478 Phil. 922
The role of the telecommunications industry in Philippine progress and development cannot be understated. Time was when the industry was dominated by a few -- an oligarchy of sorts where the elite made the decisions and serfdom had no choice but acquiesce. Sensing the need to abrogate their dominion, the government formulated policies in order to create an environment conducive to the entry of new players. Thus, in October 1990, the National Telecommunications Development Plan 1991-2010 (NTDP) was formulated and came into being. Designed by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the NTDP provides for the framework of government policies, objectives and strategies that will guide the industry’s development for the next 20 years. As expected, with it came the increase in the demand for telecommunications services, especially in the area of local exchange carrier service (LECS).
Concomitantly, the DOTC issued guidelines for the rationalization of local exchange telecommunications service. In particular, the DOTC issued on September 30, 1991, Department Circular No. 91-260, with the purpose of minimizing or eliminating situations wherein multiple operators provide local exchange service in a given area. Pursuant thereto, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) was tasked to define the boundaries of local exchange areas and authorize only one franchised local exchange carrier to provide local exchange service within such areas.
Thereafter, on July 12, 1993, then President Fidel V. Ramos issued Executive Order No. 109 entitled Local Exchange Carrier Service. Section 2 thereof provides that all existing International Gateway Facility (IGF) operators
are required to provide local exchange carrier services in unserved and underserved areas, including Metro Manila, thereby promoting universal access to basic telecommunications service.
The NTC promulgated Memorandum Circular No. 11-9-93 on September 17, 1993 implementing the objectives of E.O. No. 109.
Section 3 of the Circular mandates existing IGF operators to file a petition for the issuance of Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) to install, operate and maintain local exchange carrier services within two years from effectivity thereof. Section 4 further requires IGF operators to provide a minimum of 300 local exchange lines per one international switch termination and a minimum of 300,000 local exchange lines within three years from grant of authority.
To cap the government’s efforts, Republic Act No. 7925, otherwise known as the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines, was enacted on March 23, 1995. With regard to local exchange service, Section 10 thereof mandates an international carrier to comply with its obligation to provide local exchange service in unserved or underserved areas within three years from the grant of authority as required by existing regulations. On September 25, 1995, the NTC issued the Implementing Rules and Regulations for R.A. No. 7925 per its NTC MC No. 8-9-95.
Taking advantage of the opportunities brought about by the passage of these laws, several IGF operators applied for CPCN to install, operate and maintain local exchange carrier services in certain areas. Respondent International Communication Corporation, now known as Bayan Telecommunications Corporation or Bayantel,
applied for and was given by the NTC a Provisional Authority (PA)
on March 3, 1995, to install, operate and provide local exchange service in Quezon City, Malabon and Valenzuela, Metro Manila, and the entire Bicol region. Meanwhile, petitioner Telecommunications Technologies Philippines, Inc. (TTPI), as an affiliate of petitioner Eastern Telecommunications Philippines, Inc. (ETPI), was granted by the NTC a PA on September 25, 1996, to install, operate and maintain a local exchange service in the Provinces of Batanes, Cagayan Valley, Isabela, Kalinga-Apayao, Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao, Quirino, the cities of Manila and Caloocan, and the Municipality of Navotas, Metro Manila.
It appears, however, that before TTPI was able to fully accomplish its rollout obligation, ICC applied for and was given a PA by the NTC on November 10, 1997, to install, operate and maintain a local exchange service in Manila and Navotas,
two areas which were already covered by TTPI under its PA dated September 25, 1996.
Aggrieved, petitioners filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals with application for a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 46047, arguing that the NTC committed grave abuse of discretion in granting a provisional authority to respondent ICC to operate in areas already assigned to TTPI.
On April 30, 1998, the Court of Appeals dismissed
the petition for review on the ground that the NTC did not commit any grave abuse of discretion in granting the PA to TTPI. It sustained the NTC’s finding that ICC is “legally and financially competent and its network plan technically feasible.” The Court of Appeals also ruled that there was no violation of the equal protection clause because the PA granted to ICC and TTPI were given under different situations and there is no point of comparison between the two.
Hence, the present petition for review on certiorari
, raising the following issues:
Whether or not the Honorable Court of Appeals committed a serious error of law in upholding the Order of the NTC granting a PA to Respondent to operate LEC services in Manila and Navotas which are areas already assigned to petitioner TTPI under a prior and subsisting PA.
Whether or not Petitioner is entitled to a Writ of Preliminary Injunction to restrain Respondent from installing LEC services in the areas granted to it by the Order under review.
In support thereof, petitioners posit the following arguments:
- The assignment to ICC of areas already allocated to TTPI violates the Service Area Scheme (SAS), which is the guidepost of the laws and issuances governing local exchange service;
- ICC did not make any showing that an existing operator, TTPI in this case, failed to comply with the service performance and technical standards prescribed by the NTC, and that the area is underserved, as required under Section 23 of MC No. 11-9-93;
- The facts and figures cited by the NTC, i.e., ICC’s alleged remarkable performance in fulfilling its rollout obligation and the growth rate in the installation of telephone lines in Manila and Navotas, do not justify the grant of the PA in favor of ICC, nor are they supported by the evidence on record as these were not presented during the proceedings before the NTC;
- ICC did not comply with the requirement of “prior consultation” with the NTC before it filed its application, in violation of Sections 3 and 3.1 of MC 11-9-93;
- ICC did not comply with Section 27 of MC 11-9-93 requiring that an escrow deposit be made equivalent to 20% and a performance bond equivalent to 10% of the investment required for the first two years of the project;
- ICC is not financially and technically capable of undertaking the project;
- The grant of a PA in favor of ICC to operate in areas covered by TTPI will render it difficult for the latter to cross-subsidize its operations in less profitable areas covered by it and will threaten its viability to continue as a local exchange operator.
After a review of the records of this case, the Court finds no grave abuse of discretion committed by the Court of Appeals in sustaining the NTC’s grant of provisional authority to ICC.
The power of the NTC to grant a provisional authority has long been settled. As the regulatory agency of the national government with jurisdiction over all telecommunications entities, it is clothed with authority and given ample discretion to grant a provisional permit or authority.
It also has the authority to issue Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for the installation, operation, and maintenance of communications facilities and services, radio communications systems, telephone and telegraph systems, including the authority to determine the areas of operations of applicants for telecommunications services.
In this regard, the NTC is clothed with sufficient discretion to act on matters solely within its competence.
In granting ICC the PA to operate a local exchange carrier service in the Manila and Navotas areas, the NTC took into consideration ICC’s financial and technical resources and found them to be adequate. The NTC also noted ICC’s performance in complying with its rollout obligations under the previous PA granted to it, thus:
With the proven track record of herein applicant as one of the pacesetters in carrying out its landlines commitment in its assigned areas, applicant can best respond to public demand for faster installation of telephone lines in Manila and Navotas.
The grant of this application is, therefore, a fitting recognition that should be accorded to any deserving applicant, such as herein applicant ICC whose remarkable performance in terms of public service as mandated by Executive Order 109 and Republic Act No. 7925 has persuaded this Commission to affix the stamp of its approval.
The Court will not interfere with these findings of the NTC, as these are matters that are addressed to its sound discretion, being the government agency entrusted with the regulation of activities coming under its special and technical forte.
Moreover, the exercise of administrative discretion is a policy decision and a matter that can best be discharged by the government agency concerned, and not by the courts.
Petitioner insists compliance with the service area scheme (SAS) mandated by DOTC Dept. Circular No. 91-260, to wit:
- The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) shall define the boundaries of local exchange areas, and shall henceforth authorize only one franchised Local Exchange Carrier (LEC) to provide LEC service within such areas.
The Court is not persuaded. Said department circular was issued by the DOTC in 1991, before the advent of E.O. No. 109 and R.A. No. 7925. When E.O. No. 109 was promulgated in 1993, and R.A. No. 7925 enacted in 1995, the service area scheme was noticeably omitted therefrom. Instead, E.O. No. 109 and R.A. No. 7925 adopted a policy of healthy competition among the local exchange carrier service providers.
The need to formulate new policies is dictated by evolving goals and demands in telecommunications services. Thus, E.O. No. 109 acknowledges that there is a “need to promulgate new policy directives to meet the targets of Government through the National Telecommunications Development Plan (NTDP) of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), specifically: (1) to ensure the orderly development of the telecommunications sector through the provision of service to all areas of the country; (2) to satisfy the unserviced demand for telephones; and (3) to provide healthy competition among authorized service providers.” Likewise, one of the national policies and objectives of R.A. No. 7925 is to foster the improvement and expansion of telecommunications services in the country through a healthy competitive environment, in which telecommunications carriers are free to make business decisions and to interact with one another in providing telecommunications services, with the end in view of encouraging their financial viability while maintaining affordable rates.
Recently, in Pilipino Telephone Corporation vs. NTC
the Court had occasion to rule on a case akin to the present dispute, involving the same respondent ICC, and the Pilipino Telephone Corporation (Piltel). In the Piltel
case, ICC applied for a provisional authority to operate a local exchange service in areas already covered by Piltel, which includes Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Sur, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato and Saranggani. Piltel opposed ICC’s application but the NTC denied it, and granted ICC’s application. The Court of Appeals dismissed Piltel’s petition for review, and on certiorari
before this Court, we affirmed the dismissal. The Court found that the NTC did not commit any grave abuse of discretion when it granted the ICC a provisional authority to operate in areas covered by Piltel. We held:
We will not disturb the factual findings of the NTC on the technical and financial capability of the ICC to undertake the proposed project. We generally accord great weight and even finality to factual findings of administrative bodies such as the NTC, if substantial evidence supports the findings as in this case. The exception to this rule is when the administrative agency arbitrarily disregarded evidence before it or misapprehended evidence to such an extent as to compel a contrary conclusion had it properly appreciated the evidence. PILTEL gravely failed to show that this exception applies to the instant case. Moreover, the exercise of administrative discretion, such as the issuance of a PA, is a policy decision and a matter that the NTC can best discharge, not the courts.
PILTEL contends that the NTC violated Section 23 of NTC Memorandum Circular No. 11-9-93, otherwise known as the “Implementing Guidelines on the Provisions of EO 109” which states:
Section 23. No other company or entity shall be authorized to provide local exchange service in areas where the LECs comply with the relevant provisions of MTC MC No. 10-17-90 and NTC MC No. 10-16-90 and that the local exchange service area is not underserved. (Emphasis supplied)Section 23 of EO 109 does not categorically state that the issuance of a PA is exclusive to any telecommunications company. Neither Congress nor the NTC can grant an exclusive “franchise, certificate, or any other form of authorization” to operate a public utility. In Republic v. Express Telecommunications Co., the Court held that “the Constitution is quite emphatic that the operation of a public utility shall not be exclusive.” Section 11, Article XII of the Constitution provides:
Sec. 11. No franchise, certificate, or any other form of authorization for the operation of a public utility shall be granted except to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations or associations organized under the laws of the Philippines at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens, nor shall such franchise, certificate or authorization be exclusive in character or for a longer period than fifty years. Neither shall any such franchise or right be granted except under the condition that it shall be subject to amendment, alteration, or repeal by the Congress when the common good so requires. xxx (Emphasis supplied)Thus, in Radio Communications of the Philippines, Inc. v. National Telecommunications Commission, the Court ruled that the “Constitution mandates that a franchise cannot be exclusive in nature.”
. . .
Among the declared national policies in Republic Act No. 7925, otherwise known as the “Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines,” is the healthy competition among telecommunications carriers, to wit:
Obviously, “the need for a healthy competitive environment in telecommunications is sufficient impetus for the NTC to consider all those applicants, who are willing to offer competition, develop the market and provide the environment necessary for greater public service.”
Furthermore, “free competition in the industry may also provide the answer to a much-desired improvement in the quality and delivery of this type of public utility, to improved technology, fast and handy mobil[e] service, and reduced user dissatisfaction.”
PILTEL’s contention that the NTC Order amounts to a confiscation of property without due process of law is untenable. “Confiscation” means the seizure of private property by the government without compensation to the owner. A franchise to operate a public utility is not an exclusive private property of the franchisee. Under the Constitution, no franchisee can demand or acquire exclusivity in the operation of a public utility. Thus, a franchisee of a public utility cannot complain of seizure or taking of property because of the issuance of another franchise to a competitor. Every franchise, certificate or authority to operate a public utility is, by constitutional mandate, non-exclusive. PILTEL cannot complain of a taking of an exclusive right that it does not own and which no franchisee can ever own.
Likewise, PILTEL’s argument that the NTC Order violates PILTEL’s rights as a prior operator has no merit. The Court resolved a similar question in Republic v. Republic Telephone Company, Inc. In striking down Retelco’s claim that it had a right to be protected in its investment as a franchise-holder and prior operator of a telephone service in Malolos, Bulacan, the Court held:
RETELCO’s foremost argument is that “such operations and maintenance of the telephone system and solicitation of subscribers by [petitioners] constituted an unfair and ruinous competition to the detriment of [RETELCO which] is a grantee of both municipal and legislative franchises for the purpose.” In effect, RETELCO pleads for protection from the courts on the assumption that its franchises vested in it an exclusive right as prior operator. There is no clear showing by RETELCO, however, that its franchises are of an exclusive character. xxx At any rate, it may very well be pointed out as well that neither did the franchise of PLDT at the time of the controversy confer exclusive rights upon PLDT in the operation of a telephone system. In fact, we have made it a matter of judicial notice that all legislative franchises for the operation of a telephone system contain the following provision:
“It is expressly provided that in the event the Philippine Government should desire to maintain and operate for itself the system and enterprise herein authorized, the grantee shall surrender his franchise and will turn over to the Government said system and all serviceable equipment therein, at cost, less reasonable depreciation.”
Similarly in this case, the grant of a PA to ICC to operate in areas covered by TTPI is not tainted with any grave abuse of discretion as it was issued by the NTC after taking into account ICC’s technical and financial capabilities, and in keeping with the policy of healthy competition fostered by E.O. No. 109 and R.A. No. 7925.
In addition, Section 6 of R.A. No. 7925 specifically limits the DOTC from exercising any power that will tend to influence or effect a review or a modification of the NTC’s quasi-judicial functions, to wit:
Section 6. Responsibilities of and Limitations to Department Powers. -- The Department of Transportation and Communications (Department) shall not exercise any power which will tend to influence or effect a review or a modification of the Commission’s quasi-judicial function.
The power of the NTC in granting or denying a provisional authority to operate a local exchange carrier service is a quasi-judicial function,
a sphere in which the DOTC cannot intrude upon. If at all, the service area scheme provided in DOTC Dept. Circular No. 91-260 is only one of the factors, but should not in any way, tie down the NTC in its determination of the propriety of a grant of a provisional authority to a qualified applicant for local exchange service.
True, NTC MC No. 11-9-93 requires prior consultation with the NTC of the proposed service areas. As petitioners themselves argue, prior consultation allows the NTC to assess the impact of the proposed application on the viability of the local exchange operator in the area desired by the would-be applicant and on the viability of the entire telecommunications industry as well as rationalize the plans to minimize any adverse impact.
In this case, prior consultation was substantially complied with and its purpose accomplished, when ICC filed its application and the NTC was given the opportunity to assess ICC’s viability to render local exchange service in the Manila and Navotas areas, and its impact on the telecommunications industry.
It is also true that NTC MC No. 8-9-95 allows a duly enfranchised entity to maintain a local exchange network if it is shown that an existing authorized local exchange operator fails to satisfy the demand for local exchange service.
In this case, the NTC noted the increasing rate in the demand for local lines within the Manila and Navotas areas, and in order for these areas to catch up with its neighboring cities, installation of lines must be sped up.
This, in fact, is tantamount to a finding that the existing local exchange operator failed to meet the growing demand for local lines.
ICC’s technical and financial capabilities, as well as the growth rate in the number of lines in particular areas, are matters within NTC’s competence and should be accorded respect. The NTC is given wide latitude in the evaluation of evidence and in the exercise of its adjudicative functions, and this includes the authority to take judicial notice of facts within its special competence.
TTPI anticipates that allowing ICC to enter its service areas will make it difficult for it to cross-subsidize its operations in the less profitable areas. Such argument, however, is futile. The cross-subsidy approach is apparently the government’s response to the foreseen situation wherein given its policy of universal access, a local exchange provider will find itself operating in areas where the demand and the public’s capacity to subscribe will be lesser than in other areas, making these areas more of a liability than an asset. Thus, Section 4 of E.O. No. 109 provides:
|SEC. 4.|| ||Cross-Subsidy. Until universal access to basic telecommunications is achieved, and such service is priced to reflect actual costs, local exchange service shall continue to be cross-subsidized by other telecommunications services within the same company.|
Meanwhile, NTC MC No. 8-9-95 provides:
|(a)|| ||Until the local exchange service is priced reflecting actual costs, the local exchange service shall be cross-subsidized by other telecommunications services.|
| || ||…|
|(c)|| ||The subsidy need by the LE service operator to earn a rate of return at parity with other segments of telecommunications industry shall be charged against the international and domestic toll and CMTS interconnect services.|
Both issuances allow a local exchange operator to cross-subsidize its operations from its other telecommunications services, and not solely on the revenues derived from the operator’s local exchange service.
Notably, R.A. No. 7617, as amended by R.A. No. 7674, grants TTPI the legislative franchise to install, operate and maintain telecommunications systems throughout the Philippines but not limited to the operations of local exchange service or public switched network, public-calling stations, inter-exchange carrier or national toll transmission, value-added or enhanced services intelligent networks, mobile or personal communications services, international gateway facility, and paging services, among others.
From these services, TTPI has other sources of revenue from which it may cross-subsidize its local exchange operations.
The Court, however, agrees with petitioners that the NTC erred when it failed to require ICC to make an escrow deposit and a performance bond. Section 27 of NTC MC No. 11-9-93 specifically provides:
|SEC. 27.|| ||Authorized public telecommunications carriers shall be required to deposit in escrow in a reputable bank 20% of the investment required for the first two years of the implementation of the proposed project.|
In addition to escrow, the authorized public telecommunications carriers shall be required to post a performance bond equivalent to 10% of the investment required for the first two years of the approved project but not to exceed P500 Million. The performance bond shall be forfeited in favor of the government in the event that the authorized PTC fail to comply with the terms and conditions of the authority granted. (Emphases Ours)
The escrow deposit and the posting of a performance bond are required in each proposed and approved project of a local exchange operator. Project refers to a planned undertaking.
ICC’s project for local exchange service in the Manila and Navotas areas is separate and distinct from its projects in other areas; hence, the NTC should have directed ICC to submit such requirements. Evidently, the escrow deposit is required to ensure that there is available money on hand to defray ICC’s expenditures for its project, while the performance bond will answer for the faithful compliance and performance of ICC’s rollout obligation and to compensate the government for any damages incurred in case of ICC’s default. Without these, the government will be left holding an “empty bag” in the event ICC reneges in its rollout obligation.
Section 27 of NTC MC No. 11-9-93 is silent as to whether the posting of an escrow deposit and performance bond is a condition sine qua non
for the grant of a provisional authority. While the provision uses the term “shall,” said directive pertains to the NTC, which shall require the public telecommunications carrier to make such deposit and posting. In any event, records show that as of May 20, 2004, ICC has been granted an extension of its provisional authority up to November 10, 2006.
Records also show that ICC has already been providing local exchange carrier service in the areas concerned, having installed 16,000 lines in the City of Manila, 12,000 of which have already been subscribed, 624 lines in Caloocan City, all of which have been subscribed, while the roll-out plan for facilities and provisioning in the City of Navotas is being finalized.
Hence, so as not to disrupt ICC’s rollout plan compliance, it would be more judicious for the Court to merely require ICC to comply with Section 27 of NTC MC No. 11-9-93, within such period to be determined by the NTC.
Furthermore, it is well to stress that petitioner TTPI cannot claim any exclusive right to render telecommunications service in areas which the NTC considers to be in need of additional providers. R.A. No. 7925 is quite emphatic on this score, viz
SEC. 23. Equality of Treatment in the Telecommunications Industry. — Any advantage, favor, privilege, exemption, or immunity granted under existing franchises, or may hereafter be granted, shall ipso facto become part of previously granted telecommunications franchises and shall be accorded immediately and unconditionally to the grantees of such franchises: Provided, however, That the foregoing shall neither apply to nor affect provisions of telecommunications franchises concerning territory covered by the franchise, the life span of the franchise, or the type of service authorized by the franchise. (Emphasis Ours)
More than anything else, public service should be the primordial objective of local exchange operators. The entry of another provider in areas covered by TTPI should pose as a challenge for it to improve its quality of service. Ultimately, it will be the public that will benefit. As pointed out in Republic of the Phils. vs. Rep. Telephone Co, Inc
Free competition in the industry may also provide the answer to a much-desired improvement in the quality and delivery of this type of public utility, to improved technology, fast and handy mobil service, and reduced user dissatisfaction. After all, neither PLDT nor any other public utility has a constitutional right to a monopoly position in view of the Constitutional proscription that no franchise certificate or authorization shall be exclusive in character or shall last longer than fifty (50) years (ibid., Section 11; Article XIV, Section 5, 1973 Constitution; Article XIV, Section 8, 1935 Constitution).WHEREFORE
, the petition for review on certiorari
is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The Order of the National Telecommunications Commission dated November 10, 1997 in NTC Case No. 96-195 is AFFIRMED with the following modifications:
Respondent International Communication Corporation, in accordance with Section 27 of NTC MC No. 11-9-93, is required to:
- Deposit in escrow in a reputable bank 20% of the investment required for the first two years of the implementation of the proposed project; and
- Post a performance bond equivalent to 10% of the investment required for the first two years of the approved project but not to exceed P500 Million.
within such period to be determined by the National Telecommunications Commission.
No pronouncement as to costs.SO ORDERED.Puno, (Chairman), Callejo, Sr., Tinga,
and Chico-Nazario, JJ.,
Under E.O. No. 109, Section 1 (c), Local Exchange Carrier Service refers to a telecommunications service, primarily but is not limited to voice-to-voice service, within a contiguous geographic area furnished to individual subscribers under a common local exchange rate schedule.
An International Gateway Facility (IGF) Operator is a public telecommunications carrier providing IGF services consisting of international transmissions, switching and network management facilities which serve as point of entry and exit in the Philippines of international traffic between the national network and point/s outside the Philippines, per NTC MC No. 9-7-93, re: Guidelines on the Interconnection of Public Telecommunications Carriers.
Entitled “Guidelines on the Policy to Improve Local Exchange Carrier Service.”
Republic vs. Express Telecommunication Co., Inc. (Extelcom), G.R. Nos. 147210 & 147096, January 15, 2002, 373 SCRA 316.
Defined in NTC MC No. 8-9-95, as an authority for a limited period, granted to a qualified applicant to operate and maintain a public telecommunications facility/service by the Commission, pending the grant of the CPCN.
Docketed as NTC Case No. 96-195.
Penned by Justice Ruben T. Reyes and concurred in by Justices Quirino D. Abad Santos, Jr. and Eloy R. Bello, Jr.
CA Rollo, pp. 161-171.
Rollo, p. 28. Id
., pp. 29-60.
PLDT vs. NTC, G.R. No. 88404, October 18, 1990, 190 SCRA 717, 726.
Extelcom case, supra
., Note 4, p. 334. Id
., p. 342.
Rollo, pp. 164-165; NTC Order dated November 10, 1997, pp. 9-10.
Extelcom case, supra
., Note 4, p. 346. Ibid
Section 4 (f), Article II, Rep. Act No. 7925.
G.R. No. 138295, August 28, 2003. Ibid
Sañado vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108338, April 17, 2001, 356 SCRA 546, 558; citing De Leon, Administrative Law: Text and Cases, 1993 ed., pp. 143-144.
Rollo, p. 44; Petition, p. 36, citing the Dissenting Opinion of Commissioner Kintanar in NTC Order dated 28 October 1997, NTC Case No. 94-229.
Provision on Local Exchange (LE) Services, (d).
Rollo, p. 164; NTC Order dated November 10, 1997, p. 9.
Extelcom case, supra
., Note 4, p. 347.
CMTS stands for Cellular Mobile Telephone System.
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, 1981 Ed.
NTC Records, Volume 3.
G.R. No. 64888, November 28, 1996, 265 SCRA 1, 13, citing PLDT vs. NTC, 190 SCRA 717 (1990).