Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

 

 

FIRST DIVISION

 

 

SOCIAL JUSTICE SOCIETY (SJS), VLADIMIR ALARIQUE T. CABIGAO, and BONIFACIO S. TUMBOKON,

 

Petitioners,

 

- v e r s u s -

 

HON. JOSE L. ATIENZA, JR., in his capacity as Mayor of the City of Manila,

 

 

Respondent.

G.R. No. 156052

 

 

 

 

Present:

 

PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

CORONA,

AZCUNA* and

GARCIA, JJ.

 

Promulgated:

 

March 7, 2007

 

 

 D E C I S I O N

 

 

CORONA, J.:

 

          In this original petition for mandamus,1 petitioners Social Justice Society (SJS), Vladimir Alarique T. Cabigao and Bonifacio S. Tumbokon seek to compel respondent Hon. Jose L. Atienza, Jr., mayor of the City of Manila, to enforce Ordinance No. 8027.

 

The antecedents are as follows.

 

On November 20, 2001, the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Manila enacted Ordinance No. 8027.2  Respondent mayor approved the ordinance on November 28, 20013  It became effective on December 28, 2001, after its publication.4

 

Ordinance No. 8027 was enacted pursuant to the police power delegated to local government units, a principle described as the power inherent in a government to enact laws, within constitutional limits, to promote the order, safety, health, morals and general welfare of the society.5  This is evident from Sections 1 and 3 thereof which state:

 

SECTION 1.  For the purpose of promoting sound urban planning and ensuring health, public safety, and general welfare of the residents of Pandacan and Sta. Ana as well as its adjoining areas, the land use of [those] portions of land bounded by the Pasig River in the north, PNR Railroad Track in the east, Beata St. in the south, Palumpong St. in the southwest, and Estero de Pancacan in the west[,] PNR Railroad in the northwest area, Estero de Pandacan in the [n]ortheast, Pasig River in the southeast and Dr. M.L. Carreon in the southwest.  The area of Punta, Sta. Ana bounded by the Pasig River, Marcelino Obrero St., Mayo 28 St., and F. Manalo Street, are hereby reclassified from Industrial II to Commercial I.

 

xxx                  xxx                  xxx

 

SEC. 3.  Owners or operators of industries and other businesses, the operation of which are no longer permitted under Section 1 hereof, are hereby given a period of six (6) months from the date of effectivity of this Ordinance within which to cease and desist from the operation of businesses which are hereby in consequence, disallowed.

 

Ordinance No. 8027 reclassified the area described therein from industrial to commercial and directed the owners and operators of businesses disallowed under Section 1 to cease and desist from operating their businesses within six months from the date of effectivity of the ordinance.  Among the businesses situated in the area are the so-called “Pandacan Terminals” of the oil companies Caltex (Philippines), Inc., Petron Corporation and Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation.

 

However, on June 26, 2002, the City of Manila and the Department of Energy (DOE) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU)6 with the oil companies in which they agreed that “the scaling down of the Pandacan Terminals [was] the most viable and practicable option.”  Under the MOU, the oil companies agreed to perform the following:

 

Section 1.  –  Consistent with the objectives stated above, the OIL COMPANIES shall, upon signing of this MOU, undertake a program to scale down the Pandacan Terminals which shall include, among others, the immediate removal/decommissioning process of TWENTY EIGHT (28) tanks starting with the LPG spheres and the commencing of works for the creation of safety buffer and green zones surrounding the Pandacan Terminals.  xxx

 

Section 2.  – Consistent with the scale-down program mentioned above, the OIL COMPANIES shall establish joint operations and management, including the operation of common, integrated and/or shared facilities, consistent with international and domestic technical, safety, environmental and economic considerations and standards.  Consequently, the joint operations of the OIL COMPANIES in the Pandacan Terminals shall be limited to the common and integrated areas/facilities.  A separate agreement covering the commercial and operational terms and conditions of the joint operations, shall be entered into by the OIL COMPANIES.

 

Section 3. –  The development and maintenance of the safety and green buffer zones mentioned therein, which shall be taken from the properties of the OIL COMPANIES and not from the surrounding communities, shall be the sole responsibility of the OIL COMPANIES.  

 

The City of Manila and the DOE, on the other hand, committed to do the following:

 

Section 1. –  The City Mayor shall endorse to the City Council this MOU for its appropriate action with the view of implementing the spirit and intent thereof.

 

Section 2. –  The City Mayor and the DOE shall, consistent with the spirit and intent of this MOU, enable the OIL COMPANIES to continuously operate in compliance with legal requirements, within the limited area resulting from the joint operations and the scale down program.

 

Section 3. –  The DOE and the City Mayor shall monitor the OIL COMPANIES’ compliance with the provisions of this MOU.

 

Section 4. –  The CITY OF MANILA and the national government shall protect the safety buffer and green zones and shall exert all efforts at preventing future occupation or encroachment into these areas by illegal settlers and other unauthorized parties.

 

The Sangguniang Panlungsod ratified the MOU in Resolution No. 97.7  In the same resolution, the Sanggunian declared that the MOU was effective only for a period of six months starting July 25, 2002.8  Thereafter, on January 30, 2003, the Sanggunian adopted Resolution No. 139 extending the validity of Resolution No. 97 to April 30, 2003 and authorizing Mayor Atienza to issue special business permits to the oil companies. Resolution No. 13, s. 2003 also called for a reassessment of the ordinance.10 

 

Meanwhile, petitioners filed this original action for mandamus on December 4, 2002 praying that Mayor Atienza be compelled to enforce Ordinance No. 8027 and order the immediate removal of the terminals of the oil companies.11

 

The issues raised by petitioners are as follows:

 

1.    whether respondent has the mandatory legal duty to enforce Ordinance No. 8027 and order the removal of the Pandacan Terminals, and

 

2.    whether the June 26, 2002 MOU and the resolutions ratifying it can amend or repeal Ordinance No. 8027.12

 

Petitioners contend that respondent has the mandatory legal duty, under Section 455 (b) (2) of the Local Government Code (RA 7160),13 to enforce Ordinance No. 8027 and order the removal of the Pandacan Terminals of the oil companies.  Instead, he has allowed them to stay. 

 

Respondent’s defense is that Ordinance No. 8027 has been superseded by the MOU and the resolutions.14  However, he also confusingly argues that the ordinance and MOU are not inconsistent with each other and that the latter has not amended the former.  He insists that the ordinance remains valid and in full force and effect and that the MOU did not in any way prevent him from enforcing and implementing it.  He maintains that the MOU should be considered as a mere guideline for its full implementation.15

 

Under Rule 65, Section 316 of the Rules of Court, a petition for mandamus may be filed when any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station.  Mandamus is an extraordinary writ that is employed to compel the performance, when refused, of a ministerial duty that is already imposed on the respondent and there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.  The petitioner should have a well-defined, clear and certain legal right to the performance of the act and it must be the clear and imperative duty of respondent to do the act required to be done.17

 

Mandamus will not issue to enforce a right, or to compel compliance with a duty, which is questionable or over which a substantial doubt exists. The principal function of the writ of mandamus is to command and to expedite, not to inquire and to adjudicate; thus, it is neither the office nor the aim of the writ to secure a legal right but to implement that which is already established. Unless the right to the relief sought is unclouded, mandamus will not issue.18

 

To support the assertion that petitioners have a clear legal right to the enforcement of the ordinance, petitioner SJS states that it is a political party registered with the Commission on Elections and has its offices in Manila.  It claims to have many members who are residents of Manila.  The other petitioners, Cabigao and Tumbokon, are allegedly residents of Manila

 

We need not belabor this point.  We have ruled in previous cases that when a mandamus proceeding concerns a public right and its object is to compel a public duty, the people who are interested in the execution of the laws are regarded as the real parties in interest and they need not show any specific interest.19  Besides, as residents of Manila, petitioners have a direct interest in the enforcement of the city’s ordinances.  Respondent never questioned the right of petitioners to institute this proceeding.  

 

On the other hand, the Local Government Code imposes upon respondent the duty, as city mayor, to “enforce all laws and ordinances relative to the governance of the city.”20  One of these is Ordinance No. 8027.  As the chief executive of the city, he has the duty to enforce Ordinance No. 8027 as long as it has not been repealed by the Sanggunian or annulled by the courts.21  He has no other choice.  It is his ministerial duty to do so.  In Dimaporo v. Mitra, Jr.,22 we stated the reason for this:

 

These officers cannot refuse to perform their duty on the ground of an alleged invalidity of the statute imposing the duty.  The reason for this is obvious. It might seriously hinder the transaction of public business if these officers were to be permitted in all cases to question the constitutionality of statutes and ordinances imposing duties upon them and which have not judicially been declared unconstitutional.  Officers of the government from the highest to the lowest are creatures of the law and are bound to obey it.23

 

The question now is whether the MOU entered into by respondent with the oil companies and the subsequent resolutions passed by the Sanggunian have made the respondent’s duty to enforce Ordinance No. 8027 doubtful, unclear or uncertain.  This is also connected to the second issue raised by petitioners, that is, whether the MOU and Resolution Nos. 97, s. 2002 and 13, s. 2003 of the Sanggunian can amend or repeal Ordinance No. 8027. 

 

We need not resolve this issue.  Assuming that the terms of the MOU were inconsistent with Ordinance No. 8027, the resolutions which ratified it and made it binding on the City of Manila expressly gave it full force and effect only until April 30, 2003.  Thus, at present, there is nothing that legally hinders respondent from enforcing Ordinance No. 8027.24

   

Ordinance No. 8027 was enacted right after the Philippines, along with the rest of the world, witnessed the horror of the September 11, 2001 attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  The objective of the ordinance is to protect the residents of Manila from the catastrophic devastation that will surely occur in case of a terrorist attack25 on the Pandacan Terminals.  No reason exists why such a protective measure should be delayed.    

 

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED.  Respondent Hon. Jose L. Atienza, Jr., as mayor of the City of Manila, is directed to immediately enforce Ordinance No. 8027.  

 

SO ORDERED.

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

 

 

WE   CONCUR:

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

Chairperson

 

 

 

                                                                                                         

 

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ

Associate Justice

(On official leave)

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

CANCIO C. GARCIA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

 

          Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.

 

 

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

 

_______________________________________

*        On official leave.

 

1        Under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.

 

2        Entitled “Ordinance Reclassifying the Land Use of [Those] Portions of Land Bounded by the Pasig River In The North[,] PNR Railroad Track in the East, Beata St. in the South, Palumpong St. in the Southwest and Estero De Pandacan in the West, PNR Railroad in the Northwest Area, Estero of Pandacan in the Northeast, Pasig River in the Southeast and Dr. M. L. Carreon in the Southwest; the Area of Punta, Sta. Ana Bounded by the Pasig  River, Marcelino Obrero St.[,] Mayo 28 St. and the F. Manalo Street from Industrial II to Commercial I.”

 

3        Rollo, p. 12.

 

4        Id., p. 6.

 

5        Philtread Workers Union (PTWU) v. Confesor, 336 Phil. 375 (1997), citing Union of Filipro Employees v. Nestlé Philippines, Inc., G.R. Nos. 88710-13, 19 December 1990, 192 SCRA 396.

 

6        Rollo, pp. 16-18.  This MOU modified the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) executed on October 12, 2001 by the oil companies and the DOE.  This MOA called for close coordination among the parties with a view of formulating appropriate measures to arrive at the best possible option to ensure, maintain and at the same time harmonize the interests of both government and the oil companies; id., p. 36.

 

7        Entitled “Resolution Ratifying the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Entered into by and Among the Department of Energy, the City of Manila, Caltex (Philippines), Inc., Petron Corporation and Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation on 26 June 2002, and Known as Document No. 60, Page No. 12, Book No. 1, Series of 2002 in the Notarial Registry of Atty. Neil Lanson Salcedo, Notary Public for and in the City of Manila;” id., p. 36.

 

8        Id.

 

9        Entitled “Resolution Extending the Validity of Resolution 97, Series of 2002, to April 30, 2003, Thereby Authorizing his Honor Mayor Jose L. Atienza, Jr., to Issue Special Business Permits to Caltex Phil., Inc., Petron Corporation and Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation Situated within the Pandacan Oil Terminal Covering the said Period;” id., p. 38.

 

10      Id.

 

11      Id., p. 9.

 

12      Id., p. 15.

 

13      It states: 

 

          Section 455. Chief Executive: Powers, Duties and Compensation. – xxx

 

          (b) For efficient, effective and economical governance the purpose of which is the general welfare of the city and its inhabitants pursuant to Section 16 of this Code, the city mayor shall:

 

xxx                              xxx                              xxx

 

            (2) Enforce all laws and ordinances relative to the governance of the city xxxx

 

14        Rollo, pp. 28 and 144.

 

15        Id., pp. 31 and 146-147.

 

16        The full text reads:

 

            SEC. 3.  Petition for Mandamus. When any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust, or station, or unlawfully excludes another from the use and enjoyment of a right or office to which such other is entitled, and there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, the person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered commanding the respondent, immediately or at some other time to be specified by the court, to do the act required to be done to protect the rights of the petitioner, and to pay the damages sustained by the petitioner by reason of the wrongful acts of the respondent. Xxxx

 

17      University of San Agustin, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 100588, 7 March 1994, 230 SCRA 761, 771, citations omitted.

 

18      BPI Family Savings Bank, Inc. v. Manikan, G.R. No. 148789, 16 January 2003, 395 SCRA 373, 375, citing Pacheco v. Court of Appeals, 389 Phil. 200 (2000).

 

19      Licaros v. Sandiganbayan, 421 Phil. 1075 (2001); Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. L-72119, 29 May 1987, 150 SCRA 530, 536; Tañada v. Tuvera, G.R. No. L-63915, 24 April 1985, 136 SCRA 27, 36.

 

20       Supra note 13.

 

21      Tuzon v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 90107, 21 August 1992, 212 SCRA 739, 747.  According to respondent, the oil companies separately filed actions for annulment of Ordinance No. 8027 which are now pending before the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branches 39 and 42; Rollo, p. 143.

 

22      G.R. No. 96859, 15 October 1991, 202 SCRA 779.

 

23       Id., p. 795, citing Cu Unjieng v. Patstone, 42 Phil. 818 (1922) and Burton v. U.S., 202 U.S. 344.

 

24      According to respondent, a Temporary Restraining Order was issued in the action filed by the oil companies to annul Ordinance No. 8027 (see note 21, supra); rollo, p. 143.  This presumably has already lapsed.

 

25      This was alleged by petitioners and not refuted by respondent; id., pp. 7 and 118.

 

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