Difference Between Certiorari and Prohibition

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Although similar to prohibition in that it will lie for want or excess of jurisdiction, certiorari is to be distinguished from prohibition by the fact that it is a corrective remedy used for the reexamination of some action of an inferior tribunal, and is directed to the cause or proceeding in the lower court and not to the court itself, while prohibition is a preventative remedy issuing to restrain future action, and is directed to the court itself.


The Court expounded on the nature and function of the writ of prohibition in Holy Spirit Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Defensor:

A petition for prohibition is also not the proper remedy to assail an IRR issued in the exercise of a quasi-legislative function. Prohibition is an extraordinary writ directed against any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person, whether exercising judicial, quasi-judicial or ministerial functions, ordering said entity or person to desist from further proceedings when said proceedings are without or in excess of said entityÊs or personÊs jurisdiction, or are accompanied with grave abuse of discretion, and there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. Prohibition lies against judicial or ministerial functions, but not against legislative or quasi-legislative functions. Generally, the purpose of a writ of prohibition is to keep a lower court within the limits of its jurisdiction in order to maintain the administration of justice in orderly channels. Prohibition is the proper remedy to afford relief against usurpation of jurisdiction or power by an inferior court, or when, in the exercise of jurisdiction in handling matters clearly within its cognizance the inferior court transgresses the bounds prescribed to it by the law, or where there is no adequate remedy available in the ordinary course of law by which such relief can be obtained. Where the principal relief sought is to invalidate an IRR, petitioners’ remedy is an ordinary action for its nullification, an action which properly falls under the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court. In any case, petitioners’ allegation that “respondents are performing or threatening to perform functions without or in excess of their jurisdiction may appropriately be enjoined by the trial court through a writ of injunction or a temporary restraining order.”


The ordinary nature and function of the writ of certiorari in our present system are aptly explained in Delos Santos v. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company:

In the common law, from which the remedy of certiorari evolved, the writ of certiorari was issued out of Chancery, or the King’s Bench, commanding agents or officers of the inferior courts to return the record of a cause pending before them, so as to give the party more sure and speedy justice, for the writ would enable the superior court to determine from an inspection of the record whether the inferior court’s judgment was rendered without authority. The errors were of such a nature that, if allowed to stand, they would result in a substantial injury to the petitioner to whom no other remedy was available. If the inferior court acted without authority, the record was then revised and corrected in matters of law. The writ of certiorari was limited to cases in which the inferior court was said to be exceeding its jurisdiction or was not proceeding according to essential requirements of law and would lie only to review judicial or quasi-judicial acts.

The concept of the remedy of certiorari in our judicial system remains much the same as it has been in the common law. In this jurisdiction, however, the exercise of the power to issue the writ of certiorari is largely regulated by laying down the instances or situations in the Rules of Court in which a superior court may issue the writ of certiorari to an inferior court or officer. Section 1, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court compellingly provides the requirements for that purpose, viz.:

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The sole office of the writ of certiorari is the correction of errors of jurisdiction, which includes the commission of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. In this regard, mere abuse of discretion is not enough to warrant the issuance of the discretion must be grave, which means either that the judicial or quasi-judicial power was exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, or that the respondent judge, tribunal or board evaded a positive duty, or virtually refused to perform the duty enjoined or to act in contemplation of law, such as when such judge, tribunal or board exercising judicial or quasi-judicial powers acted in a capricious or whimsical manner as to be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction.

With respect to the Court, however, the remedies of certiorari and prohibition are necessarily broader in scope and reach, and the writ of certiorari or prohibition may be issued to correct errors of jurisdiction committed not only by a tribunal, corporation, board or officer exercising judicial, quasi-judicial or ministerial functions but also to set right, undo and restrain any act of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction by any branch or instrumentality of the Government, even if the latter does not exercise judicial, quasi-judicial or ministerial functions. This application is expressly authorized by the text of the second paragraph of Section 1, supra.

Thus, petitions for certiorari and prohibition are appropriate remedies to raise constitutional issues and to review and/or prohibit or nullify the acts of legislative and executive officials.

As discussed by the Court in Araullo vs. Aquino III,  728 SCRA 1