SC Dismisses Petition Seeking COVID-19 Mass Testing

September 16, 2020

The Supreme Court has dismissed for failure of petitioners to show that they are entitled to the issuance of a writ of mandamus the petition seeking to compel the government to, among others, conduct proactive COVID-19 mass testing.

In an En Banc resolution promulgated last September 1 in G.R. No. 252556 (Taguiwalo, et al. v. Sec. Duque, et al.), the High Court held that courts have no authority to issue a writ of mandamus, no matter how dire the emergency, without a demonstration that an official in the executive branch failed to perform a mandatory, nondiscretionary duty. The job of the Court is to say what the law is and not to dictate how another branch of government should do its job. Mandamus, it said, is an appropriate remedy only where the law prescribes and defines the duty to be performed with such precision and certainty as to leave nothing to the exercise of discretion or judgment.

The Court also held that petitioners failed to exhaust administrative remedies since they have recourse to the government offices which respondents represent. There was no showing in their petition that they have exhausted administrative remedies.

The Court added that a plain and speedy remedy exists. Petitioners may avail of the plain and speedy remedy of requesting for particular information under Executive Order No. 2, s. 2016 which operationalizes the people’s right to information and implements the Constitutional policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest, subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, in the Executive Branch. While the Court may direct the release of information when there is ministerial duty to do so, mandamus will not lie to compel the Executive Branch to provide such information in a certain manner.

Petitioners Citizens Urgent Response to End COVID-19 Spokesperson Prof. Judy M. Taguiwalo, et al. filed a special civil action for mandamus under Rule 65 to compel the government, through the Department of Health (DOH),  and any and all agencies involved in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, to conduct proactive mass testing, efficient contact tracing and isolation, and effective treatment of positive cases.

READ: G.R. No. 252556