Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Vda. de Tan vs. Veterans Backpay Commission [G.R. No. L-12944. March 30, 1959]

Facts: Maria Natividad vda. de Tan is the widow of Tan Chiat Bee alias Lian Lay who died in the service April 4, 1945 in the battle at Ipo Dam, Rizal Province, Philippines. He was duly recognized as a guerrilla veteran and certified by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. 

Natividad filed an application for back pay under the provisions Republic Act No. 897. Although initially the VBC allowed aliens to recover backpay, it revoked its previous stands and ruled that aliens are not entitled to back pay. 

Issues:
(1) Whether or not a petition for mandamus is proper to correct the acts of the commission. 

(2) Whether or not it is necessary in the case at bar that Natividad should have exhausted all administrative remedies, i.e. before the president. 

Held: 
(1) Yes. The discretion of the Veterans Backpay Commission is limited to the facts of the case; that is, in evaluating the evidence whether or not claimant is a member of a guerrilla force duly recognized by the United States Army. It has no power to adjudicate or determine rights after such facts are established. Having been satisfied that the deceased was an officer or a guerrilla outfit duly recognized by the United States Army and forming part of the Philippine Army, it becomes the ministerial duty of the Commission to give due course to his widow's application. For this reason, mandamus lies against the Commission. 

(2) No. The respondent Commission is in estoppel to invoke the rule on the exhaustion of administrative remedies, considering that in its resolution, it declared that the opinions of the Secretary of Justice were "advisory in nature, which may either be accepted or ignored by the office seeking the opinion, and any aggrieved party has the court for recourse", thereby leading the petitioner to conclude that only a final judicial ruling in her favor would be accepted by the Commission.

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