Alfredo Patalinghug vs. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 104786

January 27, 1994

Facts:

On November 17, 1982, the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Davao City enacted Ordinance No. 363, otherwise known as the “Expanded Zoning Ordinance of Davao City,” Sec.8 of which states:

“A C-2 District shall be dominantly for commercial and compatible industrial uses as provided hereunder:

xxx

3.1. Funeral Parlors/Memorial Homes with adequate off street parking space and provided that they shall be established not less than 50 meters from any residential structures, churches and other institutional buildings.

Petitioner constructed a funeral parlor in the name and style of Metropolitan Funeral Parlor at Cabaguio Avenue, Agdao, Davao City.

Acting on the complaint of several residents of Brgy. Agdao that the construction of petitioner’s funeral parlor violated Ordinance No. 363 since it was allegedly situated within a 50-meter radius from the Iglesia ni Kristo chapel and several residential structures, the Sangguniang Panlungsod conducted an investigation and found that “the nearest residential structure, owned by Wilfred Tepoot, is only 8 inches to the south”.

Notwithstanding the findings of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, petitioner continued with the construction of his funeral parlor until it was finished on November 3, 1987.

Issues:

Whether petitioner’s operation of a funeral home constitutes permissible use within a particular district or zone in Davao City?

Held:

Petitioner did not violate Sec.8 of Davao City Ordinance No. 363. The question of whether Mr. Tepoot’s building is residential or not is a factual determination which we should not disturb. Although the general rule is that findings of the lower courts are conclusive upon the Supreme Court, this admits of exceptions as when the findings and conclusions of the Court of Appeals and of the trial court are contrary to each other. While the trial court ruled that Tepoot’s building was commercial, the Appellate Court ruled otherwise.

Tax declaration is not conclusive of the nature of the property for zoning purposes. A property may well be declared by its owner as residential for real estate taxation purposes but it may well be within a commercial zone. A discrepancy may thus exist in the determination of the nature of property for real estate taxation purposes vis-à-vis the determination of a property for zoning purposes.

A tax declaration only enables the assessor to identify the evidentiary value of a tax for assessment levels. In fact, a tax declaration does not bind a provincial/city assessor, for under Sec. 22 of the Real Estate Tax Code, appraisal and assessment are based on the actual use irrespective of “any previous assessment or taxpayer’s valuation thereon”. A piece of land declared by a taxpayer as residential may be assessed by the provincial/city assessor as commercial because its actual use is commercial.

Even if Tepoot’s building was declared for taxation purposes as residential, once a local government has reclassified an area as commercial, that determination for zoning purposes must prevail. While the commercial character of the questioned vicinity has been declared through ordinance, private respondents have failed to present convincing arguments to substantiate their claim that Cabaguio Avenue, where the funeral parlor was constructed, was still a residential zone. Unquestionably, the operation of a funeral parlor constitutes as “commercial purposes” as gleaned from Ordinance No. 363.

The declaration of said area as a commercial zone through a municipal ordinance is an exercise of police power to promote the good order and general welfare of the people in the locality. Corollary thereto, the State may interfere with personal liberty, with property, and with business and occupations in order to promote the general welfare. Thus, persons may be subjected to certain kinds of restraints and burdens in order to secure the general welfare of the state and to this fundamental aim of the government, the rights of the individual may be subordinated. The ordinance which regulates the location of funeral homes has been adopted as part of comprehensive zoning plans for the orderly development of the area covered thereunder.

Notes. The appraisal and assessment of real property for taxation purposes is that the property must be appraised at its current and fair market value (Reyes vs. Almanzor, 196 SCRA 322).

The exercise by local government of the power to tax is ordained by the present constitution, only guidelines and limitations that may be established by Congress can define and limit such power of local governments (Philippine Petroleum Corporation vs. Municipality of Pililia, Rizal, 198 SCRA 82).

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