Zambales Chromite Mining et al vs Court of Appeals

GR No. L-49711 – 94 SCRA 261 – Political Law – Due Process – Administrative Due Process – Impartiality

ZCM filed an administrative case before the Director of Mines Gozon to have them be declared the rightful and prior locators and possessors of 69 mining claims in Sta. Cruz, Zambales. They are asserting their claim against the group of Martinez and Pabilona. Gozon decided in favor of Martinez et al. ZCM appealed the case before the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. During pendency, Gozon was assigned as the Sec of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He did not inhibit himself from deciding on the appeal but he instead affirmed his earlier decision when he was still the director of mines. ZCM then appealed before the CFI of Zambales. The CFI affirmed the decision of Gozon. It held that the disqualification of a judge to review his own decision or ruling (Sec. 1, Rule 137, Rules of Court) does not apply to administrative bodies; that there is no provision in the Mining Law, disqualifying the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources from deciding an appeal from a case which he had decided as Director of Mines; that delicadeza is not a ground for disqualification; that the ZCM did not seasonably seek to disqualify Gozon from deciding their appeal, and that there was no evidence that Gozon acted arbitrarily and with bias, prejudice, animosity or hostility to ZCM. ZCM appealed the case to the CA. The CA reversed Gozon’s finding and declared that ZCM had the rights earlier attributed to Martinez et al by Gozon. Martinez et al appealed averring that the factual basis found by Gozon as Director of Mines be given due weight. The CA reconsidered after realizing that Gozon cannot affirm his own decision and the CA remanded the case to the Minister of Natural Resources. Now both parties appealed urging their own contentions; ZCM wants the CA’s earlier decision to be reaffirmed while Martinez et al demanded that Gozon’s finding be reinstated. The CA denied both petition.

ISSUE: Whether or not Gozon can validly affirm his earlier decision w/o disturbing due process.

HELD: No. The SC annulled the decision of Gozon calling it as a mockery of justice. Gozon had acted with grave abuse of discretion. In order that the review of the decision of a subordinate officer might not turn out to be a farce, the reviewing officer must perforce be other than the officer whose decision is under review; otherwise, there could be no different view or there would be no real review of the case. The decision of the reviewing officer would be a biased view; inevitably, it would be the same view since being human, he would not admit that he was mistaken in his first view of the case. The SC affirmed the 2nd decision of the CA.

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