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Social Justice Society vs. Atienza, Jr.

G.R. No. 156052. March 7, 2007.*

SOCIAL JUSTICE SOCIETY (SJS),


VLADIMIR ALARIQUE T. CABIGAO, and
BONIFACIO S. TUMBOKON, petitioners,
vs. HON. JOSE L. ATIENZA, JR., in his
capacity as Mayor of the City of Manila,
respondent.
Mandamus; A petition for mandamus may be filed when any tribunal, corporation, board, officer
or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a
duty resulting from an office, trust or station.Under Rule 65, Section 3 of the Rules of Court, a
petition for mandamus may be filed when any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person
unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty
resulting from an office, trust or station. Mandamus is an extraordinary writ that is employed to
compel the performance, when refused, of a ministerial duty that is already imposed on the
respondent and there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of
law. The petitioner should have a well-

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*
FIRST DIVISION.

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Social Justice Society vs. Atienza, Jr.

defined, clear and certain legal right to the performance of the act and it must be the clear and
imperative duty of respondent to do the act required to be done.

Same; Locus Standi; When a mandamus proceeding concerns a public right and its object is to
compel a public duty, the people who are interested in the execution of the laws are regarded as
the real parties in interest and they need not show any specific interest.We have ruled in
previous cases that when a mandamus proceeding concerns a public right and its object is to
compel a public duty, the people who are interested in the execution of the laws are regarded as
the real parties in interest and they need not show any specific interest. Besides, as residents of
Manila, petitioners have a direct interest in the enforcement of the citys ordinances. Respondent
never questioned the right of petitioners to institute this proceeding.

Municipal Corporations; Local Government Units; The mayor, as the chief executive of the city,
has the duty to enforce ordinances as long as they have not been repealed by the Sanggunian or
annulled by the courtsit is his ministerial duty to do so.The Local Government Code
imposes upon respondent the duty, as city mayor, to enforce all laws and ordinances relative to
the governance of the city. One of these is Ordinance No. 8027. As the chief executive of the
city, he has the duty to enforce Ordinance No. 8027 as long as it has not been repealed by the
Sanggunian or annulled by the courts. He has no other choice. It is his ministerial duty to do so.
In Dimaporo v. Mitra, Jr., 202 SCRA 779 (1991), we stated the reason for this: These officers
cannot refuse to perform their duty on the ground of an alleged invalidity of the statute imposing
the duty. The reason for this is obvious. It might seriously hinder the transaction of public
business if these officers were to be permitted in all cases to question the constitutionality of
statutes and ordinances imposing duties upon them and which have not judicially been declared
unconstitutional. Officers of the government from the highest to the lowest are creatures of the
law and are bound to obey it.

Same; Same; Terrorism; No reason exists to delay the implementation of a protective measure
designed to protect the residents of Manila from the catastrophic devastation that will surely
occur in case of a terrorist attack on the Pandacan Terminals.Ordinance No. 8027 was
enacted right after the Philippines, along with the rest of the world, witnessed the horror of the
September 11, 2001 attack

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Social Justice Society vs. Atienza, Jr.

on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The objective of the
ordinance is to protect the residents of Manila from the catastrophic devastation that will surely
occur in case of a terrorist attack on the Pandacan Terminals. No reason exists why such a
protective measure should be delayed.

SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION in the Supreme Court. Mandamus.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

Samson S. Alcantara and Ed Vincent S. Albano for petitioners.

Office of the City Legal Officer for respondent.

CORONA, J.:
In this original petition for mandamus,1 petitioners Social Justice Society (SJS), Vladimir
Alarique T. Cabigao and Bonifacio S. Tumbokon seek to compel respondent Hon. Jose L.
Atienza, Jr., mayor of the City of Manila, to enforce Ordinance No. 8027.

The antecedents are as follows.

On November 20, 2001, the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Manila enacted Ordinance No. 8027.2
Respondent mayor approved the ordinance on November 28, 2001.3 It became effective on
December 28, 2001, after its publication.4

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1
Under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.
2
Entitled Ordinance Reclassifying the Land Use of [Those] Portions of Land Bounded by the
Pasig River In The North[,] PNR Railroad Track in the East, Beata St. in the South, Palumpong
St. in the Southwest and Estero De Pandacan in the West, PNR Railroad in the Northwest Area,
Estero of Pandacan in the Northeast, Pasig River in the Southeast and Dr. M.L. Carreon in the
Southwest; the Area of Punta, Sta. Ana Bounded by the Pasig River, Marcelino Obrero St.[,]
Mayo 28 St. and the F. Manalo Street from Industrial II to Commercial I.
3
Rollo, p. 12.
4
Id., p. 6.

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Social Justice Society vs. Atienza, Jr.

Ordinance No. 8027 was enacted pursuant to the police power delegated to local government
units, a principle described as the power inherent in a government to enact laws, within
constitutional limits, to promote the order, safety, health, morals and general welfare of the
society.5 This is evident from Sections 1 and 3 thereof which state:

SECTION 1. For the purpose of promoting sound urban planning and ensuring health, public
safety, and general welfare of the residents of Pandacan and Sta. Ana as well as its adjoining
areas, the land use of [those] portions of land bounded by the Pasig River in the north, PNR
Railroad Track in the east, Beata St. in the south, Palumpong St. in the southwest, and Estero de
Pandacan in the west[,] PNR Railroad in the northwest area, Estero de Pandacan in the
[n]ortheast, Pasig River in the southeast and Dr. M.L. Carreon in the southwest. The area of
Punta, Sta. Ana bounded by the Pasig River, Marcelino Obrero St., Mayo 28 St., and F. Manalo
Street, are hereby reclassified from Industrial II to Commercial I.

xxx xxx xxx


SEC. 3. Owners or operators of industries and other businesses, the operation of which are no
longer permitted under Section 1 hereof, are hereby given a period of six (6) months from the
date of effectivity of this Ordinance within which to cease and desist from the operation of
businesses which are hereby in consequence, disallowed.

Ordinance No. 8027 reclassified the area described therein from industrial to commercial and
directed the owners and operators of businesses disallowed under Section 1 to cease and desist
from operating their businesses within six months from the date of effectivity of the ordinance.
Among the businesses situated in the area are the so-called Pandacan Terminals of the oil
companies Caltex (Philippines), Inc., Petron Corporation and Pilipinas Shell Petroleum
Corporation.

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5
Philtread Workers Union (PTWU) v. Confesor, 336 Phil. 375; 269 SCRA 393 (1997), citing
Union of Filipro Employees v. Nestl Philippines, Inc., G.R. Nos. 8871013, 19 December 1990,
192 SCRA 396.

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However, on June 26, 2002, the City of Manila and the Department of Energy (DOE) entered
into a memorandum of understanding (MOU)6 with the oil companies in which they agreed that
the scaling down of the Pandacan Terminals [was] the most viable and practicable option.
Under the MOU, the oil companies agreed to perform the following:

Section 1.Consistent with the objectives stated above, the OIL COMPANIES shall, upon
signing of this MOU, undertake a program to scale down the Pandacan Terminals which shall
include, among others, the immediate removal/decommissioning process of TWENTY EIGHT
(28) tanks starting with the LPG spheres and the commencing of works for the creation of safety
buffer and green zones surrounding the Pandacan Terminals. x x x

Section 2.Consistent with the scale-down program mentioned above, the OIL COMPANIES
shall establish joint operations and management, including the operation of common, integrated
and/or shared facilities, consistent with international and domestic technical, safety,
environmental and economic considerations and standards. Consequently, the joint operations of
the OIL COMPANIES in the Pandacan Terminals shall be limited to the common and integrated
areas/facilities. A separate agreement covering the commercial and operational terms and
conditions of the joint operations, shall be entered into by the OIL COMPANIES.

Section 3.The development and maintenance of the safety and green buffer zones mentioned
therein, which shall be taken from the properties of the OIL COMPANIES and not from the
surrounding communities, shall be the sole responsibility of the OIL COMPANIES.
The City of Manila and the DOE, on the other hand, committed to do the following:

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6
Rollo, pp. 1618. This MOU modified the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) executed on
October 12, 2001 by the oil companies and the DOE. This MOA called for close coordination
among the parties with a view of formulating appropriate measures to arrive at the best possible
option to ensure, maintain and at the same time harmonize the interests of both government and
the oil companies; Id., p. 36.

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Social Justice Society vs. Atienza, Jr.

Section 1.The City Mayor shall endorse to the City Council this MOU for its appropriate
action with the view of implementing the spirit and intent thereof.

Section 2.The City Mayor and the DOE shall, consistent with the spirit and intent of this
MOU, enable the OIL COMPANIES to continuously operate in compliance with legal
requirements, within the limited area resulting from the joint operations and the scale down
program.

Section 3.The DOE and the City Mayor shall monitor the OIL COMPANIES compliance
with the provisions of this MOU.

Section 4.The CITY OF MANILA and the national government shall protect the safety buffer
and green zones and shall exert all efforts at preventing future occupation or encroachment into
these areas by illegal settlers and other unauthorized parties.

The Sangguniang Panlungsod ratified the MOU in Resolution No. 97.7 In the same resolution,
the Sanggunian declared that the MOU was effective only for a period of six months starting
July 25, 2002.8 Thereafter, on January 30, 2003, the Sanggunian adopted Resolution No. 139
extending the validity of Resolution No. 97 to April 30, 2003 and authorizing Mayor Atienza to
issue special business permits to the oil companies.

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7
Entitled Resolution Ratifying the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Entered into by and
Among the Department of Energy, the City of Manila, Caltex (Philippines), Inc., Petron
Corporation and Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation on 26 June 2002, and Known as
Document No. 60, Page No. 12, Book No. 1, Series of 2002 in the Notarial Registry of Atty. Neil
Lanson Salcedo, Notary Public for and in the City of Manila; Id., p. 36.
8
Id.
9
Entitled Resolution Extending the Validity of Resolution 97, Series of 2002, to April 30, 2003,
Thereby Authorizing his Honor Mayor Jose L. Atienza, Jr., to Issue Special Business Permits to
Caltex Phil., Inc., Petron Corporation and Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation Situated within
the Pandacan Oil Terminal Covering the said Period; Id., p. 38.

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Social Justice Society vs. Atienza, Jr.

Resolution No. 13, s. 2003 also called for a reassessment of the ordinance.10

Meanwhile, petitioners filed this original action for mandamus on December 4, 2002 praying that
Mayor Atienza be compelled to enforce Ordinance No. 8027 and order the immediate removal of
the terminals of the oil companies.11

The issues raised by petitioners are as follows:

1. whether respondent has the mandatory legal duty to enforce Ordinance No. 8027 and order the
removal of the Pandacan Terminals, and

2. whether the June 26, 2002 MOU and the resolutions ratifying it can amend or repeal
Ordinance No. 8027.12

Petitioners contend that respondent has the mandatory legal duty, under Section 455 (b) (2) of
the Local Government Code (RA 7160),13 to enforce Ordinance No. 8027 and order the removal
of the Pandacan Terminals of the oil companies. Instead, he has allowed them to stay.

Respondents defense is that Ordinance No. 8027 has been superseded by the MOU and the
resolutions.14 However, he also confusingly argues that the ordinance and MOU are not

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10
Id.
11
Id., p. 9.
12
Id., p. 15.
13
It states:

Section 455. Chief Executive: Powers, Duties and Compensation.x x x

(b) For efficient, effective and economical governance the purpose of which is the general
welfare of the city and its inhabitants pursuant to Section 16 of this Code, the city mayor shall:
xxx xxx xxx

(2) Enforce all laws and ordinances relative to the governance of the city x x x x
14
Rollo, pp. 28 and 144.

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Social Justice Society vs. Atienza, Jr.

inconsistent with each other and that the latter has not amended the former. He insists that the
ordinance remains valid and in full force and effect and that the MOU did not in any way prevent
him from enforcing and implementing it. He maintains that the MOU should be considered as a
mere guideline for its full implementation.15

Under Rule 65, Section 316 of the Rules of Court, a petition for mandamus may be filed when
any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act
which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station. Mandamus
is an extraordinary writ that is employed to compel the performance, when refused, of a
ministerial duty that is already imposed on the respondent and there is no other plain, speedy and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. The petitioner should have a well-defined, clear
and certain legal right to the performance of the act and it must be the clear and imperative duty
of respondent to do the act required to be done.17

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15
Id., pp. 31 and 146147.
16
The full text reads:

SEC. 3. Petition for Mandamus.When any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person
unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty
resulting from an office, trust, or station, or unlawfully excludes another from the use and
enjoyment of a right or office to which such other is entitled, and there is no other plain, speedy
and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, the person aggrieved thereby may file a
verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment
be rendered commanding the respondent, immediately or at some other time to be specified by
the court, to do the act required to be done to protect the rights of the petitioner, and to pay the
damages sustained by the petitioner by reason of the wrongful acts of the respondent. x x x x.
17
University of San Agustin, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 100588, 7 March 1994, 230
SCRA 761, 771, citations omitted.

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Mandamus will not issue to enforce a right, or to compel compliance with a duty, which is
questionable or over which a substantial doubt exists. The principal function of the writ of
mandamus is to command and to expedite, not to inquire and to adjudicate; thus, it is neither the
office nor the aim of the writ to secure a legal right but to implement that which is already
established. Unless the right to the relief sought is unclouded, mandamus will not issue.18

To support the assertion that petitioners have a clear legal right to the enforcement of the
ordinance, petitioner SJS states that it is a political party registered with the Commission on
Elections and has its offices in Manila. It claims to have many members who are residents of
Manila. The other petitioners, Cabigao and Tumbokon, are allegedly residents of Manila.

We need not belabor this point. We have ruled in previous cases that when a mandamus
proceeding concerns a public right and its object is to compel a public duty, the people who are
interested in the execution of the laws are regarded as the real parties in interest and they need
not show any specific interest.19 Besides, as residents of Manila, petitioners have a direct interest
in the enforcement of the citys ordinances. Respondent never questioned the right of petitioners
to institute this proceeding.

On the other hand, the Local Government Code imposes upon respondent the duty, as city
mayor, to enforce all laws and ordinances relative to the governance of the city.20 One of these
is Ordinance No. 8027. As the chief executive of the city, he has the duty to enforce Ordinance
No. 8027 as long as it

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18
BPI Family Savings Bank, Inc. v. Manikan, G.R. No. 148789, 16 January 2003, 395 SCRA
373, 375, citing Pacheco v. Court of Appeals, 389 Phil. 200; 333 SCRA 680 (2000).
19
Licaros v. Sandiganbayan, 421 Phil. 1075; 370 SCRA 394 (2001); Legaspi v. Civil Service
Commission, G.R. No. L-72119, 29 May 1987, 150 SCRA 530, 536; Taada v. Tuvera, G.R. No.
L-63915, 24 April 1985, 136 SCRA 27, 36.
20
Supra note 13.

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has not been repealed by the Sanggunian or annulled by the courts.21 He has no other choice. It is
his ministerial duty to do so. In Dimaporo v. Mitra, Jr.,22 we stated the reason for this:
These officers cannot refuse to perform their duty on the ground of an alleged invalidity of the
statute imposing the duty. The reason for this is obvious. It might seriously hinder the transaction
of public business if these officers were to be permitted in all cases to question the
constitutionality of statutes and ordinances imposing duties upon them and which have not
judicially been declared unconstitutional. Officers of the government from the highest to the
lowest are creatures of the law and are bound to obey it.23

The question now is whether the MOU entered into by respondent with the oil companies and the
subsequent resolutions passed by the Sanggunian have made the respondents duty to enforce
Ordinance No. 8027 doubtful, unclear or uncertain. This is also connected to the second issue
raised by petitioners, that is, whether the MOU and Resolution Nos. 97, s. 2002 and 13, s. 2003
of the Sanggunian can amend or repeal Ordinance No. 8027.

We need not resolve this issue. Assuming that the terms of the MOU were inconsistent with
Ordinance No. 8027, the resolutions which ratified it and made it binding on the City of Manila
expressly gave it full force and effect only until April 30, 2003. Thus, at present, there is nothing
that legally hinders respondent from enforcing Ordinance No. 8027.24

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21
Tuzon v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 90107, 21 August 1992, 212 SCRA 739, 747. According
to respondent, the oil companies separately filed actions for annulment of Ordinance No. 8027
which are now pending before the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branches 39 and 42; Rollo, p.
143.
22
G.R. No. 96859, 15 October 1991, 202 SCRA 779.
23
Id., p. 795, citing Cu Unjieng v. Patstone, 42 Phil. 818 (1922) and Burton v. U.S., 202 U.S.
344.
24
According to respondent, a Temporary Restraining Order was issued in the action filed by the
oil companies to annul Ordi

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Social Justice Society vs. Atienza, Jr.

Ordinance No. 8027 was enacted right after the Philippines, along with the rest of the world,
witnessed the horror of the September 11, 2001 attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade
Center in New York City. The objective of the ordinance is to protect the residents of Manila
from the catastrophic devastation that will surely occur in case of a terrorist attack25 on the
Pandacan Terminals. No reason exists why such a protective measure should be delayed.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. Respondent Hon. Jose L. Atienza, Jr., as
mayor of the City of Manila, is directed to immediately enforce Ordinance No. 8027.
SO ORDERED.

Puno (C.J., Chairperson), Sandoval-Gutierrez and Garcia, JJ., concur.

Azcuna, J., On Official Leave.

Petition granted, Hon. Jose L. Atienza directed to immediately enforce Ordinance No. 8027.

Note.Persons who stand to lose their sources of livelihood, a property right which is zealously
protected by the Constitution, have a direct and substantial interest in a controversy which
confers on them the requisite standing. (Agan, Jr. vs. Philippine International Air Terminal Co.,
Inc., 402 SCRA 612 [2003])

o0o

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nance No. 8027 (see note 21, supra); Rollo, p. 143. This presumably has already lapsed.
25
This was alleged by petitioners and not refuted by respondent; Id., pp. 7 and 118.

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