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132 SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Carale vs. Abarintos

*
G.R. No. 120704. March 3, 1997.

HON. BARTOLOME C. CARALE, Chairman, National


Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), HON. IRENEA A.
CENIZA, Presiding Commissioner, Fourth Division, NLRC,
and HON. REYNOSO A. BELARMINO, Executive Labor
Arbiter, Regional Arbitration Branch, Region VII,
petitioners, vs. HON. PAMPIO A. ABARINTOS, Presiding
Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 22, Cebu City, and
FERDINAND V. PONTEJOS, respondents.

Actions; Administrative Law; Exhaustion of Administrative


Remedies; Non-exhaustion of administrative remedies is not
jurisdictional—it only renders the action premature, i.e., the
claimed cause of action is not ripe for judicial determination and
for that reason a party has no cause of action to ventilate in court.
—The motions to dismiss separately filed in the trial court by
petitioners Carale and Presiding Commissioner Ceniza were
principally anchored on lack of jurisdiction due to the failure of
Pontejos to exhaust administrative remedies. Obviously, the
petitioners failed to appreciate that nonexhaustion of
administrative remedies is not jurisdictional. It only renders the
action premature, i.e., claimed cause of action is not ripe for
judicial determination and for that reason a party has no cause of
action to ventilate in court. Their motions to dismiss must then be
understood to be based on: (a) lack of jurisdiction; and (b) lack of
cause of action for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
Same; Same; Same; The underlying principle of the rule on
exhaustion of administrative remedies rests on the presumption
that the administrative agency, if afforded a complete chance to
pass upon the matter, will decide the same correctly.—Observance
of the mandate regarding exhaustion of administrative remedies
is a sound practice and policy. It ensures an orderly procedure
which favors a preliminary sifting process, particularly with
respect to matters peculiarly within the competence of the
administrative agency, avoidance of interference with functions of
the administrative agency by withholding judicial action until the
administrative process had run its course, and prevention of
attempts to swamp the courts by a resort to them in the first
instance. The underlying principle of the rule

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* THIRD DIVISION.

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Carale vs. Abarintos

rests on the presumption that the administrative agency, if


afforded a complete chance to pass upon the matter, will decide
the same correctly. There are both legal and practical reasons for
this principle. The administrative process is intended to provide
less expensive and more speedy solutions to disputes. Where the
enabling statute indicates a procedure for administrative review,
and provides a system of administrative appeal, or
reconsideration, 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 an opportunity to act and
correct the errors committed in the administrative forum.
Same; Same; Same; Pleadings and Practice; The party with
an administrative remedy must not merely initiate the prescribed
administrative procedure to obtain relief but also pursue it to its
appropriate conclusion before seeking judicial intervention.—
Accordingly, the party with an administrative remedy must not
merely initiate the prescribed administrative procedure to obtain
relief, but also pursue it to its appropriate conclusion before
seeking judicial intervention in order to give the administrative
agency an opportunity to decide the matter by itself correctly and
prevent unnecessary and premature resort to the court.
Same; Same; Same; Exceptions to the Rule on Exhaustion of
Administrative Remedies.—Nothing in the complaint in Civil Case
No. CEB-16671 convinces us that Pontejos ever thought of
pursuing the available administrative remedies. Neither do we
find sufficient basis for his invocation of the exception to the rule
on exhaustion of administrative remedies. What he offered were
nothing but vague and general averments that could best qualify
as motherhood statements. Further, they were unsupported by
allegations of fact or law which would prima facie bring his case
within any of the accepted exceptions to the rule, namely: (1)
where the question is purely legal, (2) where judicial intervention
is urgent, (3) when its application may cause great and
irreparable damage, (4) where the controverted acts violate due
process, (5) failure of a high government official from whom relief
is sought to act on the matter, and (6) when the issue of non-
exhaustion of administrative remedies has been rendered moot.

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Same; Injunction; A judge commits grave abuse of discretion


when he grants an application for a writ of preliminary injunction
without any notice of hearing.—We do not likewise hesitate to rule

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Carale vs. Abarintos

that the respondent Judge committed grave abuse of discretion


when he granted the application for a writ of preliminary
injunction without any notice of hearing. The rule on preliminary
injunction plainly provides that it cannot be granted without
notice to the defendant.

SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION in the Supreme Court.


Certiorari.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.


     The Solicitor General for petitioners.
          Sinajon, Teleron, Esparagoza, Padilla and Uy for
private respondent.

DAVIDE, JR., J.:

Did respondent Judge Pampio A. Abarintos commit grave


abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction when he: (1) denied the petitioners’ motions to
dismiss the complaint filed by respondent Ferdinand V.
Pontejos (hereinafter PONTEJOS) to declare null and void
an Administrative Order of petitioner Carale, as Chairman
of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC)
(hereinafter CARALE), detailing Pontejos to the Fourth
Division of the NLRC in Cebu City; and the motion to
reconsider the order of denial; and then (2) granted the
application for a writ of preliminary injunction?
This is the key issue raised in this petition.
The relevant factual antecedents summarized in the
petition are as follows:

9. Private respondent Pontejos was issued an original and


permanent appointment dated January 10, 1989 as “Labor and
Employment Development Officer (RAB VII)” in the National
Labor Relations Commission with a salary of P36,864.00 per
annum under Title No. 211-10 of the Appropriations Act R.A.
6642. In 1992, the aforesaid position was reclassified as “Labor
Arbitration Associate” with compensation of P99,000.00 per
annum or rank at salary grade 22, retroactive to June 30, 1989.
Private respondent holds this position up to the present . . . .

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10. On 03 October 1994, petitioner Chairman of the NLRC, issued


Administrative Order No. 10-03 series of 1994,
detailing/reassigning private respondent to the NLRC, Fourth
Division, Cebu City, effective October 17, 1994. Said Order reads:

ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER NO. 10-03


(Series of 1994)

In the interest of the service, Mr. Ferdinand Pontejos, Labor


Arbitration Branch No. VII, is hereby detailed to the Fourth
Division, Cebu City, effective October 17, 1994, until further
orders from the undersigned.
Mr. Pontejos is directed to wind up his pending work and
thereafter report to the Presiding Commissioner Irene E. Ceniza
for instruction regarding his new assignment.
Manila, October 3, 1994.

(SGD) BARTOLOME S. CARALE


Chairman

11. Similar personnel actions, prior to and after


Pontejos’ reassignment to NLRC, Cebu City, were
also effected by petitioner Carale pursuant to his
exercise of administrative authority and
supervision over all NLRC officials and employees .
...
12. On 24 October 1994, private respondent filed a
complaint before the Regional Trial Court of Cebu
City against herein petitioners for Illegal Transfer
Tantamount To Removal Without Cause In Gross
Violation Of The Security Of Tenure Afforded
Under The Constitution And In Utter Disregard Of
The Civil Service Rules and Regulations, Republic
Act 6715, with Prayer For The Issuance Of A Writ
Of Preliminary Injunction and/or Preliminary
Mandatory Injunction With Damages. The case was
docketed as Civil Case No. CEB-16671 . . . .
13. Motions to dismiss dated November 8, 1994 and
November 15, 1994, were respectively filed by
petitioner Ceniza and Carale, arguing that it is the
Civil Service Commission which has exclusive
jurisdiction over any question concerning personnel
movement . . . .
14. A Supplemental Motion to Dismiss dated November
21, 1994 was filed by petitioner Belarmino arguing
that the questioned administrative order is in the
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nature of a detail and the civil service employee


who is not satisfied with or aggrieved by such detail
may appeal the matter before the Civil Service
Commission . . . .

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Carale vs. Abarintos

15. On December 20, 1994, respondent judge issued the


first questioned order denying petitioners’ Motions
to Dismiss holding that alleged non-exhaustion of
administrative remedies before “where the
surrounding circumstances of the matter before this
Court indicate an urgency of judicial intervention” .
...
16. In the same Order, respondent judge also granted
the prayer for preliminary injunction restraining
petitioners from implementing the transfer order . .
..
17. A motion for reconsideration dated January 9, 1995
was filed by petitioner Belarmino which was denied
in the second questioned order dated February 7,
1995 . . . .
18. On 06 March 1995, Jeoffrey S. Joaquino, Clerk of
Court VII, pursuant to respondent judge’s order
dated December 20, 1994, issued a writ of
injunction enjoining herein petitioners from unduly
interfering with and/or obstructing private
respondent Pontejos’ lawful discharge of his duties
and functions as such Labor Arbitration Associate,
until further orders from respondent judge. The
writ of injunction was received
1
by petitioner Carale
on March 21, 1995 . . . .

Pontejos’ complaint in Civil Case No. CEB-16671 suggested


that the uncordial relationship between himself, as
president of the Unified Employees Union of the NLRC,
RAB VII, and Chairman of the NLRC-RAB-VII Multi-
Purpose Cooperative, and petitioners Presiding
Commissioner Ceniza and Executive Labor Arbiter
Belarmino, against whom the petitioner had earlier filed a
petition for certiorari with this Court and a complaint for
harassment and intimidation, respectively, had something
to do with his detail to the Fourth Division of the NLRC.
Pontejos alleged that as there was no position of Labor
Arbitration Associate in that Division, the detail order “was
maliciously resorted to as a scheme to lure [him] away from
his permanent position,” thereby violating his security of
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tenure; and described it as “an act of vindictiveness”


against him and was “patently illegal, malicious, arbitrary
and an exercise
2
of grave abuse of discretion in excess of
jurisdiction.”

_______________

1 Rollo, 6-9.
2 Id., 53-55.

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Carale vs. Abarintos

To justify his direct resort to the court, Pontejos alleged


that “[t]here is no other available and speedy remedy in
order to protect [his] interest than to resort to this
Honorable Court; that the urgency of judicial intervention
is an exception
3
to the rule of exhaustion of administrative
remedies, not to mention the fact that the 4
administrative
act in question is patently illegal.” To support his
application for a writ of “preliminary injunction and/or
restraining [order],” Pontejos alleged that:

11. [He] is entitled to the relief demanded and the


whole or part of such relief consists in
RESTRAINING OR PREVENTING the defendants,
their agents and all persons acting for or in their
behalf, from enforcing and implementing the
questioned Administrative Order No. 10-03, Series
of 1994;
12. The commission of the continuance of the acts
complained of during the litigation or the non-
performance thereof, could probably work grave
injustice to the plaintiff . . . so that the defendants .
. . must be enjoined by a restraining order from
implementing and/or enforcing the . . . questioned
Administrative Order;
13. [He] is willing to post a bond executed to he
defendants enjoined, in an amount to be fixed by
the court, to the effect that [he] will pay to such
party all damages which they [sic] may sustain by
reason of the injunction if the court should finally
5
decide that the plaintiff is not entitled thereto.

Pontejos further asserted that the petitioners had acted


with “gross and evident bad faith,” and by their conduct,
“have violated all forms of good human conduct and
dealings and did not exhibit any degree of good faith,
honesty and propriety,” as a consequence of which he “has
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suffered mental anxiety, sleepless nights, wounded feelings


and moral shock”; and had “displayed” “anti-social” acts
and conduct, “contrary to the tenents [sic] enunciated in
the Preliminary Title in Human relations found in Articles
19 and 20 of the Civil Code of the Philippines.” On account
thereof, he prayed for the

_______________

3 Citing Aquino v. Luntok, 184 SCRA 177 [1990].


4 Citing Silliman University v. Benarao, 182 SCRA 573 [1990]; Rollo,
56.
5 Id., 56-57.

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Carale vs. Abarintos

award of P100,000.00 as moral damages; P50,000.00 as


exemplary damages; P30,000.00 6
as attorney’s fees; and
P5,000.00 as litigation expenses.
In the challenged order of 20 December 1994, the trial
court, in dismissing the petitioners’ motions to dismiss,
ruled that the only effect of non-compliance with the rule
on exhaustion of administrative remedies “is that it will
deprive the complainant of a cause of action”; it does not
affect the jurisdiction of the court. Since “the factual
allegations of the complaint satisfactorily meet” the test of
sufficiency of the complaint insofar as cause of action is
concerned, the complaint was not dismissible.
In the challenged resolution of 7 February 1995 denying
the petitioners’ motion to reconsider the order of 20
December 1994, the trial court further held that the case
before it fell within one of the exceptions to the rule on
exhaustion of administrative remedies, namely, where the
question to be settled “is whether the controverted act of
respondent Commissioner 7 Carale was performed with
grave abuse of discretion.” In this special civil action for
certiorari, the petitioners assert that:

RESPONDENT JUDGE HAS NO JURISDICTION TO REVIEW


THE VALIDITY OF THE TRANSFER ORDER ISSUED BY
PETITIONER CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL LABOR
RELATIONS COMMISSION SINCE THE CONTROVERSY IS
WITHIN THE ORIGINAL AND EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION
OF THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.

II

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THE RESPONDENT JUDGE HAS NO JURISDICTION TO


TAKE COGNIZANCE OF THE COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST
PETI-

_______________

6 Rollo, 57-58.
7 Id., 30.

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Carale vs. Abarintos

TIONERS AS IT CONSTITUTES A SUIT AGAINST THE STATE


WITHOUT ITS CONSENT.

III

THE PETITIONERS WERE NOT REPRESENTED IN THE


TRIAL COURT BY THEIR STATUTORY COUNSEL, THE
OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL, HENCE THE
PROCEEDINGS HAD THEREIN IS A NULLITY.

As to the first ground, the petitioners maintain that being a


permanent civil service employee, Pontejos is subject to
civil service laws and regulations pursuant to Subsection
1(1), Section 8-B, Article IX-A of the Constitution. His
grievance concerning Carale’s administrative order
detailing him to the Fourth Division of the NLRC should
have been raised in an appropriate complaint before the
Merit Systems and Protection Board (MSPB) created under
P.D. No. 1409, whose functions, pursuant to Civil Service
Commission (CSC) Resolution No. 93-2387, have been
transferred directly to the CSC itself. The petitioners
further claim that there is no factual or legal basis
indicative of the urgency of judicial intervention to justify
the trial court’s assumption of jurisdiction over this case
and to order the issuance of the questioned writ of
preliminary injunction.
Anent the second ground, the petitioners, citing
Veterans8 Manpower and Protective Service, Inc. v. Court of
Appeals, submit that Pontejos’ complaint, which asked for
a writ of injunction and damages, is in effect a suit against
the State without its consent, hence, the petitioners, who
are all public officials, are immune from such suit.
In support of the third ground, the petitioners alleged
that all throughout the proceedings before the trial court,
the petitioners were not represented “by their statutory
counsel, the Solicitor General,” whose authority is
mandated under P.D. No. 478, “the magna carta of the
Office of the Solicitor Gen-

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8 214 SCRA 287 [1992].

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Carale vs. Abarintos

9
eral (OSG).” Consequently, the questioned orders and the
writ of preliminary injunction were invalid.
In the 26 July 1995 resolution, we required the
respondents to comment on the petition and issued a
temporary restraining order, effective as of the said date,
which enjoined the respondents from enforcing the orders
of 20 December 1994 and 7 February 1995 issued in Civil
Case No. CEB-16671.
We resolved to give due course to the petition and
required the parties to submit their respective memoranda.
However, only Pontejos complied, the Office of the Solicitor
General failing to despite two extensions of time. We
denied on 20 November 1996 its third motion for extension
of time to file its Memorandum.
We find merit in the petition, but not necessarily on
strength of the grounds raised.
The primary issue in this special civil action, as stated
in the opening paragraph of this ponencia, is whether the
respondent Judge acted with grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack of jurisdiction when he denied the
motions to dismiss and the motion for reconsideration, and
granted the application for a writ of preliminary injunction
to enjoin

_______________

9 Section 8 thereof provides:

Section 1. Functions and Organization.—(1) The Office of the Solicitor General


shall represent the Government of the Philippines, its agencies and
instrumentalities and its officials and agents in any litigation, proceeding,
investigation or matter requiring the services of a lawyer. When authorized by the
President or head of the office concerned, it shall also represent government owned
or controlled corporations. The Office of the Solicitor General shall constitute the
law office of the Government and, as such, shall discharge duties requiring the
service of a lawyer.
xxx
The same powers and functions are provided in Section 35, Chapter 12, Title
III, Book IV of the Administrative of 1987.

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Carale vs. Abarintos

the petitioners from implementing or enforcing Carale’s


Administrative Order 10-03, Series of 1994.

The motions to dismiss separately filed in the trial court by


petitioners Carale and Presiding Commissioner Ceniza
were principally anchored on lack of jurisdiction due to the
failure of Pontejos to exhaust administrative remedies.
Obviously, the petitioners failed to appreciate that non-
exhaustion of administrative remedies is not jurisdictional.
It only renders the action premature, i.e., claimed cause of
action is not ripe for judicial determination and for that 10
reason a party has no cause of action to ventilate in court.
Their motions to dismiss must then be understood to be
based on: (a) lack of jurisdiction; and (b) lack of cause of
action for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
Observance of the mandate regarding exhaustion of
administrative remedies is a sound practice and policy. It
ensures an orderly procedure which favors a preliminary
sifting process, particularly with respect to matters
peculiarly within the competence of the administrative
agency, avoidance of interference with functions of the
administrative agency by withholding judicial action until
the administrative process had run its course, and
prevention of attempts to 11swamp the courts by a resort to
them in the first instance. The underlying principle of the
rule rests on the presumption that the administrative
agency, if afforded a complete chance 12to pass upon the
matter, will decide the same correctly. There are both
legal and practical reasons for this principle. The
administrative process is intended to provide less
expensive and more speedy solutions to disputes. Where
the enabling statute

_______________

10 Pestanas v. Dyogi, 81 SCRA 574, 581 [1978]; Aboitiz & Co. v.


Collector of Customs, 83 SCRA 265, 272 [1978]; Abe-abe v. Manta, 90
SCRA 524, 531 [1979].
11 Antonio v. Tanco, 65 SCRA 448, 454 [1975]; Abe-abe v. Manta, supra
note 10, at 532.
12 De los Santos v. Limbaga, 4 SCRA 224, 226 [1962].

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indicates a procedure for administrative review, and


provides a system of administrative appeal, or
reconsideration, 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 an opportunity to
act and13 correct the errors committed in the administrative
forum.
Accordingly, the party with an administrative remedy
must not merely initiate the prescribed administrative
procedure to obtain relief, but also pursue it to its
appropriate conclusion before seeking judicial intervention
in order to give the administrative agency an opportunity
to decide the matter by itself correctly and 14
prevent
unnecessary and premature resort to the court.
In the instant case, Pontejos did not attempt to seek
administrative relief, which was both available and
sufficient. Initially, he could have asked for reconsideration
of the detail order, failing which, he could have gone
directly to the CSC, through the MSPB, which is
empowered to:

(2) Hear and decide cases brought before it by offices and


employees who feel aggrieved by the determination of appointing
authorities involving . . . transfer, detail, reassignment and other
personnel actions, as well as complaints against any officers in
the government arising from personnel15actions of these officers or
from violations of the merit system. . . .

_______________

13 IRENE R. CORTES, Philippine Administrative Law, Cases and


Materials [Rev. 2nd Ed., 1984] 394; Teotico v. Agda, 197 SCRA 675, 693
[1991].
14 Cruz v. Del Rosario, 9 SCRA 755, 758 [1963]; Ledesma v. Opinion, 14
SCRA 973, 976 [1965]; Manuel v. Jimenez, 17 SCRA 55, 57 [1996].
15 Section 5, P.D. No. 1409. Personnel action is an action denoting the
movement or progress of personnel in the civil service and includes
appointment through certification, re-employment, detail, reassignment,
demotion and separation (Section 26, Chapter 5, Subtitle A, Title I, Book
V, E.O. No. 292 [Administrative Code of 1987]).

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Carale vs. Abarintos

Nothing in the complaint in Civil Case No. CEB-16671


convinces us that Pontejos ever thought of pursuing the
available administrative remedies. Neither do we find
sufficient basis for his invocation of the exception to the

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rule on exhaustion of administrative remedies. What he


offered were nothing but vague and general averments that
could best qualify as motherhood statements. Further, they
were unsupported by allegations of fact or law which would
prima facie bring his case within any of the accepted
exceptions to the rule, namely: (1) where the question is
purely legal, (2) where judicial intervention is urgent, (3)
when its application may cause great and irreparable
damage, (4) where the controverted acts violate due
process, (5) failure of a high government official from whom
relief is sought to act on the matter, and (6) when the issue
of non-exhaustion16
of administrative remedies has been
rendered moot.

II

We do not likewise hesitate to rule that the respondent


Judge committed grave abuse of discretion when he
granted the application for a writ of preliminary injunction
without any notice of hearing. The rule on preliminary
injunction plainly provides that it cannot be granted
without notice to the defendant. Section 5, Rule 58 of the
Rules of Court states, in part, as follows:

SEC. 5. Preliminary injunction not granted without notice.—No


preliminary injunction shall be granted without notice to the
defendant. If it shall appear from the facts shown by affidavits or
by verified complaint that great or irreparable injury would result
to the applicant before the matter could be heard on notice, the
judge to whom the application for preliminary injunction was
made, may issue a restraining order to be effective only for a
period of twenty days from date of issuance. Within the said
twenty-day period, the judge must cause an order to be served on
the defendant, requiring

_______________

16 See SEVERIANO S. TABIOS, Annotation on Failure to Exhaust


Administrative Remedies as a Ground for Motion To Dismiss, 165 SCRA 352, 357-
362 [1988].

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Carale vs. Abarintos

him to show cause, at a specified time and place, why the


injunction should not be granted, and determine within the same
period whether or not the preliminary injunction shall be granted
and shall accordingly issue the corresponding order. . . . (italics
supplied for emphasis)

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WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The


assailed orders of 20 December 1994 and 7 February 1995
in Civil Case No. CEB-16671 of Branch 22 of the Regional
Trial Court of Cebu City, entitled “Ferdinand V. Pontejos v.
Hon. Bartolome C. Carale, et al.,” are hereby ANNULLED
and SET ASIDE and respondent Judge Pampio A.
Abarintos is hereby directed to forthwith issue an order
DISMISSING the said case.
SO ORDERED.

          Narvasa (C.J., Chairman), Melo, Francisco and


Panganiban, JJ., concur.

Petition granted.

Notes.—An application with Bureau of Patents,


Trademarks and Technology Transfer for an
administrative cancellation of a registered trade mark
cannot per se have the effect of restraining or preventing
the courts from the exercise of their lawfully conferred
jurisdiction. (Conrad and Company, Inc. vs. Court of
Appeals, 246 SCRA 69 [1995])
The doctrine of primary jurisdiction does not warrant a
court to arrogate unto itself authority to resolve a
controversy the jurisdiction over which is initially lodged
with an administrative body of special competence.
(Machete vs. Court of Appeals, 250 SCRA 176 [1995])
Although as a rule, administrative remedies must first
be exhausted before resort to judicial action can prosper,
there is a well-settled exception in cases where the
controversy does not involve question of fact but only of
law. (Ty vs. Trampe, 250 SCRA 500 [1995])

——o0o——

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