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63 Phil. 804

[ G. R. No. 45110, November 27, 1936 ]




Petitioners file  this  petition for review of a decision of the Public Service Commission of January 30, 1936, dismissing their complaint lodged against the respondent, and denying their motions to restrain the respondent from carrying out its threat of suspending the supply of  electricity to petitioners' respective stalls at the Yangco Market, City of Manila.

Prior to February 1, 1935, the petitioners occupied stalls at the Yangco Market, City of Manila, and Hoc Lian Ho Dry Goods  Club and Melecio Tan had entered into contracts with the respondent whereby the latter undertook to supply electricity to the stalls occupied by petitioners.  Under the contracts the respondent bound itself to supply  electricity to 195 electric  lights  and 30 electric  fans belonging to the first, and to 92 electric lights and 10 electric fans belonging to the  second.   The respondent supplied the electricity up to February 2, 1935,  when it discontinued the supply notwithstanding the fact that the contracts expired on January 31 of the same year.   On December 20, 1934, the respondent was authorized in  case  No. 41800 of the  Public Service Commission to charge a  new rate in  lieu of that approved in 1915 in case No. 703.  Pursuant  to this authority the respondent, on  January 29, 1935, advised Hoc Lian Ho Dry Goods  Club that, beginning February 1st they should pay in accordance with the new rate, and also suggested that the petitioners execute contracts  for the supply of their electric lights and electric fans on the basis of 24 hours instead of 12 hours as formerly agreed upon.  The petitioners did not agree to this, and on February 1st they  filed a  complaint with the commission  against the respondent, alleging that the latter had  infringed the contracts had between them; that it had attempted to apply to them the new  and more prejudicial rate, and that it had threatened to suspend the service and cut off their  supply of electricity.  They  asked that an investigation  be  conducted; that the respondent be required to abide by the conditions of the contracts, and that the said respondent be not permitted to demand that the electric consumption  be on the twenty-four hour  basis. Thereafter the petitioners put in motions asking that the respondent  be  ordered not  to  discontinue the supply of electricity and to follow the contracts then in force.  They alleged that the respondent had threatened them with suspension  of  the  service on their refusal  to  sign  the  new contracts imposing the new rate and providing for service on the twenty-four hour basis.  The respondent answered that the petitioners had no right to the  relief prayed for because the contracts had  already expired on January 31, 1935; that the petitioners had not signed  direct or individual contracts  with  it;  that it was authorized by the commission to charge them pursuant to the new rate; that Hoc Lian Ho Dry Goods Club  and Melecio Tan were  the ones who had signed contracts and supplied  electricity to  the other petitioners, thus turning out to be competitors;  that the respondent was authorized by the commission to grant discounts on accounts for consumption of customers, but the said company and Melecio Tan, taking advantage of the benefit, added the amounts of consumption of all the petitioners and upon the total thereof claimed and obtained the discount, thus depriving the respondent of this benefit; that the respondent  is ready to supply electricity to the petitioners if the latter execute  individual  contracts with it under  the conditions which  it is authorized by the commission to impose, and that the petitioners are not actually deprived of  the  service because Teodoro R. Yangco, owner of the Yangco Market, entered into a contract with the respondent whereby the petitioners avail themselves of the electricity supplied by the respondent.  After  trial, the commission  rendered the appealed  decision and denied the petitioners' motion for reconsideration.

The  petitioners assign the following errors  committed by the Public Service Commission: In denying their motions of February 5  and 22, 1935, asking that the respondent be immediately ordered to supply them  with electricity and to desist from charging the petitioners rates upon the basis of twenty-four hours  a  day instead of twelve hours; in denying their motion for reconsideration of March 13, 1935; in not holding that the respondent's real purpose in not recognizing the personality of  the  petitioners to contract and in alleging that they  are competitors, was  to  compel them illegally  to  accept a service  upon the twenty-four hour basis  and upon  a  higher rate; in  not holding that Exhibits H, H-1 and H-2, representing the contracts for the supply of electricity, were obtained by the defendant through misrepresentation, deceit, and fraud, and in applying said contracts to Hoc Lian Ho Dry Goods Club and Melecio Tan; in taking into account the contract for electric supply which Teodoro R. Yangco had with the respondent  and in  finding that the question involved in the case has become academic in nature; in taking into account the decisions of the Court of First  Instance of Manila in  civil cases Nos. 47713  and 47718, commenced  by Hoc Lian Ho Dry Goods Club  and Melecio Tan, respectively, against the respondent,  and in dismissing their complaint, overruling their petitions,  and denying their motions for reconsideration and new trial.

In deciding the merits of the appeal, it is not necessary to discuss separately petitioners' seven assignment of errors, because they all turn upon the question of whether the petitioners have existing contracts with the respondent, and of whether the commission is  authorized to  pass  on the validity of the  contracts relied upon by the respondent.

The petitioners themselves concede that their contracts with the respondent, on the date when the latter  suspended the supply  of electricity, had already lapsed and expired on January 31, 1935.  Their right is made  to rest on the allegation that their consent was obtained through misrepresentation, deceit  and fraud.  As  a public service operator, the respondent is not bound to supply electricity except to those who have  previously  executed contracts with  it under conditions authorized by the commission. Not having valid contracts at the time the respondent cut off their supply of electricity, the petitioners cannot compel the respondent to continue the service unless they execute contracts with the condition authorized by the commission.  The Public Service Commission is not a judicial tribunal, and  its functions are limited and administrative in nature.   (Filipino Bus Co. vs. Philippine Railway  Co., 57 Phil., 860; Manila Electric Co. vs. Pasay Transportation Co., G. R. No. 37287, 57 Phil., 1016.)  Wherefore, it is without power to pass upon the question raised by the petitioners, to the effect that the contracts for electric supply signed by them were obtained by the respondent through misrepresentation, deceit, and fraud. Such question is within the exclusive province of the ordinary courts of justice.

During the pendency of  the case, the petitioners filed a petition  asking that  case No.  41800 of the Public Service Commission be forwarded  to this court in order to show that the commission, without previous  hearing or notice to the parties, approved the general revised schedule of rates No. 2.  The respondent opposed the petition on the ground, among others, that the opposition filed by the petitioners in said case is still pending.   Moreover, the respondent alleges that the petitioners are not necessarily duty bound to execute contracts with the respondent on the twenty-four hour basis. They could, if they so desire, contract for less.  We find no need to  have case  No. 41800 before us in order to  decide the case at hand.  Petitioners' contention, as will be seen, is untenable for the simple reason  that they have no contracts with the respondent for  the supply of electricity after those previously renewed  had expired.  Wherefore, the petition is hereby denied.

In view of the foregoing,  the appealed decision is affirmed, with the costs to the petitioners.   So ordered.

Avanceña,  C. J.,  Villa-Real,  Abad Santos,  Diaz,  and Laurel, JJ., concur.