By Rey Panaligan
For now, there is no legal impediment for the Quezon City government to implement its 2016 ordinance that effectively increases the existing fair market values (FMVs) of land, buildings, and other structures in the city from 100 per cent to as much as 500 per cent.
This is because the Supreme Court (SC) has lifted, on technical ground, its 2017 temporary restraining order (TRO) that stopped the Quezon City government from implementing the FMV increases under Ordinance No. 2256 (Series of 2016).
“WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED due to petitioner Alliance of Quezon City Homeowners’ Association, Inc.’s lack of legal capacity to sue. The Temporary Restraining Order issued on April 18, 201 7 is hereby LIFTED,” the SC ruled in a unanimous full court decision written by Justice Estela M. Perlas Bernabe.
The SC clarified that the lifting of the TRO and the dismissal of the petition against the Quezon City ordinance on FMVs was only because the Alliance of Quezon City Homeowners’ Association, Inc. (AQCHI), which filed the case, has no legal standing on the issue.
“Thus, the resolution of the issues anent the validity and constitutionality of Quezon City Ordinance No. SP-2556, Series of 2016, while indeed of great public interest and of transcendental importance, must nonetheless await the filing of the proper case by the proper party,” it stressed.
In dismissing the petition and lifting the TRO, the SC was informed that the registration of AWCHI had been revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2004 because of its non-registration with the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).
“The Rules of Court mandates that only natural or juridical persons, or entities authorized by law may be parties in a civil action. Non-compliance with this requirement renders a case dismissible on the ground of lack of legal capacity to sue…,” the SC said.
It dismissed AQCHI’s allegation that the petition was filed by its board of trustees through its treasurer Danilo Liwanag, a taxpayer and a Quezon City resident.
“The Court disagrees. A perusal of the petition readily shows that it was filed by Alliance, and not by the individual members of its Board of Trustees in their personal capacities,” it said.
It pointed out that “it is evident from the title and ‘Parties’ section of the petition, the same was filed solely in the name of ‘Alliance of Quezon City Homeowners’ Association, Inc.,’ as petitioner.”
At the same time, the SC said “the Authorization Letter clearly indicates that the signatories therein signed merely in their official capacities as Alliance’s trustees.”
“On these scores, the fact that Liwanag, a natural person, signed and verified the petition did not cure Alliance’s lack of legal capacity to file this case. By the same logic, the signatures of the supposed trustees in the Authorization Letter did not confer Alliance with a separate juridical personality required to pursue this case,” it said.
“All told, while this case falls under the exceptions to the doctrines of exhaustion of administrative remedies and hierarchy of courts, the Court is still constrained to dismiss the petition due to Alliance’s lack of legal capacity to sue,” it stressed.
In its petition, AQCHI told the SC that the rates contained in the ordinance “are unjust and excessive” and will unduly burden financially all landowners in Quezon City.
It acknowledged the need for an increase in property valuation, but it said the increase should be reduced and should be implemented on a staggered basis.
Named respondents in the petition were Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista and the officials of the city’s assessor’s office and treasurer’s office.
The city government, in its answer to the petition, told the SC that the 2016 ordinance complied with all the formal and substantive requisites for its validity.
It said that 29 public consultations were conducted in barangay assemblies throughout the six city districts and, in fact, in the presence and with participation of AQCHI president Gloria Soriano.
It pointed out that the last adjustment in FMVs was done in 1995 and the huge increase on assessment on land was due to the interplay of economic and market forces.
The increases in FMVs were reasonable, it said, adding that the assessment levels were reduced from 18 per cent to five per cent for residential classification, and from 45 per cent to 14 per cent for commercial and industrial classifications.
It even told the SC that is FMVs are even lower than those of its neighboring cities of Pasay, Caloocan, Manila, and Mandaluyong.