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Property Cases (Public and Private)(Art 419-426)

Property Cases (Public and Private)(Art 419-426)

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Published by Madelyn Taytayon

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Published by: Madelyn Taytayon on Aug 05, 2010
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G.R. No. L-15829 December 4, 1967ROMAN R. SANTOS,
petitioner-appellee,vs.
HON. FLORENCIO MORENO, as Secretary of PublicWorks and Communications and JULIAN C. CARGULLO,
respondents-appellants.
Gil R. Carlos and Associates for petitioner-appellee.Office of the Solicitor General for respondents-appellants.
BENGZON, J.P.,
J.:
THE APPEAL
The Honorable Secretary of Public Works &Communications appeals from the decision of the Court of First Instance of Manila declaring of private ownershipcertain creeks situated in barrio San Esteban, Macabebe,Pampanga.
THE BACKGROUND
The Zobel family of Spain formerly owned vast track of marshland in the municipality of Macabebe, Pampangaprovince. Called Hacienda San Esteban, it was administeredand managed by the Ayala y Cia. From the year 1860 toabout the year 1924 Ayala y Cia., devoted the hacienda tothe planting and cultivation of nipa palms from which itgathered nipa sap or "tuba." It operated a distillery plant inbarrio San Esteban to turn nipa tuba into potable alcoholwhich was in turn manufactured into liquor.Accessibility through the nipa palms deep into the haciendaposed as a problem. Ayala y Cia., therefore dug canalsleading towards the hacienda's interior where most of theminterlinked with each other. The canals facilitated thegathering of tuba and the guarding and patrolling of thehacienda by security guards called "arundines." By thegradual process of erosion these canals acquired thecharacteristics and dimensions of rivers.In 1924 Ayala y Cia shifted from the business of alcoholproduction to bangus culture. It converted Hacienda SanEsteban from a forest of nipa groves to a web of fishponds.To do so, it cut down the nipa palm, constructed dikes andclosed the canals criss-crossing the hacienda.Sometime in 1925 or 1926 Ayala y Cia., sold a portion of Hacienda San Esteban to Roman Santos who alsotransformed the swamp land into a fishpond. In so doing, heclosed and built dikes across Sapang Malauling Maragul,Quiñorang Silab, Pepangebunan, Bulacus, Nigui and Nasi.The closing of the man-made canals in Hacienda SanEsteban drew complaints from residents of the surroundingcommunities. Claiming that the closing of the canals causedfloods during the rainy season, and that it deprived them of their means of transportation and fishing grounds, saidresidents demanded re-opening of those canals.Subsequently, Mayor Lazaro Yambao of Macabebe,accompanied by policemen and some residents went toHacienda San Esteban and opened the closure dikes atSapang Malauling Maragul Nigui and Quiñorang Silab.Whereupon, Roman Santos filed Civil Case No. 4488 in theCourt of First Instance of Pampanga which preliminarilyenjoined Mayor Yambao and others from demolishing thedikes across the canals. The municipal officials of Macabebecountered by filing a complaint (docketed as Civil Case No.4527) in the same court. The Pampanga Court of FirstInstance rendered judgment in both cases against RomanSantos who immediately elevated the case to the SupremeCourt.In the meantime, the Secretary of Commerce andCommunications
1
conducted his own investigation and foundthat the aforementioned six streams closed by RomanSantos were natural, floatable and navigable and wereutilized by the public for transportation since timeimmemorial. He consequently ordered Roman Santos onNovember 3, 1930 to demolish the dikes across said sixstreams. However, on May 8, 1931 the said official revokedhis decision of November 3, 1930 and declared the streamsin question privately owned because they were artificiallyconstructed. Subsequently, upon authority granted under Act3982 the Secretary of Commerce and Communicationsentered into a contract with Roman Santos whereby theformer recognized the private ownership of SapangMalauling Maragul, Quiñorang Silab, Pepangebunan,Bulacus, Nigui and Nasi and the latter turned over for publicuse two artificial canals and bound himself to maintain themin navigable state. The Provincial Board of Pampanga andthe municipal councils of Macabebe and Masantol objectedto the contract. However, the Secretary of Justice, in hisopinion dated March 6, 1934, upheld its legality. RomanSantos withdraw his appeals in the Supreme Court.With respect to the portion of Hacienda San Esteban stillowned by the Zobel family, the municipal authorities of Macabebe filed in 1930 an administrative complaint, in theBureau of Public Works praying for the opening of the dikesand dams across certain streams in Hacienda San Esteban.Whereupon, the district engineer of Pampanga and arepresentative of the Bureau of Public Works conductedinvestigations. In the meantime, the Attorney General, upona query from the Secretary of Commerce andCommunications, rendered an opinion dated October 11,1930 sustaining the latter's power to declare streams aspublicly owned under Sec. 4 of Act 2152, as amended by Act3208.On September 29, 1930 the investigator of the Bureau of Public Works, Eliseo Panopio, submitted his reportrecommending the removal of the dikes and dams inquestion. And on the basis of said report, the Secretary of Commerce and Communications rendered his decision onNovember 3, 1930 ordering Ayala y Cia., to demolish thedikes and dams across the streams named therein situatedin Hacienda San Esteban. Ayala y Cia., moved for reconsideration, questioning the power of the Secretary of Commerce and Communications to order the demolition of said dikes.Days before the Secretary of Commerce andCommunications rendered his aforementioned decision,Ayala y Cia., thru counsel, made representations with theDirector of Public Works for a compromise agreement. In itsletter dated October 11, 1930, Ayala y Cia., offered to admitpublic ownership of the following creeks:Antipolo, Batasan Teracan, Biuas or Batasan,Capiz, Carbon, Cutut, Dalayap, Enrique, Iba,Inaun, Margarita, Malauli or Budbud, MatalabaPalapat, Palipit Maisao, Panlovenas, Panquitan,Quinapati, Quiñorang, Bubong or Malauli Malati,Salop, Sinubli and Vitas.provided the rest of the streams were declared private.Acting on said offer, the Director of Public Works instructedthe surveyor in his office, Eliseo Panopio, to proceed toPampanga and conduct another investigation.On January 23, 1931 Panopio submitted his report to theDirector of Public Works recommending that some streamsenumerated therein be declared public and some private onthe ground that they were originally dug by the haciendaowners. The private streams were:Agape, Atlong, Cruz, Balanga, Batasan, BatasanMatlaue, Balibago, Baliti, Bato, Buengco Malati,Bungalin, Bungo Malati, Bungo Maragui, Buta-buta, Camastiles, Catlu, Cauayan or Biabas, Cela,Dampalit, Danlimpu, Dilinquente, Fabian,Laguzan, Lalap Maburac, Mabutol, Macabacle,Maragul or Macanduli, Macabacle or Mababo,Maisac, Malande, Malati, Magasawa, Maniup,Manulit, Mapanlao, Maisac, Maragul MariablusMalate, Masamaral, Mitulid, Nasi, Nigui or Bulacus, Palipit, Maragul, Pangebonan,Paumbong, Pasco or Culali, Pilapil, Pinac Malati,Pinac, Maragul or Macabacle, Quiñorang Silab or 
1
 
Malauli Maragul, Raymundo, Salamin, SalopMaisac, Salop Maragul, Sermon and Sinca or Mabulog.He therefore recommended revocation of the decisionalready mentioned above, dated November 3, 1930 of theSecretary of Commerce and Communications ordering thedemolition of the dikes closing Malauling Maragul,Quiñorang, Silab, Pepangebonan, Nigui, Bulacus, Nasi, andPinac. On February 13, 1931 the Director of Public Worksconcurred in Panopio's report and forwarded the same theSecretary of Commerce and Communications.On February 25, 1935 the municipality of Macabebe and theZobel family executed an agreement whereby theyrecognized the nature of the streams mentioned in Panopio'sreport as public or private, depending on the findings in saidreport. This agreement was approved by the Secretary of Public Works and Communications on February 27, 1935and confirmed the next day by the municipal council of Macabebe under Resolution No. 36.A few months later, that is, on June 12, 1935, the thenSecretary of Justice issued an opinion holding that thecontract executed by the Zobel family and the municipality of Macabebe has no validity for two reasons, namely, (1) thestreams although originally dug by Ayala y Cia., lost their private nature by prescription inasmuch as the public wasallowed to use them for navigation and fishing, citingMercado vs. Municipality of Macabebe, 59 Phil. 592; and (2)at the time the Secretary of Commerce and Communicationsapproved the said contract, he had no more power so to do,because such power under Sec. 2 of Act 2152 was revokedby the amending Act 4175 which took effect on December 7,1934.Despite the above ruling of the Secretary of Justice, thestreams in question remained closed.In 1939 administrative investigations were again conductedby various agencies of the Executive branch of our government culminating in an order of President ManuelQuezon immediately before the national elections in 1941requiring the opening of Sapang Macanduling, MaragulMacabacle, Balbaro and Cansusu. Said streams were againclosed in 1942 allegedly upon order of President Quezon.
THE CASE
Roman Santos acquired in 1940 from the Zobel family alarger portion of Hacienda San Esteban wherein are located25 streams which were closed by Ayala y Cia., and are nowthe subject matter in the instant controversy.Eighteen years later, that is in 1958, Congress enactedRepublic Act No. 2056
2
following a congressional inquirywhich was kindled by a speech delivered by Senator Rogeliode la Rosa in the Senate. On August 15, 1958 Senator de laRosa requested in writing the Secretary of Public Works andcommunications to proceed in pursuance of Republic ActNo. 2056 against fishpond owners in the province of Pampanga who have closed rivers and appropriated them asfishponds without color of title. On the same day, BenignoMusni and other residents in the vicinity of Hacienda SanEsteban petitioned the Secretary of Public Works andCommunications to open the following streams:Balbaro, Batasan Matua, Bunga, Cansusu,Macabacle, Macanduling, Maragul, Mariablus,Malate, Matalabang, Maisac, Nigui, QuiñorangSilab, Sapang Maragul and Sepung Bato.Thereupon, the Secretary of Public Works andCommunications instructed Julian C. Cargullo to conduct aninvestigation on the above named streams.On October 20, 1958 Musni and his co-petitioners amendedtheir petition to include other streams. The amended petitiontherefore covered the following streams:Balbaro, Balili, Banawa, Batasan Matua Bato,Bengco, Bunga, Buta-buta, Camastiles, Cansusu,Cela, Don Timpo, Mabalanga, Mabutol,Macabacle, Macabacle qng. Iba, Macanduling,Maragul, Malauli, Magasawa, Mariablus MalateMasamaral, Matalabang Maisa, Mariablus,
3
Nigui,Pita, Quiñorang, Silab, Sapang Maragul, SepungBato, Sinag and Tumbong.On March 2, 4, 10, 30 and 31, and April 1, 1959, theSecretary of Public Works and Communications renderedhis decisions ordering the opening and restoration of thechannel of all the streams in controversy except SapangMalauling, Maragul, Quiñorang, Silab, Nigui Pepangebonan,Nasi and Bulacus, within 30 days on the ground that saidstreams belong to the public domain.On April 29, 1959, that is, after receipt of the Secretary'sdecision dated March 4, 1959, Roman Santos filed a motionwith the Court of First Instance of Man for junction againstthe Secretary of Public Works and Communications andJulian C. Cargullo. As prayed for preliminary injunction wasgranted on May 8, 1959. The Secretary of Public Work andCommunications answered and alleged as defense thatvenue was improperly laid; that Roman Santos failed toexhaust administrative remedies; that the contract betweenAyala y Cia., and the Municipality of Macabebe is null andvoid; and, that Section 39 of Act 496 excludes publicstreams from the operation of the Torrens System.On April 29 and June 12, 1969, Roman Santos received thedecision of the Secretary of Public Works andCommunications dated March 10 and March 30, March 31,and April 1, 1959. Consequently, on June 24, 1959 he askedthe court to cite in contempt Secretary Florendo Moreno,Undersecretary M.D. Bautista and Julian Cargullo for issuingand serving upon him the said decisions despite theexistence of the preliminary injunction. The Solicitor Generalopposed the motion alleging that the decisions in questionhad long been issued when the petition for injunction wasfiled, that they were received after preliminary injunctionissued because they were transmitted through the DistrictEngineer of Pampanga to Roman Santos; that their issuancewas for Roman Santos' information and guidance; and, thatthe motion did not allege that respondents took steps toenforce the decision. Acting upon said motion, on July 17,1959, the trial court considered unsatisfactory theexplanation of the Solicitor General but ruled that SecretaryFlorencio Moreno, Undersecretary M.D. Bautista and JulianCargullo acted in good faith. Hence, they were merely"admonished to desist from any and further action in thiscase, observe the preliminary injunction issued by this Court,with the stern warning, however, that a repetition of the actscomplained of shall be dealt with severely."On July 18, 1959 the trial court declared all the streamsunder litigation private, and rendered the following judgment:The Writ of preliminary injunction restraining therespondent Secretary of Public Works &Communications from enforcing the decisions of March 2 And 4, 1959 and all other similar decisions is hereby made permanent.The Secretary of Public Works and Communication andJulian Cargullo appealed to this Court from the order of July17, 1959 issued in connection with Roman Santos' motionfor contempt and from the decision of the lower court on themerits of the case.
ISSUES
The issues are: (1) Did Roman Santos exhaustadministrative remedies? (2) Was venue properly laid? (3)Did the lower court err in conducting a trial
de novo
of thecase and in admitting evidence not presented during theadministrative proceeding? (4) Do the streams involved inthis case belong to the public domain or to the owner of Hacienda San Esteban according to law and the evidencesubmitted to the Department of Public Works andCommunications?
2
 
DISCUSSION OF THE ISSUES
1. Respondents maintain that Roman Santos resorted to thecourts without first exhausting administrative remediesavailable to him, namely, (a) motion for reconsideration of the decisions of the Secretary of Public Works andCommunications; and, (b) appeal to the President of thePhilippines.Whether a litigant, in exhausting available administrativeremedies, need move for the reconsideration of anadministrative decision before he can turn to the courts for relief, would largely depend upon the pertinent law,
4
therules of procedure and the usual practice followed in aparticular office.
5
Republic Act No. 2056 does not require the filing of a motionfor reconsideration as a condition precedent to judicial relief.From the context of the law, the intention of the legislators toforego a motion for reconsideration manifests itself clearly.
1awphil.net 
Republic Act No. 2056 underscores theurgency and summary nature of the proceedings authorizedthereunder. Thus in Section 2 thereof the Secretary of PublicWorks and Communications under pain of criminal liability isduty bound to terminate the proceedings and render hisdecision within a period not exceeding 90 days from the filingof the complaint. Under the same section, the partyrespondent concerned is given not than 30 days within whichto comply with the decision of the Secretary of Public Worksand Communications, otherwise the removal of the damswould be done by the Government at the expense of saidparty. Congress has precisely provided for a speedy and amost expeditious proceeding for the removal of illegalobstructions to rivers and on the basis of such a provision itwould be preposterous to conclude that it had in mind torequire a party to file a motion for reconsideration — anadditional proceeding which would certainly lengthen thetime towards the final settlement of existing controversies.The logical conclusion is that Congress intended thedecision of the Secretary of Public Works andCommunications to be final and executory subject to a timelyreview by the courts without going through formal and timeconsuming preliminaries.Moreover, the issues raised during the administrativeproceedings of this case are the same ones submitted tocourt for resolution. No new matter was introduced duringthe proceeding in the court below which the Secretary of Public Works and Communications had no opportunity tocorrect under his authority.Furthermore, Roman Santos assailed the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 2056 and the jurisdiction of the Secretaryof Public Works and Communications to order the demolitionof dams across rivers or streams. Those questions are notwithin the competence of said Secretary to decide upon amotion for reconsideration.
itc-alf 
They are purely legalquestions, not administrative in nature, and should properlybe aired before a competent court as was rightly done bypetitioner Roman Santos .At any rate, there is no showing in the records of this casethat the Secretary of Public Works and Communicationsadopted rule of procedure in investigations authorized under Republic Act No. 2056 which require a party litigant to file amotion for the reconsideration of the Secretary's decisionbefore he can appeal to the courts. Roman Santos however stated in his brief that the practice is not to entertain motionsfor reconsideration for the reason that Republic Act No. 2056does not expressly or impliedly allow the Secretary to grantthe same. Roman Santos' statement is supported by OpinionNo. 61, Series of 1959, dated April 14, 1959 of the Secretaryof Justice.As to the failure of Roman Santos to appeal from thedecision of the Secretary of Public Works andCommunications to the President of the Philippines, suffice itto state that such appeal could be dispensed with becausesaid Secretary is the alter ego of the President.
itc-alf 
Theactions of the former are presumed to have the impliedsanction of the latter.
6
2. It is contended that if this case were considered as anordinary civil action, venue was improperly laid when thesame was instituted in the Court of First Instance of Manilafor the reason that the case affects the title of a realproperty. In fine, the proposition is that since the controversydwells on the ownership of or title to the streams located inHacienda San Esteban, the case is real action which,pursuant to Sec. 3 of Rule 5 of the Rules of Court shouldhave been filed in the Court of First Instance of Pampanga.The mere fact that the resolution of the controversy in thiscase would wholly rest on the ownership of the streamsinvolved herein would not necessarily classify it as a realaction. The purpose of this suit is to review the decision of the Secretary of Public Works and Communications to enjoinhim from enforcing them and to prevent him from makingand issuing similar decisions concerning the stream inHacienda San Esteban. The acts of the Secretary of PublicWorks and Communications are the object of the litigation,that is, petitioner Roman Santos seeks to control them,hence, the suit ought to be filed in the Court of First Instancewhose territorial jurisdiction encompasses the place wherethe respondent Secretary is found or is holding office. For the rule is that outside its territorial limits, the court has nopower to enforce its order.
7
Section 3 of Rule 5 of the Rules of Court does not apply todetermine venue of this action. Applicable is Sec. 1 thesame rule, which states:Sec. 1.
General rule
. — Civil actions in Courts of First Instance may be commenced and tried wherethe defendant any of the defendants residents or may be found or where the plaintiff or any of theplaintiffs resides, at the election of the plaintiff.Accordingly, the Petition for injunction who correctly filed inthe Court of First Instance of Manila. Respondents Secretaryof Public Works and Communications and Julian Cargulloare found and hold office in the City of Manila.3. The lower court tried this case
de novo
. Against thisprocedure respondents objected and maintained that theaction, although captioned as an injunction is really a petitionfor 
certiorari 
to review the decision of the Secretary of PublicWorks and Communications. Therefore they now contendthat the court should have confined itself to reviewing thedecisions of the respondent Secretary of Public Works andCommunications only on the basis of the evidencepresented in the administrative proceedings. On the other hand, Roman Santos now, submits that the action is aproceeding independent and distinct from the administrativeinvestigation; that, accordingly, the lower court correctlyacted in trying the case anew and rendering judgment uponevidence adduced during the trial.Whether the action instituted in the Court of First Instance befor 
mandamus
, injunction or 
certiorari 
is not very material. Inreviewing the decision of the Secretary of Public Works andCommunications, the Court of First Instance shall confine itsinquiry to the evidence presented during, the administrativeproceedings. Evidence not presented therein shall not beadmitted, and considered by the trial court. As aptly by thisCourt speaking through Mr. Justice J.B.L. Reyes, in a similar case:The findings of the Secretary can not be enervatedby new evidence not laid before him, for thatwould be tantamount to holding a newinvestigation, and to substitute for the discretionand judgment of the Secretary the discretion and judgment of the court, to whom the statute had notentrusted the case. It is immaterial that the presentaction should be one for prohibition or injunctionand not one for 
certiorari 
; in either event the casemust be resolved upon the evidence submitted tothe Secretary, since a judicial review of executivedecisions does not import a trial
de novo
, but onlyan ascertainment of whether the "executivefindings are not in violation of the Constitution or of the laws, and are free from fraud or imposition,
3

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