Ministerial

I first encountered the word “ministerial” in law school. Its usage might not be as popular as other legal terms or concepts but it is an important one. This concept is applicable mostly to courts and public officials and the conflict or issue usually is on the question of whether a particular act is a ministerial duty of the official or one that involves his discretion or judgment.

In the cases of Mateo vs. CA and Mallari vs. Banco Filipino, the Supreme Court defined and demonstrated the concept of “ministerial act”.

In Mateo, the petitioners failed to file their appeal within the period allowed by law. Claiming that their non-filing of their appeal was due to excusable negligence, they filed their notice of appeal before the RTC that rendered the decision which denied the same. The petitioners elevated their case before the Supreme Court on a Petition for Mandamus on their contention that the duty of the RTC judge to grant a notice to appeal is purely a ministerial act. On that premise, the judge’s denial of the petitioner’s appeal is not justified.

Central to the resolution of the issue is the determination of whether the grant of a notice of appeal by a judge is purely ministerial and if he refuses, he may be compelled through mandamus. The Supreme Court denied the petition and said: “As regards the denial of the Petition for Relief from Judgment, there is no question that the same involved the exercise of discretion by the trial court and therefore, the granting thereof can not be compelled by mandamus.” (G.R. 83354, April 25, 1991) Since the act of granting or denying a notice of appeal involves the exercise of discretion, it is not ministerial and the judge cannot be compelled to grant it. “Ministerial duty is one which is so clear and specific as to leave no room for the exercise of discretion in its performance. On the other hand, a discretionary duty is that which by its nature requires the exercise of judgment. A purely ministerial act or duty is one in which an officer or tribunal performs in a given state of facts, in a prescribed manner, in obedience to the mandate of legal authority, without regard to or the exercise of his own judgment, upon the propriety of the act done. But if the law imposes a duty upon a public officer and gives him the right to decide how or when the duty shall be performed, such duty is discretionary and not ministerial. The duty is ministerial only when the discharge of the same requires neither the exercise of official discretion nor judgment. . . .”

In Mallari, a writ of possession was granted by the trial court in favor of the the Mortgagee, Banco Filipino after the mortgagors failed to redeem the foreclosed property. The very issue here is whether the grant of the writ of possession to the respondents is a ministerial act by the court. The Supreme Court said that the lower court’s action of granting the writ was correct and is supported by law and jurisprudence. To be very clear on the matter, the SC said: “The issuance of a writ of possession to a purchaser in a public auction is a ministerial act. After the consolidation of title in the buyer’s name for failure of the mortgagor to redeem the property, the writ of possession becomes a matter of right. Its issuance to a purchaser in an extrajudicial foreclosure sale is merely a ministerial function. The trial court has no discretion on this matter.” (G. R. 157660, August 29, 2008) The mortgagee is entitled to a writ of possession and the court can have no other action other than grant the same and cannot exercise any discretion.

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