|SUPREME COURT NEWS|
SC Holds MMDA Guilty of Illegal Demolition of Private Property
Posted: October 14, 2011; By Gleo Sp. Guerra
The Supreme Court recently ruled that the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) acted illegally in demolishing the party wall, i.e., “wing walls,” of the ground floor structure of the building owned by retired Supreme Court Justice Emilio A. Gancayco along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA).
In a 19-page decision penned Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno, the Court En Banc unanimously affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals which had held that the MMDA went beyond its powers when it demolished the subject property in 2003..
In its petition before the Court, the MMDA claimed that it demolished the property pursuant to the Building Code in relation to Quezon City Ordinance No 2904 issued on March 27, 1956, which required the relevant property owner to construct an arcade with a width of 4.50 meters and height of 5.00 meters along EDSA from the north side of Santolan road to one lot after Liberty Avenue, and from one lot before Central Boulevard to the Botocan transmission line.
The Court, however, pointed out that under sections 205, 207, and 215 of the Building Code, the authority to order the demolition of any structure lies with the Building Official. Moreover, Ordinance No. 2904 clearly states that it is the regular courts that will determine whether there was a violation of the ordinance and also does not include the demolition of illegally constructed buildings in case of violations as among the prescribed penalties for violations.
Citing MMDA v. Trackworks, the Court stressed that the MMDA does not have the power to enact ordinances and thus “cannot supplement” Quezon City Ordinance No. 2904 through Metro Manila Council Council Resolution No. 02-28, series of 2002 authorizing it to “clear the sidewalks, streets, avenues, alleys, bridges, parks, and other public places in Metro Manila of all illegal structures and obstructions.” It found that the there was no valid delegation to the MMDA by the City Government of Quezon City of, among others, the power to declare, prevent, and abate a nuisance and to further impose the penalty of removal or demolition at the expense of the owner.
In any case, the Court did not find that the demolished portion of the building as a nuisance per se. It held that just because an ordinance may declare a structure illegal does not necessarily make that structure a nuisance. It found the 1966 exemption the City Council gave Justice Gancayco from constructing an arcade is an indication that the wing walls of the building are not nuisances per se.
The Court also ruled that Justice Gancayco may still question the constitutionality of the ordinance on the ground of taking of private property without due process of law and just compensation as it was only in 2003 when he was allegedly deprived of his property when the MMDA demolished a portion of the building. However, it held that he may not do so on the ground of equal protection when he himself requested and was granted an exemption from the application of the ordinance in 1966.
The Court also held Quezon City Ordinance No. 2904 as a valid exercise of the police power delegated by Congress to the city government in RA 537, the Revised Charter of Quezon City, to provide safe and convenient passage along the sidewalk for commuters and pedestrians more so in the case of subject property which is located in a business zone along EDSA.
On May 29, 2003, Justice Gancayco filed a petition with prayer for a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City to prohibit the MMDA and the Quezon City Government from demolishing his property. The RTC ruled in his favor and ordered the MMDA to immediately restore the party wall. It also declared Quezon City Ordinance No. 2094 unconstitutional for being confiscatory and oppressive. On appeal by the MMDA, the Court of Appeals modified the RTC’s decision by upholding the said ordinance and lifting the injunction against its implementation. Both parties then appealed to the Supreme Court. (GR No. 177807, Gancayco v. City Government of Quezon City; GR No. 177933, MMDA v. Gancayco)