G.R. No. L-63318 November 25, 1983
Private respondent PLDT filed an application with the NTC for the approval of a revised schedule for its Subscriber Investment Plan (SIP). The NTC issued an ex-parte order provisionally approving the revised schedule which, however, was set aside by this Court on August 31, 1982. The Court therein ruled that “there was a necessity of a hearing by the Commission before it should have acted on the application of the PLDT”. On November 22, 1982, the NTC rendered the questioned decision permanently approving PLDT’s new and increased SIP rates. It is the submission of the petitioner that the SIP schedule presented by the PLDT is pre-mature and, therefore, illegal and baseless, because the NTC has not yet promulgated the required rules and regulations implementing Section 2 of Presidential Decree No. 217.
Whether or not respondent acted with grave abuse of discretion when it approved the Revised Subscriber Investment Plan (SIP) of respondent PLDT in the absence of specific rules and regulations implementing Presidential Decree No. 217.
There is merit in the contention of petitioner that it is the duty of respondent NTC to promulgate rules and regulations. In the separate opinion of Justice Abad Santos, it is said that the case involves a simple problem of statutory construction – that of Section 2 of Presidential Decree No. 217. The decision sustained the petitioner’s contention that it is the duty of NTC to first promulgate rules and regulations. The resolution does not subscribe to the view that the NTC should or must promulgate rules and regulations because the decree must be given its ordinary meaning; the word used is the permissive “may” and not the mandatory “shall.” The non-unanimous resolution thus relies on the canons index animi sermo est (speech is the indication of intent) and a verba legis non est recedendum (from the words of the statute there should be no departure). Any lawyer of modest sophistication knows that canons of statutory construction march in pairs of opposite. Thus with the canons above mentioned we have the following opposite: verba intentioni, non e contra, debent inservire (words ought to be more subservient to the intent and not the intent to the words). It is an elementary rule in statutory construction that the word “may” in a statute is permissive while the word “shall” is mandatory. The rule, however, is not absolute. The literal interpretation of the words of an act should not prevail if it creates a result contrary to the apparent intention of the legislature and if the words are sufficiently flexible to admit of a construction which will effectuate the legislative intention. In the case at bar compelling reasons dictate that the provision of the decree should be construed as mandatory rather than merely directory. There is no justification for the rate increase of the revised schedule of PLDT’s SIP. It is untimely, considering the present economic condition obtaining in the country. The approved rate defeats the purpose of the decree which is to spread ownership among the wide base of investors. Accordingly, the decision of NTC is annulled and set aside.