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Municipality of Sta Fe vs Municipality of Aritao

Municipality of Sta Fe vs Municipality of Aritao

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Published by Raymond Roque

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Published by: Raymond Roque on Oct 16, 2009
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Municipality of Sta Fe vs Municipality of AritaoDate: September 21, 2007Petitioner: Municipality of Sta FeRespondent: Municipality of AritaoPonente: AzcunaFacts: In 1980, petitioner Municipality of Sta. Fe, in Nueva Vizcaya, filed before theRTC of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya for the Determination of Boundary Disputeinvolving the barangays of Bantinan and Canabuan. The trial was almost over when the court realized its error. The court suspended theproceedings and referred the case to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of NuevaVizcaya. The Sanggunian adopted Resolution 64 adjudicating the two barangays aspart of respondent’s territory. The Sanggunian approved the Committee’srecommendation but endorsed the boundary dispute to the RTC for furtherproceedings.In the RTC, respondent moved to consider Resolution 64 as final andexecutory. The RTC denied the motion ruling that since there was no amicablesettlement in the Sanggunian, the latter cannot issue a “decision” favoring a party. The court held that, under the law in force, the purpose of such referral was only toafford the parties an opportunity to amicably settle with the intervention andassistance of the Provincial Board and that in case no such settlement is reached,the court proceedings shall be resumed. Respondent filed a motion praying for thedismissal of the case for lack of jurisdiction since the power to try and decidemunicipal boundary disputes already belonged to the Sanggunian. The RTC grantedthe motion. The CA affirmed. According to the CA, a new legislation can be givenretroactive effect so long as it is curative in nature. Thus, the LGC vesting jurisdiction to the Sanggunian was given retroactive effect. Since the LocalGovernment Code of 1991 is the latest will of the people expressed throughCongress on how boundary disputes should be resolved, the same must prevail overprevious ones. It must be emphasized that the laws on the creation of localgovernment units as well as settling boundary disputes are political in character,hence, can be changed from time to time and the latest will of the people shouldalways prevail. In the instant case, there is nothing wrong in holding that Regional Trial Courts no longer have jurisdiction over boundary disputes. Issue:WON the CA erred in affirming the dismissal of the case for lack of jurisdictionHeld:NoRatio:October 1, 1917 (Revised Administrative Code)- jurisdiction with theprovincial boards of the provinces in which the municipalities are situated; June 17,1970 (RA 6128)- jurisdiction with the CFI of the Province where the municipalitiesare situated; February 10, 1983 (BP 337 or the 1983 Local Government Code); January 1, 1992 (LGC); - Sangguniang Panlalawigan where the municipalities aresituated, appeal with the RTC. This Court agrees with petitioner’s contention that the trial court had jurisdiction to take cognizance of the complaint when it was filed on October 16,1980 since the prevailing law then was Section 2167 of the RAC, as amended bySec. 1 RA 6128, which granted the CFI the jurisdiction to hear and decide cases of 
 
municipal boundary disputes.
Municipality of Sogod 
reveal that it dealt with the trialcourt’s dismissal of cases filed for lack of jurisdiction because at the time of theinstitution of the civil actions, the law in force was the old provision of Sec. 2167 of the RAC, which empowered the provincial boards, not the trial courts, to hear andresolve such cases. The difference in the factual setting notwithstanding,
Municipality of Sogod 
still applies in the sense that similar thereto the pendency of the present case has also been overtaken by events – the ratification of the 1987Constitution and the enactment of the LGC of 1991.As shown above, since the effectivity of R.A. No. 6128, the
SangguniangPanlalawigan
has been the primary tribunal responsible in the amicable settlementof boundary disputes between or among two or more municipalities located in thesame province. With the LGC of 1991, however, a major change has beenintroduced – that in the event the
Sanggunian
fails to effect a settlement, it shallnot only issue a certification to that effect but must also formally hear and decidethe case within the reglementary period. Rule III of the Rules and RegulationsImplementing the LGC of 1991 outlines the procedure for the settlement of boundary disputes.Unlike Ra 6128 and BP 337, the LGC of 1991 grants an expanded role on the
Sanggunian
concerned in resolving cases of municipal boundary disputes. Asidefrom having the function of bringing the contending parties together andintervening or assisting in the amicable settlement of the case, the
SangguniangPanlalawigan
is now specifically vested with
original
jurisdiction to actually hear anddecide the dispute in accordance with the procedures laid down in the law and itsimplementing rules and regulations. This situation, in effect, reverts to the old ruleunder the RAC, prior to its amendment by R.A. No. 6128, under which the provincialboards were empowered to investigate, hear the parties and eventually decide thecase on the basis thereof. On the other hand, under the LGC of 1991, the trial courtloses its power to try, at the first instance, cases of municipal boundary disputes.Only in the exercise of its
appellate
jurisdiction can the proper RTC decide the case,on appeal, should any party aggrieved by the decision of the
SangguniangPanlalawigan
elevate the same.The RTC correctly dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. Under the rules,it was the responsibility of the court to dismiss an action “whenever it appears that[it] has no jurisdiction over the subject matter.” Indeed, the RTC acted accordinglybecause at the time of the filing of the motion to dismiss its want of jurisdiction wasevident. It was duty-bound to take judicial notice of the parameters of its jurisdictionas the choice of the proper forum was crucial – for the decision of a court or tribunalwithout jurisdiction is a total nullity and may be struck down at any time by thisCourt as it would never become final and executory. Likewise, the standing rule isthat dismissal of a case for lack of jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of theproceedings since jurisdiction is conferred by law and lack of it affects the veryauthority of the court to take cognizance of and to render judgment on the action;otherwise, the inevitable consequence would make the court’s decision a “lawless”thing. As correctly pointed out by the RTC it will be a futile act for the Court to ruleon the case concerning a boundary dispute if its decision will not after all befollowed by the people concerned because the decision is totally unacceptable tothem. How then can the Court enforce its decision?Petitioner contends that the provisions of the 1987 Constitution and the LGCof 1991 on the settlement of municipal boundary disputes should be appliedprospectively. The Court is not unmindful of the rule that where a court has already

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