AGAN, JR., vs. PHILIPPINE INTERNATIONAL AIR TERMINALS CO., INC. – G.R. No. 155001, May 5, 2003

Facts:
Sometime in 1993, six business leaders consisting of John Gokongwei, Andrew Gotianun, Henry Sy, Sr., Lucio Tan, George Ty and Alfonso Yuchengco met with then President Fidel V. Ramos to explore the possibility of investing in the construction and operation of a new international airport terminal. To signify their commitment to pursue the project, they formed the Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corp. (AEDC) which was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on September 15, 1993.

On October 5, 1994, AEDC submitted an unsolicited proposal to the Government through the DOTC/MIAA for the development of NAIA International Passenger Terminal III (NAIA IPT III) under a build-operate-and-transfer arrangement pursuant to RA 6957 as amended by RA 7718 (BOT Law).1

On December 2, 1994, the DOTC issued an order constituting the Prequalification Bids and Awards Committee for the implementation of the NAIA Terminal 3 Project.

On March 27, 1995, then DOTC Secretary Jose Garcia endorsed the proposal of AEDC to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). A revised proposal, however, was forwarded by the DOTC to NEDA on December 13, 1995. On January 5, 1996, the NEDA Investment Coordinating Council (NEDA ICC) – Technical Board favorably endorsed the project to the ICC – Cabinet Committee which approved the same, subject to certain conditions, on January 19, 1996. On February 13, 1996, the NEDA passed Board Resolution No. 2 which approved the NAIA IPT III project.

On September 20, 1996, the consortium composed of People’s Air Cargo and Warehousing Co., Inc. (Paircargo), Phil. Air and Grounds Services, Inc. (PAGS) and Security Bank Corp. (Security Bank) (collectively, Paircargo Consortium) submitted their competitive proposal to the PBAC. On September 23, 1996, the PBAC opened the first envelope containing the prequalification documents of the Paircargo Consortium. On the following day, September 24, 1996, the PBAC prequalified the Paircargo Consortium.

On September 26, 1996, AEDC informed the PBAC in writing of its reservations as regards the Paircargo Consortium, questioning its qualification.

On October 16, 1996, the PBAC opened the third envelope submitted by AEDC and the Paircargo Consortium containing their respective financial proposals. Both proponents offered to build the NAIA Passenger Terminal III for at least $350 million at no cost to the government and to pay the government: 5% share in gross revenues for the first five years of operation, 7.5% share in gross revenues for the next ten years of operation, and 10% share in gross revenues for the last ten years of operation, in accordance with the Bid Documents. However, in addition to the foregoing, AEDC offered to pay the government a total of P135 million as guaranteed payment for 27 years while Paircargo Consortium offered to pay the government a total of P17.75 billion for the same period.

Thus, the PBAC formally informed AEDC that it had accepted the price proposal submitted by the Paircargo Consortium, and gave AEDC 30 working days or until November 28, 1996 within which to match the said bid, otherwise, the project would be awarded to Paircargo.

As AEDC failed to match the proposal within the 30-day period, then DOTC Secretary Amado Lagdameo, on December 11, 1996, issued a notice to Paircargo Consortium regarding AEDC’s failure to match the proposal.
On April 16, 1997, AEDC filed with the Regional Trial Court of Pasig a Petition for Declaration of Nullity of the Proceedings, Mandamus and Injunction against the Secretary of the DOTC, the Chairman of the PBAC, the voting members of the PBAC and Pantaleon D. Alvarez, in his capacity as Chairman of the PBAC Technical Committee.
On July 9, 1997, the DOTC issued the notice of award for the project to PIATCO.
Multiple cases were filed to the Supreme Court praying for the injunction of the said contact and declaring that the award to PIATCO was null and void.

Respondent PIATCO further alleges that this Court is without jurisdiction to review the instant cases as factual issues are involved which this Court is ill-equipped to resolve. Moreover, PIATCO alleges that submission of this controversy to this Court at the first instance is a violation of the rule on hierarchy of courts. They contend that trial courts have concurrent jurisdiction with this Court with respect to a special civil action for prohibition and hence, following the rule on hierarchy of courts, resort must first be had before the trial courts.

Issue:
Whether the Supreme Court is without jurisdiction to review the instant case for violation of the Rule of hierarchy of Courts.

Held:
No, in the view of the Supreme Court, the crux of the instant controversy involves significant legal questions. The facts necessary to resolve these legal questions are well established and, hence, need not be determined by a trial court.

The rule on hierarchy of courts will not also prevent this Court from assuming jurisdiction over the cases at bar. The said rule may be relaxed when the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts or where exceptional and compelling circumstances justify availment of a remedy within and calling for the exercise of this Court’s primary jurisdiction.

It is easy to discern that exceptional circumstances exist in the cases at bar that call for the relaxation of the rule. Both petitioners and respondents agree that these cases are of transcendental importance as they involve the construction and operation of the country’s premier international airport. Moreover, the crucial issues submitted for resolution are of first impression and they entail the proper legal interpretation of key provisions of the Constitution, the BOT Law and its Implementing Rules and Regulations. Thus, considering the nature of the controversy before the Court, procedural bars may be lowered to give way for the speedy disposition of the instant cases.

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