G.R. No. 115381, 23 December 1994, 239 SCRA 386
On June 26, 1990 Secretary of DOTC issued Memorandum Circular No. 90-395 to LTFRB Chairman allowing provincial bus operators to charge passengers rates within a range of 15% above and 15% below the LTFRB official rate for a period of one (1) year.
Fernando respectfully called attention of DOTC Sec. that the Public Service Act requires publication and notice to concerned parties and public hearing.
In Dec. 1990, Provincial Bus Operators Assoc. of the Phils. (PBOAP) filed an application for across the board fare rate increase, which was granted by LTFRB. Private respondent PBOAP, availing itself of the deregulation policy of the DOTC allowing provincial bus operators to collect plus 20% and minus 25% of the prescribed fare without first having filed a petition for the purpose and without the benefit of a public hearing, announced a fare increase of twenty (20%) percent of the existing fares. Said increased fares were to be made effective on March 16, 1994.
On March 16, 1994, petitioner KMU filed a petition before the LTFRB opposing the upward adjustment of bus fares.
LTFRB issued one of the assailed orders dismissing the petition for lack of merit.
Whether or not administrative issuances and orders of the LTFRB and DOT giving public utilities the power to determine rate fare is valid and constitutional
The Legislature delegated to the defunct Public Service Commission the power of fixing the rates of public services. Respondent LTFRB, the existing regulatory body today, is likewise vested with the same under Executive Order No. 202 dated June 19, 1987. Section 5(c) of the said executive order authorizes LTFRB “to determine, prescribe, approve and periodically review and adjust, reasonable fares, rates and other related charges, relative to the operation of public land transportation services provided by motorized vehicles.”
Such delegation of legislative power to an administrative agency is permitted in order to adapt to the increasing complexity of modern life. With this authority, an administrative body and in this case, the LTFRB, may implement broad policies laid down in a statute by “filling in” the details which the Legislature may neither have time or competence to provide. However, nowhere under the aforesaid provisions of law are the regulatory bodies, the PSC and LTFRB alike, authorized to delegate that power to a common carrier, a transport operator, or other public service.
In the case at bench, the authority given by the LTFRB to the provincial bus operators to set a fare range over and above the authorized existing fare, is illegal and invalid as it is tantamount to an undue delegation of legislative authority. Potestas delegata non delegari potest. What has been delegated cannot be delegated. This doctrine is based on the ethical principle that such a delegated power constitutes not only a right but a duty to be performed by the delegate through the instrumentality of his own judgment and not through the intervening mind of another. A further delegation of such power would indeed constitute a negation of the duty in violation of the trust reposed in the delegate mandated to discharge it directly. The policy of allowing the provincial bus operators to change and increase their fares at will would result not only to a chaotic situation but to an anarchic state of affairs. This would leave the riding public at the mercy of transport operators who may increase fares every hour, every day, every month or every year, whenever it pleases them or whenever they deem it “necessary” to do so.
Moreover, rate making or rate fixing is not an easy task. It is a delicate and sensitive government function that requires dexterity of judgment and sound discretion with the settled goal of arriving at a just and reasonable rate acceptable to both the public utility and the public. Several factors, in fact, have to be taken into consideration before a balance could be achieved. A rate should not be confiscatory as would place an operator in a situation where he will continue to operate at a loss. Hence, the rate should enable public utilities to generate revenues sufficient to cover operational costs and provide reasonable return on the investments. On the other hand, a rate which is too high becomes discriminatory. It is contrary to public interest. A rate, therefore, must be reasonable and fair and must be affordable to the end user who will utilize the services.
Given the complexity of the nature of the function of rate-fixing and its far-reaching effects on millions of commuters, government must not relinquish this important function in favor of those who would benefit and profit from the industry. Neither should the requisite notice and hearing be done away with. The people, represented by reputable oppositors, deserve to be given full opportunity to be heard in their opposition to any fare increase.
*Case digest by Em Epsan M. Batoon, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2018-2019