constitutional guarantees, the right to information is not absolute. As stated in Legaspi, the people's right to information is limited to "matters of public concern," and is further "subject to such limitations as may be provided by law." Similarly, the State's policy of full disclosure is limited to "transactions involving public interest," and is "subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law."
it is for the courts to determine on a case by case basis whether the matter at issue is of interest or importance, as it relates to or affects the public.
The GSIS is a trustee of contributions from the government and its employees and the administrator of various insurance programs for the benefit of the latter. Undeniably, its funds assume a public character.
Considering the nature of its funds, the GSIS is expected to manage its resources with utmost prudence and in strict compliance with the pertinent laws or rules and regulations. Thus, one of the reasons that prompted the revision of the old GSIS law (C.A. No. 186, as amended) was the necessity "to preserve at all times the actuarial solvency of the funds administered by the System" [Second Whereas Clause, P.D. No. 1146.] Consequently, as respondent himself admits, the GSIS "is not supposed to grant 'clean loans.
he supposed borrowers were Members of the defunct Batasang Pambansa who themselves appropriated funds for the GSIS and were therefore expected to be the first to see to it that the GSIS performed its tasks with the greatest degree of fidelity and that an its transactions were above board.
the public nature of the loanable funds of the GSIS and the public office held by the alleged borrowers make the information sought clearly a matter of public interest and concern.
respondent has failed to cite any law granting the GSIS the privilege of confidentiality as regards the documents subject of this petition.
position is apparently based merely on considerations of policy.
Apparent from the above-quoted statement of the Court in Morfe is that the right to privacy belongs to the individual in his private capacity, and not to public and governmental agencies like the GSIS. Moreover, the right cannot be invoked by juridical entities like the GSIS.
It may be observed, however, that in the instant case, the concerned borrowers themselves may not succeed if they choose to invoke their right to privacy, considering the public offices they were holding at the time the loans were alleged to have been granted. It cannot be denied that because of the interest they generate and their newsworthiness, public figures, most especially those holding responsible positions in government, enjoy a more limited right to privacy as compared to ordinary individuals, their actions being subject to closer public scrutiny
First of all, the "constituent — ministrant" dichotomy characterizing government function has long been repudiated. In ACCFA v. Confederation of Unions and Government Corporations and Offices (G.R. Nos. L-21484 and L-23605, November 29, 1969, 30 SCRA 6441, the Court said that the government, whether carrying out its sovereign attributes or running some business, discharges the same function of service to the people. Consequently, that the GSIS, in granting the loans, was exercising a proprietary function would not justify the exclusion of the transactions from the coverage and scope of the right to information.
Considering the intent of the framers of the Constitution which, though not binding upon the Court, are nevertheless persuasive, and considering further that government-owned and controlled corporations, whether performing proprietary or governmental functions are accountable to the people, the Court is convinced that transactions entered into by the GSIS, a government-controlled corporation created by special legislation are within the ambit of the people's right to be informed pursuant to the constitutional policy of transparency in government dealings.
petitioners are entitled to access to the documents evidencing loans granted by the GSIS, subject to reasonable regulations
However, the same cannot be said with regard to the first act sought by petitioners, i.e., "to furnish petitioners the list of the names of the Batasang Pambansa members belonging to the UNIDO and PDP-Laban who were able to secure clean loans immediately before the February 7 election thru the intercession/marginal note of the then First Lady Imelda Marcos." Although citizens are afforded the right to information and, pursuant thereto, are entitled to "access to official records," the Constitution does not accord them a right to compel custodians of official records to prepare lists, abstracts, summaries and the like in their desire to acquire information on matters of public concern. It must be stressed that it is essential for a writ of mandamus to issue that the applicant has a well-defined, clear and certain legal right to the thing demanded and that it is the imperative duty of defendant to perform the act required. The corresponding duty of the respondent to perform the required act must be clear and specific [Lemi v. Valencia, G.R. No. L-20768, November 29,1968,126 SCRA 203; Ocampo v. Subido, G.R. No. L-28344, August 27, 1976, 72 SCRA 443.] The request of the petitioners fails to meet this standard, there being no duty on the part of respondent to prepare the list requested.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby granted and respondent General Manager of the Government Service Insurance System is ORDERED to allow petitioners access to documents and records evidencing loans granted to Members of the former Batasang Pambansa, as petitioners may specify, subject to reasonable regulations as to the time and manner of inspection, not incompatible with this decision, as the GSIS may deem necessary.
Glasp is a social web highlighter that people can highlight and organize quotes and thoughts from the web, and access other like-minded people’s learning.