Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Illegal demolition by MMDA - G.R. No. 177807

G.R. No. 177807

"x x x.

MMDA illegally demolished

the property of Justice Gancayco.

MMDA alleges that by virtue of MMDA Resolution No. 02-28, Series of 2002, it is empowered to demolish Justice Gancayco’s property. It insists that the Metro Manila Council authorized the MMDA and the local government units to clear the sidewalks, streets, avenues, alleys, bridges, parks and other public places in Metro Manila of all illegal structures and obstructions. It further alleges that it demolished the property pursuant to the Building Code in relation to Ordinance No. 2904 as amended.

However, the Building Code clearly provides the process by which a building may be demolished. The authority to order the demolition of any structure lies with the Building Official. The pertinent provisions of the Building Code provide:

SECTION 205. Building Officials. — Except as otherwise provided herein, the Building Official shall be responsible for carrying out the provisions of this Code in the field as well as the enforcement of orders and decisions made pursuant thereto.

Due to the exigencies of the service, the Secretary may designate incumbent Public Works District Engineers, City Engineers and Municipal Engineers act as Building Officials in their respective areas of jurisdiction.

The designation made by the Secretary under this Section shall continue until regular positions of Building Official are provided or unless sooner terminated for causes provided by law or decree.

xxx xxx xxx

SECTION 207. Duties of a Building Official. — In his respective territorial jurisdiction, the Building Official shall be primarily responsible for the enforcement of the provisions of this Code as well as of the implementing rules and regulations issued therefor. He is the official charged with the duties of issuing building permits.

In the performance of his duties, a Building Official may enter any building or its premises at all reasonable times to inspect and determine compliance with the requirements of this Code, and the terms and conditions provided for in the building permit as issued.

When any building work is found to be contrary to the provisions of this Code, the Building Official may order the work stopped and prescribe the terms and/or conditions when the work will be allowed to resume. Likewise, the Building Official is authorized to order the discontinuance of the occupancy or use of any building or structure or portion thereof found to be occupied or used contrary to the provisions of this Code.

xxx xxx xxx

SECTION 215. Abatement of Dangerous Buildings. — When any building or structure is found or declared to be dangerous or ruinous, the Building Official shall order its repair, vacation or demolition depending upon the degree of danger to life, health, or safety. This is without prejudice to further action that may be taken under the provisions of Articles 482 and 694 to 707 of the Civil Code of the Philippines. (Emphasis supplied.)

MMDA v. Trackworks Rail Transit Advertising, Vending and Promotions, Inc.[31] is applicable to the case at bar. In that case, MMDA, invoking its charter and the Building Code, summarily dismantled the advertising media installed on the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3. This Court held:

It is futile for MMDA to simply invoke its legal mandate to justify the dismantling of Trackworks' billboards, signages and other advertising media. MMDA simply had no power on its own to dismantle, remove, or destroy the billboards, signages and other advertising media installed on the MRT3 structure by Trackworks. In Metropolitan Manila Development Authority v. Bel-Air Village Association, Inc.,Metropolitan Manila Development Authority v. Viron Transportation Co., Inc., and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority v. Garin, the Court had the occasion to rule that MMDA's powers were limited to the formulation, coordination, regulation, implementation, preparation, management, monitoring, setting of policies, installing a system, and administration. Nothing in Republic Act No. 7924 granted MMDA police power, let alone legislative power.

Clarifying the real nature of MMDA, the Court held:

...The MMDA is, as termed in the charter itself, a "development authority". It is an agency created for the purpose of laying down policies and coordinating with the various national government agencies, people's organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector for the efficient and expeditious delivery of basic services in the vast metropolitan area. All its functions are administrative in nature and these are actually summed up in the charter itself, viz:

Sec.2. Creation of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.- xxx.

The MMDA shall perform planning, monitoring and coordinative functions, and in the process exercise regulatory and supervisory authority over the delivery of metro-wide services within Metro Manila, without diminution of the autonomy of local government units concerning purely local matters.

The Court also agrees with the CA's ruling that MMDA Regulation No. 96-009 and MMC Memorandum Circular No. 88-09 did not apply to Trackworks' billboards, signages and other advertising media. The prohibition against posting, installation and display of billboards, signages and other advertising media applied only to public areas, but MRT3, being private property pursuant to the BLT agreement between the Government and MRTC, was not one of the areas as to which the prohibition applied. Moreover, MMC Memorandum Circular No. 88-09 did not apply to Trackworks' billboards, signages and other advertising media in MRT3, because it did not specifically cover MRT3, and because it was issued a year prior to the construction of MRT3 on the center island of EDSA. Clearly, MMC Memorandum Circular No. 88-09 could not have included MRT3 in its prohibition.

MMDA's insistence that it was only implementing Presidential Decree No. 1096 (Building Code) and its implementing rules and regulations is not persuasive. The power to enforce the provisions of the Building Code was lodged in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), not in MMDA, considering the law's following provision, thus:

Sec. 201. Responsibility for Administration and Enforcement. -
The administration and enforcement of the provisions of this Code including the imposition of penalties for administrative violations thereof is hereby vested in the Secretary of Public Works, Transportation and Communications, hereinafter referred to as the "Secretary."

There is also no evidence showing that MMDA had been delegated by DPWH to implement the Building Code. (Emphasis supplied.)

Additionally, the penalty prescribed by Ordinance No. 2904 itself does not include the demolition of illegally constructed buildings in case of violations. Instead, it merely prescribes a punishment of “a fine of not more than two hundred pesos (P200.00) or by imprisonment of not more than thirty (30) days, or by both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the Court, Provided, that if the violation is committed by a corporation, partnership, or any juridical entity, the Manager, managing partner, or any person charged with the management thereof shall be held responsible therefor.” The ordinance itself also clearly states that it is the regular courts that will determine whether there was a violation of the ordinance.

As pointed out in Trackworks, the MMDA does not have the power to enact ordinances. Thus, it cannot supplement the provisions of Quezon City Ordinance No. 2904 merely through its Resolution No. 02-28.

Lastly, the MMDA claims that the City Government of Quezon City may be considered to have approved the demolition of the structure, simply because then Quezon City Mayor Feliciano R. Belmonte signed MMDA Resolution No. 02-28. In effect, the city government delegated these powers to the MMDA. The powers referred to are those that include the power to declare, prevent and abate a nuisance[32] and to further impose the penalty of removal or demolition of the building or structure by the owner or by the city at the expense of the owner.[33]

MMDA’s argument does not hold water. There was no valid delegation of powers to the MMDA. Contrary to the claim of the MMDA, the City Government of Quezon City washed its hands off the acts of the former. In its Answer,[34] the city government stated that “the demolition was undertaken by the MMDA only, without the participation and/or consent of Quezon City.” Therefore, the MMDA acted on its own and should be held solely liable for the destruction of the portion of Justice Gancayco’s building.

x x x."