Sunday, September 25, 2011

Does the CHR have jurisdiction to issue a writ of injunction or restraining order against supposed violators of human rights, to compel them to cease and desist from continuing the acts complained of?

In "Hon. Isidro Cariño, et al. vs. Commission on Human Rights, et al.," G.R. No. 96681, December 2, 1991, we held that the CHR is not a court of justice nor even a quasi-judicial body.

"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.

"xxx xxx xxx.

"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 a strike 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 were the particular acts done by each individual teacher and what sanctions, if any, may properly be imposed for said acts or omissions." (pp. 5 & 8.)

The constitutional provision directing the CHR to "provide for preventive measures and legal aid services to the underprivileged whose human rights have been violated or need protection" may not be construed to confer jurisdiction on the Commission to issue a restraining order or writ of injunction for, if that were the intention, the Constitution would have expressly said so. "Jurisdiction is conferred only by the Constitution or by law (Oroso, Jr. vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos. 76828-32, 28 January 1991; Bacalso vs. Ramolete, G.R. No. L-22488, 26 October 1967, 21 SCRA 519). It is never derived by implication, (Garcia, et al. vs. De Jesus, et al., G.R. No. 88158; Tobon Uy vs. Commission on Election, et al., G.R. Nos. 97108-09. March 4, 1992.)

Evidently, the "preventive measures and legal aid services" mentioned in the Constitution refer to extrajudicial and judicial remedies (including a preliminary writ of injunction) which the CHR may seek from the proper courts on behalf of the victims of human rights violations. Not being a court of justice, the CHR itself has no jurisdiction to issue the writ, for a writ of preliminary injunction may only be issued "by the judge of any court in which the action is pending [within his district], or by a Justice of the Court of Appeals, or of the Supreme Court. It may also be granted by the judge of a Court of First Instance [now Regional Trial Court] in any action pending in an inferior court within his district." (Sec. 2. Rule 58, Rules of Court). A writ of preliminary injunction is an ancillary remedy. It is available only in a pending principal action, for the preservation or protection of the rights and interests of a party thereto, and for no other purpose.

[ G.R. No. 101476, April 14, 1992 ]

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