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DIRECTOR OF LANDS vs.

COURT OF APPEALS FACTS: The petitioners Director of Lands and the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources entered into a contract with the private respondent B.A. Gon ale Surveyin! "ompany for which the latter was #ound to e$ecute a pu#lic land su#division mappin! %&lsm' of the aliena#le and disposa#le lands in the (unicipality of )alderama* Anti+ue in consideration of the amount of &,-.*-,-.//. The private respondent was li0ewise contracted #y the petitioners to do the photo1cadastral mappin! %&cadm' of &ro2ect &"AD(134.1D in Numancia* A0lan* for the sum of &,./*///.//. . 5owever* despite written demands from the Bureau of Lands to the private respondent to commence the Numancia* A0lan &cadm pro2ect* the latter failed to do so6 conse+uently* the former cancelled the contract with re!ard to the said pro2ect and declared the performance #ond as forfeited. 7n a motion for reconsideration filed #y the private respondent* the Director of Lands reinstated the said contract without however !rantin! the company8s re+uest for a price ad2ustment* which denial the private respondent seasona#ly appealed to the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources. This appeal is pendin!. The Director of Lands li0ewise scrapped the )alderama &lsm contract #ecause of the non1completion of the pro2ect despite the !rant of repeated e$tensions totallin! ,*9// days. Similarly* the private respondent appealed the cancellation of the said contract to the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources* where the appeal also still remains pendin!. (eanwhile* without #oth appeals #ein! resolved* the Director of Lands conducted a pu#lic #iddin! for the cadastral survey of several municipalities includin! the (unicipality of Numancia* A0lan and the (unicipality of )alderama* Anti+ue. :n the said #iddin!* Armando )illamayor and "ristina (atuod were declared as the successful #idders for the Numancia and )alderama pro2ects* respectively. Thereupon* the private respondent filed a petition for prohi#ition and mandamus with a prayer for a temporary restrainin! order with the "ourt of Appeals alle!in! that the Director of Lands acted without or in e$cess of 2urisdiction in awardin! the said cadastral survey pro2ects to other persons while the appeals of the private respondent remain pendin!. "ourt of Appeals !ranted the said petition and denied in a resolution the petitioners8 motion for reconsideration. 5ence* this petition. ISSUE: ;hether or not the respondent court erred in holdin! that the Director of Lands acted without or in e$cess of his 2urisdiction or with !rave a#use of discretion in allowin! the award of the cadastral survey pro2ects to new contractors involvin! lands su#2ect to prior mappin! pro2ects with another contractor %the private respondent' whose contracts are involved in a pendin! appeal to the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources. HELD: The petition is impressed with merit. The +uestion on the necessity of either or #oth pro2ects must #e #etter addressed to the sound discretion of the proper administrative officials who admittedly have the competence and technical e$pertise on the matters. :n the case at #ar* the petitioner Director of Lands is <the official vested with direct and e$ecutive control of the disposition of the lands of the pu#lic domain.< Specifically* Section 3 of "ommonwealth Act No. ,3, provides that . . . =T>he Director of Lands shall have direct e$ecutive control of the survey* classification* lease* sale* or any form of concession or disposition and mana!ement of the pu#lic domain* and his decisions as to +uestions of fact shall #e conclusive when approved #y the Secretary of A!riculture and "ommerce %now the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources'.< Supreme "ourt li0ewise ta0e co!ni ance of the wealth of 2urisprudence on this doctrine of primary administrative 2urisdiction and e$haustion of administrative remedies. The "ourt has consistently held that <acts of an administrative a!ency must not casually #e over1turned #y a court* and a court should as a rule

not su#stitute its 2ud!ment for that of the administrative a!ency actin! within the parameters of its own competence*< unless <there #e a clear showin! of ar#itrary action or palpa#le and serious error.< :n similar vein* "ourt reiterated recently the rule that the findin!s of fact of +uasi12udicial a!encies which have ac+uired e$pertise #ecause their 2urisdiction is confined to specific matters* in the present case cadastral surveys and mappin!s and land re!istration* are accorded not only respect #ut more often than not even finality. 7n the other hand* the private respondent claims that his case is an e$ception and invo0es Leon!son vs. "ourt of Appeals which states that <once the actuation of an administrative official or administrative #oard or a!ency is tainted #y a failure to a#ide #y the command of the law* then* it is incum#ent on the court8s of 2ustice to set matters ri!ht* with the Tri#unal havin! the last say on the matter.< But ironically* it is precisely the <command of the law< that the Director of Lands sou!ht to implement when the respondent court en2oined the former from pushin! throu!h with the award of the cadastral survey pro2ects. ;e have +uoted earlier the provisions of Section 3 of "ommonwealth Act No. ,3, =The &u#lic Land Law>* which e$plicitly empower and command the Director of Lands to have the direct e$ecutive control of the survey and classification* inter alia* of lands of the pu#lic domain. (oreover* in the same law* in Section ? thereof* <=T>he Director of Lands* with the approval of the Secretary of A!riculture and "ommerce shall prepare and issue such forms* instructions* rules* and re!ulations consistent with this Act* as may #e necessary and proper to carry into effect the provisions thereof and for the conduct of proceedin!s arisin! under such provisions.< Aside from these <command%s' of the law< !ivin! to the Director of Lands the <direct e$ecutive control< of the su#2ect matter of the controversy in this case* the Land Re!istration "ommission %LR"' re+uires in its "irculars the full and complete technical description of lands prior to their re!istration. The said re+uirement can only #e accomplished throu!h the conduct of a re!ular cadastral survey which* as aforesaid* is under the direct e$ecutive control of the Director of Lands. But even !rantin! ar!uendo that the &lsm and &cadm pro2ects on the one hand* and the cadastral survey on the other* are similar activities* there is no le!al #ar for the private respondent* assumin! that the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources resolves the appeals in its favor* to finish the mappin! pro2ects and then demand the correspondin! remuneration from the Director of Lands. :n the same way* compensation would #e due to the winnin! #idders in +uestion once their own cadastral survey pro2ects would have #een accomplished. :n case the Director of Lands fails to pay upon fulfillment of the said contracts* then any contractor may validly resort to 2udicial action to enforce its le!itimate demands. (eanwhile* the proper remedy of the private respondent would #e to pursue promptly its appeals with the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources as re!ards its cancelled and +uestioned contracts rather than see0 2udicial imprimatur to its improper interference with administrative prero!atives and thus provide a convenient cover1up for its #reaches of its own contractual o#li!ations. Notwithstandin! the private respondent8s du#ious attitude in not participatin! in the #iddin! in +uestion* he could have also appealed the conduct of the said #iddin! to the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources as was the case in his &lsm and &cadm contracts with the !overnment and asserted therein that the same would #e pre2udicial to his interests. :n sum* the respondent court committed a reversi#le error in stoppin! the implementation of the results of the #iddin! for the cadastral survey pro2ects conducted #y the Director of Lands. The said in2unction issued #y the respondent court constitutes a violation of the doctrine of primary administrative 2urisdiction and defeats the very purpose thereof* which is* <not only to !ive the administrative a!ency the opportunity to decide the controversy #y itself correctly* #ut also to prevent unnecessary and premature resort to the courts.< The petition is !ranted and the in2unction issued is here#y lifted6 the Decision of the "ourt of Appeals dated April .* ,4-@* as well as its Resolution dated Au!ust 9@* ,4-@* is here#y annulled and set aside.