Due process in administrative proceedings

toni-umaliVERY recently, in my capacity as presiding officer of an investigative committee hearing on a case involving a third-level official in the Department of Education (DepEd), I was confronted with the question as to what are the requirements of due process in administrative proceedings. Specifically, is a “court-type” hearing required?

Section 1, Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that “(n)o person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the law.” The first rights guaranteed in our Bill of Rights are the rights to due process and equal protection of the law.

The question actually posited is about procedural due process in administrative proceedings. Procedural due process, as distinguished from substantive due process, is all about “procedural fairness.” As the great American statesman and Sen. Daniel Webster describes due process, it is a “law which hears before it condemns.”

Procedural due process in judicial proceedings should be distinguished from procedural due process in administrative proceedings. In the landmark case of  Banco Espanol Filipino v Palanca, 31 Phil. 921, 934 (1918), the Supreme Court enumerated the following essential requirements of procedural fairness in judicial proceedings: “(1) There must be a court or tribunal clothed with judicial power to hear and determine the matter before it; (2) jurisdiction must be lawfully acquired over the person of the defendant or over the property which is the subject of the proceedings; (3) the defendant must be given the opportunity to be heard; and (4) judgment must be rendered upon lawful hearing.”

However, there are also cases which are decided not by courts but by administrative agencies (like the DepEd). I still remember how our Constitutional Law professor Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ, explained this concept of procedural due process when I was in law school. Thus, while such administrative agencies are not always bound by the strict requirements of judicial due process as mentioned above and spelled out in more detail in the Revised Rules of Court (or other relevant laws passed by Congress), they are still required to respect the due process clause of our Constitution. The landmark case of Ang Tibay v Court of Industrial Relations, 69 Phil. 635 (1940), enumerated the following “cardinal primary requirements” of procedural due process in administrative proceedings: “(1) The right to a hearing, which includes the right to present one’s case and submit evidence in support thereof; (2) The tribunal must consider the evidence presented; (3) The decision must have something to support itself; (4) The evidence must be substantial. Substantial evidence means such reasonable evidence as a reasonable mind accept as adequate to support a conclusion; (5) The decision must be based on the evidence presented at the hearing, or at least contained in the record and disclosed to the parties affected; (6) The tribunal or body or any of its judges must act on its own independent consideration of the law and facts of the controversy, and not simply accept the views of a subordinate; (7) The Board or body should, in all controversial questions, render its decision in such manner that the parties to the proceeding can know the various issues involved, and the reason for the decision rendered.”

If we simplify what these two leading cases are actually saying, we could see that procedural due process, whether judicial or administrative, is all about “notice and an opportunity to be heard.”

The answer now to the specific question asked of me, as to whether a “court-type” hearing is necessary, was already answered by the Supreme Court in several cases, one of which is Ledesma v Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 166780, December 27, 2007, 541 SCRA 44 .

“Opportunity to be heard” in relation to due process in administrative proceedings, does not always require a “trial-type proceeding.” Thus, in the leading case of Ledesma v Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court ruled that “(d)ue process, as a constitutional precept, does not always and in all situations require a trial-type proceeding. Due process is satisfied when a person is notified of the charge against him and given an opportunity to explain or defend himself. In administrative proceedings, the filing of charges and giving reasonable opportunity for the person so charged to answer the accusations against him constitute the minimum requirements of due process. The essence of due process is simply to be heard, or as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain one’s side, or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of.”

 

For any comment or suggestion regarding this article or any education-related concern, please feel free to write the Office of Assistant Secretary Toni Umali, Legal and Legislative Affairs, DepEd Complex, Meralco Avenue, Pasig City or e-mail me at [email protected]

 

Lawyer Toni Umali is the current assistant secretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs of the DepEd. He is licensed to practice law not only in the Philippines, but also in the state of California and some federal courts in the United States after passing the California State Bar Examinations in 2004. He has served as a legal consultant to several legislators and local chief executives. As education assistant secretary, he was instrumental in the passage of the K to 12 law and the issuance of its implementing rules and regulations. He is also the alternate spokesman of the DepEd.

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Lawyer Toni Umali is the current assistant secretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs of the Department of Education (DepEd). He is licensed to practice law not only in the Philippines but also in the State of California and some Federal Courts in the United States of America after passing the California State Bar Examinations in 2004.