EN BANC

[G.R. No. 103882. November 25, 1998]

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS AND REPUBLIC REAL ESTATE CORPORATION, respondents. CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES, intervenor.

[G.R. No. 105276. November 25, 1998]

PASAY CITY AND REPUBLIC REAL ESTATE CORPORATION, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

D E C I S I O N

PURISIMA, J.:

At bar are two consolidated petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court. Here, the Court is confronted with a case commenced before the then Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) of Rizal in Pasay City, in 1961, more than 3 decades back, that has spanned six administrations of the Republic and outlasted the tenure of ten (10) Chief Justices of the Supreme Court.

In G.R. No. 103882, the Republic of the Philippines, as petitioner, assails the Decision, dated January 29, 1992 and Amended Decision, dated April 28, 1992, of the Court of Appeals[1], which affirmed with modification the Decision of the former Court of First Instance of Rizal (Branch 7, Pasay City) in Civil Case No. 2229-P, entitled Republic of the Philippines versus Pasay City and Republic Real Estate Corporation.

The facts that matter are, as follows:

Republic Act No. 1899 (RA 1899), which was approved on June 22, 1957, authorized the reclamation of foreshore lands by chartered cities and municipalities. Section I of said law, reads:

SECTION 1. Authority is hereby granted to all municipalities and chartered cities to undertake and carry out at their own expense the reclamation by dredging, filling, or other means, of any foreshore lands bordering them, and to establish, provide, construct, maintain and repair proper and adequate docking and harbor facilities as such municipalities and chartered cities may determine in consultation with the Secretary of Finance and the Secretary of Public Works and Communications.

On May 6, 1958, invoking the aforecited provision of RA 1899, the Pasay City Council passed Ordinance No. 121, for the reclamation of Three Hundred (300) hectares of foreshore lands in Pasay City, empowering the City Mayor to award and enter into reclamation contracts, and prescribing terms and conditions therefor. The said Ordinance was amended on April 21, 1959 by Ordinance No. 158, which authorized the Republic Real Estate Corporation (RREC) to reclaim foreshore lands of Pasay City under certain terms and conditions.

On April 24, 1959, Pasay City and RREC entered into an Agreement[2] for the reclamation of the foreshore lands in Pasay City.

On December 19, 1961, the Republic of the Philippines (Republic) filed a Complaint[3] for Recovery of Possession and Damages with Writ of Preliminary Preventive Injunction and Mandatory Injunction, docketed as Civil Case No. 2229-P before the former Court of First Instance of Rizal, (Branch 7, Pasay City).

On March 5, 1962, the Republic of the Philippines filed an Amended Complaint[4] questioning subject Agreement between Pasay City and RREC (Exhibit P) on the grounds that the subject-matter of such Agreement is outside the commerce of man, that its terms and conditions are violative of RA 1899, and that the said Agreement was executed without any public bidding.

The Answers[5] of RREC and Pasay City, dated March 10 and March 14, 1962, respectively, averred that the subject-matter of said Agreement is within the commerce of man, that the phrase foreshore lands within the contemplation of RA 1899 has a broader meaning than the cited definition of the term in the Words and Phrases and in the Websters Third New International Dictionary and the plans and specifications of the reclamation involved were approved by the authorities concerned.

On April 26,1962, Judge Angel H. Mojica, (now deceased) of the former Court of First Instance of Rizal (Branch 7, Pasay City) issued an Order[6] the dispositive portion of which was to the following effect:

WHEREFORE, the court hereby orders the defendants, their agents, and all persons claiming under them, to refrain from further reclaiming or committing acts of dispossession or dispoilation over any area within the Manila Bay or the Manila Bay Beach Resort, until further orders of the court.

On the following day, the same trial court issued a writ of preliminary injunction[7] which enjoined the defendants, RREC and Pasay City, their agents, and all persons claiming under them from further reclaiming or committing acts of dispossession.

Thereafter, a Motion to Intervene[8], dated June 27, 1962, was filed by Jose L. Bautista, Emiliano Custodio, Renato Custodio, Roger de la Rosa, Belen Gonzales, Norma Martinez, Emilia E. Paez, Ambrosio R. Parreno, Antolin M. Oreta, Sixto L. Orosa, Pablo S. Sarmiento, Jesus Yujuico, Zamora Enterprises, Inc., Industrial and Commercial Factors, Inc., Metropolitan Distributors of the Philippines, and Bayview Hotel, Inc. stating inter alia that they were buyers of lots in the Manila Bay area being reclaimed by RREC, whose rights would be affected by whatever decision to be rendered in the case. The Motion was granted by the trial court and the Answer attached thereto admitted.[9]

The defendants and the intervenors then moved to dismiss[10] the Complaint of the Republic, placing reliance on Section 3 of Republic Act No. 5187, which reads:

Sec. 3. Miscellaneous Projects

x x x

m. For the construction of seawall and limited access highway from the south boundary of the City of Manila to Cavite City, to the south, and from the north boundary of the City of Manila to the municipality of Mariveles, province of Bataan, to the north, including the reclamation of the foreshore and submerged areas: Provided, That priority in the construction of such seawalls, highway and attendant reclamation works shall be given to any corporation and/or corporations that may offer to undertake at its own expense such projects, in which case the President of the Philippines may, after competitive bidding, award contracts for the construction of such projects, with the winning bidder shouldering all costs thereof, the same to be paid in terms of percentage fee of the contractor which shall not exceed fifty percent of the area reclaimed by the contractor and shall represent full compensation for the purpose, the provisions of the Public Land Law concerning disposition of reclaimed and foreshore lands to the contrary notwithstanding: Provided, finally, that the foregoing provisions and those of other laws, executive orders, rules and regulations to the contrary notwithstanding, existing rights, projects and/or contracts of city or municipal governments for the reclamation of foreshore and submerged lands shall be respected. x x x. (underscoring ours)

Since the aforecited law provides that existing contracts shall be respected, movants contended that the issues raised by the pleadings have become moot, academic and of no further validity or effect.

Meanwhile, the Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc. (PLCU) moved to intervene[11], alleging as legal interest in the matter in litigation the avowed purpose of the organization for the promotion of good government in Pasay City. In its Order of June 10, 1969, the lower court of origin allowed the said intervention[12].

On March 24, 1972, the trial court of origin came out with a Decision, disposing, thus:

WHEREFORE, after carefully considering (1) the original complaint, (2) the first Amended Complaint, (3) the Answer of Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation to the first Amended Complaint, (4) the Answer of Defendant Pasay City to the first Amended Complaint, (5) the Second Amended Complaint, (6) the Answer of Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation to the Second Amended Complaint, (7) the Answer of Defendant Pasay City to the Second Amended Complaint, (8) the Memorandum in Support of Preliminary Injunction of Plaintiff, (9) the Memorandum In Support of the Opposition to the Issuance of Preliminary Injunction of Defendant Pasay City and Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation, (10) the Answer in Intervention of Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (11) Plaintiffs Opposition to Motion to Intervene, (12) the Reply to Opposition to Motion to Intervene of Intervenors Bautista, et. al. , (13) the Stipulation of Facts by all the parties, (14) the Motion for Leave to Intervene of Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc., (15) the Opposition to Motion For Leave to Intervene of Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (16) the Reply of Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc., (17) the Supplement to Opposition to Motion to Intervene of Defendant Pasay City and Republic Real Estate Corporation, (18) the Complaint in Intervention of Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc., (19) the Answer of Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation, (20) the Answer of Intervenor Jose L. Bautista, et. al., to Complaint in Intervention, (21) the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation, and Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (22) the Opposition of Plaintiff to said Motion to Dismiss, (23) the Opposition of Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc., (24) the Memorandum of the Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation, (25) the Memorandum for the Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc., (26) the Manifestation of Plaintiff filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, and all the documentary evidence by the parties to wit: (a) Plaintiffs Exhibits A to YYY-4, (b) Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporations Exhibits 1-RREC to 40-a and (c) Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Incs., Exhibits A-PLACU to C-PLACU, the Court hereby:

(1) Denies the Motion to Dismiss filed on January 10, 1968, by Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation and Intervenors Bautista, et. al., as it is the finding of this Court that Republic Act No. 5187 was not passed by Congress to cure any defect in the ordinance and agreement in question and that the passage of said Republic Act No. 5187 did not make the legal issues raised in the pleadings moot, academic and of no further validity or effect; and

(2) Renders judgment:

(a) dismissing the Plaintiffs Complaint;

(b) Dismissing the Complaint in Intervention of Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc.,

(c)Enjoining Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation and Defendant Pasay City to have all the plans and specifications in the reclamation approved by the Director of Public Works and to have all the contracts and sub-contracts for said reclamation awarded by means of, and only after, public bidding; and

(d) Lifting the preliminary Injunction issued by the Court on April 26, 1962, as soon as Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation and Defendant Pasay City shall have submitted the corresponding plans and specifications to the Director of Public Works, and shall have obtained approval thereof, and as soon as the corresponding public bidding for the award to the contractor and sub-contractor that will undertake the reclamation project shall have been effected.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED. (See Court of Appeals Decision dated January 28, 1992; pp. 6-8)

Dissatisfied with the said judgment, the Republic appealed therefrom to the Court of Appeals. However, on January 11, 1973, before the appeal could be resolved, Presidential Decree No. 3-A issued, amending Presidential Decree No. 3, thus:

SECTION 1. Section 7 of Presidential Decree No. 3, dated September 26, 1972, is hereby amended by the addition of the following paragraphs:

The provisions of any law to the contrary notwithstanding, the reclamation of areas under water, whether foreshore or inland, shall be limited to the National Government or any person authorized by it under a proper contract.

All reclamations made in violation of this provision shall be forfeited to the State without need of judicial action.

Contracts for reclamation still legally existing or whose validity has been accepted by the National Government shall be taken over by the National Government on the basis of quantum meruit, for proper prosecution of the project involved by administration.

On November 20, 1973, the Republic and the Construction Development Corporation of the Philippines (CDCP) signed a Contract[13] for the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road Project (Phases I and II) which contract included the reclamation and development of areas covered by the Agreement between Pasay City and RREC. Then, there was issued Presidential Decree No. 1085 which transferred to the Public Estate Authority (PEA) the rights and obligations of the Republic of the Philippines under the contract between the Republic and CDCP.

Attempts to settle amicably the dispute between representatives of the Republic, on the one hand, and those of Pasay City and RREC, on the other, did not work out. The parties involved failed to hammer out a compromise.

On January 28, 1992, the Court of Appeals came out with a Decision[14] dismissing the appeal of the Republic and holding, thus:

WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED with the following modifications:

1. The requirement by the trial court on public bidding and the submission of RRECs plans and specification to the Department of Public Works and Highways in order that RREC may continue the implementation of the reclamation work is deleted for being moot and academic;

2. Ordering the plaintiff-appellant to turn over to Pasay City the ownership and possession over all vacant spaces in the twenty-one hectare area already reclaimed by Pasay City and RREC at the time it took over the same. Areas thereat over which permanent structures has (sic) been introduced shall, including the structures, remain in the possession of the present possessor, subject to any negotiation between Pasay City and the said present possessor, as regards the continued possession and ownership of the latter area.

3. Sustaining RRECs irrevocable option to purchase sixty (60%) percent of the Twenty-One (21) hectares of land already reclaimed by it, to be exercised within one (1) year from the finality of this decision, at the same terms and condition embodied in the Pasay City-RREC reclamation contract, and enjoining appellee Pasay City to respect RRECs option.

SO ORDERED.

On February 14, 1992, Pasay City and RREC presented a Motion for Reconsideration of such Decision of the Court of Appeals, contending, among others, that RREC had actually reclaimed Fifty-Five (55) hectares, and not only Twenty-one (21) hectares, and the respondent Court of Appeals erred in not awarding damages to them, movants.

On April 28, 1992, the Court of Appeals acted favorably on the said Motion for Reconsideration, by amending the dispositive portion of its judgment of January 28, 1992, to read as follows:

WHEREFORE, the dispositive portion of our Decision dated January 28, 1992 is hereby AMENDED to read as follows:

1. The requirement by the trial court on public bidding and the submission of the RRECs plans and specification to the Department of Public Works and Highways in order that RREC may continue the implementation of the reclamation work is deleted for being moot and academic.

2. Ordering plaintiff-appellant to turn over to Pasay City the ownership and possession of the above enumerated lots (1 to 9).

3. Sustaining RRECs irrevocable option to purchase sixty (60%) percent of the land referred to in No. 2 of this dispositive portion, to be exercised within one (1) year from the finality of this Decision, at the same terms and condition embodied in the Pasay City-RREC reclamation contract, and enjoining Pasay City to respect RRECs irrevocable option.

SO ORDERED.

From the Decision and Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals aforementioned, the Republic of the Philippines, as well as Pasay City and RREC, have come to this Court to seek relief, albeit with different prayers.

On September 10, 1997, the Court commissioned the former thirteenth Division of Court of Appeals to hear and receive evidence on the controversy. The corresponding Commissioners Report, dated November 25, 1997, was submitted and now forms part of the records.

On October 11, 1997, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) filed a Petition in Intervention, theorizing that it has a direct interest in the case being the owner of subject nine (9) lots titled in its (CCP) name, which the respondent Court of Appeals ordered to be turned over to Pasay City. The CCP, as such intervenor, was allowed to present its evidence, as it did, before the Court of Appeals, which evidence has been considered in the formulation of this disposition.

In G.R. No. 103882, the Republic of the Philippines theorizes, by way of assignment of errors, that:

I

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN UPHOLDING THE VALIDITY OF PASAY CITY ORDINANCE NO. 158 DATED APRIL 21, 1959 AND THE RECLAMATION CONTRACT ENTERED INTO BETWEEN PASAY CITY AND RREC;

II

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING THAT RREC HAD RECLAIMED 55 HECTARES AND IN ORDERING THE TURN-OVER TO PASAY CITY OF THE OWNERSHIP AND POSSESSION OF NINE (9) LOTS TITLED IN THE NAME OF CCP.

In G.R. No. 105276, the petitioners, Pasay City and RREC, contend, that::

I

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT DECLARING PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 3-A UNCONSTITUTIONAL;

II

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT AWARDING DAMAGES IN FAVOR OF PASAY CITY AND RREC.

Let us first tackle the issues posed in G.R. No. 103882.

On the first question regarding the validity of Pasay City Ordinance No. 158 dated April 21, 1959 and the Agreement dated April 24, 1959 between Pasay City and RREC, we rule in the negative.

Section 1 of RA 1899, reads:

SECTION 1. Authority is hereby granted to all municipalities and chartered cities to undertake and carry out at their own expense the reclamation by dredging, filling, or other means, of any foreshore lands bordering them, and to establish, provide, construct, maintain and repair proper and adequate docking and harbor facilities as such municipalities and chartered cities may determine in consultation with the Secretary of Finance and the Secretary of Public Works and Communications.

It is the submission of the petitioner, Republic of the Philippines, that there are no foreshore lands along the seaside of Pasay City[15]; that what Pasay City has are submerged or offshore areas outside the commerce of man which could not be a proper subject matter of the Agreement between Pasay City and RREC in question as the area affected is within the National Park, known as Manila Bay Beach Resort, established under Proclamation No. 41, dated July 5, 1954, pursuant to Act No. 3915, of which area it (Republic) has been in open, continuous and peaceful possession since time immemorial.

Petitioner faults the respondent court for unduly expanding what may be considered foreshore land through the following disquisition:

The former Secretary of Justice Alejo Mabanag, in response to a request for an opinion from the then Secretary of Public Works and Communications as to whether the term foreshore areas as used in Section I of the immediately aforequoted law is that defined in Websters Dictionary and the Law of Waters so as to make any dredging or filling beyond its prescribed limit illegal, opined:

According to the basic letter of the Director of Public Works, the law of Waters speaks of shore and defines it thus: that space movement of the tide. Its interior or terrestrial limit in the line reached by highest equinoctial tides.

Websters definition of foreshore reads as follows:

That part of the shore between high water and low-water marks usually fixed at the line to which the ordinary means tide flows: also, by extension, the beach, the shore near the waters edge.

If we were to be strictly literal the term foreshore or foreshore lands should be confined to but a portion of the shore, in itself a very limited area. (p. 6, Intervenors-appellees brief).

Bearing in mind the (Websters and Law of Waters) definitions of shore and of foreshore lands, one is struck with the apparent inconsistency between the areas thus described and the purpose to which that area, when reclaimed under the provision of Republic Act No. 1899, shall be devoted. Section I (of said Law) authorizes the construction thereat of adequate docking and harbor facilities. This purpose is repeated in Sections 3 and 4 of the Act.

And yet, it is well known fact that foreshore lands normally extend only from 10 to 20 meters along the coast. Not very much more if at all. In fact, certain parts in Manila bordering on Manila Bay, has no foreshore to speak of since the sea washes the sea wall.

It does not seem logical, then, that Congress had in mind. Websters limited concept of foreshore when it enacted Republic Act No. 1899, unless it intends that the wharves, piers, docks, etc. should be constructed parallel to the shore, which is impractical.

Since it is to be presumed that Congress could not have intended to enact an ineffectual measure not one that would lead to absurd consequences, it would seem that it used foreshore in a sense wider in scope that that defined by Webster. xxx

To said opinion on the interpretation of the R.A. 1899, plaintiff-appellant could not offer any refutation or contrary opinion. Neither can we. In fact, the above construction is consistent with the rule on context in statutory construction which provides that in construing a statute, the same must be construed as a whole. The particular words, clauses and phrases should not be studied as detached and isolated expressions, but the whole and every part of the statute must be considered in fixing the meaning of any of its parts in order to produce a harmonious whole (see Araneta vs. Concepcion, 99 Phil. 709). There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the force and significance of particular expressions will largely depend upon the connection in which they are found and their relation to the general subject-matter of the law. The legislature must be understood to have expressed its whole mind on the special object to which the legislative act is directed but the vehicle for the expressions of that meaning is the statute, considered as one entire and continuous act, and not as an agglomeration of unrelated clauses . Each clause or provision will be illuminated by those which are cognate to it and by the general tenor of the whole statute and thus obscurities and ambiguities may often be cleared up by the most direct and natural means. Secondly, effect must be given, if it is possible, to every word and clause of the statute, so that nothing shall be left devoid of meaning or destitute of force. To this end, each provision of the statute should be read in the light of the whole. For the general meaning of the legislature, as gathered from the entire act, may often prevail over the construction which would appear to be the most natural and obvious on the face of a particular clause. It is by this means that contradiction and repugnance between the different parts of the statute may be avoided. (See Black, Interpretation of Laws, 2nd Ed., pp. 317-319).

Resorting to extrinsic aids, the Explanatory Note to House Bill No. 3630, which was subsequently enacted as Republic Act No. 1899, reads:

In order to develop and expand the Maritime Commerce of the Philippines, it is necessary that harbor facilities be correspondingly improved, and, where necessary, expanded and developed. The national government is not in a financial position to handle all this work. On the other hand, with a greater autonomy, many chartered cities and provinces are financially able to have credit position which will allow them to undertake these projects. Some cities, such as the City of Bacolod under R.A. 161, has been authorized to reclaim foreshore lands bordering it.

Other cities and provinces have continuously been requesting for authority to reclaim foreshore lands on the basis of the Bacolod City pattern, and to undertake work to establish, construct on the reclaimed area and maintain such port facilities as may be necessary. In order not to unduly delay the undertaking of these projects, and inorder to obviate the passage of individual pieces of legislation for every chartered city and province, it is hereby recommended that the accompanying bill be approved. It covers Authority for All chartered cities and provinces to undertake this work. x x x (underscoring supplied)

Utilizing the above explanatory note in interpreting and construing the provisions of R.A. 1899, then Secretary of Justice Mabanag opined:

It is clear that the Bacolod City pattern was the basis of the enactment of the aforementioned bill of general application. This so-called Bacolod City pattern appears to be composed of 3 parts, namely: Republic Act No. 161, which grants authority to Bacolod City to undertake or carry out ... the reclamation ... of any [sic] carry out the reclamation project conformably with Republic Act No. 161; and Republic Act No. 1132 authorizing Bacolod City to contract indebtedness or to issue bonds in the amount not exceeding six million pesos to finance the reclamation of land in said city.

Republic Act No. 161 did not in itself specify the precise space therein referred to as foreshore lands, but it provided that docking and harbor facilities should be erected on the reclaimed portions thereof, while not conclusive would indicate that Congress used the word foreshore in its broadest sense. Significantly, the plan of reclamation of foreshore drawn up by the Bureau of Public Works maps out an area of approximately 1,600,000 square meters, the boundaries of which clearly extend way beyond Websters limited concept of the term foreshore. As a contemporaneous construction by that branch of the Government empowered to oversee at least, the conduct of the work, such an interpretation deserves great weight. Finally, Congress in enacting Republic Act No. 1132 (supplement to RA 161), tacitly confirmed and approved the Bureaus interpretation of the term foreshore when instead of taking the occasion to correct the Bureau of over extending its plan, it authorized the city of Bacolod to raise the full estimated cost of reclaiming the total area covered by the plan. The explanatory note to House Bill No. 1249 which became Republic Act No. 1132 states among the things:

The Bureau of Public Works already prepared a plan for the reclamation of about 1,600,000 square meters of land at an estimated costs of about P6,000,000.00. The project is self-supporting because the proceeds from the sales or leases of lands so reclaimed will be more than sufficient to cover the cost of the project.

Consequently, when Congress passed Republic Act No. 1899 in order to facilitate the reclamation by local governments of foreshore lands on the basis of the Bacolod City pattern and in order to obviate the passage of individual pieces of legislation for every chartered city and provinces requesting authority to undertake such projects, the lawmaking body could not have had in mind the limited area described by Webster as foreshore lands. x x x.

If it was really the intention of Congress to limit the area to the strict literal meaning of foreshore lands which may be reclaimed by chartered cities and municipalities, Congress would have excluded the cities of Manila, Iloilo, Cebu, Zamboanga and Davao from the operation of RA 1899 as suggested by Senator Cuenco during the deliberation of the bill considering that these cities do not have foreshore lands in the strict meaning of the term. Yet, Congress did not approve the proposed amendment of Senator Cuenco, implying therefore, that Congress intended not to limit the area that may be reclaimed to the strict definition of foreshore lands.

The opinion of the then Secretary of Justice Mabanag, who was at that time the chief law officer and legal adviser of the government and whose office is required by law to issue opinions for the guidance of the various departments of the government, there being then no judicial interpretation to the contrary, is entitled to respect (see Bengzon vs. Secretary of Justice and Insular Auditor, 68 Phil. 912).

We are not unmindful of the Supreme Court Resolution dated February 3, 1965 in Ponce vs. Gomez (L-21870) and Ponce vs. City of Cebu (L-2266 , by a unanimous vote of six (6) justices (the other five (5) members deemed it unnecessary to express their view because in their opinion the questions raised were not properly brought before the court), which in essence applied the strict dictionary meaning of foreshore lands as used in RA 1899 in the case of the city of Cebu. But this was promulgated long after the then Secretary of Justice Mabanag rendered the above opinion on November 16, 1959 and long after RREC has started the subject reclamation project.

Furthermore, as held by the lower court, Congress, after the Supreme Court issued the aforementioned Resolution, enacted RA 5187. In Sec. 3 (m) of said law, Congress appropriated money for the construction of the seawall and limited access highway from the South boundary of the city of Manila to Cavite City, to the South, and from the North boundary of the city of Manila to the municipality of Mariveles, province of Bataan, to the North (including the reclamation of foreshore and submerged areas ... provided ... that ... existing projects and/or contracts of city or municipal governments for the reclamation of foreshore and submerged lands shall be respected... This is a clear manifestation that Congress in enacting RA 1899, did not intend to limit the interpretation of the term foreshore land to its dictionary meaning.

It is presumed that the legislature was acquainted with and had in mind the judicial construction given to a former statute on the subject, and that the statute on the subject, and that the statute was enacted having in mind the judicial construction that the prior enactment had received , or in the light of such existing judicial decisions as have direct bearing upon it (see 50 Am. Jur., Sec. 321, pp. 312-313). But notwithstanding said interpretation by the Supreme Court of RA 1899 in the Ponce cases, Congress enacted a law covering the same areas previously embraced in a RA 1899 (as mentioned earlier, cities without foreshore lands which were sought to be excluded from the operation of RA 1899 were not excluded), providing that respect be given the reclamation of not only foreshore lands but also of submerged lands signifying its non-conformity to the judicial construction given to RA 1899. If Congress was in accord with the interpretation and construction made by the Supreme Court on RA 1899, it would have mentioned reclamation of foreshore lands only in RA 5187, but Congress included submerged lands in order to clarify the intention on the grant of authority to cities and municipalities in the reclamation of lands bordering them as provided in RA 1899. It is, therefore, our opinion that it is actually the intention of Congress in RA 1899 not to limit the authority granted to cities and municipalities to reclaim foreshore lands in its strict dictionary meaning but rather in its wider scope as to include submerged lands.

The Petition is impressed with merit.

To begin with, erroneous and unsustainable is the opinion of respondent court that under RA 1899, the term foreshore lands includes submerged areas. As can be gleaned from its disquisition and rationalization aforequoted, the respondent court unduly stretched and broadened the meaning of foreshore lands, beyond the intentment of the law, and against the recognized legal connotation of foreshore lands. Well entrenched, to the point of being elementary, is the rule that when the law speaks in clear and categorical language, there is no reason for interpretation or construction, but only for application.[16] So also, resort to extrinsic aids, like the records of the constitutional convention, is unwarranted, the language of the law being plain and unambiguous.[17] Then, too, opinions of the Secretary of Justice are unavailing to supplant or rectify any mistake or omission in the law.[18] To repeat, the term foreshore lands refers to:

The strip of land that lies between the high and low water marks and that is alternately wet and dry according to the flow of the tide. (Words and Phrases, Foreshore)

A strip of land margining a body of water (as a lake or stream); the part of a seashore between the low-water line usually at the seaward margin of a low-tide terrace and the upper limit of wave wash at high tide usually marked by a beach scarp or berm. (Websters Third New International Dictionary)

The duty of the court is to interpret the enabling Act, RA 1899. In so doing, we cannot broaden its meaning, much less widen the coverage thereof. If the intention of Congress were to include submerged areas, it should have provided expressly. That Congress did not so provide could only signify the exclusion of submerged areas from the term foreshore lands.

Neither is there any valid ground to disregard the Resolution of this Court dated February 3, 1965 in Ponce v. Gomez (L-21870) and Ponce v. City of Cebu (L-22669) despite the enactment of Republic Act No. 5187 (RA 5187), the relevant portion of which, reads:

Sec. 3. Miscellaneous Projects

x x x

m. For the construction of seawall and limited access highway from the south boundary of the City of Manila to Cavite City, to the south, and from the north boundary of the City of Manila to the municipality of Mariveles, province of Bataan, to the north, including the reclamation of the foreshore and submerged areas: Provided, That priority in the construction of such seawalls, highway and attendant reclamation works shall be given to any corporation and/or corporations that may offer to undertake at its own expense such projects, in which case the President of the Philippines may, after competitive bidding, award contracts for the construction of such projects, with the winning bidder shouldering all costs thereof, the same to be paid in terms of percentage fee of the contractor which shall not exceed fifty percent of the area reclaimed by the contractor and shall represent full compensation for the purpose, the provisions of the Public Land Law concerning disposition of reclaimed and foreshore lands to the contrary notwithstanding: Provided, finally, that the foregoing provisions and those of other laws, executive orders, rules and regulations to the contrary notwithstanding, existing rights, projects and/or contracts of city or municipal governments for the reclamation of foreshore and submerged lands shall be respected. x x x.

There is nothing in the foregoing provision of RA 5187 which can be interpreted to broaden the scope of foreshore lands. The said law is not amendatory to RA 1899. It is an Appropriations Act, entitled AN ACT APPROPRIATING FUNDS FOR PUBLIC WORKS, SYNCHRONIZING THE SAME WITH PREVIOUS PUBLIC WORKS APPROPRIATIONS.

All things viewed in proper perspective, we reiterate what was said in Ponce v. Gomez (L-21870) and Ponce v. City of Cebu (L-22669) that the term foreshore refers to that part of the land adjacent to the sea which is alternately covered and left dry by the ordinary flow of the tides. As opined by this Court in said cases:

WHEREAS, six (6) members of the Court (Justices Bautista Angelo, Concepcion, Reyes, Barrera, Dizon and Jose P. Bengzon) opine that said city ordinance and contracts are ultra vires and hence, null and void, insofar as the remaining 60% of the area aforementioned, because the term foreshore lands as used in Republic Act No. 1899 should be understood in the sense attached thereto by common parlance; (underscoring ours)

The aforesaid ruling was applied by then Secretary of Justice Claudio Teehankee, in his opinion dated December 22, 1966, in a case with analogous facts as the present one, to wit:

December 22, 1966

The Secretary of Agriculture

and Natural Resources

Diliman, Quezon City

Sir:

x x x

I. Facts -

1. On January 19, 1961, pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 1899, the Municipality of Navotas enacted Ordinance No. 1 authorizing the Municipal Mayor to enter into a reclamation contract with Mr. Chuanico.

2. On March 15, 1961, a reclamation contract was concluded between the Municipality of Navotas, represented by the Municipal Mayor, and Mr. Chuanico in accordance with the above ordinance. Thereunder, Mr. Chuanico shall be the attorney-in-fact of the Municipality in prosecuting the reclamation project and shall advance the money needed therefor; that the actual expenses incurred shall be deemed a loan to the Municipality; that Mr. Chuanico shall have the irrevocable option to buy 70% of the reclaimed area at P7.00 per square meter; that he shall have the full and irrevocable powers to do any and all things necessary and proper in and about the premises, including the power to hire necessary personnel for the prosecution of the work, purchase materials and supplies, and purchase or lease construction machineries and equipment, but any and all contracts to be concluded by him in behalf of the Municipality shall be submitted to public bidding.

x x x

3. On March 16, 1961, the Municipal Council of Navotas passed Resolution No. 22 approving and ratifying the contract.

x x x

III. Comments -

1. The above reclamation contract was concluded on the basis of Navotas Ordinance No. 1 which, in turn, had been enacted avowedly pursuant to Republic Act No. 1899. This being so, the contract, in order to be valid, must conform to the provisions of the said law.

By authorizing local governments to execute by administration any reclamation work, (Republic Act No. 1899 impliedly forbids the execution of said project by contract. Thus, in the case of Ponce et al. vs. Gomez (February 3, 1966), five justices of the Supreme Court voted to annul the contract between Cebu Development Corporation and Cebu City for the reclamation of foreshore lands because the provisions of said ... contract are not ... in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act No. 1899, as against one Justice who opined that the contract substantially complied with the provisions of the said law. (Five Justices expressed no opinion on this point.)

Inasmuch as the Navotas reclamation contract is substantially similar to the Cebu reclamation contract, it is believed that the former is likewise fatally defective.

2. The Navotas reclamation project envisages the construction of a channel along the Manila Bay periphery of that town and the reclamation of approximately 650 hectares of land from said channel to a seaward distance of one kilometer. In the basic letter it is stated that practically, all the 650 hectares of lands proposed to be reclaimed under the agreement do not constitute foreshore lands and that the greater portion of the area . . . is in fact navigable and presently being used as a fishing harbor by deep-sea fishing operators as well as a fishing ground of sustenance fisherman. Assuming the correctness of these averments, the Navotas reclamation contract evidently transcends the authority granted under Republic Act No. 1899, which empowers the local governments to reclaim nothing more than foreshore lands, i.e., that part of the land adjacent to the sea which is alternately covered and left dry by the ordinary flow of the tides. (26 C.J. 890.) It was for this reason that in the cited case Ponce case, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 6-0 with five Justices abstaining, declared ultra vires and void the contractual stipulation for the reclamation of submerged lands off Cebu City, and permanently enjoined its execution under Republic Act No. 1899.

x x x

In accordance with the foregoing, I have the honor to submit the view that the Navotas reclamation contract is not binding and should be disregarded for non-compliance with law.

Very truly yours,

(SGD) CLAUDIO TEEHANKEE

Secretary of Justice

The said opinion of Justice Secretary Teehankee who became Associate Justice, and later Chief Justice, of this Court, did, in our considered view, supersede the earlier opinion of former Justice Secretary Alejo Mabanag, aforestated, as the cases, in connection with which subject opinions were sought, were with similar facts. The said Teehankee opinion accords with RA 1899.

It bears stressing that the subject matter of Pasay City Ordinance No. 121, as amended by Ordinance No. 158, and the Agreement under attack, have been found to be outside the intendment and scope of RA 1899, and therefore ultra vires and null and void.

What is worse, the same Agreement was vitiated by the glaring absence of a public bidding.

Obviously, there is a complete dearth of evidence to prove that RREC had really reclaimed 55 hectares. The letter of Minister Baltazar Aquino relied upon by RREC is no proof at all that RREC had reclaimed 55 hectares. Said letter was just referring to a tentative schedule of work to be done by RREC, even as it required RREC to submit the pertinent papers to show its supposed accomplishment, to secure approval by the Ministry of Public Works and Highways to the reclamation plan, and to submit to a public bidding all contracts and sub-contracts for subject reclamation project but RREC never complied with such requirements and conditions sine qua non.

No contracts or sub-contracts or agreements, plans, designs, and/or specifications of the reclamation project were presented to reflect any accomplishment. Not even any statement or itemization of works accomplished by contractors or subcontractors or vouchers and other relevant papers were introduced to describe the extent of RRECs accomplishment. Neither was the requisite certification from the City Engineer concerned that portions of the reclamation project not less than 50 hectares in area shall have been accomplished or completed obtained and presented by RREC.

As a matter of fact, no witness ever testified on any reclamation work done by RREC, and extent thereof, as of April 26, 1962. Not a single contractor, sub-contractor, engineer, surveyor, or any other witness involved in the alleged reclamation work of RREC testified on the 55 hectares supposedly reclaimed by RREC. What work was done, who did the work, where was it commenced, and when was it completed, was never brought to light by any witness before the court. Certainly, onus probandi was on RREC and Pasay City to show and point out the as yet unidentified 55 hectares they allegedly reclaimed. But this burden of proof RREC and Pasay City miserably failed to discharge.

So also, in the decision of the Pasay Court of First Instance dismissing the complaint of plaintiff-appellant, now petitioner Republic of the Philippines, the lifting of the writ of Preliminary Injunction issued on April 26, 1962 would become effective only as soon as Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation and Defendant Pasay City shall have submitted the corresponding plans and specifications to the Director of Public Works, and shall have obtained approval thereof, and as soon as corresponding public bidding for the award to the contractor and sub-contractor that will undertake the reclamation project shall have been effected. (Rollo, pp. 127-129, G.R. No. 103882)

From the records on hand, it is abundantly clear that RREC and Pasay City never complied with such prerequisites for the lifting of the writ of Preliminary Injunction. Consequently, RREC had no authority to resume its reclamation work which was stopped by said writ of preliminary injunction issued on April 26, 1962.

From the Contract for Dredging Work, dated November 26, 1960, marked Exhibit 21-A for RREC before the lower court, and Exhibit EE for CCP before the Court of Appeals, it can be deduced that only on November 26, 1960 did RREC contract out the dredging work to C and A Construction Company, Inc., for the reclamation of the 55 hectares initially programmed to be reclaimed by it. But, as stated by RREC itself in the position paper filed with this Court on July 15, 1997, with reference to CDCPs reclamation work, mobilization of the reclamation team would take one year before a reclamation work could actually begin. Therefore, the reclamation work undertaken by RREC could not have started before November 26, 1961.

Considering that on April 26, 1962 RREC was enjoined from proceeding any further with its reclamation work, it had barely five (5) months, from November, 1961 to April, 1962, to work on subject reclamation project. It was thus physically impossible for RREC to reclaim 55 hectares, with the stipulated specifications and elevation, in such a brief span of time. In the report of RREC (Exhibit DD for CCP), it was conceded that due to the writ of preliminary injunction issued on April 26, 1962, C and A Construction Co., Inc. had suspended its dredging operation since May, 1962.

The graphical report on the Pasay Reclamation project, as of April 30, 1962, attached to the Progress Report marked Exhibit DD, is a schematic representation of the work accomplishment referred to in such Progress Report, indicating the various elevations of the land surface it embraced, ranging from 0.00 meters to the highest elevation of 2.5 meters above MLLW. Such portrayal of work accomplished is crucial in our determination of whether or not RREC had actually reclaimed any land as under its Contract for Dredging Work with C and A Construction Company (Exhibit EE), the required final elevation for a completely reclaimed land was 3.5 meters above MLLW, as explicitly provided in said Contract for Dredging Work. So, the irresistible conclusion is - when the work on subject RREC-Pasay City reclamation project stopped in April, 1962 in compliance with the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the trial court of origin, no portion of the reclamation project worked on by RREC had reached the stipulated elevation of 3.5 meters above MLLW. The entire area it worked on was only at sea level or 0.00 meter above MLLW. In short, RREC had not yet reclaimed any area when the writ of preliminary injunction issued in April 1962.

On this point, the testimonies of Architect Ruben M. Protacio, Architect and Managing partner of Leandro V. Locsin and partners, Architect and City Planner Manuel T. Maoza, Jr. of Planning Resources and Operation System, Inc., Rose D. Cruz, Executive Assistant, Office of the President, from 1966 to 1970, and Dr. Lucrecia Kasilag, National Artist and member of CCP Advisory Committee, come to the fore. These credible, impartial and knowledgeable witnesses recounted on the witness stand that when the construction of the Main Building of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) began in 1966, the only surface land available was the site for the said building (TSN, Sept. 29, 1997, pages 8, 14 and 50), what could be seen in front of and behind it was all water (TSN, Sept. 29, 1997, pages 127-128). When the CCP Main Building was being constructed, from 1966 to 1969, the land above sea level thereat was only where the CCP Main Building was erected and the rest of the surroundings were all under water, particularly the back portion fronting the bay. (TSN, Sept. 13, 1997, pp. 181, 182, 185, 186, 188). Dr. Lucrecia R. Kasilag stressed that on April 16, 1966, during the ground breaking for the CCP Main Building, it was water all around (TSN, Sept. 30, 1997, pp. 320, 324, 325).

There was indeed no legal and factual basis for the Court of Appeals to order and declare that the requirement by the trial court on public bidding and the submission of RRECs plans and specification to the Department of Public Works and Highways in order that RREC may continue the implementation of the reclamation work is deleted for being moot and academic. Said requirement has never become moot and academic. It has remained indispensable, as ever, and non-compliance therewith restrained RREC from lawfully resuming the reclamation work under controversy, notwithstanding the rendition below of the decision in its favor.

Verily, contrary to what the Court of Appeals found, RREC had not reclaimed any area with the prescribed elevation of 3.5 meters above MLLW, so much so that in 1978, it (RREC) opted to file with the former Ministry of Public Highways, a claim for compensation of P30,396,878.20, for reclamation work allegedly done before the CDCP started working on the reclamation of the CCP grounds. On September 7, 1979, RREC asked the Solicitor General to settle its subject claim for compensation at the same amount of P30,396,878.20. But on June 10, 1981, guided by the cost data, work volume accomplished and other relevant information gathered by the former Ministry of Public Highways, the Solicitor General informed RREC that the value of what it had accomplished, based on 1962 price levels, was only P8,344,741.29, and the expenses for mobilization of equipment amounted to P2,581,330.00. The aforesaid evaluation made by the government, through the then Minister of Public Highways, is factual and realistic, so much so that on June 25, 1981, RREC, in its reply letter to the Solicitor General, stated:

We regret that we are not agreeable to the amount of P10,926,071.29, based on 1962 cost data, etc., as compensation based on quantum meruit. The least we would consider is the amount of P10.926,071.29 plus interest at the rate of 6% per annum from 1962 to the time of payment. We feel that 6% is very much less than the accepted rate of inflation that has supervened since 1962 to the present, and even less than the present legal rate of 12% per annum.[19]

Undoubtedly, what RREC claimed for was payment for what it had done, and for the dredge fill of 1,558,395 cubic meters it used, on subject reclamation project.

Respondent Court likewise erred in ordering the turn-over to Pasay City of the following titled lots, to wit:

LOT NO. BUILDING AREA OCT/TCT

42 Gloria Maris 9,516 sq.m. OCT 159 in the Restaurant name of GSIS

 

3 Asean Garden 76,299 sq.m. OCT 10251 in the

name of CCP

 

12 Folk Arts Theater 1.7503 sq.m. TCT 18627 in the

and PICC parking name of CCP

space

 

22 landscaped with 132,924 sq.m. TCT 75676 in the

sculpture of Asean name of CCP

Artists-site of

Boom na Boom

 

23 open space, back 34,346 sq.m. TCT 75677 in the

of Philcite name of CCP

 

24 Parking space for 10,352 sq.m. TCT 75678 in the

Star City, CCP, name of CCP

Philcite

 

25 open space, 11,323 sq.m. TCT 75679 in the

occupied by Star name of CCP

City

 

28 open space, 27,689 sq.m. TCT 75684 in the

beside PICC name of CCP

 

29 open space, 106,067 sq.m. TCT 75681 in the

leased by El name of CCP

Shaddai

We discern no factual basis nor any legal justification therefor. In the first place, in their answer to the Complaint and Amended Complaint below, RREC and Pasay City never prayed for the transfer to Pasay City of subject lots, title to which had long become indefeasible in favor of the rightful title holders, CCP and GSIS, respectively.

The annotation of a notice of lis pendens on the certificates of title covering the said lots is of no moment. It did not vest in Pasay City and RREC any real right superior to the absolute ownership thereover of CCP and GSIS. Besides, the nature of the action did not really warrant the issuance of a notice of lis pendens.

Section 14 of Rule 13, Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, reads:

Sec. 14. Notice of lis pendens. - In an action affecting the title or the right of possession of real property, the plaintiff and the defendant, when affirmative relief is claimed in his answer, may record in the office of the registry of deeds of the province in which the property is situated a notice of the pendency of the action. Said notice shall contain the names of the parties and the object of the action or defense, and a description of the property in that province affected thereby. Only from the time of filing such notice for record shall a purchaser, or encumbrancer of the property affected thereby, be deemed to have constructive notice of the pendency of the action, and only of its pendency against the parties designated by their real names.

The notice of lis pendens herein above mentioned may be cancelled only upon order of the court, after proper showing that the notice is for the purpose of molesting the adverse party, or that it is not necessary to protect the rights of the party who caused it to be recorded.

Under the aforecited provision of law in point, a notice of lis pendens is necessary when the action is for recovery of possession or ownership of a parcel of land. In the present litigation, RREC and Pasay City, as defendants in the main case, did not counterclaim for the turnover to Pasay City of the titled lots aforementioned.

What is more, a torrens title cannot be collaterally attacked. The issue of validity of a torrens title, whether fraudulently issued or not, may be posed only in an action brought to impugn or annul it. (Halili vs. National Labor Relations Commission, 257 SCRA 174; Cimafranca vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 147 SCRA 611.) Unmistakable, and cannot be ignored, is the germane provision of Section 48 of P.D. 1529, that a certificate of title can never be the subject of a collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding instituted in accordance with law.

Although Pasay City and RREC did not succeed in their undertaking to reclaim any area within subject reclamation project, it appearing that something compensable was accomplished by them, following the applicable provision of law and hearkening to the dictates of equity, that no one, not even the government, shall unjustly enrich oneself/itself at the expense of another[20], we believe; and so hold, that Pasay City and RREC should be paid for the said actual work done and dredge-fill poured in, worth P10,926,071.29, as verified by the former Ministry of Public Highways, and as claimed by RREC itself in its aforequoted letter dated June 25, 1981.

It is fervently hoped that long after the end of our sojourn in this valley of tears, the court, for its herein historic disposition, will be exalted by the future generations of Filipinos, for the preservation of the national patrimony and promotion of our cultural heritage. As writer Channing rightly puts it: Whatever expands the affections, or enlarges the sphere of our sympathies - Whatever makes us feel our relation to the universe and all that it inherits in time and in eternity, and to the great and beneficent cause of all, must unquestionably refine our nature, and elevate us in the scale of being.

WHEREFORE:

In G.R. No. 103882, the Petition is GRANTED; the Decision, dated January 28, 1992, and Amended Decision, dated April 28, 1992, of the Court of Appeals, are both SET ASIDE; and Pasay City Ordinance No. 121, dated May 6, 1958, and Ordinance No. 158, dated April 21, 1959, as well as the Reclamation Agreements entered into by Pasay City and Republic Real Estate Corporation (RREC) as authorized by said city ordinances, are declared NULL and VOID for being ultra vires, and contrary to Rep. Act 1899.

The writ of preliminary injunction issued on April 26, 1962 by the trial court a quo in Civil Case No. 2229-P is made permanent, and the notice of lis pendens issued by the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CV No. 51349 ordered CANCELLED. The Register of Deeds of Pasay City is directed to take note of and annotate on the certificates of title involved, the cancellation of subject notice of lis pendens.

The petitioner, Republic of the Philippines, is hereby ordered to pay Pasay City and Republic Real Estate Corporation the sum of TEN MILLION NINE HUNDRED TWENTY-SIX THOUSAND SEVENTY-ONE AND TWENTY-NINE CENTAVOS (P10,926,071.29) PESOS, plus interest thereon of six (6%) percent per annum from May 1, 1962 until full payment, which amount shall be divided by Pasay City and RREC, share and share alike.

In G.R. No. 105276, the Petition is hereby DENIED for lack of merit.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

Davide Jr., Bellosillo, Melo, Vitug, Mendoza, Quisumbing, and Pardo, JJ., concur.

Narvasa, C.J., (Chairman), I DISSENT: Ponce is not binding precedent, and P.D. 3-A is in utter nullity.

Davide, Jr., J., also that & the concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Puno.

Romero, J., Please see Separate Opinion

Puno, J., Please see Concurring Opinion

Vitug, J., In the result.

Kapunan, J., No part, having opposed to the Gov't when I was in the OSG.

Mendoza, J., I concur in this and in the concurring opinion of Justice Puno.

Panganiban, J., Please see Separate Opinion

Martinez, J., I am the Ex Justice in his dissent.



[1] Penned by Associate Justice Quirino D. Abad Santos and concurred by Associate Justices Arturo B. Buena and Minerva Gonzaga-Reyes.

[2] Exhibit P; Folder No. I, Record on Appeal, p. 24.

[3] Annex A; Record on Appeal, pp. 10-17.

[4] Annex E; Record on Appeal, p. 64-73.

[5] Annexes F and G; Record on Appeal, pp. 74-105.

[6] Annex H, Record on Appeal, p. 106.

[7] Annex I; Record on Appeal, p. 107.

[8] Annex J, Record on Appeal, pp. 109-128.

[9] Annex H; Record on Appeal, p. 129.

[10] Annex N; Record on Appeal, pp. 169-172.

[11] Annex O; Record on Appeal, pp. 175-176.

[12] Annex T; Record on Appeal, p. 193.

[13] Rollo, G.R. No. 103882, pp. 853-869.

[14] Rollo, G.R. No. 105276, pp. 7-47.

[15] See Amended Complaint; supra, footnote 4.

[16] Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, 258 SCRA 405.

[17] People v. Amigo, 252 SCRA 43.

[18] Largado v. Masaganda, 5 SCRA 552.

[19] CA Rollo, p. 760.

[20] Article 2142, Civil Code:

Certain lawful, voluntary and unilateral acts give rise to the juridical relation of quasi-contract to the end that no one shall be unjustly enriched or benefited at the expense of another.