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DE LACSAMANA and THE HONORABLE JUDGE RODOLFO A. ORTIZ, respondents. MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.: The sole issue presented by petitioner for resolution is whether or not respondent Court erred in denying the Motion to Set Case for Pre-trial with respect to respondent Remedios Vda. de Lacsamana as the case had been dismissed on the ground of improper venue upon motion of co-respondent Philippine National Bank (PNB). It appears that petitioner, Antonio Punsalan, Jr., was the former registered owner of a parcel of land consisting of 340 square meters situated in Bamban, Tarlac. In 1963, petitioner mortgaged said land to respondent PNB (Tarlac Branch) in the amount of P10,000.00, but for failure to pay said amount, the property was foreclosed on December 16, 1970. Respondent PNB (Tarlac Branch) was the highest bidder in said foreclosure proceedings. However, the bank secured title thereto only on December 14, 1977. In the meantime, in 1974, while the properly was still in the alleged possession of petitioner and with the alleged acquiescence of respondent PNB (Tarlac Branch), and upon securing a permit from the Municipal Mayor, petitioner constructed a warehouse on said property. Petitioner declared said warehouse for tax purposes for which he was issued Tax Declaration No. 5619. Petitioner then leased the warehouse to one Hermogenes Sibal for a period of 10 years starting January 1975. On July 26, 1978, a Deed of Sale was executed between respondent PNB (Tarlac Branch) and respondent Lacsamana over the property. This contract was amended on July 31, 1978, particularly to include in the sale, the building and improvement thereon. By virtue of said instruments, respondent Lacsamana secured title over the property in her name (TCT No. 173744) as well as separate tax declarations for the land and building. 1 On November 22, 1979, petitioner commenced suit for "Annulment of Deed of Sale with Damages" against herein respondents PNB and Lacsamana before respondent Court of First Instance of Rizal, Branch XXXI, Quezon City, essentially impugning the validity of the sale of the building as embodied in the Amended Deed of Sale. In this connection, petitioner alleged: xxx xxx xxx 22. That defendant, Philippine National Bank, through its Branch Manager ... by virtue of the request of defendant ... executed a document dated July 31, 1978, entitled Amendment to Deed of Absolute Sale ... wherein said defendant bank as Vendor sold to defendant Lacsamana the building owned by the plaintiff under Tax Declaration No. 5619, notwithstanding the fact that said building is not owned by the bank either by virtue of the public auction sale conducted by the Sheriff and sold to the Philippine National Bank or by virtue of the Deed of Sale executed by the bank itself in its favor on September 21, 1977 ...; 23. That said defendant bank fraudulently mentioned ... that the sale in its favor should likewise have included the building, notwithstanding no legal basis for the same and despite full knowledge that the Certificate of Sale executed by the sheriff in its favor ... only limited the sale to the land, hence, by selling the building which never became the property of defendant, they have violated the principle against 'pactum commisorium'.
Petitioner prayed that the Deed of Sale of the building in favor of respondent Lacsamana be declared null and void and that damages in the total sum of P230,000.00, more or less, be awarded to him. 2 In her Answer filed on March 4, 1980,-respondent Lacsamana averred the affirmative defense of lack of cause of action in that she was a purchaser for value and invoked the principle in Civil Law that the "accessory follows the principal". 3 On March 14, 1980, respondent PNB filed a Motion to Dismiss on the ground that venue was improperly laid considering that the building was real property under article 415 (1) of the New Civil Code and therefore section 2(a) of Rule 4 should apply. 4 Opposing said Motion to Dismiss, petitioner contended that the action for annulment of deed of sale with damages is in the nature of a personal action, which seeks to recover not the title nor possession of the property but to compel payment of damages, which is not an action affecting title to real property. On April 25, 1980, respondent Court granted respondent PNB's Motion to Dismiss as follows: Acting upon the 'Motion to Dismiss' of the defendant Philippine National Bank dated March 13, 1980, considered against the plaintiff's opposition thereto dated April 1, 1980, including the reply therewith of said defendant, this Court resolves to DISMISS the plaintiff's complaint for improper venue considering that the plaintiff's complaint which seeks for the declaration as null and void, the amendment to Deed of Absolute Sale executed by the defendant Philippine National Bank in favor of the defendant Remedios T. Vda. de Lacsamana, on July 31, 1978, involves a warehouse allegedly owned and constructed by the plaintiff on the land of the defendant Philippine National Bank situated in the Municipality of Bamban, Province of Tarlac, which warehouse is an immovable property pursuant to Article 415, No. 1 of the New Civil Code; and, as such the action of the plaintiff is a real action affecting title to real property which, under Section 2, Rule 4 of the New Rules of Court, must be tried in the province where the property or any part thereof lies. 5 In his Motion for Reconsideration of the aforestated Order, petitioner reiterated the argument that the action to annul does not involve ownership or title to property but is limited to the validity of the deed of sale and emphasized that the case should proceed with or without respondent PNB as respondent Lacsamana had already filed her Answer to the Complaint and no issue on venue had been raised by the latter. On September 1, 1980,.respondent Court denied reconsideration for lack of merit. Petitioner then filed a Motion to Set Case for Pre-trial, in so far as respondent Lacsamana was concerned, as the issues had already been joined with the filing of respondent Lacsamana's Answer. In the Order of November 10, 1980 respondent Court denied said Motion to Set Case for Pre-trial as the case was already dismissed in the previous Orders of April 25, 1980 and September 1, 1980. Hence, this Petition for Certiorari, to which we gave due course. We affirm respondent Court's Order denying the setting for pre-trial. The warehouse claimed to be owned by petitioner is an immovable or real property as provided in article 415(l) of the Civil Code. 6 Buildings are always immovable under the Code. 7 A building treated separately from the land on which it stood is immovable property and the mere fact that the parties to a
contract seem to have dealt with it separate and apart from the land on which it stood in no wise changed its character as immovable property. 8 While it is true that petitioner does not directly seek the recovery of title or possession of the property in question, his action for annulment of sale and his claim for damages are closely intertwined with the issue of ownership of the building which, under the law, is considered immovable property, the recovery of which is petitioner's primary objective. The prevalent doctrine is that an action for the annulment or rescission of a sale of real property does not operate to efface the fundamental and prime objective and nature of the case, which is to recover said real property. It is a real action. 9 Respondent Court, therefore, did not err in dismissing the case on the ground of improper venue (Section 2, Rule 4) 10, which was timely raised (Section 1, Rule 16) 11. Petitioner's other contention that the case should proceed in so far as respondent Lacsamana is concerned as she had already filed an Answer, which did not allege improper venue and, therefore, issues had already been joined, is likewise untenable. Respondent PNB is an indispensable party as the validity of the Amended Contract of Sale between the former and respondent Lacsamana is in issue. It would, indeed, be futile to proceed with the case against respondent Lacsamana alone. WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby denied without prejudice to the refiling of the case by petitioner Antonio Punsalan, Jr. in the proper forum. Costs against petitioner. SO ORDERED. FIRST DIVISION G.R. No. L-50008 August 31, 1987 PRUDENTIAL BANK, petitioner, vs. HONORABLE DOMINGO D. PANIS, Presiding Judge of Branch III, Court of First Instance of Zambales and Olongapo City; FERNANDO MAGCALE & TEODULA BALUYUTMAGCALE, respondents. PARAS, J.: This is a petition for review on certiorari of the November 13, 1978 Decision * of the then Court of First Instance of Zambales and Olongapo City in Civil Case No. 2443-0 entitled "Spouses Fernando A. Magcale and Teodula Baluyut-Magcale vs. Hon. Ramon Y. Pardo and Prudential Bank" declaring that the deeds of real estate mortgage executed by respondent spouses in favor of petitioner bank are null and void. The undisputed facts of this case by stipulation of the parties are as follows: ... on November 19, 1971, plaintiffs-spouses Fernando A. Magcale and Teodula Baluyut Magcale secured a loan in the sum of P70,000.00 from the defendant Prudential Bank. To secure payment of this loan, plaintiffs executed in favor of defendant on the aforesaid date a deed of Real Estate Mortgage over the following described properties: l. A 2-STOREY, SEMI-CONCRETE, residential building with warehouse spaces containing a total floor area of 263 sq. meters, more or less, generally constructed of mixed hard wood and concrete materials, under a roofing of cor. g. i. sheets;
declared and assessed in the name of FERNANDO MAGCALE under Tax Declaration No. 21109, issued by the Assessor of Olongapo City with an assessed value of P35,290.00. This building is the only improvement of the lot. 2. THE PROPERTY hereby conveyed by way of MORTGAGE includes the right of occupancy on the lot where the above property is erected, and more particularly described and bounded, as follows: A first class residential land Identffied as Lot No. 720, (Ts-308, Olongapo Townsite Subdivision) Ardoin Street, East Bajac-Bajac, Olongapo City, containing an area of 465 sq. m. more or less, declared and assessed in the name of FERNANDO MAGCALE under Tax Duration No. 19595 issued by the Assessor of Olongapo City with an assessed value of P1,860.00; bounded on the NORTH: By No. 6, Ardoin Street SOUTH: By No. 2, Ardoin Street EAST: By 37 Canda Street, and WEST: By Ardoin Street. All corners of the lot marked by conc. cylindrical monuments of the Bureau of Lands as visible limits. ( Exhibit "A, " also Exhibit "1" for defendant). Apart from the stipulations in the printed portion of the aforestated deed of mortgage, there appears a rider typed at the bottom of the reverse side of the document under the lists of the properties mortgaged which reads, as follows: AND IT IS FURTHER AGREED that in the event the Sales Patent on the lot applied for by the Mortgagors as herein stated is released or issued by the Bureau of Lands, the Mortgagors hereby authorize the Register of Deeds to hold the Registration of same until this Mortgage is cancelled, or to annotate this encumbrance on the Title upon authority from the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which title with annotation, shall be released in favor of the herein Mortgage. From the aforequoted stipulation, it is obvious that the mortgagee (defendant Prudential Bank) was at the outset aware of the fact that the mortgagors (plaintiffs) have already filed a Miscellaneous Sales Application over the lot, possessory rights over which, were mortgaged to it. Exhibit "A" (Real Estate Mortgage) was registered under the Provisions of Act 3344 with the Registry of Deeds of Zambales on November 23, 1971.
On May 2, 1973, plaintiffs secured an additional loan from defendant Prudential Bank in the sum of P20,000.00. To secure payment of this additional loan, plaintiffs executed in favor of the said defendant another deed of Real Estate Mortgage over the same properties previously mortgaged in Exhibit "A." (Exhibit "B;" also Exhibit "2" for defendant). This second deed of Real Estate Mortgage was likewise registered with the Registry of Deeds, this time in Olongapo City, on May 2,1973. On April 24, 1973, the Secretary of Agriculture issued Miscellaneous Sales Patent No. 4776 over the parcel of land, possessory rights over which were mortgaged to defendant Prudential Bank, in favor of plaintiffs. On the basis of the aforesaid Patent, and upon its transcription in the Registration Book of the Province of Zambales, Original Certificate of Title No. P-2554 was issued in the name of Plaintiff Fernando Magcale, by the Ex-Oficio Register of Deeds of Zambales, on May 15, 1972. For failure of plaintiffs to pay their obligation to defendant Bank after it became due, and upon application of said defendant, the deeds of Real Estate Mortgage (Exhibits "A" and "B") were extrajudicially foreclosed. Consequent to the foreclosure was the sale of the properties therein mortgaged to defendant as the highest bidder in a public auction sale conducted by the defendant City Sheriff on April 12, 1978 (Exhibit "E"). The auction sale aforesaid was held despite written request from plaintiffs through counsel dated March 29, 1978, for the defendant City Sheriff to desist from going with the scheduled public auction sale (Exhibit "D")." (Decision, Civil Case No. 2443-0, Rollo, pp. 29-31). Respondent Court, in a Decision dated November 3, 1978 declared the deeds of Real Estate Mortgage as null and void (Ibid., p. 35). On December 14, 1978, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration (Ibid., pp. 41-53), opposed by private respondents on January 5, 1979 (Ibid., pp. 54-62), and in an Order dated January 10, 1979 (Ibid., p. 63), the Motion for Reconsideration was denied for lack of merit. Hence, the instant petition (Ibid., pp. 5-28). The first Division of this Court, in a Resolution dated March 9, 1979, resolved to require the respondents to comment (Ibid., p. 65), which order was complied with the Resolution dated May 18,1979, (Ibid., p. 100), petitioner filed its Reply on June 2,1979 (Ibid., pp. 101-112). Thereafter, in the Resolution dated June 13, 1979, the petition was given due course and the parties were required to submit simultaneously their respective memoranda. (Ibid., p. 114). On July 18, 1979, petitioner filed its Memorandum (Ibid., pp. 116-144), while private respondents filed their Memorandum on August 1, 1979 (Ibid., pp. 146-155). In a Resolution dated August 10, 1979, this case was considered submitted for decision (Ibid., P. 158). In its Memorandum, petitioner raised the following issues: 1. WHETHER OR NOT THE DEEDS OF REAL ESTATE MORTGAGE ARE VALID; AND 2. WHETHER OR NOT THE SUPERVENING ISSUANCE IN FAVOR OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS OF MISCELLANEOUS SALES PATENT NO. 4776 ON APRIL 24, 1972 UNDER ACT NO. 730 AND
THE COVERING ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. P-2554 ON MAY 15,1972 HAVE THE EFFECT OF INVALIDATING THE DEEDS OF REAL ESTATE MORTGAGE. (Memorandum for Petitioner, Rollo, p. 122). This petition is impressed with merit. The pivotal issue in this case is whether or not a valid real estate mortgage can be constituted on the building erected on the land belonging to another. The answer is in the affirmative. In the enumeration of properties under Article 415 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, this Court ruled that, "it is obvious that the inclusion of "building" separate and distinct from the land, in said provision of law can only mean that a building is by itself an immovable property." (Lopez vs. Orosa, Jr., et al., L10817-18, Feb. 28, 1958; Associated Inc. and Surety Co., Inc. vs. Iya, et al., L-10837-38, May 30,1958). Thus, while it is true that a mortgage of land necessarily includes, in the absence of stipulation of the improvements thereon, buildings, still a building by itself may be mortgaged apart from the land on which it has been built. Such a mortgage would be still a real estate mortgage for the building would still be considered immovable property even if dealt with separately and apart from the land (Leung Yee vs. Strong Machinery Co., 37 Phil. 644). In the same manner, this Court has also established that possessory rights over said properties before title is vested on the grantee, may be validly transferred or conveyed as in a deed of mortgage (Vda. de Bautista vs. Marcos, 3 SCRA 438 ). Coming back to the case at bar, the records show, as aforestated that the original mortgage deed on the 2-storey semi-concrete residential building with warehouse and on the right of occupancy on the lot where the building was erected, was executed on November 19, 1971 and registered under the provisions of Act 3344 with the Register of Deeds of Zambales on November 23, 1971. Miscellaneous Sales Patent No. 4776 on the land was issued on April 24, 1972, on the basis of which OCT No. 2554 was issued in the name of private respondent Fernando Magcale on May 15, 1972. It is therefore without question that the original mortgage was executed before the issuance of the final patent and before the government was divested of its title to the land, an event which takes effect only on the issuance of the sales patent and its subsequent registration in the Office of the Register of Deeds (Visayan Realty Inc. vs. Meer, 96 Phil. 515; Director of Lands vs. De Leon, 110 Phil. 28; Director of Lands vs. Jurado, L-14702, May 23, 1961; Pena "Law on Natural Resources", p. 49). Under the foregoing considerations, it is evident that the mortgage executed by private respondent on his own building which was erected on the land belonging to the government is to all intents and purposes a valid mortgage. As to restrictions expressly mentioned on the face of respondents' OCT No. P-2554, it will be noted that Sections 121, 122 and 124 of the Public Land Act, refer to land already acquired under the Public Land Act, or any improvement thereon and therefore have no application to the assailed mortgage in the case at bar which was executed before such eventuality. Likewise, Section 2 of Republic Act No. 730, also a restriction appearing on the face of private respondent's title has likewise no application in the instant case, despite its reference to encumbrance or alienation before the patent is issued because it refers specifically to encumbrance or alienation on the land itself and does not mention anything regarding the improvements existing thereon. But it is a different matter, as regards the second mortgage executed over the same properties on May 2, 1973 for an additional loan of P20,000.00 which was registered with the Registry of Deeds of Olongapo City on the same date. Relative thereto, it is evident that such mortgage executed after the issuance of the sales patent and of the Original Certificate of Title, falls squarely under the prohibitions stated in Sections 121, 122 and 124 of the Public Land Act and Section 2 of Republic Act 730, and is therefore null and void.
Petitioner points out that private respondents, after physically possessing the title for five years, voluntarily surrendered the same to the bank in 1977 in order that the mortgaged may be annotated, without requiring the bank to get the prior approval of the Ministry of Natural Resources beforehand, thereby implicitly authorizing Prudential Bank to cause the annotation of said mortgage on their title. However, the Court, in recently ruling on violations of Section 124 which refers to Sections 118, 120, 122 and 123 of Commonwealth Act 141, has held: ... Nonetheless, we apply our earlier rulings because we believe that as in pari delicto may not be invoked to defeat the policy of the State neither may the doctrine of estoppel give a validating effect to a void contract. Indeed, it is generally considered that as between parties to a contract, validity cannot be given to it by estoppel if it is prohibited by law or is against public policy (19 Am. Jur. 802). It is not within the competence of any citizen to barter away what public policy by law was to preserve (Gonzalo Puyat & Sons, Inc. vs. De los Amas and Alino supra). ... (Arsenal vs. IAC, 143 SCRA 54 ). This pronouncement covers only the previous transaction already alluded to and does not pass upon any new contract between the parties (Ibid), as in the case at bar. It should not preclude new contracts that may be entered into between petitioner bank and private respondents that are in accordance with the requirements of the law. After all, private respondents themselves declare that they are not denying the legitimacy of their debts and appear to be open to new negotiations under the law (Comment; Rollo, pp. 95-96). Any new transaction, however, would be subject to whatever steps the Government may take for the reversion of the land in its favor. PREMISES CONSIDERED, the decision of the Court of First Instance of Zambales & Olongapo City is hereby MODIFIED, declaring that the Deed of Real Estate Mortgage for P70,000.00 is valid but ruling that the Deed of Real Estate Mortgage for an additional loan of P20,000.00 is null and void, without prejudice to any appropriate action the Government may take against private respondents. SO ORDERED. EN BANC G.R. No. L-20329 March 16, 1923
Now, therefore, the mortgagor hereby conveys and transfer to the mortgage, by way of mortgage, the following described personal property, situated in the City of Manila, and now in possession of the mortgagor, to wit: (1) All of the right, title, and interest of the mortgagor in and to the contract of lease hereinabove referred to, and in and to the premises the subject of the said lease; (2) The building, property of the mortgagor, situated on the aforesaid leased premises. After said document had been duly acknowledge and delivered, the petitioner caused the same to be presented to the respondent, Joaquin Jaramillo, as register of deeds of the City of Manila, for the purpose of having the same recorded in the book of record of chattel mortgages. Upon examination of the instrument, the respondent was of the opinion that it was not a chattel mortgage, for the reason that the interest therein mortgaged did not appear to be personal property, within the meaning of the Chattel Mortgage Law, and registration was refused on this ground only. We are of the opinion that the position taken by the respondent is untenable; and it is his duty to accept the proper fee and place the instrument on record. The duties of a register of deeds in respect to the registration of chattel mortgage are of a purely ministerial character; and no provision of law can be cited which confers upon him any judicial or quasi-judicial power to determine the nature of any document of which registration is sought as a chattel mortgage. The original provisions touching this matter are contained in section 15 of the Chattel Mortgage Law (Act No. 1508), as amended by Act No. 2496; but these have been transferred to section 198 of the Administrative Code, where they are now found. There is nothing in any of these provisions conferring upon the register of deeds any authority whatever in respect to the "qualification," as the term is used in Spanish law, of chattel mortgage. His duties in respect to such instruments are ministerial only. The efficacy of the act of recording a chattel mortgage consists in the fact that it operates as constructive notice of the existence of the contract, and the legal effects of the contract must be discovered in the instrument itself in relation with the fact of notice. Registration adds nothing to the instrument, considered as a source of title, and affects nobody's rights except as a specifies of notice. Articles 334 and 335 of the Civil Code supply no absolute criterion for discriminating between real property and personal property for purpose of the application of the Chattel Mortgage Law. Those articles state rules which, considered as a general doctrine, are law in this jurisdiction; but it must not be forgotten that under given conditions property may have character different from that imputed to it in said articles. It is undeniable that the parties to a contract may by agreement treat as personal property that which by nature would be real property; and it is a familiar phenomenon to see things classed as real property for purposes of taxation which on general principle might be considered personal property. Other situations are constantly arising, and from time to time are presented to this court, in which the proper classification of one thing or another as real or personal property may be said to be doubtful. The point submitted to us in this case was determined on September 8, 1914, in an administrative ruling promulgated by the Honorable James A. Ostrand, now a Justice of this Court, but acting at that time in the capacity of Judge of the fourth branch of the Court of First Instance of the Ninth Judicial District, in the City of Manila; and little of value can be here added to the observations contained in said ruling. We accordingly quote therefrom as follows: It is unnecessary here to determine whether or not the property described in the document in question is real or personal; the discussion may be confined to the point as to whether a register of deeds has authority to deny the registration of a document purporting to be a chattel mortgage and executed in the manner and form prescribed by the Chattel Mortgage Law.
THE STANDARD OIL COMPANY OF NEW YORK, petitioner, vs. JOAQUIN JARAMILLO, as register of deeds of the City of Manila, respondent. STREET, J.: This cause is before us upon demurrer interposed by the respondent, Joaquin Jaramillo, register of deeds of the City of Manila, to an original petition of the Standard Oil Company of New York, seeking a peremptory mandamusto compel the respondent to record in the proper register a document purporting to be a chattel mortgage executed in the City of Manila by Gervasia de la Rosa, Vda. de Vera, in favor of the Standard Oil Company of New York. It appears from the petition that on November 27, 1922, Gervasia de la Rosa, Vda. de Vera, was the lessee of a parcel of land situated in the City of Manila and owner of the house of strong materials built thereon, upon which date she executed a document in the form of a chattel mortgage, purporting to convey to the petitioner by way of mortgage both the leasehold interest in said lot and the building which stands thereon. The clauses in said document describing the property intended to be thus mortgage are expressed in the following words:
Then, after quoting section 5 of the Chattel Mortgage Law (Act No. 1508), his Honor continued: Based principally upon the provisions of section quoted the Attorney-General of the Philippine Islands, in an opinion dated August 11, 1909, held that a register of deeds has no authority to pass upon the capacity of the parties to a chattel mortgage which is presented to him for record. A fortiori a register of deeds can have no authority to pass upon the character of the property sought to be encumbered by a chattel mortgage. Of course, if the mortgaged property is real instead of personal the chattel mortgage would no doubt be held ineffective as against third parties, but this is a question to be determined by the courts of justice and not by the register of deeds. In Leung Yee vs. Frank L. Strong Machinery Co. and Williamson (37 Phil., 644), this court held that where the interest conveyed is of the nature of real, property, the placing of the document on record in the chattel mortgage register is a futile act; but that decision is not decisive of the question now before us, which has reference to the function of the register of deeds in placing the document on record. In the light of what has been said it becomes unnecessary for us to pass upon the point whether the interests conveyed in the instrument now in question are real or personal; and we declare it to be the duty of the register of deeds to accept the estimate placed upon the document by the petitioner and to register it, upon payment of the proper fee. The demurrer is overruled; and unless within the period of five days from the date of the notification hereof, the respondent shall interpose a sufficient answer to the petition, the writ of mandamus will be issued, as prayed, but without costs. So ordered. EN BANC G.R. No. L-11658 February 15, 1918
indebtedness to the plaintiff under a contract for the construction of the building. Upon the failure of the mortgagor to pay the amount of the indebtedness secured by the mortgage, the plaintiff secured judgment for that amount, levied execution upon the building, bought it in at the sheriff's sale on or about the 18th of December, 1914, and had the sheriff's certificate of the sale duly registered in the land registry of the Province of Cavite. At the time when the execution was levied upon the building, the defendant machinery company, which was in possession, filed with the sheriff a sworn statement setting up its claim of title and demanding the release of the property from the levy. Thereafter, upon demand of the sheriff, the plaintiff executed an indemnity bond in favor of the sheriff in the sum of P12,000, in reliance upon which the sheriff sold the property at public auction to the plaintiff, who was the highest bidder at the sheriff's sale. This action was instituted by the plaintiff to recover possession of the building from the machinery company. The trial judge, relying upon the terms of article 1473 of the Civil Code, gave judgment in favor of the machinery company, on the ground that the company had its title to the building registered prior to the date of registry of the plaintiff's certificate. Article 1473 of the Civil Code is as follows: If the same thing should have been sold to different vendees, the ownership shall be transfer to the person who may have the first taken possession thereof in good faith, if it should be personal property. Should it be real property, it shall belong to the person acquiring it who first recorded it in the registry. Should there be no entry, the property shall belong to the person who first took possession of it in good faith, and, in the absence thereof, to the person who presents the oldest title, provided there is good faith. The registry her referred to is of course the registry of real property, and it must be apparent that the annotation or inscription of a deed of sale of real property in a chattel mortgage registry cannot be given the legal effect of an inscription in the registry of real property. By its express terms, the Chattel Mortgage Law contemplates and makes provision for mortgages of personal property; and the sole purpose and object of the chattel mortgage registry is to provide for the registry of "Chattel mortgages," that is to say, mortgages of personal property executed in the manner and form prescribed in the statute. The building of strong materials in which the rice-cleaning machinery was installed by the "Compañia Agricola Filipina" was real property, and the mere fact that the parties seem to have dealt with it separate and apart from the land on which it stood in no wise changed its character as real property. It follows that neither the original registry in the chattel mortgage of the building and the machinery installed therein, not the annotation in that registry of the sale of the mortgaged property, had any effect whatever so far as the building was concerned. We conclude that the ruling in favor of the machinery company cannot be sustained on the ground assigned by the trial judge. We are of opinion, however, that the judgment must be sustained on the ground that the agreed statement of facts in the court below discloses that neither the purchase of the building by the plaintiff nor his inscription of the sheriff's certificate of sale in his favor was made in good faith, and that the machinery company must be held to be the owner of the property under the third paragraph of the above cited article of the code, it appearing that the company first took possession of the property; and further, that the building and the land were sold to the machinery company long prior to the date of the sheriff's sale to the plaintiff.
LEUNG YEE, plaintiff-appellant, vs. FRANK L. STRONG MACHINERY COMPANY and J. G. WILLIAMSON, defendants-appellees. CARSON, J.: The "Compañia Agricola Filipina" bought a considerable quantity of rice-cleaning machinery company from the defendant machinery company, and executed a chattel mortgage thereon to secure payment of the purchase price. It included in the mortgage deed the building of strong materials in which the machinery was installed, without any reference to the land on which it stood. The indebtedness secured by this instrument not having been paid when it fell due, the mortgaged property was sold by the sheriff, in pursuance of the terms of the mortgage instrument, and was bought in by the machinery company. The mortgage was registered in the chattel mortgage registry, and the sale of the property to the machinery company in satisfaction of the mortgage was annotated in the same registry on December 29, 1913. A few weeks thereafter, on or about the 14th of January, 1914, the "Compañia Agricola Filipina" executed a deed of sale of the land upon which the building stood to the machinery company, but this deed of sale, although executed in a public document, was not registered. This deed makes no reference to the building erected on the land and would appear to have been executed for the purpose of curing any defects which might be found to exist in the machinery company's title to the building under the sheriff's certificate of sale. The machinery company went into possession of the building at or about the time when this sale took place, that is to say, the month of December, 1913, and it has continued in possession ever since. At or about the time when the chattel mortgage was executed in favor of the machinery company, the mortgagor, the "Compañia Agricola Filipina" executed another mortgage to the plaintiff upon the building, separate and apart from the land on which it stood, to secure payment of the balance of its
It has been suggested that since the provisions of article 1473 of the Civil Code require "good faith," in express terms, in relation to "possession" and "title," but contain no express requirement as to "good faith" in relation to the "inscription" of the property on the registry, it must be presumed that good faith is not an essential requisite of registration in order that it may have the effect contemplated in this article. We cannot agree with this contention. It could not have been the intention of the legislator to base the preferential right secured under this article of the code upon an inscription of title in bad faith. Such an interpretation placed upon the language of this section would open wide the door to fraud and collusion. The public records cannot be converted into instruments of fraud and oppression by one who secures an inscription therein in bad faith. The force and effect given by law to an inscription in a public record presupposes the good faith of him who enters such inscription; and rights created by statute, which are predicated upon an inscription in a public registry, do not and cannot accrue under an inscription "in bad faith," to the benefit of the person who thus makes the inscription. Construing the second paragraph of this article of the code, the supreme court of Spain held in its sentencia of the 13th of May, 1908, that: This rule is always to be understood on the basis of the good faith mentioned in the first paragraph; therefore, it having been found that the second purchasers who record their purchase had knowledge of the previous sale, the question is to be decided in accordance with the following paragraph. (Note 2, art. 1473, Civ. Code, Medina and Maranon  edition.) Although article 1473, in its second paragraph, provides that the title of conveyance of ownership of the real property that is first recorded in the registry shall have preference, this provision must always be understood on the basis of the good faith mentioned in the first paragraph; the legislator could not have wished to strike it out and to sanction bad faith, just to comply with a mere formality which, in given cases, does not obtain even in real disputes between third persons. (Note 2, art. 1473, Civ. Code, issued by the publishers of the La Revista de los Tribunales, 13th edition.) The agreed statement of facts clearly discloses that the plaintiff, when he bought the building at the sheriff's sale and inscribed his title in the land registry, was duly notified that the machinery company had bought the building from plaintiff's judgment debtor; that it had gone into possession long prior to the sheriff's sale; and that it was in possession at the time when the sheriff executed his levy. The execution of an indemnity bond by the plaintiff in favor of the sheriff, after the machinery company had filed its sworn claim of ownership, leaves no room for doubt in this regard. Having bought in the building at the sheriff's sale with full knowledge that at the time of the levy and sale the building had already been sold to the machinery company by the judgment debtor, the plaintiff cannot be said to have been a purchaser in good faith; and of course, the subsequent inscription of the sheriff's certificate of title must be held to have been tainted with the same defect. Perhaps we should make it clear that in holding that the inscription of the sheriff's certificate of sale to the plaintiff was not made in good faith, we should not be understood as questioning, in any way, the good faith and genuineness of the plaintiff's claim against the "Compañia Agricola Filipina." The truth is that both the plaintiff and the defendant company appear to have had just and righteous claims against their common debtor. No criticism can properly be made of the exercise of the utmost diligence by the plaintiff in asserting and exercising his right to recover the amount of his claim from the estate of the common debtor. We are strongly inclined to believe that in procuring the levy of execution upon the factory building and in buying it at the sheriff's sale, he considered that he was doing no more than he had a right to do under all the circumstances, and it is highly possible and even probable that he thought at that time that he would be able to maintain his position in a contest with the machinery company. There was no collusion on his part with the common debtor, and no thought of the perpetration of a fraud upon the rights of another, in the ordinary sense of the word. He may have hoped, and doubtless he did hope, that the title of the machinery company would not stand the test of an action in a court of law; and if later developments had confirmed his unfounded hopes, no one could question the legality of the propriety of the course he adopted.
But it appearing that he had full knowledge of the machinery company's claim of ownership when he executed the indemnity bond and bought in the property at the sheriff's sale, and it appearing further that the machinery company's claim of ownership was well founded, he cannot be said to have been an innocent purchaser for value. He took the risk and must stand by the consequences; and it is in this sense that we find that he was not a purchaser in good faith. One who purchases real estate with knowledge of a defect or lack of title in his vendor cannot claim that he has acquired title thereto in good faith as against the true owner of the land or of an interest therein; and the same rule must be applied to one who has knowledge of facts which should have put him upon such inquiry and investigation as might be necessary to acquaint him with the defects in the title of his vendor. A purchaser cannot close his eyes to facts which should put a reasonable man upon his guard, and then claim that he acted in good faith under the belief that there was no defect in the title of the vendor. His mere refusal to believe that such defect exists, or his willful closing of his eyes to the possibility of the existence of a defect in his vendor's title, will not make him an innocent purchaser for value, if afterwards develops that the title was in fact defective, and it appears that he had such notice of the defects as would have led to its discovery had he acted with that measure of precaution which may reasonably be acquired of a prudent man in a like situation. Good faith, or lack of it, is in its analysis a question of intention; but in ascertaining the intention by which one is actuated on a given occasion, we are necessarily controlled by the evidence as to the conduct and outward acts by which alone the inward motive may, with safety, be determined. So it is that "the honesty of intention," "the honest lawful intent," which constitutes good faith implies a "freedom from knowledge and circumstances which ought to put a person on inquiry," and so it is that proof of such knowledge overcomes the presumption of good faith in which the courts always indulge in the absence of proof to the contrary. "Good faith, or the want of it, is not a visible, tangible fact that can be seen or touched, but rather a state or condition of mind which can only be judged of by actual or fancied tokens or signs." (Wilder vs. Gilman, 55 Vt., 504, 505; Cf. Cardenas Lumber Co. vs. Shadel, 52 La. Ann., 20942098; Pinkerton Bros. Co. vs. Bromley, 119 Mich., 8, 10, 17.) We conclude that upon the grounds herein set forth the disposing part of the decision and judgment entered in the court below should be affirmed with costs of this instance against the appellant. So ordered. EN BANC G.R. No. L-40411 August 7, 1935
DAVAO SAW MILL CO., INC., plaintiff-appellant, vs. APRONIANO G. CASTILLO and DAVAO LIGHT & POWER CO., INC., defendants-appellees. MALCOLM, J.: The issue in this case, as announced in the opening sentence of the decision in the trial court and as set forth by counsel for the parties on appeal, involves the determination of the nature of the properties described in the complaint. The trial judge found that those properties were personal in nature, and as a consequence absolved the defendants from the complaint, with costs against the plaintiff. The Davao Saw Mill Co., Inc., is the holder of a lumber concession from the Government of the Philippine Islands. It has operated a sawmill in the sitio of Maa, barrio of Tigatu, municipality of Davao, Province of Davao. However, the land upon which the business was conducted belonged to another person. On the land the sawmill company erected a building which housed the machinery used by it. Some of the implements thus used were clearly personal property, the conflict concerning machines which were placed and mounted on foundations of cement. In the contract of lease between the sawmill company and the owner of the land there appeared the following provision: That on the expiration of the period agreed upon, all the improvements and buildings introduced and erected by the party of the second part shall pass to the exclusive ownership of the party of the first part without any obligation on its part to pay any amount for said
improvements and buildings; also, in the event the party of the second part should leave or abandon the land leased before the time herein stipulated, the improvements and buildings shall likewise pass to the ownership of the party of the first part as though the time agreed upon had expired: Provided, however, That the machineries and accessories are not included in the improvements which will pass to the party of the first part on the expiration or abandonment of the land leased. In another action, wherein the Davao Light & Power Co., Inc., was the plaintiff and the Davao, Saw, Mill Co., Inc., was the defendant, a judgment was rendered in favor of the plaintiff in that action against the defendant in that action; a writ of execution issued thereon, and the properties now in question were levied upon as personalty by the sheriff. No third party claim was filed for such properties at the time of the sales thereof as is borne out by the record made by the plaintiff herein. Indeed the bidder, which was the plaintiff in that action, and the defendant herein having consummated the sale, proceeded to take possession of the machinery and other properties described in the corresponding certificates of sale executed in its favor by the sheriff of Davao. As connecting up with the facts, it should further be explained that the Davao Saw Mill Co., Inc., has on a number of occasions treated the machinery as personal property by executing chattel mortgages in favor of third persons. One of such persons is the appellee by assignment from the original mortgages. Article 334, paragraphs 1 and 5, of the Civil Code, is in point. According to the Code, real property consists of — 1. Land, buildings, roads and constructions of all kinds adhering to the soil; xxx xxx xxx
5. Machinery, liquid containers, instruments or implements intended by the owner of any building or land for use in connection with any industry or trade being carried on therein and which are expressly adapted to meet the requirements of such trade of industry. Appellant emphasizes the first paragraph, and appellees the last mentioned paragraph. We entertain no doubt that the trial judge and appellees are right in their appreciation of the legal doctrines flowing from the facts. In the first place, it must again be pointed out that the appellant should have registered its protest before or at the time of the sale of this property. It must further be pointed out that while not conclusive, the characterization of the property as chattels by the appellant is indicative of intention and impresses upon the property the character determined by the parties. In this connection the decision of this court in the case of Standard Oil Co. of New Yorkvs. Jaramillo ( , 44 Phil., 630), whether obiter dicta or not, furnishes the key to such a situation. It is, however not necessary to spend overly must time in the resolution of this appeal on side issues. It is machinery which is involved; moreover, machinery not intended by the owner of any building or land for use in connection therewith, but intended by a lessee for use in a building erected on the land by the latter to be returned to the lessee on the expiration or abandonment of the lease. A similar question arose in Puerto Rico, and on appeal being taken to the United States Supreme Court, it was held that machinery which is movable in its nature only becomes immobilized when placed in a plant by the owner of the property or plant, but not when so placed by a tenant, a usufructuary, or any person having only a temporary right, unless such person acted as the agent of the owner. In the opinion written by Chief Justice White, whose knowledge of the Civil Law is well known, it was in part said:
To determine this question involves fixing the nature and character of the property from the point of view of the rights of Valdes and its nature and character from the point of view of Nevers & Callaghan as a judgment creditor of the Altagracia Company and the rights derived by them from the execution levied on the machinery placed by the corporation in the plant. Following the Code Napoleon, the Porto Rican Code treats as immovable (real) property, not only land and buildings, but also attributes immovability in some cases to property of a movable nature, that is, personal property, because of the destination to which it is applied. "Things," says section 334 of the Porto Rican Code, "may be immovable either by their own nature or by their destination or the object to which they are applicable." Numerous illustrations are given in the fifth subdivision of section 335, which is as follows: "Machinery, vessels, instruments or implements intended by the owner of the tenements for the industrial or works that they may carry on in any building or upon any land and which tend directly to meet the needs of the said industry or works." (See also Code Nap., articles 516, 518 et seq. to and inclusive of article 534, recapitulating the things which, though in themselves movable, may be immobilized.) So far as the subject-matter with which we are dealing — machinery placed in the plant — it is plain, both under the provisions of the Porto Rican Law and of the Code Napoleon, that machinery which is movable in its nature only becomes immobilized when placed in a plant by the owner of the property or plant. Such result would not be accomplished, therefore, by the placing of machinery in a plant by a tenant or a usufructuary or any person having only a temporary right. (Demolombe, Tit. 9, No. 203; Aubry et Rau, Tit. 2, p. 12, Section 164; Laurent, Tit. 5, No. 447; and decisions quoted in Fuzier-Herman ed. Code Napoleon under articles 522 et seq.) The distinction rests, as pointed out by Demolombe, upon the fact that one only having a temporary right to the possession or enjoyment of property is not presumed by the law to have applied movable property belonging to him so as to deprive him of it by causing it by an act of immobilization to become the property of another. It follows that abstractly speaking the machinery put by the Altagracia Company in the plant belonging to Sanchez did not lose its character of movable property and become immovable by destination. But in the concrete immobilization took place because of the express provisions of the lease under which the Altagracia held, since the lease in substance required the putting in of improved machinery, deprived the tenant of any right to charge against the lessor the cost such machinery, and it was expressly stipulated that the machinery so put in should become a part of the plant belonging to the owner without compensation to the lessee. Under such conditions the tenant in putting in the machinery was acting but as the agent of the owner in compliance with the obligations resting upon him, and the immobilization of the machinery which resulted arose in legal effect from the act of the owner in giving by contract a permanent destination to the machinery. xxx xxx xxx
The machinery levied upon by Nevers & Callaghan, that is, that which was placed in the plant by the Altagracia Company, being, as regards Nevers & Callaghan, movable property, it follows that they had the right to levy on it under the execution upon the judgment in their favor, and the exercise of that right did not in a legal sense conflict with the claim of Valdes, since as to him the property was a part of the realty which, as the result of his obligations under the lease, he could not, for the purpose of collecting his debt, proceed separately against. (Valdes vs. Central Altagracia , 225 U.S., 58.) Finding no reversible error in the record, the judgment appealed from will be affirmed, the costs of this instance to be paid by the appellant. EN BANC G.R. No. L-17870 September 29, 1962
MINDANAO BUS COMPANY, petitioner, vs. THE CITY ASSESSOR & TREASURER and the BOARD OF TAX APPEALS of Cagayan de Oro City,respondents.
LABRADOR, J.: This is a petition for the review of the decision of the Court of Tax Appeals in C.T.A. Case No. 710 holding that the petitioner Mindanao Bus Company is liable to the payment of the realty tax on its maintenance and repair equipment hereunder referred to. Respondent City Assessor of Cagayan de Oro City assessed at P4,400 petitioner's abovementioned equipment. Petitioner appealed the assessment to the respondent Board of Tax Appeals on the ground that the same are not realty. The Board of Tax Appeals of the City sustained the city assessor, so petitioner herein filed with the Court of Tax Appeals a petition for the review of the assessment. In the Court of Tax Appeals the parties submitted the following stipulation of facts: Petitioner and respondents, thru their respective counsels agreed to the following stipulation of facts: 1. That petitioner is a public utility solely engaged in transporting passengers and cargoes by motor trucks, over its authorized lines in the Island of Mindanao, collecting rates approved by the Public Service Commission; 2. That petitioner has its main office and shop at Cagayan de Oro City. It maintains Branch Offices and/or stations at Iligan City, Lanao; Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur; Davao City and Kibawe, Bukidnon Province; 3. That the machineries sought to be assessed by the respondent as real properties are the following: (a) Hobart Electric Welder Machine, appearing in the attached photograph, marked Annex "A"; (b) Storm Boring Machine, appearing in the attached photograph, marked Annex "B"; (c) Lathe machine with motor, appearing in the attached photograph, marked Annex "C"; (d) Black and Decker Grinder, appearing in the attached photograph, marked Annex "D"; (e) PEMCO Hydraulic Press, appearing in the attached photograph, marked Annex "E"; (f) Battery charger (Tungar charge machine) appearing in the attached photograph, marked Annex "F"; and (g) D-Engine Waukesha-M-Fuel, appearing in the attached photograph, marked Annex "G". 4. That these machineries are sitting on cement or wooden platforms as may be seen in the attached photographs which form part of this agreed stipulation of facts;
5. That petitioner is the owner of the land where it maintains and operates a garage for its TPU motor trucks; a repair shop; blacksmith and carpentry shops, and with these machineries which are placed therein, its TPU trucks are made; body constructed; and same are repaired in a condition to be serviceable in the TPU land transportation business it operates; 6. That these machineries have never been or were never used as industrial equipments to produce finished products for sale, nor to repair machineries, parts and the like offered to the general public indiscriminately for business or commercial purposes for which petitioner has never engaged in, to date.1awphîl.nèt The Court of Tax Appeals having sustained the respondent city assessor's ruling, and having denied a motion for reconsideration, petitioner brought the case to this Court assigning the following errors: 1. The Honorable Court of Tax Appeals erred in upholding respondents' contention that the questioned assessments are valid; and that said tools, equipments or machineries are immovable taxable real properties. 2. The Tax Court erred in its interpretation of paragraph 5 of Article 415 of the New Civil Code, and holding that pursuant thereto the movable equipments are taxable realties, by reason of their being intended or destined for use in an industry. 3. The Court of Tax Appeals erred in denying petitioner's contention that the respondent City Assessor's power to assess and levy real estate taxes on machineries is further restricted by section 31, paragraph (c) of Republic Act No. 521; and 4. The Tax Court erred in denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration. Respondents contend that said equipments, tho movable, are immobilized by destination, in accordance with paragraph 5 of Article 415 of the New Civil Code which provides: Art. 415. — The following are immovable properties: xxx xxx xxx
(5) Machinery, receptacles, instruments or implements intended by the owner of the tenement for an industry or works which may be carried on in a building or on a piece of land, and which tend directly to meet the needs of the said industry or works. (Emphasis ours.) Note that the stipulation expressly states that the equipment are placed on wooden or cement platforms. They can be moved around and about in petitioner's repair shop. In the case of B. H. Berkenkotter vs. Cu Unjieng, 61 Phil. 663, the Supreme Court said: Article 344 (Now Art. 415), paragraph (5) of the Civil Code, gives the character of real property to "machinery, liquid containers, instruments or implements intended by the owner of any building or land for use in connection with any industry or trade being carried on therein and which are expressly adapted to meet the requirements of such trade or industry." If the installation of the machinery and equipment in question in the central of the Mabalacat Sugar Co., Inc., in lieu of the other of less capacity existing therein, for its sugar
and industry, converted them into real property by reason of their purpose, it cannot be said that their incorporation therewith was not permanent in character because, as essential and principle elements of a sugar central, without them the sugar central would be unable to function or carry on the industrial purpose for which it was established. Inasmuch as the central is permanent in character, the necessary machinery and equipment installed for carrying on the sugar industry for which it has been established must necessarily be permanent. (Emphasis ours.) So that movable equipments to be immobilized in contemplation of the law must first be "essential and principal elements" of an industry or works without which such industry or works would be "unable to function or carry on the industrial purpose for which it was established." We may here distinguish, therefore, those movable which become immobilized by destination because they are essential and principal elements in the industry for those which may not be so considered immobilized because they are merely incidental, not essential and principal. Thus, cash registers, typewriters, etc., usually found and used in hotels, restaurants, theaters, etc. are merely incidentals and are not and should not be considered immobilized by destination, for these businesses can continue or carry on their functions without these equity comments. Airline companies use forklifts, jeep-wagons, pressure pumps, IBM machines, etc. which are incidentals, not essentials, and thus retain their movable nature. On the other hand, machineries of breweries used in the manufacture of liquor and soft drinks, though movable in nature, are immobilized because they are essential to said industries; but the delivery trucks and adding machines which they usually own and use and are found within their industrial compounds are merely incidental and retain their movable nature. Similarly, the tools and equipments in question in this instant case are, by their nature, not essential and principle municipal elements of petitioner's business of transporting passengers and cargoes by motor trucks. They are merely incidentals — acquired as movables and used only for expediency to facilitate and/or improve its service. Even without such tools and equipments, its business may be carried on, as petitioner has carried on, without such equipments, before the war. The transportation business could be carried on without the repair or service shop if its rolling equipment is repaired or serviced in another shop belonging to another. The law that governs the determination of the question at issue is as follows: Art. 415. The following are immovable property: xxx xxx xxx
on in a building, tenement or on a specified land, so said equipment may not be considered real estate within the meaning of Article 415 (c) of the Civil Code. WHEREFORE, the decision subject of the petition for review is hereby set aside and the equipment in question declared not subject to assessment as real estate for the purposes of the real estate tax. Without costs. So ordered. SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. L-58469 May 16, 1983 MAKATI LEASING and FINANCE CORPORATION, petitioner, vs. WEAREVER TEXTILE MILLS, INC., and HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, respondents. DE CASTRO, J.: Petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court of Appeals (now Intermediate Appellate Court) promulgated on August 27, 1981 in CA-G.R. No. SP-12731, setting aside certain Orders later specified herein, of Judge Ricardo J. Francisco, as Presiding Judge of the Court of First instance of Rizal Branch VI, issued in Civil Case No. 36040, as wen as the resolution dated September 22, 1981 of the said appellate court, denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration. It appears that in order to obtain financial accommodations from herein petitioner Makati Leasing and Finance Corporation, the private respondent Wearever Textile Mills, Inc., discounted and assigned several receivables with the former under a Receivable Purchase Agreement. To secure the collection of the receivables assigned, private respondent executed a Chattel Mortgage over certain raw materials inventory as well as a machinery described as an Artos Aero Dryer Stentering Range. Upon private respondent's default, petitioner filed a petition for extrajudicial foreclosure of the properties mortgage to it. However, the Deputy Sheriff assigned to implement the foreclosure failed to gain entry into private respondent's premises and was not able to effect the seizure of the aforedescribed machinery. Petitioner thereafter filed a complaint for judicial foreclosure with the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Branch VI, docketed as Civil Case No. 36040, the case before the lower court. Acting on petitioner's application for replevin, the lower court issued a writ of seizure, the enforcement of which was however subsequently restrained upon private respondent's filing of a motion for reconsideration. After several incidents, the lower court finally issued on February 11, 1981, an order lifting the restraining order for the enforcement of the writ of seizure and an order to break open the premises of private respondent to enforce said writ. The lower court reaffirmed its stand upon private respondent's filing of a further motion for reconsideration. On July 13, 1981, the sheriff enforcing the seizure order, repaired to the premises of private respondent and removed the main drive motor of the subject machinery. The Court of Appeals, in certiorari and prohibition proceedings subsequently filed by herein private respondent, set aside the Orders of the lower court and ordered the return of the drive motor seized by the sheriff pursuant to said Orders, after ruling that the machinery in suit cannot be the subject of replevin, much less of a chattel mortgage, because it is a real property pursuant to Article 415 of the new Civil Code, the same being attached to the ground by means of bolts and the only way to remove it from respondent's plant would be to drill out or destroy the concrete floor, the reason why all that the sheriff could do to enfore the writ was to take the main drive motor of said machinery. The appellate
(5) Machinery, receptacles, instruments or implements intended by the owner of the tenement for an industry or works which may be carried on in a building or on a piece of land, and which tend directly to meet the needs of the said industry or works; (Civil Code of the Phil.) Aside from the element of essentiality the above-quoted provision also requires that the industry or works be carried on in a building or on a piece of land. Thus in the case of Berkenkotter vs. Cu Unjieng, supra, the "machinery, liquid containers, and instruments or implements" are found in a building constructed on the land. A sawmill would also be installed in a building on land more or less permanently, and the sawing is conducted in the land or building. But in the case at bar the equipments in question are destined only to repair or service the transportation business, which is not carried on in a building or permanently on a piece of land, as demanded by the law. Said equipments may not, therefore, be deemed real property. Resuming what we have set forth above, we hold that the equipments in question are not absolutely essential to the petitioner's transportation business, and petitioner's business is not carried
court rejected petitioner's argument that private respondent is estopped from claiming that the machine is real property by constituting a chattel mortgage thereon. A motion for reconsideration of this decision of the Court of Appeals having been denied, petitioner has brought the case to this Court for review by writ of certiorari. It is contended by private respondent, however, that the instant petition was rendered moot and academic by petitioner's act of returning the subject motor drive of respondent's machinery after the Court of Appeals' decision was promulgated. The contention of private respondent is without merit. When petitioner returned the subject motor drive, it made itself unequivocably clear that said action was without prejudice to a motion for reconsideration of the Court of Appeals decision, as shown by the receipt duly signed by respondent's representative. 1 Considering that petitioner has reserved its right to question the propriety of the Court of Appeals' decision, the contention of private respondent that this petition has been mooted by such return may not be sustained. The next and the more crucial question to be resolved in this Petition is whether the machinery in suit is real or personal property from the point of view of the parties, with petitioner arguing that it is a personality, while the respondent claiming the contrary, and was sustained by the appellate court, which accordingly held that the chattel mortgage constituted thereon is null and void, as contended by said respondent. A similar, if not Identical issue was raised in Tumalad v. Vicencio, 41 SCRA 143 where this Court, speaking through Justice J.B.L. Reyes, ruled: Although there is no specific statement referring to the subject house as personal property, yet by ceding, selling or transferring a property by way of chattel mortgage defendants-appellants could only have meant to convey the house as chattel, or at least, intended to treat the same as such, so that they should not now be allowed to make an inconsistent stand by claiming otherwise. Moreover, the subject house stood on a rented lot to which defendants-appellants merely had a temporary right as lessee, and although this can not in itself alone determine the status of the property, it does so when combined with other factors to sustain the interpretation that the parties, particularly the mortgagors, intended to treat the house as personality. Finally, unlike in the Iya cases, Lopez vs. Orosa, Jr. & Plaza Theatre, Inc. & Leung Yee vs. F.L. Strong Machinery & Williamson, wherein third persons assailed the validity of the chattel mortgage, it is the defendants-appellants themselves, as debtors-mortgagors, who are attacking the validity of the chattel mortgage in this case. The doctrine of estoppel therefore applies to the herein defendants-appellants, having treated the subject house as personality. Examining the records of the instant case, We find no logical justification to exclude the rule out, as the appellate court did, the present case from the application of the abovequoted pronouncement. If a house of strong materials, like what was involved in the above Tumalad case, may be considered as personal property for purposes of executing a chattel mortgage thereon as long as the parties to the contract so agree and no innocent third party will be prejudiced thereby, there is absolutely no reason why a machinery, which is movable in its nature and becomes immobilized only by destination or purpose, may not be likewise treated as such. This is really because one who has so agreed is estopped from denying the existence of the chattel mortgage. In rejecting petitioner's assertion on the applicability of the Tumalad doctrine, the Court of Appeals lays stress on the fact that the house involved therein was built on a land that did not belong to the owner of such house. But the law makes no distinction with respect to the ownership of the land on which the house is built and We should not lay down distinctions not contemplated by law.
It must be pointed out that the characterization of the subject machinery as chattel by the private respondent is indicative of intention and impresses upon the property the character determined by the parties. As stated inStandard Oil Co. of New York v. Jaramillo, 44 Phil. 630, it is undeniable that the parties to a contract may by agreement treat as personal property that which by nature would be real property, as long as no interest of third parties would be prejudiced thereby. Private respondent contends that estoppel cannot apply against it because it had never represented nor agreed that the machinery in suit be considered as personal property but was merely required and dictated on by herein petitioner to sign a printed form of chattel mortgage which was in a blank form at the time of signing. This contention lacks persuasiveness. As aptly pointed out by petitioner and not denied by the respondent, the status of the subject machinery as movable or immovable was never placed in issue before the lower court and the Court of Appeals except in a supplemental memorandum in support of the petition filed in the appellate court. Moreover, even granting that the charge is true, such fact alone does not render a contract void ab initio, but can only be a ground for rendering said contract voidable, or annullable pursuant to Article 1390 of the new Civil Code, by a proper action in court. There is nothing on record to show that the mortgage has been annulled. Neither is it disclosed that steps were taken to nullify the same. On the other hand, as pointed out by petitioner and again not refuted by respondent, the latter has indubitably benefited from said contract. Equity dictates that one should not benefit at the expense of another. Private respondent could not now therefore, be allowed to impugn the efficacy of the chattel mortgage after it has benefited therefrom, From what has been said above, the error of the appellate court in ruling that the questioned machinery is real, not personal property, becomes very apparent. Moreover, the case of Machinery and Engineering Supplies, Inc. v. CA, 96 Phil. 70, heavily relied upon by said court is not applicable to the case at bar, the nature of the machinery and equipment involved therein as real properties never having been disputed nor in issue, and they were not the subject of a Chattel Mortgage. Undoubtedly, the Tumalad case bears more nearly perfect parity with the instant case to be the more controlling jurisprudential authority. WHEREFORE, the questioned decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals are hereby reversed and set aside, and the Orders of the lower court are hereby reinstated, with costs against the private respondent. SO ORDERED. THIRD DIVISION [G.R. No. 137705. August 22, 2000] SERG’S PRODUCTS, INC., and SERGIO T. GOQUIOLAY, petitioners, vs. PCI LEASING AND FINANCE, INC., respondent. DECISION PANGANIBAN, J.: After agreeing to a contract stipulating that a real or immovable property be considered as personal or movable, a party is estopped from subsequently claiming otherwise. Hence, such property is a proper subject of a writ of replevin obtained by the other contracting party.
Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the January 6, 1999 Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-GR SP No. 47332 and its February 26, 1999 Resolution denying reconsideration. The decretal portion of the CA Decision reads as follows: “WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed Order dated February 18, 1998 and Resolution dated March 31, 1998 in Civil Case No. Q-98-33500 are hereby AFFIRMED. The writ of preliminary injunction issued on June 15, 1998 is hereby LIFTED.” In its February 18, 1998 Order, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City (Branch 218) issued a Writ of Seizure. The March 18, 1998 Resolution denied petitioners’ Motion for Special Protective Order, praying that the deputy sheriff be enjoined “from seizing immobilized or other real properties in (petitioners’) factory in Cainta, Rizal and to return to their original place whatever immobilized machineries or equipments he may have removed.” The Facts The undisputed facts are summarized by the Court of Appeals as follows: “On February 13, 1998, respondent PCI Leasing and Finance, Inc. (“PCI Leasing” for short) filed with the RTC-QC a complaint for [a] sum of money (Annex ‘E’), with an application for a writ of replevin docketed as Civil Case No. Q-98-33500. “On March 6, 1998, upon an ex-parte application of PCI Leasing, respondent judge issued a writ of replevin (Annex ‘B’) directing its sheriff to seize and deliver the machineries and equipment to PCI Leasing after 5 days and upon the payment of the necessary expenses. “On March 24, 1998, in implementation of said writ, the sheriff proceeded to petitioner’s factory, seized one machinery with [the] word that he [would] return for the other machineries. “On March 25, 1998, petitioners filed a motion for special protective order (Annex ‘C’), invoking the power of the court to control the conduct of its officers and amend and control its processes, praying for a directive for the sheriff to defer enforcement of the writ of replevin. “This motion was opposed by PCI Leasing (Annex ‘F’), on the ground that the properties [were] still personal and therefore still subject to seizure and a writ of replevin. “In their Reply, petitioners asserted that the properties sought to be seized [were] immovable as defined in Article 415 of the Civil Code, the parties’ agreement to the contrary notwithstanding. They argued that to give effect to the agreement would be prejudicial to innocent third parties. They further stated that PCI Leasing [was] estopped from treating these machineries as personal because the contracts in which the alleged agreement [were] embodied [were] totally sham and farcical. “On April 6, 1998, the sheriff again sought to enforce the writ of seizure and take possession of the remaining properties. He was able to take two more, but was prevented by the workers from taking the rest. “On April 7, 1998, they went to [the CA] via an original action for certiorari.”
Citing the Agreement of the parties, the appellate court held that the subject machines were personal property, and that they had only been leased, not owned, by petitioners. It also ruled that the “words of the contract are clear and leave no doubt upon the true intention of the contracting parties.” Observing that Petitioner Goquiolay was an experienced businessman who was “not unfamiliar with the ways of the trade,” it ruled that he “should have realized the import of the document he signed.” The CA further held: “Furthermore, to accord merit to this petition would be to preempt the trial court in ruling upon the case below, since the merits of the whole matter are laid down before us via a petition whose sole purpose is to inquire upon the existence of a grave abuse of discretion on the part of the [RTC] in issuing the assailed Order and Resolution. The issues raised herein are proper subjects of a fullblown trial, necessitating presentation of evidence by both parties. The contract is being enforced by one, and [its] validity is attacked by the other – a matter x x x which respondent court is in the best position to determine.” Hence, this Petition. The Issues In their Memorandum, petitioners submit the following issues for our consideration: “A. Whether or not the machineries purchased and imported by SERG’S became real property by virtue of immobilization. B. Whether or not the contract between the parties is a loan or a lease.” In the main, the Court will resolve whether the said machines are personal, not immovable, property which may be a proper subject of a writ of replevin. As a preliminary matter, the Court will also address briefly the procedural points raised by respondent. The Court’s Ruling The Petition is not meritorious.
Preliminary Matter:Procedural Questions
Respondent contends that the Petition failed to indicate expressly whether it was being filed under Rule 45 or Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. It further alleges that the Petition erroneously impleaded Judge Hilario Laqui as respondent. There is no question that the present recourse is under Rule 45. This conclusion finds support in the very title of the Petition, which is “Petition for Review on Certiorari.” While Judge Laqui should not have been impleaded as a respondent, substantial justice requires that such lapse by itself should not warrant the dismissal of the present Petition. In this light, the Court deems it proper to remove, motu proprio, the name of Judge Laqui from the caption of the present case. Main Issue: Nature of the Subject Machinery Petitioners contend that the subject machines used in their factory were not proper subjects of the Writ issued by the RTC, because they were in fact real property. Serious policy considerations, they argue, militate against a contrary characterization. Rule 60 of the Rules of Court provides that writs of replevin are issued for the recovery of personal property only. Section 3 thereof reads:
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
“SEC. 3. Order. -- Upon the filing of such affidavit and approval of the bond, the court shall issue an order and the corresponding writ of replevin describing the personal property alleged to be wrongfully detained and requiring the sheriff forthwith to take such property into his custody.” On the other hand, Article 415 of the Civil Code enumerates immovable or real property as follows: “ART. 415. The following are immovable property: x x x....................................x x x....................................x x x (5) Machinery, receptacles, instruments or implements intended by the owner of the tenement for an industry or works which may be carried on in a building or on a piece of land, and which tend directly to meet the needs of the said industry or works; x x x....................................x x x....................................x x x” In the present case, the machines that were the subjects of the Writ of Seizure were placed by petitioners in the factory built on their own land. Indisputably, they were essential and principal elements of their chocolate-making industry. Hence, although each of them was movable or personal property on its own, all of them have become “immobilized by destination because they are essential and principal elements in the industry.” In that sense, petitioners are correct in arguing that the said machines are real, not personal, property pursuant to Article 415 (5) of the Civil Code. Be that as it may, we disagree with the submission of the petitioners that the said machines are not proper subjects of the Writ of Seizure. The Court has held that contracting parties may validly stipulate that a real property be considered as personal. After agreeing to such stipulation, they are consequently estopped from claiming otherwise. Under the principle of estoppel, a party to a contract is ordinarily precluded from denying the truth of any material fact found therein. Hence, in Tumalad v. Vicencio, the Court upheld the intention of the parties to treat a house as a personal property because it had been made the subject of a chattel mortgage. The Court ruled: “x x x. Although there is no specific statement referring to the subject house as personal property, yet by ceding, selling or transferring a property by way of chattel mortgage defendants-appellants could only have meant to convey the house as chattel, or at least, intended to treat the same as such, so that they should not now be allowed to make an inconsistent stand by claiming otherwise.” Applying Tumalad, the Court in Makati Leasing and Finance Corp. v. Wearever Textile Mills also held that the machinery used in a factory and essential to the industry, as in the present case, was a proper subject of a writ of replevin because it was treated as personal property in a contract. Pertinent portions of the Court’s ruling are reproduced hereunder: “x x x. If a house of strong materials, like what was involved in the above Tumalad case, may be considered as personal property for purposes of executing a chattel mortgage thereon as long as the parties to the contract so agree and no innocent third party will be prejudiced thereby, there is absolutely no reason why a machinery, which is movable in its nature and becomes immobilized only by destination or purpose, may not be likewise treated as such. This is really because one who has so agreed is estopped from denying the existence of the chattel mortgage.”
In the present case, the Lease Agreement clearly provides that the machines in question are to be considered as personal property. Specifically, Section 12.1 of the Agreement reads as follows: “12.1 The PROPERTY is, and shall at all times be and remain, personal property notwithstanding that the PROPERTY or any part thereof may now be, or hereafter become, in any manner affixed or attached to or embedded in, or permanently resting upon, real property or any building thereon, or attached in any manner to what is permanent.” Clearly then, petitioners are estopped from denying the characterization of the subject machines as personal property. Under the circumstances, they are proper subjects of the Writ of Seizure. It should be stressed, however, that our holding -- that the machines should be deemed personal property pursuant to the Lease Agreement – is good only insofar as the contracting parties are concerned. Hence, while the parties are bound by the Agreement, third persons acting in good faith are not affected by its stipulation characterizing the subject machinery as personal. In any event, there is no showing that any specific third party would be adversely affected. Validity of the Lease Agreement In their Memorandum, petitioners contend that the Agreement is a loan and not a lease. Submitting documents supposedly showing that they own the subject machines, petitioners also argue in their Petition that the Agreement suffers from “intrinsic ambiguity which places in serious doubt the intention of the parties and the validity of the lease agreement itself.” In their Reply to respondent’s Comment, they further allege that the Agreement is invalid. These arguments are unconvincing. The validity and the nature of the contract are the lis mota of the civil action pending before the RTC. A resolution of these questions, therefore, is effectively a resolution of the merits of the case. Hence, they should be threshed out in the trial, not in the proceedings involving the issuance of the Writ of Seizure. Indeed, in La Tondeña Distillers v. CA, the Court explained that the policy under Rule 60 was that questions involving title to the subject property – questions which petitioners are now raising -- should be determined in the trial. In that case, the Court noted that the remedy of defendants under Rule 60 was either to post a counter-bond or to question the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s bond. They were not allowed, however, to invoke the title to the subject property. The Court ruled: “In other words, the law does not allow the defendant to file a motion to dissolve or discharge the writ of seizure (or delivery) on ground of insufficiency of the complaint or of the grounds relied upon therefor, as in proceedings on preliminary attachment or injunction, and thereby put at issue the matter of the title or right of possession over the specific chattel being replevied, the policy apparently being that said matter should be ventilated and determined only at the trial on the merits.” Besides, these questions require a determination of facts and a presentation of evidence, both of which have no place in a petition for certiorari in the CA under Rule 65 or in a petition for review in this Court under Rule 45. Reliance on the Lease Agreement It should be pointed out that the Court in this case may rely on the Lease Agreement, for nothing on record shows that it has been nullified or annulled. In fact, petitioners assailed it first only in the RTC proceedings, which had ironically been instituted by respondent. Accordingly, it must be presumed valid and binding as the law between the parties.
Makati Leasing and Finance Corporation is also instructive on this point. In that case, the Deed of Chattel Mortgage, which characterized the subject machinery as personal property, was also assailed because respondent had allegedly been required “to sign a printed form of chattel mortgage which was in a blank form at the time of signing.” The Court rejected the argument and relied on the Deed, ruling as follows: “x x x. Moreover, even granting that the charge is true, such fact alone does not render a contract void ab initio, but can only be a ground for rendering said contract voidable, or annullable pursuant to Article 1390 of the new Civil Code, by a proper action in court. There is nothing on record to show that the mortgage has been annulled. Neither is it disclosed that steps were taken to nullify the same. x x x” Alleged Injustice Committed on the Part of Petitioners Petitioners contend that “if the Court allows these machineries to be seized, then its workers would be out of work and thrown into the streets.” They also allege that the seizure would nullify all efforts to rehabilitate the corporation. Petitioners’ arguments do not preclude the implementation of the Writ. As earlier discussed, law and jurisprudence support its propriety. Verily, the above-mentioned consequences, if they come true, should not be blamed on this Court, but on the petitioners for failing to avail themselves of the remedy under Section 5 of Rule 60, which allows the filing of a counter-bond. The provision states: “SEC. 5. Return of property. -- If the adverse party objects to the sufficiency of the applicant’s bond, or of the surety or sureties thereon, he cannot immediately require the return of the property, but if he does not so object, he may, at any time before the delivery of the property to the applicant, require the return thereof, by filing with the court where the action is pending a bond executed to the applicant, in double the value of the property as stated in the applicant’s affidavit for the delivery thereof to the applicant, if such delivery be adjudged, and for the payment of such sum to him as may be recovered against the adverse party, and by serving a copy bond on the applicant.” WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED and the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners. SO ORDERED. SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. L-50466 May 31, 1982 CALTEX (PHILIPPINES) INC., petitioner, vs. CENTRAL BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS and CITY ASSESSOR OF PASAY, respondents. AQUINO, J.: This case is about the realty tax on machinery and equipment installed by Caltex (Philippines) Inc. in its gas stations located on leased land. The machines and equipment consists of underground tanks, elevated tank, elevated water tanks, water tanks, gasoline pumps, computing pumps, water pumps, car washer, car hoists, truck hoists, air compressors and tireflators. The city assessor described the said equipment and machinery in this manner:
A gasoline service station is a piece of lot where a building or shed is erected, a water tank if there is any is placed in one corner of the lot, car hoists are placed in an adjacent shed, an air compressor is attached in the wall of the shed or at the concrete wall fence. The controversial underground tank, depository of gasoline or crude oil, is dug deep about six feet more or less, a few meters away from the shed. This is done to prevent conflagration because gasoline and other combustible oil are very inflammable. This underground tank is connected with a steel pipe to the gasoline pump and the gasoline pump is commonly placed or constructed under the shed. The footing of the pump is a cement pad and this cement pad is imbedded in the pavement under the shed, and evidence that the gasoline underground tank is attached and connected to the shed or building through the pipe to the pump and the pump is attached and affixed to the cement pad and pavement covered by the roof of the building or shed. The building or shed, the elevated water tank, the car hoist under a separate shed, the air compressor, the underground gasoline tank, neon lights signboard, concrete fence and pavement and the lot where they are all placed or erected, all of them used in the pursuance of the gasoline service station business formed the entire gasoline service-station. As to whether the subject properties are attached and affixed to the tenement, it is clear they are, for the tenement we consider in this particular case are (is) the pavement covering the entire lot which was constructed by the owner of the gasoline station and the improvement which holds all the properties under question, they are attached and affixed to the pavement and to the improvement. The pavement covering the entire lot of the gasoline service station, as well as all the improvements, machines, equipments and apparatus are allowed by Caltex (Philippines) Inc. ... The underground gasoline tank is attached to the shed by the steel pipe to the pump, so with the water tank it is connected also by a steel pipe to the pavement, then to the electric motor which electric motor is placed under the shed. So to say that the gasoline pumps, water pumps and underground tanks are outside of the service station, and to consider only the building as the service station is grossly erroneous. (pp. 58-60, Rollo). The said machines and equipment are loaned by Caltex to gas station operators under an appropriate lease agreement or receipt. It is stipulated in the lease contract that the operators, upon demand, shall return to Caltex the machines and equipment in good condition as when received, ordinary wear and tear excepted. The lessor of the land, where the gas station is located, does not become the owner of the machines and equipment installed therein. Caltex retains the ownership thereof during the term of the lease. The city assessor of Pasay City characterized the said items of gas station equipment and machinery as taxable realty. The realty tax on said equipment amounts to P4,541.10 annually (p. 52, Rollo). The city board of tax appeals ruled that they are personalty. The assessor appealed to the Central Board of Assessment Appeals.
The Board, which was composed of Secretary of Finance Cesar Virata as chairman, Acting Secretary of Justice Catalino Macaraig, Jr. and Secretary of Local Government and Community Development Jose Roño, held in its decision of June 3, 1977 that the said machines and equipment are real property within the meaning of sections 3(k) & (m) and 38 of the Real Property Tax Code, Presidential Decree No. 464, which took effect on June 1, 1974, and that the definitions of real property and personal property in articles 415 and 416 of the Civil Code are not applicable to this case. The decision was reiterated by the Board (Minister Vicente Abad Santos took Macaraig's place) in its resolution of January 12, 1978, denying Caltex's motion for reconsideration, a copy of which was received by its lawyer on April 2, 1979. On May 2, 1979 Caltex filed this certiorari petition wherein it prayed for the setting aside of the Board's decision and for a declaration that t he said machines and equipment are personal property not subject to realty tax (p. 16, Rollo). The Solicitor General's contention that the Court of Tax Appeals has exclusive appellate jurisdiction over this case is not correct. When Republic act No. 1125 created the Tax Court in 1954, there was as yet no Central Board of Assessment Appeals. Section 7(3) of that law in providing that the Tax Court had jurisdiction to review by appeal decisions of provincial or city boards of assessment appeals had in mind the local boards of assessment appeals but not the Central Board of Assessment Appeals which under the Real Property Tax Code has appellate jurisdiction over decisions of the said local boards of assessment appeals and is, therefore, in the same category as the Tax Court. Section 36 of the Real Property Tax Code provides that the decision of the Central Board of Assessment Appeals shall become final and executory after the lapse of fifteen days from the receipt of its decision by the appellant. Within that fifteen-day period, a petition for reconsideration may be filed. The Code does not provide for the review of the Board's decision by this Court. Consequently, the only remedy available for seeking a review by this Court of the decision of the Central Board of Assessment Appeals is the special civil action of certiorari, the recourse resorted to herein by Caltex (Philippines), Inc. The issue is whether the pieces of gas station equipment and machinery already enumerated are subject to realty tax. This issue has to be resolved primarily under the provisions of the Assessment Law and the Real Property Tax Code. Section 2 of the Assessment Law provides that the realty tax is due "on real property, including land, buildings, machinery, and other improvements" not specifically exempted in section 3 thereof. This provision is reproduced with some modification in the Real Property Tax Code which provides: SEC. 38. Incidence of Real Property Tax.— There shall be levied, assessed and collected in all provinces, cities and municipalities an annual ad valorem tax on real property, such as land, buildings, machinery and other improvements affixed or attached to real property not hereinafter specifically exempted. The Code contains the following definitions in its section 3: k) Improvements — is a valuable addition made to property or an amelioration in its condition, amounting to more than mere repairs or replacement of waste, costing labor or capital and intended to enhance its value, beauty or utility or to adapt it for new or further purposes. m) Machinery — shall embrace machines, mechanical contrivances, instruments, appliances and apparatus attached to the real estate. It includes the physical
facilities available for production, as well as the installations and appurtenant service facilities, together with all other equipment designed for or essential to its manufacturing, industrial or agricultural purposes (See sec. 3[f], Assessment Law). We hold that the said equipment and machinery, as appurtenances to the gas station building or shed owned by Caltex (as to which it is subject to realty tax) and which fixtures are necessary to the operation of the gas station, for without them the gas station would be useless, and which have been attached or affixed permanently to the gas station site or embedded therein, are taxable improvements and machinery within the meaning of the Assessment Law and the Real Property Tax Code. Caltex invokes the rule that machinery which is movable in its nature only becomes immobilized when placed in a plant by the owner of the property or plant but not when so placed by a tenant, a usufructuary, or any person having only a temporary right, unless such person acted as the agent of the owner (Davao Saw Mill Co. vs. Castillo, 61 Phil 709). That ruling is an interpretation of paragraph 5 of article 415 of the Civil Code regarding machinery that becomes real property by destination. In the Davao Saw Mills case the question was whether the machinery mounted on foundations of cement and installed by the lessee on leased land should be regarded as real property forpurposes of execution of a judgment against the lessee. The sheriff treated the machinery as personal property. This Court sustained the sheriff's action. (Compare with Machinery & Engineering Supplies, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals, 96 Phil. 70, where in a replevin case machinery was treated as realty). Here, the question is whether the gas station equipment and machinery permanently affixed by Caltex to its gas station and pavement (which are indubitably taxable realty) should be subject to the realty tax. This question is different from the issue raised in the Davao Saw Mill case. Improvements on land are commonly taxed as realty even though for some purposes they might be considered personalty (84 C.J.S. 181-2, Notes 40 and 41). "It is a familiar phenomenon to see things classed as real property for purposes of taxation which on general principle might be considered personal property" (Standard Oil Co. of New York vs. Jaramillo, 44 Phil. 630, 633). This case is also easily distinguishable from Board of Assessment Appeals vs. Manila Electric Co., 119 Phil. 328, where Meralco's steel towers were considered poles within the meaning of paragraph 9 of its franchise which exempts its poles from taxation. The steel towers were considered personalty because they were attached to square metal frames by means of bolts and could be moved from place to place when unscrewed and dismantled. Nor are Caltex's gas station equipment and machinery the same as tools and equipment in the repair shop of a bus company which were held to be personal property not subject to realty tax (Mindanao Bus Co. vs. City Assessor, 116 Phil. 501). The Central Board of Assessment Appeals did not commit a grave abuse of discretion in upholding the city assessor's is imposition of the realty tax on Caltex's gas station and equipment. WHEREFORE, the questioned decision and resolution of the Central Board of Assessment Appeals are affirmed. The petition for certiorari is dismissed for lack of merit. No costs. SO ORDERED. SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. L-46245 May 31, 1982
MERALCO SECURITIES INDUSTRIAL CORPORATION, petitioner, vs. CENTRAL BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS, BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS OF LAGUNA and PROVINCIAL ASSESSOR OF LAGUNA, respondents. AQUINO, J.: In this special civil action of certiorari, Meralco Securities Industrial Corporation assails the decision of the Central Board of Assessment Appeals (composed of the Secretary of Finance as chairman and the Secretaries of Justice and Local Government and Community Development as members) dated May 6, 1976, holding that Meralco Securities' oil pipeline is subject to realty tax. The record reveals that pursuant to a pipeline concession issued under the Petroleum Act of 1949, Republic Act No. 387, Meralco Securities installed from Batangas to Manila a pipeline system consisting of cylindrical steel pipes joined together and buried not less than one meter below the surface along the shoulder of the public highway. The portion passing through Laguna is about thirty kilometers long. The pipes for white oil products measure fourteen inches in diameter by thirty-six feet with a maximum capacity of 75,000 barrels daily. The pipes for fuel and black oil measure sixteen inches by forty-eight feet with a maximum capacity of 100,000 barrels daily. The pipes are embedded in the soil and are firmly and solidly welded together so as to preclude breakage or damage thereto and prevent leakage or seepage of the oil. The valves are welded to the pipes so as to make the pipeline system one single piece of property from end to end. In order to repair, replace, remove or transfer segments of the pipeline, the pipes have to be cold-cut by means of a rotary hard-metal pipe-cutter after digging or excavating them out of the ground where they are buried. In points where the pipeline traversed rivers or creeks, the pipes were laid beneath the bed thereof. Hence, the pipes are permanently attached to the land. However, Meralco Securities notes that segments of the pipeline can be moved from one place to another as shown in the permit issued by the Secretary of Public Works and Communications which permit provides that the government reserves the right to require the removal or transfer of the pipes by and at the concessionaire's expense should they be affected by any road repair or improvement. Pursuant to the Assessment Law, Commonwealth Act No. 470, the provincial assessor of Laguna treated the pipeline as real property and issued Tax Declarations Nos. 6535-6537, San Pedro; 74737478, Cabuyao; 7967-7971, Sta. Rosa; 9882-9885, Biñan and 15806-15810, Calamba, containing the assessed values of portions of the pipeline. Meralco Securities appealed the assessments to the Board of Assessment Appeals of Laguna composed of the register of deeds as chairman and the provincial auditor as member. That board in its decision of June 18, 1975 upheld the assessments (pp. 47-49, Rollo). Meralco Securities brought the case to the Central Board of Assessment Appeals. As already stated, that Board, composed of Acting Secretary of Finance Pedro M. Almanzor as chairman and Secretary of Justice Vicente Abad Santos and Secretary of Local Government and Community Development Jose Roño as members, ruled that the pipeline is subject to realty tax (p. 40, Rollo). A copy of that decision was served on Meralco Securities' counsel on August 27, 1976. Section 36 of the Real Property Tax Code, Presidential Decree No. 464, which took effect on June 1, 1974, provides that the Board's decision becomes final and executory after the lapse of fifteen days from the date of receipt of a copy of the decision by the appellant.
Under Rule III of the amended rules of procedure of the Central Board of Assessment Appeals (70 O.G. 10085), a party may ask for the reconsideration of the Board's decision within fifteen days after receipt. On September 7, 1976 (the eleventh day), Meralco Securities filed its motion for reconsideration. Secretary of Finance Cesar Virata and Secretary Roño (Secretary Abad Santos abstained) denied the motion in a resolution dated December 2, 1976, a copy of which was received by appellant's counsel on May 24, 1977 (p. 4, Rollo). On June 6, 1977, Meralco Securities filed the instant petition for certiorari. The Solicitor General contends that certiorari is not proper in this case because the Board acted within its jurisdiction and did not gravely abuse its discretion and Meralco Securities was not denied due process of law. Meralco Securities explains that because the Court of Tax Appeals has no jurisdiction to review the decision of the Central Board of Assessment Appeals and because no judicial review of the Board's decision is provided for in the Real Property Tax Code, Meralco Securities' recourse is to file a petition for certiorari. We hold that certiorari was properly availed of in this case. It is a writ issued by a superior court to an inferior court, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions whereby the record of a particular case is ordered to be elevated for review and correction in matters of law (14 C.J.S. 121122; 14 Am Jur. 2nd 777). The rule is that as to administrative agencies exercising quasi-judicial power there is an underlying power in the courts to scrutinize the acts of such agencies on questions of law and jurisdiction even though no right of review is given by the statute (73 C.J.S. 506, note 56). "The purpose of judicial review is to keep the administrative agency within its jurisdiction and protect substantial rights of parties affected by its decisions" (73 C.J.S. 507, See. 165). The review is a part of the system of checks and balances which is a limitation on the separation of powers and which forestalls arbitrary and unjust adjudications. Judicial review of the decision of an official or administrative agency exercising quasi-judicial functions is proper in cases of lack of jurisdiction, error of law, grave abuse of discretion, fraud or collusion or in case the administrative decision is corrupt, arbitrary or capricious (Mafinco Trading Corporation vs. Ople, L-37790, March 25, 1976, 70 SCRA 139, 158; San Miguel Corporation vs. Secretary of Labor, L39195, May 16, 1975, 64 SCRA 56, 60, Mun. Council of Lemery vs. Prov. Board of Batangas, 56 Phil. 260, 268). The Central Board of Assessment Appeals, in confirming the ruling of the provincial assessor and the provincial board of assessment appeals that Meralco Securities' pipeline is subject to realty tax, reasoned out that the pipes are machinery or improvements, as contemplated in the Assessment Law and the Real Property Tax Code; that they do not fall within the category of property exempt from realty tax under those laws; that articles 415 and 416 of the Civil Code, defining real and personal property, have no application to this case; that even under article 415, the steel pipes can be regarded as realty because they are constructions adhered to the soil and things attached to the land in a fixed manner and that Meralco Securities is not exempt from realty tax under the Petroleum Law (pp. 3640). Meralco Securities insists that its pipeline is not subject to realty tax because it is not real property within the meaning of article 415. This contention is not sustainable under the provisions of the Assessment Law, the Real Property Tax Code and the Civil Code.
Section 2 of the Assessment Law provides that the realty tax is due "on real property, including land, buildings, machinery, and other improvements" not specifically exempted in section 3 thereof. This provision is reproduced with some modification in the Real Property Tax Code which provides: SEC. 38. Incidence of Real Property Tax.— There shall be levied, assessed and collected in all provinces, cities and municipalities an annual ad valorem tax on real property, such as land, buildings, machinery and other improvements affixed or attached to real property not hereinafter specifically exempted. * It is incontestable that the pipeline of Meralco Securities does not fall within any of the classes of exempt real property enumerated in section 3 of the Assessment Law and section 40 of the Real Property Tax Code. Pipeline means a line of pipe connected to pumps, valves and control devices for conveying liquids, gases or finely divided solids. It is a line of pipe running upon or in the earth, carrying with it the right to the use of the soil in which it is placed (Note 21,54 C.J.S. 561). Article 415[l] and  provides that real property may consist of constructions of all kinds adhered to the soil and everything attached to an immovable in a fixed manner, in such a way that it cannot be separated therefrom without breaking the material or deterioration of the object. The pipeline system in question is indubitably a construction adhering to the soil (Exh. B, p. 39, Rollo). It is attached to the land in such a way that it cannot be separated therefrom without dismantling the steel pipes which were welded to form the pipeline. Insofar as the pipeline uses valves, pumps and control devices to maintain the flow of oil, it is in a sense machinery within the meaning of the Real Property Tax Code. It should be borne in mind that what are being characterized as real property are not the steel pipes but the pipeline system as a whole. Meralco Securities has apparently two pipeline systems. A pipeline for conveying petroleum has been regarded as real property for tax purposes (Miller County Highway, etc., Dist. vs. Standard Pipe Line Co., 19 Fed. 2nd 3; Board of Directors of Red River Levee Dist. No. 1 of Lafayette County, Ark vs. R. F. C., 170 Fed. 2nd 430; 50 C. J. 750, note 86). The other contention of Meralco Securities is that the Petroleum Law exempts it from the payment of realty taxes. The alleged exemption is predicated on the following provisions of that law which exempt Meralco Securities from local taxes and make it liable for taxes of general application: ART. 102. Work obligations, taxes, royalties not to be changed.— Work obligations, special taxes and royalties which are fixed by the provisions of this Act or by the concession for any of the kinds of concessions to which this Act relates, are considered as inherent on such concessions after they are granted, and shall not be increased or decreased during the life of the concession to which they apply; nor shall any other special taxes or levies be applied to such concessions, nor shall 0concessionaires under this Act be subject to any provincial, municipal or other local taxes or levies;nor shall any sales tax be charged on any petroleum produced from the concession or portion thereof, manufactured by the concessionaire and used in the working of his concession. All such concessionaires, however, shall be subject to such taxes as are of general application in addition to taxes and other levies specifically provided in this Act.
Meralco Securities argues that the realty tax is a local tax or levy and not a tax of general application. This argument is untenable because the realty tax has always been imposed by the lawmaking body and later by the President of the Philippines in the exercise of his lawmaking powers, as shown in section 342 et seq. of the Revised Administrative Code, Act No. 3995, Commonwealth Act No. 470 and Presidential Decree No. 464. The realty tax is enforced throughout the Philippines and not merely in a particular municipality or city but the proceeds of the tax accrue to the province, city, municipality and barrio where the realty taxed is situated (Sec. 86, P.D. No. 464). In contrast, a local tax is imposed by the municipal or city council by virtue of the Local Tax Code, Presidential Decree No. 231, which took effect on July 1, 1973 (69 O.G. 6197). We hold that the Central Board of Assessment Appeals did not act with grave abuse of discretion, did not commit any error of law and acted within its jurisdiction in sustaining the holding of the provincial assessor and the local board of assessment appeals that Meralco Securities' pipeline system in Laguna is subject to realty tax. WHEREFORE, the questioned decision and resolution are affirmed. The petition is dismissed. No costs. SO ORDERED. EN BANC G.R. No. L-15334 January 31, 1964
BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS, CITY ASSESSOR and CITY TREASURER OF QUEZON CITY, petitioners, vs. MANILA ELECTRIC COMPANY, respondent. PAREDES, J.: From the stipulation of facts and evidence adduced during the hearing, the following appear: On October 20, 1902, the Philippine Commission enacted Act No. 484 which authorized the Municipal Board of Manila to grant a franchise to construct, maintain and operate an electric street railway and electric light, heat and power system in the City of Manila and its suburbs to the person or persons making the most favorable bid. Charles M. Swift was awarded the said franchise on March 1903, the terms and conditions of which were embodied in Ordinance No. 44 approved on March 24, 1903. Respondent Manila Electric Co. (Meralco for short), became the transferee and owner of the franchise. Meralco's electric power is generated by its hydro-electric plant located at Botocan Falls, Laguna and is transmitted to the City of Manila by means of electric transmission wires, running from the province of Laguna to the said City. These electric transmission wires which carry high voltage current, are fastened to insulators attached on steel towers constructed by respondent at intervals, from its hydroelectric plant in the province of Laguna to the City of Manila. The respondent Meralco has constructed 40 of these steel towers within Quezon City, on land belonging to it. A photograph of one of these steel towers is attached to the petition for review, marked Annex A. Three steel towers were inspected by the lower court and parties and the following were the descriptions given there of by said court: The first steel tower is located in South Tatalon, España Extension, Quezon City. The findings were as follows: the ground around one of the four posts was excavated to a depth of about eight (8) feet, with an opening of about one (1) meter in diameter, decreased to about a quarter of a meter as it we deeper until it reached the bottom of the post; at the bottom of the post were two parallel steel bars attached to the leg means of bolts; the tower
proper was attached to the leg three bolts; with two cross metals to prevent mobility; there was no concrete foundation but there was adobe stone underneath; as the bottom of the excavation was covered with water about three inches high, it could not be determined with certainty to whether said adobe stone was placed purposely or not, as the place abounds with this kind of stone; and the tower carried five high voltage wires without cover or any insulating materials. The second tower inspected was located in Kamuning Road, K-F, Quezon City, on land owned by the petitioner approximate more than one kilometer from the first tower. As in the first tower, the ground around one of the four legs was excavate from seven to eight (8) feet deep and one and a half (1-½) meters wide. There being very little water at the bottom, it was seen that there was no concrete foundation, but there soft adobe beneath. The leg was likewise provided with two parallel steel bars bolted to a square metal frame also bolted to each corner. Like the first one, the second tower is made up of metal rods joined together by means of bolts, so that by unscrewing the bolts, the tower could be dismantled and reassembled. The third tower examined is located along Kamias Road, Quezon City. As in the first two towers given above, the ground around the two legs of the third tower was excavated to a depth about two or three inches beyond the outside level of the steel bar foundation. It was found that there was no concrete foundation. Like the two previous ones, the bottom arrangement of the legs thereof were found to be resting on soft adobe, which, probably due to high humidity, looks like mud or clay. It was also found that the square metal frame supporting the legs were not attached to any material or foundation. On November 15, 1955, petitioner City Assessor of Quezon City declared the aforesaid steel towers for real property tax under Tax declaration Nos. 31992 and 15549. After denying respondent's petition to cancel these declarations, an appeal was taken by respondent to the Board of Assessment Appeals of Quezon City, which required respondent to pay the amount of P11,651.86 as real property tax on the said steel towers for the years 1952 to 1956. Respondent paid the amount under protest, and filed a petition for review in the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA for short) which rendered a decision on December 29, 1958, ordering the cancellation of the said tax declarations and the petitioner City Treasurer of Quezon City to refund to the respondent the sum of P11,651.86. The motion for reconsideration having been denied, on April 22, 1959, the instant petition for review was filed. In upholding the cause of respondents, the CTA held that: (1) the steel towers come within the term "poles" which are declared exempt from taxes under part II paragraph 9 of respondent's franchise; (2) the steel towers are personal properties and are not subject to real property tax; and (3) the City Treasurer of Quezon City is held responsible for the refund of the amount paid. These are assigned as errors by the petitioner in the brief. The tax exemption privilege of the petitioner is quoted hereunder: PAR 9. The grantee shall be liable to pay the same taxes upon its real estate, buildings, plant (not including poles, wires, transformers, and insulators), machinery and personal property as other persons are or may be hereafter required by law to pay ... Said percentage shall be due and payable at the time stated in paragraph nineteen of Part One hereof, ... and shall be in lieu of all taxes and assessments of whatsoever nature and by whatsoever authority upon the privileges, earnings, income, franchise, and poles, wires, transformers, and insulators of the grantee from which taxes and assessments the grantee is hereby expressly exempted. (Par. 9, Part Two, Act No. 484 Respondent's Franchise; emphasis supplied.) The word "pole" means "a long, comparatively slender usually cylindrical piece of wood or timber, as typically the stem of a small tree stripped of its branches; also by extension, a similar typically cylindrical piece or object of metal or the like". The term also refers to "an upright standard to the top
of which something is affixed or by which something is supported; as a dovecote set on a pole; telegraph poles; a tent pole; sometimes, specifically a vessel's master (Webster's New International Dictionary 2nd Ed., p. 1907.) Along the streets, in the City of Manila, may be seen cylindrical metal poles, cubical concrete poles, and poles of the PLDT Co. which are made of two steel bars joined together by an interlacing metal rod. They are called "poles" notwithstanding the fact that they are no made of wood. It must be noted from paragraph 9, above quoted, that the concept of the "poles" for which exemption is granted, is not determined by their place or location, nor by the character of the electric current it carries, nor the material or form of which it is made, but the use to which they are dedicated. In accordance with the definitions, pole is not restricted to a long cylindrical piece of wood or metal, but includes "upright standards to the top of which something is affixed or by which something is supported. As heretofore described, respondent's steel supports consists of a framework of four steel bars or strips which are bound by steel cross-arms atop of which are cross-arms supporting five high voltage transmission wires (See Annex A) and their sole function is to support or carry such wires. The conclusion of the CTA that the steel supports in question are embraced in the term "poles" is not a novelty. Several courts of last resort in the United States have called these steel supports "steel towers", and they denominated these supports or towers, as electric poles. In their decisions the words "towers" and "poles" were used interchangeably, and it is well understood in that jurisdiction that a transmission tower or pole means the same thing. In a proceeding to condemn land for the use of electric power wires, in which the law provided that wires shall be constructed upon suitable poles, this term was construed to mean either wood or metal poles and in view of the land being subject to overflow, and the necessary carrying of numerous wires and the distance between poles, the statute was interpreted to include towers or poles. (Stemmons and Dallas Light Co. (Tex) 212 S.W. 222, 224; 32-A Words and Phrases, p. 365.) The term "poles" was also used to denominate the steel supports or towers used by an association used to convey its electric power furnished to subscribers and members, constructed for the purpose of fastening high voltage and dangerous electric wires alongside public highways. The steel supports or towers were made of iron or other metals consisting of two pieces running from the ground up some thirty feet high, being wider at the bottom than at the top, the said two metal pieces being connected with criss-cross iron running from the bottom to the top, constructed like ladders and loaded with high voltage electricity. In form and structure, they are like the steel towers in question. (Salt River Valley Users' Ass'n v. Compton, 8 P. 2nd, 249-250.) The term "poles" was used to denote the steel towers of an electric company engaged in the generation of hydro-electric power generated from its plant to the Tower of Oxford and City of Waterbury. These steel towers are about 15 feet square at the base and extended to a height of about 35 feet to a point, and are embedded in the cement foundations sunk in the earth, the top of which extends above the surface of the soil in the tower of Oxford, and to the towers are attached insulators, arms, and other equipment capable of carrying wires for the transmission of electric power (Connecticut Light and Power Co. v. Oxford, 101 Conn. 383, 126 Atl. p. 1). In a case, the defendant admitted that the structure on which a certain person met his death was built for the purpose of supporting a transmission wire used for carrying high-tension electric power, but claimed that the steel towers on which it is carried were so large that their wire took their structure out of the definition of a pole line. It was held that in defining the word pole, one should not be governed by the wire or material of the support used, but was considering the danger from any elevated wire carrying electric current, and that regardless of the size or material wire of its individual members, any continuous series of structures intended and used solely or primarily for the purpose of supporting wires carrying electric currents is a pole line (Inspiration Consolidation Cooper Co. v. Bryan 252 P. 1016). It is evident, therefore, that the word "poles", as used in Act No. 484 and incorporated in the petitioner's franchise, should not be given a restrictive and narrow interpretation, as to defeat the very object for which the franchise was granted. The poles as contemplated thereon, should be understood
and taken as a part of the electric power system of the respondent Meralco, for the conveyance of electric current from the source thereof to its consumers. If the respondent would be required to employ "wooden poles", or "rounded poles" as it used to do fifty years back, then one should admit that the Philippines is one century behind the age of space. It should also be conceded by now that steel towers, like the ones in question, for obvious reasons, can better effectuate the purpose for which the respondent's franchise was granted. Granting for the purpose of argument that the steel supports or towers in question are not embraced within the term poles, the logical question posited is whether they constitute real properties, so that they can be subject to a real property tax. The tax law does not provide for a definition of real property; but Article 415 of the Civil Code does, by stating the following are immovable property: (1) Land, buildings, roads, and constructions of all kinds adhered to the soil; xxx xxx xxx
EN BANC LUIS MARCOS P. LAUREL, Petitioner, - versus HON. ZEUS C. ABROGAR, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Makati City, Branch 150, PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES & PHILIPPINE LONG DISTANCE TELEPHONE COMPANY, Respondents. G.R. No. 155076
Promulgated: January 13, 2009
x ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x RESOLUTION YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.: On February 27, 2006, this Court’s First Division rendered judgment in this case as follows: IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Orders of the Regional Trial Court and the Decision of the Court of Appeals are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Regional Trial Court is directed to issue an order granting the motion of the petitioner to quash the Amended Information. SO ORDERED.
(3) Everything attached to an immovable in a fixed manner, in such a way that it cannot be separated therefrom without breaking the material or deterioration of the object; xxx xxx xxx
(5) Machinery, receptacles, instruments or implements intended by the owner of the tenement for an industry or works which may be carried in a building or on a piece of land, and which tends directly to meet the needs of the said industry or works; xxx xxx xxx
The steel towers or supports in question, do not come within the objects mentioned in paragraph 1, because they do not constitute buildings or constructions adhered to the soil. They are not construction analogous to buildings nor adhering to the soil. As per description, given by the lower court, they are removable and merely attached to a square metal frame by means of bolts, which when unscrewed could easily be dismantled and moved from place to place. They can not be included under paragraph 3, as they are not attached to an immovable in a fixed manner, and they can be separated without breaking the material or causing deterioration upon the object to which they are attached. Each of these steel towers or supports consists of steel bars or metal strips, joined together by means of bolts, which can be disassembled by unscrewing the bolts and reassembled by screwing the same. These steel towers or supports do not also fall under paragraph 5, for they are not machineries, receptacles, instruments or implements, and even if they were, they are not intended for industry or works on the land. Petitioner is not engaged in an industry or works in the land in which the steel supports or towers are constructed. It is finally contended that the CTA erred in ordering the City Treasurer of Quezon City to refund the sum of P11,651.86, despite the fact that Quezon City is not a party to the case. It is argued that as the City Treasurer is not the real party in interest, but Quezon City, which was not a party to the suit, notwithstanding its capacity to sue and be sued, he should not be ordered to effect the refund. This question has not been raised in the court below, and, therefore, it cannot be properly raised for the first time on appeal. The herein petitioner is indulging in legal technicalities and niceties which do not help him any; for factually, it was he (City Treasurer) whom had insisted that respondent herein pay the real estate taxes, which respondent paid under protest. Having acted in his official capacity as City Treasurer of Quezon City, he would surely know what to do, under the circumstances. IN VIEW HEREOF, the decision appealed from is hereby affirmed, with costs against the petitioners.
By way of brief background, petitioner is one of the accused in Criminal Case No. 99-2425, filed with the Regional Trial Courtof Makati City, Branch 150. The Amended Information charged the accused with theft under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code, committed as follows: On or about September 10-19, 1999, or prior thereto in Makati City, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the accused, conspiring and confederating together and all of them mutually helping and aiding one another, with intent to gain and without the knowledge and consent of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT), did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, steal and use the international long distance calls belonging to PLDT by conducting International Simple Resale (ISR), which is a method of routing and completing international long distance calls using lines, cables, antenae, and/or air wave frequency which connect directly to the local or domestic exchange facilities of the country where the call is destined, effectively stealing this business from PLDT while using its facilities in the estimated amount of P20,370,651.92 to the damage and prejudice of PLDT, in the said amount. CONTRARY TO LAW.
Petitioner filed a “Motion to Quash (with Motion to Defer Arraignment),” on the ground that the factual allegations in the Amended Information do not constitute the felony of theft. The trial court denied the Motion to Quash the Amended Information, as well petitioner’s subsequent Motion for Reconsideration.
possession and dominion of a movable coupled with the intention, at the time of the “taking,” of withholding it Petitioner’s special civil action for certiorari was dismissed by the Court of Appeals. Thus, petitioner filed the instant petition for review with this Court. with the character of permanency. There must be intent to appropriate, which means to deprive the lawful owner of the thing. Thus, the term “personal properties” under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code is not limited to only personal properties which are “susceptible of being severed from a mass or larger quantity and of being In the above-quoted Decision, this Court held that the Amended Information does not contain material allegations charging petitioner with theft of personal property since international long distance calls and the business of providing telecommunication or telephone services are not personal properties under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code. PLDT likewise alleges that as early as the 1930s, international telephone calls were in existence; hence, there is no basis for this Court’s finding that the Legislature could not have contemplated the theft of international telephone calls and the unlawful transmission and routing of electronic voice signals or impulses Respondent Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) filed a Motion for Reconsideration with Motion to Refer the Case to the Supreme Court En Banc. It maintains that the Amended Information charging petitioner with theft is valid and sufficient; that it states the names of all the accused who were specifically charged with the crime of theft of PLDT’s international calls and business of providing telecommunication or telephone service on or about September 10 to 19, 1999 in Makati City by conducting ISR or International Simple Resale; that it identifies the international calls and business of providing telecommunication or telephone service of PLDT as the personal properties which were unlawfully taken by the accused; and that it satisfies the test of sufficiency as it enabled a person of common understanding to know the charge against him and the court to render judgment properly. In his Comment to PLDT’s motion for reconsideration, petitioner Laurel claims that a telephone call is a conversation on the phone or a communication carried out using the telephone. It is not synonymous to PLDT further insists that the Revised Penal Code should be interpreted in the context of the Civil Code’s definition of real and personal property. The enumeration of real properties in Article 415 of the Civil Code is exclusive such that all those not included therein are personal properties. Since Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code used the words “personal property” without qualification, it follows that all “personal properties” as understood in the context of the Civil Code, may be the subject of theft under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code. PLDT alleges that the international calls and business of providing telecommunication or telephone service are personal properties capable of appropriation and can be objects of theft. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) agrees with respondent PLDT that “international phone PLDT also argues that “taking” in relation to theft under the Revised Penal Code does not require “asportation,” the sole requisite being that the object should be capable of “appropriation.” The element of “taking” referred to in Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code means the act of depriving another of the calls and the business or service of providing international phone calls” are subsumed in the enumeration and definition of personal property under the Civil Code hence, may be proper subjects of theft. It noted that the cases of United States v. Genato, United States v. Carlos andUnited States v. Tambunting, which recognized electric current or impulses. Hence, it may not be considered as personal property susceptible of appropriation. Petitioner claims that the analogy between generated electricity and telephone calls is misplaced. PLDT does not produce or generate telephone calls. It only provides the facilities or services for the transmission and switching of the calls. He also insists that “business” is not personal property. It is not the “business” that is protected but the “right to carry on a business.” This right is what is considered as property. Since the services of PLDT cannot be considered as “property,” the same may not be subject of theft. According to respondent, the “international phone calls” which are “electric currents or sets of electric impulses transmitted through a medium, and carry a pattern representing the human voice to a receiver,” are personal properties which may be subject of theft. Article 416(3) of the Civil Code deems “forces of nature” (which includes electricity) which are brought under the control by science, are personal property. emanating from such calls by unlawfully tampering with the telephone device as within the coverage of the Revised Penal Code. transported from place to place.”
intangible properties like gas and electricity as personal properties, are deemed incorporated in our penal laws. Moreover, the theft provision in the Revised Penal Code was deliberately couched in broad terms precisely to be all-encompassing and embracing even such scenario that could not have been easily anticipated.
Prior to the passage of the Revised Penal Code on December 8, 1930, the definition of the term “personal property” in the penal code provision on theft had been established in Philippine jurisprudence. This Court, in United States v. Genato, United States v. Carlos, and United States v. Tambunting, consistently ruled that any personal property, tangible or intangible, corporeal or incorporeal, capable of appropriation can be the object of
According to the OSG, prosecution under Republic Act (RA) No. 8484 or the Access Device Regulations Act of 1998 and RA 8792 or the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 does not preclude prosecution under the Revised Penal Code for the crime of theft. The latter embraces unauthorized appropriation or use of PLDT’s international calls, service and business, for personal profit or gain, to the prejudice of PLDT as owner thereof. On the other hand, the special laws punish the surreptitious and advanced technical means employed to illegally obtain the subject service and business. Even assuming that the correct indictment should have been under RA 8484, the quashal of the information would still not be proper. The charge of theft as alleged in the Information should be taken in relation to RA 8484 because it is the elements, and not the designation of the crime, that control.
Moreover, since the passage of the Revised Penal Code on December 8, 1930, the term “personal property” has had a generally accepted definition in civil law. In Article 335 of the Civil Code of Spain, “personal property” is defined as “anything susceptible of appropriation and not included in the foregoing chapter (not real property).” Thus, the term “personal property” in the Revised Penal Code should be interpreted in the context of the Civil Code provisions in accordance with the rule on statutory construction that where words have been long used in a technical sense and have been judicially construed to have a certain meaning, and have been adopted by the legislature as having a certain meaning prior to a particular statute, in which they are used, the words used in such statute should be construed according to the sense in which they
Considering the gravity and complexity of the novel questions of law involved in this case, the Special First Division resolved to refer the same to the Banc. We resolve to grant the Motion for Reconsideration but remand the case to the trial court for proper clarification of the Amended Information.
have been previously used. In fact, this Court used the Civil Code definition of “personal property” in interpreting the theft provision of the penal code in United States v. Carlos.
Cognizant of the definition given by jurisprudence and the Civil Code of Spain to the term “personal property” at the time the old Penal Code was being revised, still the legislature did not limit or qualify the definition of “personal property” in the Revised Penal Code. Neither did it provide a restrictive definition or an
Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code provides: Art. 308. Who are liable for theft. – Theft is committed by any person who, with intent to gain but without violence against, or intimidation of persons nor force upon things, shall take personal property of another without the latter’s consent.
exclusive enumeration of “personal property” in the Revised Penal Code, thereby showing its intent to retain for the term an extensive and unqualified interpretation. Consequently, any property which is not included in the enumeration of real properties under the Civil Code and capable of appropriation can be the subject of theft under the Revised Penal Code.
The elements of theft under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code are as follows: (1) that there be taking of personal property; (2) that said property belongs to another; (3) that the taking be done with intent to gain; (4) that the taking be done without the consent of the owner; and (5) that the taking be accomplished without the use of violence against or intimidation of persons or force upon things.
The only requirement for a personal property to be the object of theft under the penal code is that it be capable of appropriation. It need not be capable of “asportation,” which is defined as “carrying away.” Jurisprudence is settled that to “take” under the theft provision of the penal code does not require asportation or carrying away.
To appropriate means to deprive the lawful owner of the thing. The word “take” in the Revised Penal Code includes any act intended to transfer possession which, as held in the assailed Decision, may be committed through the use of the offenders’ own hands, as well as any mechanical device, such as an access device or card as in the instant case. This includes controlling the destination of the property stolen to deprive the owner of the property, such as the use of a meter tampering, as held in Natividad v. Court of Appeals, use of a device to fraudulently obtain gas, as held in United States v. Tambunting, and the use of a jumper to divert electricity, as held in the cases of United States v. Genato, United States v. Carlos, and United States v. Menagas. The acts of “subtraction” include: (a) tampering with any wire, meter, or other apparatus installed or used for generating, containing, conducting, or measuring electricity, telegraph or telephone service; (b) tapping or As illustrated in the above cases, appropriation of forces of nature which are brought under control by science such as electrical energy can be achieved by tampering with any apparatus used for generating or measuring such forces of nature, wrongfully redirecting such forces of nature from such apparatus, or using any device to fraudulently obtain such forces of nature. In the instant case, petitioner was charged with engaging in International Simple Resale (ISR) or the unauthorized routing and completing of international long distance calls using lines, cables, antennae, and/or air wave frequency and connecting these calls directly to the local or domestic exchange facilities of the country where destined. In the instant case, the act of conducting ISR operations by illegally connecting various equipment or apparatus to private respondent PLDT’s telephone system, through which petitioner is able to resell or re-route international long distance calls using respondent PLDT’s facilities constitutes all three acts of subtraction mentioned above. As early as 1910, the Court declared in Genato that ownership over electricity (which an international long distance call consists of), as well as telephone service, is protected by the provisions on theft of the Penal Code. The pertinent provision of the Revised Ordinance of the City of Manila, which was involved in the said case, reads as follows: Injury to electric apparatus; Tapping current; Evidence. – No person shall destroy, mutilate, deface, or otherwise injure or tamper with any wire, meter, or other apparatus installed or used for generating, containing, conducting, or measuring electricity, telegraph or telephone service, nor tap or otherwise wrongfully deflect or take any electric current from such wire, meter, or other apparatus. No person shall, for any purpose whatsoever, use or enjoy the benefits of any device by means of which he may fraudulently obtain any current of electricity or any telegraph or telephone service; and the existence in any building premises of any such device shall, in the absence of satisfactory explanation, be deemed sufficient evidence of such use by the persons benefiting thereby. The business of providing telecommunication or telephone service is likewise personal property which can be the object of theft under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code. Business may be appropriated under Section 2 of Act No. 3952 (Bulk Sales Law), hence, could be object of theft: Section 2. Any sale, transfer, mortgage, or assignment of a stock of goods, wares, merchandise, provisions, or materials otherwise than in the ordinary course of trade and the regular prosecution of the business of the vendor, mortgagor, transferor, or assignor, or any sale, transfer, mortgage, or assignment of all, or substantially all, of the business or trade theretofore conducted by the vendor, mortgagor, transferor or assignor, or all, or substantially all, of the fixtures and equipment used in and about the business of the vendor, mortgagor, transferor, or assignor, shall be deemed to be a sale and transfer in bulk, in contemplation of the Act. x x x. otherwise wrongfully deflecting or taking any electric current from such wire, meter, or other apparatus; and (c) using or enjoying the benefits of any device by means of which one may fraudulently obtain any current of electricity or any telegraph or telephone service. Even without them (ordinance), the right of the ownership of electric current is secured by articles 517 and 518 of the Penal Code; the application of these articles in cases of subtraction of gas, a fluid used for lighting, and in some respects resembling electricity, is confirmed by the rule laid down in the decisions of the supreme court of Spain of January 20, 1887, and April 1, 1897, construing and enforcing the provisions of articles 530 and 531 of the Penal Code of that country, articles 517 and 518 of the code in force in these islands.
In Strochecker v. Ramirez, this Court stated: With regard to the nature of the property thus mortgaged which is one-half interest in the business above described, such interest is a personal property capable of appropriation and not included in the enumeration of real properties in article 335 of the Civil Code, and may be the subject of mortgage.
It was further ruled that even without the above ordinance the acts of subtraction punished therein are covered by the provisions on theft of the Penal Code then in force, thus:
Interest in business was not specifically enumerated as personal property in the Civil Code in force at the time the above decision was rendered. Yet, interest in business was declared to be personal property since it is capable of appropriation and not included in the enumeration of real properties. Article 414 of the Civil Code provides that all things which are or may be the object of appropriation are considered either real property or personal property. Business is likewise not enumerated as personal property under the Civil Code. Just like interest in business, however, it may be appropriated. Following the ruling in Strochecker v. Ramirez, business should also be classified as personal property. Since it is not included in the exclusive enumeration of real properties under Article 415, it is therefore personal property.
back to human voice/voice signal before the called party receives the same. In other words, a telecommunication company both converts/reconverts the human voice/voice signal and provides the medium for transmitting the same. 39. Moreover, in the case of an international telephone call, once the electronic impulses originating from a foreign telecommunication company country (i.e. Japan) reaches the Philippines through a local telecommunication company (i.e. private respondent PLDT), it is the latter which decodes, augments and enhances the electronic impulses back to the human voice/voice signal and provides the medium (i.e. electric current) to enable the called party to receive the call. Thus, it is not true that the foreign telecommunication company provides (1) the electric current which transmits the human voice/voice signal of the caller and (2) the electric current for the called party to receive said human voice/voice signal. 40. Thus, contrary to petitioner Laurel’s assertion, once the electronic impulses or electric current originating from a foreign telecommunication company (i.e. Japan) reaches private respondent PLDT’s network, it is private respondent PLDT which decodes, augments and enhances the electronic impulses back to the human voice/voice signal and provides the medium (i.e. electric current) to enable the called party to receive the call. Without private respondent PLDT’s network, the human voice/voice signal of the calling party will never reach the called party.
As can be clearly gleaned from the above disquisitions, petitioner’s acts constitute theft of respondent PLDT’s business and service, committed by means of the unlawful use of the latter’s facilities. In this regard, the Amended Information inaccurately describes the offense by making it appear that what petitioner took were the international long distance telephone calls, rather than respondent PLDT’s business.
In the assailed Decision, it was conceded that in making the international phone calls, the human voice is converted into electrical impulses or electric current which are transmitted to the party called. A telephone call, therefore, is electrical energy. It was also held in the assailed Decision that intangible property such as electrical
A perusal of the records of this case readily reveals that petitioner and respondent PLDT extensively discussed the issue of ownership of telephone calls. The prosecution has taken the position that said telephone calls belong to respondent PLDT. This is evident from its Comment where it defined the issue of this case as whether or not “the unauthorized use or appropriation of PLDT international telephone calls, service and facilities, for the purpose of generating personal profit or gain that should have otherwise belonged to PLDT, constitutes theft.”
energy is capable of appropriation because it may be taken and carried away. Electricity is personal property under Article 416 (3) of the Civil Code, which enumerates “forces of nature which are brought under control by science.”
Indeed, while it may be conceded that “international long distance calls,” the matter alleged to be stolen in the instant case, take the form of electrical energy, it cannot be said that such international long distance calls were personal properties belonging to PLDT since the latter could not have acquired ownership over such
In discussing the issue of ownership, petitioner and respondent PLDT gave their respective explanations on how a telephone call is generated. For its part, respondent PLDT explains the process of generating a telephone call as follows: 38. The role of telecommunication companies is not limited to merely providing the medium (i.e. the electric current) through which the human voice/voice signal of the caller is transmitted. Before the human voice/voice signal can be so transmitted, a telecommunication company, using its facilities, must first break down or decode the human voice/voice signal into electronic impulses and subject the same to further augmentation and enhancements. Only after such process of conversion will the resulting electronic impulses be transmitted by a telecommunication company, again, through the use of its facilities. Upon reaching the destination of the call, the telecommunication company will again break down or decode the electronic impulses
calls. PLDT merely encodes, augments, enhances, decodes and transmits said calls using its complex communications infrastructure and facilities. PLDT not being the owner of said telephone calls, then it could not validly claim that such telephone calls were taken without its consent. It is the use of these communications facilities without the consent of PLDT that constitutes the crime of theft, which is the unlawful taking of the telephone services and business.
Therefore, the business of providing telecommunication and the telephone service are personal property under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code, and the act of engaging in ISR is an act of “subtraction”
penalized under said article. However, the Amended Information describes the thing taken as, “international long distance calls,” and only later mentions “stealing the business from PLDT” as the manner by which the gain was derived by the accused. In order to correct this inaccuracy of description, this case must be remanded to the trial court and the prosecution directed to amend the Amended Information, to clearly state that the property subject of the theft are the services and business of respondent PLDT. Parenthetically, this amendment is not necessitated by a mistake in charging the proper offense, which would have called for the dismissal of the information under Rule 110, Section 14 and Rule 119, Section 19 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure. To be sure, the crime is properly designated as one of theft. The purpose of the amendment is simply to ensure that the accused is fully and sufficiently apprised of the nature and cause of the charge against him, and thus guaranteed of his rights under the Constitution.
justify the demolition of their stalls as illegal constructions on public property. At the petitioners' behest, we have issued a temporary restraining order to preserve the status quobetween the parties pending our decision. 1 Now we shall rule on the merits. This dispute goes back to November 7, 1961, when the municipal council of San Fernando adopted Resolution No. 218 authorizing some 24 members of the Fernandino United Merchants and Traders Association to construct permanent stags and sell in the above-mentioned place. 2 The action was protested on November 10, 1961, in Civil Case No. 2040, where the Court of First Instance of Pampanga, Branch 2, issued a writ of preliminary injunction that prevented the defendants from constructing the said stalls until final resolution of the controversy. 3On January 18, 1964, while this case was pending, the municipal council of San Fernando adopted Resolution G.R. No. 29, which declared the subject area as "the parking place and as the public plaza of the municipality, 4thereby impliedly revoking Resolution No. 218, series of 1961. Four years later, on November 2, 1968, Judge Andres C. Aguilar decided the aforesaid case and held that the land occupied by the petitioners, being public in nature, was beyond the commerce of man and therefore could not be the subject of private occupancy. 5 The writ of preliminary injunction was made permanent. 6 The decision was apparently not enforced, for the petitioners were not evicted from the place; in fact, according to then they and the 128 other persons were in 1971 assigned specific areas or space allotments therein for which they paid daily fees to the municipal government. 7 The problem appears to have festered for some more years under a presumably uneasy truce among the protagonists, none of whom made any move, for some reason that does not appear in the record. Then, on January 12, 1982, the Association of Concerned Citizens and Consumers of San Fernando filed a petition for the immediate implementation of Resolution No. 29, to restore the subject property "to its original and customary use as a public plaza. 8 Acting thereon after an investigation conducted by the municipal attorney, 9 respondent Vicente A. Macalino, as officer-in-charge of the office of the mayor of San Fernando, issued on June 14, 1982, a resolution requiring the municipal treasurer and the municipal engineer to demolish the stalls in the subject place beginning July 1, 1982.10 The reaction of the petitioners was to file a petition for prohibition with the Court of First Instance of Pampanga, docketed as Civil Case No. 6470, on June 26, 1982. The respondent judge denied the petition on July 19, 1982, 11and the motion for reconsideration on August 5, 1982, 12 prompting the petitioners to come to this Court oncertiorari to challenge his decision. 13 As required, respondent Macalino filed his comment 14 on the petition, and the petitioners countered with their reply. 15 In compliance with our resolution of February 2, 1983, the petitioners submitted their memorandum 16 and respondent Macalino, for his part, asked that his comment be considered his memorandum. 17 On July 28, 1986, the new officer-in-charge of the office of the mayor of San Fernando, Paterno S. Guevarra, was impleaded in lieu of Virgilio Sanchez, who had himself earlier replaced the original respondent Macalino. 18 After considering the issues and the arguments raised by the parties in their respective pleadings, we rule for the respondents. The petition must be dismissed. There is no question that the place occupied by the petitioners and from which they are sought to be evicted is a public plaza, as found by the trial court in Civil Case No. 2040. This finding was made after consideration of the antecedent facts as especially established by the testimony of former San Fernando Mayor Rodolfo Hizon, who later became governor of Pampanga, that the National Planning Commission had reserved the area for a public plaza as early as 1951. This intention was reiterated in 1964 through the adoption of Resolution No. 29. 19 It does not appear that the decision in this case was appealed or has been reversed. In Civil Case G.R. No. 6740, which is the subject of this petition, the respondent judge saw no reason to disturb the finding in Civil Case No. 2040 and indeed used it as a basis for his own decision sustaining the questioned order. 20
ACCORDINGLY, the motion for reconsideration is GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated February 27, 2006 isRECONSIDERED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 68841 affirming the Order issued by Judge Zeus C. Abrogar of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 150, which denied the Motion to Quash (With Motion to Defer Arraignment) in Criminal Case No. 992425 for theft, is AFFIRMED. The case is remanded to the trial court and the Public Prosecutor of Makati City is hereby DIRECTED to amend the Amended Information to show that the property subject of the theft were services and business of the private offended party.
FIRST DIVISION G.R. No. L-61311 September 2l, 1987 FELICIDAD VILLANUEVA, FERNANDO CAISIP, ANTONIO LIANG, FELINA MIRANDA, RICARDO PUNO, FLORENCIO LAXA, and RENE OCAMPO, petitioners, vs. HON. MARIANO CASTAÑEDA, JR., Presiding Judge of the Court of First Instance of Pampanga, Branch III, VICENTE A. MACALINO, Officer-in-Charge, Office of the Mayor, San Fernando, Pampanga,respondents. CRUZ, J.: There is in the vicinity of the public market of San Fernando, Pampanga, along Mercado Street, a strip of land measuring 12 by 77 meters on which stands a conglomeration of vendors stalls together forming what is commonly known as a talipapa. This is the subject of the herein petition. The petitioners claim they have a right to remain in and conduct business in this area by virtue of a previous authorization granted to them by the municipal government. The respondents deny this and
The basic contention of the petitioners is that the disputed area is under lease to them by virtue of contracts they had entered into with the municipal government, first in 1961 insofar as the original occupants were concerned, and later with them and the other petitioners by virtue of the space allocations made in their favor in 1971 for which they saw they are paying daily fees. 21 The municipal government has denied making such agreements. In any case, they argue, since the fees were collected daily, the leases, assuming their validity, could be terminated at will, or any day, as the claimed rentals indicated that the period of the leases was from day to day. 22 The parties belabor this argument needlessly. A public plaza is beyond the commerce of man and so cannot be the subject of lease or any other contractual undertaking. This is elementary. Indeed, this point was settled as early as in Municipality of Cavite vs. Rojas, 23decided in 1915, where the Court declared as null and void the lease of a public plaza of the said municipality in favor of a private person. Justice Torres said in that case: According to article 344 of the Civil Code: "Property for public use in provinces and in towns comprises the provincial and town roads, the squares, streets, fountains, and public waters, the promenades, and public works of general service supported by said towns or provinces. The said Plaza Soledad being a promenade for public use, the municipal council of Cavite could not in 1907 withdraw or exclude from public use a portion thereof in order to lease it for the sole benefit of the defendant Hilaria Rojas. In leasing a portion of said plaza or public place to the defendant for private use the plaintiff municipality exceeded its authority in the exercise of its powers by executing a contract over a thing of which it could not dispose, nor is it empowered so to do. The Civil Code, article 1271, prescribes that everything which is not outside the commerce of man may be the object of a contract, and plazas and streets are outside of this commerce, as was decided by the supreme court of Spain in its decision of February 12, 1895, which says: "communal things that cannot be sold because they are by their very nature outside of commerce are those for public use, such as the plazas, streets, common lands, rivers, fountains, etc." Therefore, it must be concluded that the contract, Exhibit C, whereby the municipality of Cavite leased to Hilaria Rojas a portion of the Plaza Soledad is null and void and of no force or effect, because it is contrary to the law and the thing leased cannot be the object of a was held that the City of contract. In Muyot vs. de la Fuente, 24 it was held that the City of Manila could not lease a portion of a public sidewalk on Plaza Sta. Cruz, being likewise beyond the commerce of man. Echoing Rojas, the decision said: Appellants claim that they had obtained permit from the present of the City of Manila, to connect booths Nos. 1 and 2, along the premises in question, and for the use of spaces where the booths were constructed, they had paid and continued paying the corresponding rentals. Granting this claim to be true, one should not entertain any doubt that such permit was not legal, because the City of Manila does not have any power or authority at all to lease a portion of a public sidewalk. The sidewalk in question, forming part of the public plaza of Sta. Cruz, could not be a proper subject matter of the contract, as it was not within the commerce of man (Article 1347, new Civil Code, and article 1271, old Civil Code).
Any contract entered into by the City of Manila in connection with the sidewalk, is ipso facto null and ultra vires. (Municipality of Cavite vs. Roxas, et a1, 30 Phil. 603.) The sidewalk in question was intended for and was used by the public, in going from one place to another. "The streets and public places of the city shall be kept free and clear for the use of the public, and the sidewalks and crossings for the pedestrians, and the same shall only be used or occupied for other purpose as provided by ordinance or regulation; ..." (Sec. 1119, Revised Ordinances of the City of Manila.) The booths in question served as fruit stands for their owners and often, if not always, blocked the fire passage of pedestrians who had to take the plaza itself which used to be clogged with vehicular traffic. Exactly in point is Espiritu vs. Municipal Council of Pozorrubio, 25 where the Supreme Court declared: There is absolutely no question that the town plaza cannot be used for the construction of market stalls, specially of residences, and that such structures constitute a nuisance subject to abatement according to law. Town plazas are properties of public dominion, to be devoted to public use and to be made available to the public in general They are outside the common of man and cannot be disposed of or even leased by the municipality to private parties. Applying this well-settled doctrine, we rule that the petitioners had no right in the first place to occupy the disputed premises and cannot insist in remaining there now on the strength of their alleged lease contracts. They should have realized and accepted this earlier, considering that even before Civil Case No. 2040 was decided, the municipalcouncil of San Fernando had already adopted Resolution No. 29, series of 1964, declaring the area as the parking place and public plaza of the municipality. It is the decision in Civil Case No. 2040 and the said resolution of the municipal council of San Fernando that respondent Macalino was seeking to enforce when he ordered the demolition of the stags constructed in the disputed area. As officer-in-charge of the office of the mayor, he had the duty to clear the area and restore it to its intended use as a parking place and public plaza of the municipality of San Fernando, conformably to the aforementioned orders from the court and the council. It is, therefore, not correct to say that he had acted without authority or taken the law into his hands in issuing his order. Neither can it be said that he acted whimsically in exercising his authority for it has been established that he directed the demolition of the stalls only after, upon his instructions, the municipal attorney had conducted an investigation, to look into the complaint filed by the Association of Concerned Citizens and Consumers of San Fernando. 26 There is evidence that the petitioners were notified of this hearing, 27which they chose to disregard. Photographs of the disputed area, 28 which does look congested and ugly, show that the complaint was valid and that the area really needed to be cleared, as recommended by the municipal attorney. The Court observes that even without such investigation and recommendation, the respondent mayor was justified in ordering the area cleared on the strength alone of its status as a public plaza as declared by the judicial and legislative authorities. In calling first for the investigation (which the petitioner saw fit to boycott), he was just scrupulously paying deference to the requirements of due process, to remove an taint of arbitrariness in the action he was caged upon to take. Since the occupation of the place in question in 1961 by the original 24 stallholders (whose number later ballooned to almost 200), it has deteriorated increasingly to the great prejudice of the community in general. The proliferation of stags therein, most of them makeshift and of flammable materials, has converted it into a veritable fire trap, which, added to the fact that it obstructs access to and from the public market itself, has seriously endangered public safety. The filthy condition of the talipapa, where fish and other wet items are sold, has aggravated health and sanitation problems, besides pervading the place with a foul odor that has spread into the surrounding areas. The entire place is unsightly, to the dismay and embarrassment of the inhabitants, who want it converted into a showcase of the town
of which they can all be proud. The vendors in the talipapa have also spilled into the street and obstruct the flow of traffic, thereby impairing the convenience of motorists and pedestrians alike. The regular stallholders in the public market, who pay substantial rentals to the municipality, are deprived of a sizable volume of business from prospective customers who are intercepted by the talipapa vendors before they can reach the market proper. On top of all these, the people are denied the proper use of the place as a public plaza, where they may spend their leisure in a relaxed and even beautiful environment and civic and other communal activities of the town can be held. The problems caused by the usurpation of the place by the petitioners are covered by the police power as delegated to the municipality under the general welfare clause. 29 This authorizes the municipal council "to enact such ordinances and make such regulations, not repugnant to law, as may be necessary to carry into effect and discharge the powers and duties conferred upon it by law and such as shall seem necessary and proper to provide for the health and safety, promote the prosperity, improve the morals, peace, good order, comfort, and convenience of the municipality and the inhabitants thereof, and for the protection of property therein." This authority was validly exercised in this casethrough the adoption of Resolution No. 29, series of 1964, by the municipal council of San Fernando. Even assuming a valid lease of the property in dispute, the resolution could have effectively terminated the agreement for it is settled that the police power cannot be surrendered or bargained away through the medium of a contract. 30 In fact, every contract affecting the public interest suffers a congenital infirmity in that it contains an implied reservation of the police power as a postulate of the existing legal order. 31 This power can be activated at any time to change the provisions of the contract, or even abrogate it entirely, for the promotion or protection of the general welfare. Such an act will not militate against the impairment clause, which is subject to and limited by the paramount police power. 32 We hold that the respondent judge did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying the petition for prohibition. On the contrary, he acted correctly in sustaining the right and responsibility of the mayor to evict the petitioners from the disputed area and clear it of an the structures illegally constructed therein. The Court feels that it would have been far more amiable if the petitioners themselves, recognizing their own civic duty, had at the outset desisted from their original stance and withdrawn in good grace from the disputed area to permit its peaceful restoration as a public plaza and parking place for the benefit of the whole municipality. They owned this little sacrifice to the community in general which has suffered all these many years because of their intransigence. Regrettably, they have refused to recognize that in the truly democratic society, the interests of the few should yield to those of the greater number in deference to the principles that the welfare of the people is the supreme law and overriding purpose. We do not see any altruism here. The traditional ties of sharing are absent here. What we find, sad to say, is a cynical disdaining of the spirit of "bayanihan," a selfish rejection of the cordial virtues of "pakikisama " and "pagbibigayan" which are the hallmarks of our people. WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. The decision dated July 19, 1982, and the order-dated August 5, 1982, are AFFIRMED. The temporary restraining order dated August 9, 1982, is LIFTED. This decision is immediately executory. Costs against the petitioners. SO ORDERED. EN BANC G.R. No. 92013 July 25, 1990 SALVADOR H. LAUREL, petitioner, vs. RAMON GARCIA, as head of the Asset Privatization Trust, RAUL MANGLAPUS, as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and CATALINO MACARAIG, as Executive Secretary, respondents.
G.R. No. 92047 July 25, 1990 DIONISIO S. OJEDA, petitioner, vs. EXECUTIVE SECRETARY MACARAIG, JR., ASSETS PRIVATIZATION TRUST CHAIRMAN RAMON T. GARCIA, AMBASSADOR RAMON DEL ROSARIO, et al., as members of the PRINCIPAL AND BIDDING COMMITTEES ON THE UTILIZATION/DISPOSITION PETITION OF PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT PROPERTIES IN JAPAN,respondents. Arturo M. Tolentino for petitioner in 92013.
GUTIERREZ, JR., J.: These are two petitions for prohibition seeking to enjoin respondents, their representatives and agents from proceeding with the bidding for the sale of the 3,179 square meters of land at 306 Roppongi, 5-Chome Minato-ku Tokyo, Japan scheduled on February 21, 1990. We granted the prayer for a temporary restraining order effective February 20, 1990. One of the petitioners (in G.R. No. 92047) likewise prayes for a writ of mandamus to compel the respondents to fully disclose to the public the basis of their decision to push through with the sale of the Roppongi property inspire of strong public opposition and to explain the proceedings which effectively prevent the participation of Filipino citizens and entities in the bidding process. The oral arguments in G.R. No. 92013, Laurel v. Garcia, et al. were heard by the Court on March 13, 1990. After G.R. No. 92047, Ojeda v. Secretary Macaraig, et al. was filed, the respondents were required to file a comment by the Court's resolution dated February 22, 1990. The two petitions were consolidated on March 27, 1990 when the memoranda of the parties in the Laurel case were deliberated upon. The Court could not act on these cases immediately because the respondents filed a motion for an extension of thirty (30) days to file comment in G.R. No. 92047, followed by a second motion for an extension of another thirty (30) days which we granted on May 8, 1990, a third motion for extension of time granted on May 24, 1990 and a fourth motion for extension of time which we granted on June 5, 1990 but calling the attention of the respondents to the length of time the petitions have been pending. After the comment was filed, the petitioner in G.R. No. 92047 asked for thirty (30) days to file a reply. We noted his motion and resolved to decide the two (2) cases. I The subject property in this case is one of the four (4) properties in Japan acquired by the Philippine government under the Reparations Agreement entered into with Japan on May 9, 1956, the other lots being: (1) The Nampeidai Property at 11-24 Nampeidai-machi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo which has an area of approximately 2,489.96 square meters, and is at present the site of the Philippine Embassy Chancery; (2) The Kobe Commercial Property at 63 Naniwa-cho, Kobe, with an area of around 764.72 square meters and categorized as a commercial lot now being used as a warehouse and parking lot for the consulate staff; and
(3) The Kobe Residential Property at 1-980-2 Obanoyama-cho, Shinohara, Nada-ku, Kobe, a residential lot which is now vacant. The properties and the capital goods and services procured from the Japanese government for national development projects are part of the indemnification to the Filipino people for their losses in life and property and their suffering during World War II. The Reparations Agreement provides that reparations valued at $550 million would be payable in twenty (20) years in accordance with annual schedules of procurements to be fixed by the Philippine and Japanese governments (Article 2, Reparations Agreement). Rep. Act No. 1789, the Reparations Law, prescribes the national policy on procurement and utilization of reparations and development loans. The procurements are divided into those for use by the government sector and those for private parties in projects as the then National Economic Council shall determine. Those intended for the private sector shall be made available by sale to Filipino citizens or to one hundred (100%) percent Filipino-owned entities in national development projects. The Roppongi property was acquired from the Japanese government under the Second Year Schedule and listed under the heading "Government Sector", through Reparations Contract No. 300 dated June 27, 1958. The Roppongi property consists of the land and building "for the Chancery of the Philippine Embassy" (Annex M-D to Memorandum for Petitioner, p. 503). As intended, it became the site of the Philippine Embassy until the latter was transferred to Nampeidai on July 22, 1976 when the Roppongi building needed major repairs. Due to the failure of our government to provide necessary funds, the Roppongi property has remained undeveloped since that time. A proposal was presented to President Corazon C. Aquino by former Philippine Ambassador to Japan, Carlos J. Valdez, to make the property the subject of a lease agreement with a Japanese firm - Kajima Corporation — which shall construct two (2) buildings in Roppongi and one (1) building in Nampeidai and renovate the present Philippine Chancery in Nampeidai. The consideration of the construction would be the lease to the foreign corporation of one (1) of the buildings to be constructed in Roppongi and the two (2) buildings in Nampeidai. The other building in Roppongi shall then be used as the Philippine Embassy Chancery. At the end of the lease period, all the three leased buildings shall be occupied and used by the Philippine government. No change of ownership or title shall occur. (See Annex "B" to Reply to Comment) The Philippine government retains the title all throughout the lease period and thereafter. However, the government has not acted favorably on this proposal which is pending approval and ratification between the parties. Instead, on August 11, 1986, President Aquino created a committee to study the disposition/utilization of Philippine government properties in Tokyo and Kobe, Japan through Administrative Order No. 3, followed by Administrative Orders Numbered 3-A, B, C and D. On July 25, 1987, the President issued Executive Order No. 296 entitling non-Filipino citizens or entities to avail of separations' capital goods and services in the event of sale, lease or disposition. The four properties in Japan including the Roppongi were specifically mentioned in the first "Whereas" clause. Amidst opposition by various sectors, the Executive branch of the government has been pushing, with great vigor, its decision to sell the reparations properties starting with the Roppongi lot. The property has twice been set for bidding at a minimum floor price of $225 million. The first bidding was a failure since only one bidder qualified. The second one, after postponements, has not yet materialized. The last scheduled bidding on February 21, 1990 was restrained by his Court. Later, the rules on bidding were changed such that the $225 million floor price became merely a suggested floor price.
The Court finds that each of the herein petitions raises distinct issues. The petitioner in G.R. No. 92013 objects to the alienation of the Roppongi property to anyone while the petitioner in G.R. No. 92047 adds as a principal objection the alleged unjustified bias of the Philippine government in favor of selling the property to non-Filipino citizens and entities. These petitions have been consolidated and are resolved at the same time for the objective is the same - to stop the sale of the Roppongi property. The petitioner in G.R. No. 92013 raises the following issues: (1) Can the Roppongi property and others of its kind be alienated by the Philippine Government?; and (2) Does the Chief Executive, her officers and agents, have the authority and jurisdiction, to sell the Roppongi property? Petitioner Dionisio Ojeda in G.R. No. 92047, apart from questioning the authority of the government to alienate the Roppongi property assails the constitutionality of Executive Order No. 296 in making the property available for sale to non-Filipino citizens and entities. He also questions the bidding procedures of the Committee on the Utilization or Disposition of Philippine Government Properties in Japan for being discriminatory against Filipino citizens and Filipino-owned entities by denying them the right to be informed about the bidding requirements. II In G.R. No. 92013, petitioner Laurel asserts that the Roppongi property and the related lots were acquired as part of the reparations from the Japanese government for diplomatic and consular use by the Philippine government. Vice-President Laurel states that the Roppongi property is classified as one of public dominion, and not of private ownership under Article 420 of the Civil Code (See infra). The petitioner submits that the Roppongi property comes under "property intended for public service" in paragraph 2 of the above provision. He states that being one of public dominion, no ownership by any one can attach to it, not even by the State. The Roppongi and related properties were acquired for "sites for chancery, diplomatic, and consular quarters, buildings and other improvements" (Second Year Reparations Schedule). The petitioner states that they continue to be intended for a necessary service. They are held by the State in anticipation of an opportune use. (Citing 3 Manresa 65-66). Hence, it cannot be appropriated, is outside the commerce of man, or to put it in more simple terms, it cannot be alienated nor be the subject matter of contracts (Citing Municipality of Cavite v. Rojas, 30 Phil. 20 ). Noting the nonuse of the Roppongi property at the moment, the petitioner avers that the same remains property of public dominion so long as the government has not used it for other purposes nor adopted any measure constituting a removal of its original purpose or use. The respondents, for their part, refute the petitioner's contention by saying that the subject property is not governed by our Civil Code but by the laws of Japan where the property is located. They rely upon the rule of lex situs which is used in determining the applicable law regarding the acquisition, transfer and devolution of the title to a property. They also invoke Opinion No. 21, Series of 1988, dated January 27, 1988 of the Secretary of Justice which used the lex situs in explaining the inapplicability of Philippine law regarding a property situated in Japan. The respondents add that even assuming for the sake of argument that the Civil Code is applicable, the Roppongi property has ceased to become property of public dominion. It has become patrimonial property because it has not been used for public service or for diplomatic
purposes for over thirteen (13) years now (Citing Article 422, Civil Code) and because the intention by the Executive Department and the Congress to convert it to private use has been manifested by overt acts, such as, among others: (1) the transfer of the Philippine Embassy to Nampeidai (2) the issuance of administrative orders for the possibility of alienating the four government properties in Japan; (3) the issuance of Executive Order No. 296; (4) the enactment by the Congress of Rep. Act No. 6657 [the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law] on June 10, 1988 which contains a provision stating that funds may be taken from the sale of Philippine properties in foreign countries; (5) the holding of the public bidding of the Roppongi property but which failed; (6) the deferment by the Senate in Resolution No. 55 of the bidding to a future date; thus an acknowledgment by the Senate of the government's intention to remove the Roppongi property from the public service purpose; and (7) the resolution of this Court dismissing the petition in Ojeda v. Bidding Committee, et al., G.R. No. 87478 which sought to enjoin the second bidding of the Roppongi property scheduled on March 30, 1989. III In G.R. No. 94047, petitioner Ojeda once more asks this Court to rule on the constitutionality of Executive Order No. 296. He had earlier filed a petition in G.R. No. 87478 which the Court dismissed on August 1, 1989. He now avers that the executive order contravenes the constitutional mandate to conserve and develop the national patrimony stated in the Preamble of the 1987 Constitution. It also allegedly violates: (1) The reservation of the ownership and acquisition of alienable lands of the public domain to Filipino citizens. (Sections 2 and 3, Article XII, Constitution; Sections 22 and 23 of Commonwealth Act 141).i•t•c-aüsl (2) The preference for Filipino citizens in the grant of rights, privileges and concessions covering the national economy and patrimony (Section 10, Article VI, Constitution); (3) The protection given to Filipino enterprises against unfair competition and trade practices; (4) The guarantee of the right of the people to information on all matters of public concern (Section 7, Article III, Constitution); (5) The prohibition against the sale to non-Filipino citizens or entities not wholly owned by Filipino citizens of capital goods received by the Philippines under the Reparations Act (Sections 2 and 12 of Rep. Act No. 1789); and (6) The declaration of the state policy of full public disclosure of all transactions involving public interest (Section 28, Article III, Constitution). Petitioner Ojeda warns that the use of public funds in the execution of an unconstitutional executive order is a misapplication of public funds He states that since the details of the bidding for the Roppongi property were never publicly disclosed until February 15, 1990 (or a few days before the scheduled bidding), the bidding guidelines are available only in Tokyo, and the accomplishment of requirements and the selection of qualified bidders should be done in Tokyo, interested Filipino citizens or entities owned by them did not have the chance to comply with Purchase Offer Requirements on the Roppongi. Worse, the Roppongi shall be sold for a minimum price of $225 million from which price capital gains tax under Japanese law of about 50 to 70% of the floor price would still be deducted. IV
The petitioners and respondents in both cases do not dispute the fact that the Roppongi site and the three related properties were through reparations agreements, that these were assigned to the government sector and that the Roppongi property itself was specifically designated under the Reparations Agreement to house the Philippine Embassy. The nature of the Roppongi lot as property for public service is expressly spelled out. It is dictated by the terms of the Reparations Agreement and the corresponding contract of procurement which bind both the Philippine government and the Japanese government. There can be no doubt that it is of public dominion unless it is convincingly shown that the property has become patrimonial. This, the respondents have failed to do. As property of public dominion, the Roppongi lot is outside the commerce of man. It cannot be alienated. Its ownership is a special collective ownership for general use and enjoyment, an application to the satisfaction of collective needs, and resides in the social group. The purpose is not to serve the State as a juridical person, but the citizens; it is intended for the common and public welfare and cannot be the object of appropration. (Taken from 3 Manresa, 66-69; cited in Tolentino, Commentaries on the Civil Code of the Philippines, 1963 Edition, Vol. II, p. 26). The applicable provisions of the Civil Code are: ART. 419. Property is either of public dominion or of private ownership. ART. 420. The following things are property of public dominion (1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the State, banks shores roadsteads, and others of similar character; (2) Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the development of the national wealth. ART. 421. All other property of the State, which is not of the character stated in the preceding article, is patrimonial property. The Roppongi property is correctly classified under paragraph 2 of Article 420 of the Civil Code as property belonging to the State and intended for some public service. Has the intention of the government regarding the use of the property been changed because the lot has been Idle for some years? Has it become patrimonial? The fact that the Roppongi site has not been used for a long time for actual Embassy service does not automatically convert it to patrimonial property. Any such conversion happens only if the property is withdrawn from public use (Cebu Oxygen and Acetylene Co. v. Bercilles, 66 SCRA 481 ). A property continues to be part of the public domain, not available for private appropriation or ownership until there is a formal declaration on the part of the government to withdraw it from being such (Ignacio v. Director of Lands, 108 Phil. 335 ). The respondents enumerate various pronouncements by concerned public officials insinuating a change of intention. We emphasize, however, that an abandonment of the intention to use the Roppongi property for public service and to make it patrimonial property under Article 422 of
the Civil Code must be definite Abandonment cannot be inferred from the non-use alone specially if the non-use was attributable not to the government's own deliberate and indubitable will but to a lack of financial support to repair and improve the property (See Heirs of Felino Santiago v. Lazaro, 166 SCRA 368 ). Abandonment must be a certain and positive act based on correct legal premises. A mere transfer of the Philippine Embassy to Nampeidai in 1976 is not relinquishment of the Roppongi property's original purpose. Even the failure by the government to repair the building in Roppongi is not abandonment since as earlier stated, there simply was a shortage of government funds. The recent Administrative Orders authorizing a study of the status and conditions of government properties in Japan were merely directives for investigation but did not in any way signify a clear intention to dispose of the properties. Executive Order No. 296, though its title declares an "authority to sell", does not have a provision in its text expressly authorizing the sale of the four properties procured from Japan for the government sector. The executive order does not declare that the properties lost their public character. It merely intends to make the properties available to foreigners and not to Filipinos alone in case of a sale, lease or other disposition. It merely eliminates the restriction under Rep. Act No. 1789 that reparations goods may be sold only to Filipino citizens and one hundred (100%) percent Filipino-owned entities. The text of Executive Order No. 296 provides: Section 1. The provisions of Republic Act No. 1789, as amended, and of other laws to the contrary notwithstanding, the above-mentioned properties can be made available for sale, lease or any other manner of disposition to non-Filipino citizens or to entities owned by non-Filipino citizens. Executive Order No. 296 is based on the wrong premise or assumption that the Roppongi and the three other properties were earlier converted into alienable real properties. As earlier stated, Rep. Act No. 1789 differentiates the procurements for the government sector and the private sector (Sections 2 and 12, Rep. Act No. 1789). Only the private sector properties can be sold to end-users who must be Filipinos or entities owned by Filipinos. It is this nationality provision which was amended by Executive Order No. 296. Section 63 (c) of Rep. Act No. 6657 (the CARP Law) which provides as one of the sources of funds for its implementation, the proceeds of the disposition of the properties of the Government in foreign countries, did not withdraw the Roppongi property from being classified as one of public dominion when it mentions Philippine properties abroad. Section 63 (c) refers to properties which are alienable and not to those reserved for public use or service. Rep Act No. 6657, therefore, does not authorize the Executive Department to sell the Roppongi property. It merely enumerates possible sources of future funding to augment (as and when needed) the Agrarian Reform Fund created under Executive Order No. 299. Obviously any property outside of the commerce of man cannot be tapped as a source of funds. The respondents try to get around the public dominion character of the Roppongi property by insisting that Japanese law and not our Civil Code should apply. It is exceedingly strange why our top government officials, of all people, should be the ones to insist that in the sale of extremely valuable government property, Japanese law and not Philippine law should prevail. The Japanese law - its coverage and effects, when enacted, and exceptions to its provision — is not presented to the Court It is simply asserted that the lex loci rei sitae or Japanese law should apply without stating what that law provides. It is a ed on faith that Japanese law would allow the sale. We see no reason why a conflict of law rule should apply when no conflict of law situation exists. A conflict of law situation arises only when: (1) There is a dispute over the title or ownership of an immovable, such that the capacity to take and transfer immovables, the
formalities of conveyance, the essential validity and effect of the transfer, or the interpretation and effect of a conveyance, are to be determined (See Salonga, Private International Law, 1981 ed., pp. 377-383); and (2) A foreign law on land ownership and its conveyance is asserted to conflict with a domestic law on the same matters. Hence, the need to determine which law should apply. In the instant case, none of the above elements exists. The issues are not concerned with validity of ownership or title. There is no question that the property belongs to the Philippines. The issue is the authority of the respondent officials to validly dispose of property belonging to the State. And the validity of the procedures adopted to effect its sale. This is governed by Philippine Law. The rule of lex situs does not apply. The assertion that the opinion of the Secretary of Justice sheds light on the relevance of the lex situsrule is misplaced. The opinion does not tackle the alienability of the real properties procured through reparations nor the existence in what body of the authority to sell them. In discussing who are capableof acquiring the lots, the Secretary merely explains that it is the foreign law which should determinewho can acquire the properties so that the constitutional limitation on acquisition of lands of the public domain to Filipino citizens and entities wholly owned by Filipinos is inapplicable. We see no point in belaboring whether or not this opinion is correct. Why should we discuss who can acquire the Roppongi lot when there is no showing that it can be sold? The subsequent approval on October 4, 1988 by President Aquino of the recommendation by the investigating committee to sell the Roppongi property was premature or, at the very least, conditioned on a valid change in the public character of the Roppongi property. Moreover, the approval does not have the force and effect of law since the President already lost her legislative powers. The Congress had already convened for more than a year. Assuming for the sake of argument, however, that the Roppongi property is no longer of public dominion, there is another obstacle to its sale by the respondents. There is no law authorizing its conveyance. Section 79 (f) of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 provides Section 79 (f ) Conveyances and contracts to which the Government is a party. — In cases in which the Government of the Republic of the Philippines is a party to any deed or other instrument conveying the title to real estate or to any other property the value of which is in excess of one hundred thousand pesos, the respective Department Secretary shall prepare the necessary papers which, together with the proper recommendations, shall be submitted to the Congress of the Philippines for approval by the same. Such deed, instrument, or contract shall be executed and signed by the President of the Philippines on behalf of the Government of the Philippines unless the Government of the Philippines unless the authority therefor be expressly vested by law in another officer. (Emphasis supplied) The requirement has been retained in Section 48, Book I of the Administrative Code of 1987 (Executive Order No. 292). SEC. 48. Official Authorized to Convey Real Property. — Whenever real property of the Government is authorized by law to be conveyed, the deed
of conveyance shall be executed in behalf of the government by the following: (1) For property belonging to and titled in the name of the Republic of the Philippines, by the President, unless the authority therefor is expressly vested by law in another officer. (2) For property belonging to the Republic of the Philippines but titled in the name of any political subdivision or of any corporate agency or instrumentality, by the executive head of the agency or instrumentality. (Emphasis supplied) It is not for the President to convey valuable real property of the government on his or her own sole will. Any such conveyance must be authorized and approved by a law enacted by the Congress. It requires executive and legislative concurrence. Resolution No. 55 of the Senate dated June 8, 1989, asking for the deferment of the sale of the Roppongi property does not withdraw the property from public domain much less authorize its sale. It is a mere resolution; it is not a formal declaration abandoning the public character of the Roppongi property. In fact, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is conducting hearings on Senate Resolution No. 734 which raises serious policy considerations and calls for a fact-finding investigation of the circumstances behind the decision to sell the Philippine government properties in Japan. The resolution of this Court in Ojeda v. Bidding Committee, et al., supra, did not pass upon the constitutionality of Executive Order No. 296. Contrary to respondents' assertion, we did not uphold the authority of the President to sell the Roppongi property. The Court stated that the constitutionality of the executive order was not the real issue and that resolving the constitutional question was "neither necessary nor finally determinative of the case." The Court noted that "[W]hat petitioner ultimately questions is the use of the proceeds of the disposition of the Roppongi property." In emphasizing that "the decision of the Executive to dispose of the Roppongi property to finance the CARP ... cannot be questioned" in view of Section 63 (c) of Rep. Act No. 6657, the Court did not acknowledge the fact that the property became alienable nor did it indicate that the President was authorized to dispose of the Roppongi property. The resolution should be read to mean that in case the Roppongi property is re-classified to be patrimonial and alienable by authority of law, the proceeds of a sale may be used for national economic development projects including the CARP. Moreover, the sale in 1989 did not materialize. The petitions before us question the proposed 1990 sale of the Roppongi property. We are resolving the issues raised in these petitions, not the issues raised in 1989. Having declared a need for a law or formal declaration to withdraw the Roppongi property from public domain to make it alienable and a need for legislative authority to allow the sale of the property, we see no compelling reason to tackle the constitutional issues raised by petitioner Ojeda. The Court does not ordinarily pass upon constitutional questions unless these questions are properly raised in appropriate cases and their resolution is necessary for the determination of the case (People v. Vera, 65 Phil. 56 ). The Court will not pass upon a constitutional question although properly presented by the record if the case can be disposed of on some other ground such as the application of a statute or general law (Siler v. Louisville and Nashville R. Co., 213 U.S. 175, , Railroad Commission v. Pullman Co., 312 U.S. 496 ).
The petitioner in G.R. No. 92013 states why the Roppongi property should not be sold: The Roppongi property is not just like any piece of property. It was given to the Filipino people in reparation for the lives and blood of Filipinos who died and suffered during the Japanese military occupation, for the suffering of widows and orphans who lost their loved ones and kindred, for the homes and other properties lost by countless Filipinos during the war. The Tokyo properties are a monument to the bravery and sacrifice of the Filipino people in the face of an invader; like the monuments of Rizal, Quezon, and other Filipino heroes, we do not expect economic or financial benefits from them. But who would think of selling these monuments? Filipino honor and national dignity dictate that we keep our properties in Japan as memorials to the countless Filipinos who died and suffered. Even if we should become paupers we should not think of selling them. For it would be as if we sold the lives and blood and tears of our countrymen. (Rollo- G.R. No. 92013, p.147) The petitioner in G.R. No. 92047 also states: Roppongi is no ordinary property. It is one ceded by the Japanese government in atonement for its past belligerence for the valiant sacrifice of life and limb and for deaths, physical dislocation and economic devastation the whole Filipino people endured in World War II. It is for what it stands for, and for what it could never bring back to life, that its significance today remains undimmed, inspire of the lapse of 45 years since the war ended, inspire of the passage of 32 years since the property passed on to the Philippine government. Roppongi is a reminder that cannot — should not — be dissipated ... (Rollo92047, p. 9) It is indeed true that the Roppongi property is valuable not so much because of the inflated prices fetched by real property in Tokyo but more so because of its symbolic value to all Filipinos — veterans and civilians alike. Whether or not the Roppongi and related properties will eventually be sold is a policy determination where both the President and Congress must concur. Considering the properties' importance and value, the laws on conversion and disposition of property of public dominion must be faithfully followed. WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the petitions are GRANTED. A writ of prohibition is issued enjoining the respondents from proceeding with the sale of the Roppongi property in Tokyo, Japan. The February 20, 1990 Temporary Restraining Order is made PERMANENT. SO ORDERED.
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