Case Digest: Acaac v. Azcuna

[G.R. No. 187378 : September 30, 2013] RAMONITO O. ACAAC, PETAL FOUNDATION, INC., APOLINARIO M. ELORDE, HECTOR ACAAC, and ROMEO BULAWIN,Petitioners, v. MELQUIADES D. AZCUNA, JR., in his capacity as Mayor, and MARIETES B. BONALOS, in her capacity as Municipal Engineer and Building Official-Designate, both of Lopez Jaena Municipality, Misamis Occidental, Respondents. PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

FACTS: PETAL Foundation is a non-governmental organization, which is engaged in the protection and conservation of ecology, tourism, and livelihood projects within Misamis Occidental.PETAL built some cottages on Capayas Island which it rented out to the public and became the source of livelihood of its beneficiaries,among whom are petitioners Hector Acaac and Romeo Bulawin.

Respondents Mayor Azcuna and Building Official Bonalos issued Notices of Illegal Construction against PETAL for its failure to apply for a building permit prior to the construction of its buildings in violation of the Building Code ordering it to stop all illegal building activities on Capayas Island. On July 8, 2002 the Sangguniang Bayan of Jaena Lopez adopted a Municipal Ordinance which prohibited, among others : (a) the entry of any entity, association, corporation or organization inside the sanctuaries;and (b) the construction of any structures, permanent or temporary, on the premises, except if authorized by the local government.

On July 12, 2002, Azcuna approved the subject ordinance; hence, the same was submitted to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Misamis Occidental (SP), which in turn, conducted a joint hearing on the matter. Thereafter, notices were posted at the designated areas, including Capayas Island, declaring the premises as government property and prohibiting ingress and egress thereto.

A Notice of Voluntary Demolition was served upon PETAL directing it to remove the structures it built on Capayas Island.

Petitioners filed an action praying for the issuance of a TRO, injunction and damagesagainst respondents alleging that they have prior vested rights to occupy and utilize Capayas Island. Moreover, PETAL assailed the validity of the subject ordinance on the following grounds : (a) it was adopted without public consultation; (b) it was not published in a newspaper of general circulation in the province as required by the Local Government Code (LGC); and (c) it was not approved by the SP. Therefore, its implementation should be enjoined.

Respondents averred that petitioners have no cause of action against them since they are not the lawful owners or lessees of Capayas Island, which was classified as timberland and property belonging to the public domain.

The RTC declared the ordinance as invalid/void.

On appeal, the CA held that the subject ordinance was deemed approved upon failure of the SP to declare the same invalid within 30 days after its submission in accordance with Section 56 of the LGC. Having enacted the subject ordinance within its powers as a municipality and in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law, the CA pronounced that the subject ordinance is valid.

ISSUE: Whether or not the subject ordinance is valid and enforceable against petitioners.

HELD: The decision of the Court of Appeals is sustained.

POLITICAL LAW presumption of validity

Section 56 (d) of the LGC provides : If no action has been taken by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan within thirty (30) days after submission of such an ordinance or resolution, the same shall be presumed consistent with law and therefore valid.

It is noteworthy that petitioner's own evidence reveals that a public hearing was conducted prior to the promulgation of the subject ordinance. Moreover, other than their bare allegations, petitioners failed to present any evidence to show that no publication or posting of the subject ordinance was made.

While it is true that he likewise failed to submit any other evidence thereon, still, in accordance with the presumption of validity in favor of an ordinance, its constitutionality or legality should be upheld in the absence of any controverting evidence that the procedure prescribed by law was not observed in its enactment. Likewise, petitioners had the burden of proving their own allegation, which they, however, failed to do.

In the similar case of Figuerres v. CA, 364 Phil. 683(1999) citing United States v. Cristobal, 34 Phil. 825 (1916), the Court upheld the presumptive validity of the ordinance therein despite the lack of controverting evidence on the part of the local government to show that public hearings were conducted in light of : (a) the oppositors equal lack of controverting evidence to demonstrate the local governments non-compliance with the said public hearing; and (b) the fact that the local governments non-compliance was a negative allegation essential to the oppositors cause of action. Hence, as petitioner is the party asserting it, she has the burden of proof. Since petitioner failed to rebut the presumption of validity in favor of the subject ordinances and to discharge the burden of proving that no public hearings were conducted prior to the enactment thereof, we are constrained to uphold their constitutionality or legality. The PETITION  is denied.