Municipality of Jimenez vs. Hon. Vicente Baz, Jr.

G.R. No. 105746
December 2, 1996

Facts:

The Municipality of Sinacaban was created by E.O. 258 by then Pres. Elpidio Quirino, pursuant to Sec. 68 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917.
By virtue of Municipal Council Resolution No. 171, Sinacaban laid claim to a portion of Barrio Tabo-o and to Barrios Macabayao, Adorable, Sinara, Baja, and Sinara Alto, based on the technical dedcription in E.O. No. 258. The claim was filed with the Provincial Board of Misamis Occidental against the Municipality of Jimenez.
While conceding that the disputed area is part of Sinacaban, the Municipality of Jimenez, in its answer, nonetheless asserted jurisdiction on the basis of an agreement it had with the Municipality of Sinacaban. This agreement, which was approved by the Provincial Board of Misamis Occidental in its Resolution No. 77 dated February 18, 1950, fixed the common boundary of Sinacaban and Jimenez.
On October 11, 1989, the Provincial Board declared the disputed area to be part of Sinacaban. It held that the previous resolution approving the agreement between the parties was void since the Board had no power to alter the boundaries of Sinacaban as fixed in E.O. 258, that power being vested in Congress pursuant to the Constitution and the LGC of 1983 (BP 337), Sec. 134. The Provincial Board denied the motion of Jimenez seeking reconsideration.
On March 20, 1990, Jimenez filed a petition for certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus in the RTC of Oroquieta City, Branch 14 against Sinacaban, the Province of Misamis Occidental and its Provincial Board, the Commission on Audit, the Departments of Local Government, Budget and Management, and the Executive Secretary.

Issues:
1. Whether Sinacaban has legal personality to file a claim
2. Whether R.A. 7160, Sec. 442 (d) is valid despite not conforming to the constitutional and statutory requirements for the holding of plebiscites in the creation of new municipalities.
3. If it has legal personality, whether it is the boundary provided for in E.O. 258 or in Resolution No. 77 of the Provincial board of Misamis Occidental which should be used as basis for adjudicating Sinacaban’s territorial claim.

Held:
1. The principal basis for the view that Sinacaban was not validly created as a municipal corporation is the ruling in Pelaez vs. Auditor General that the creation of municipal corporations is essentially a legislative matter and therefore the President was without power to create by executive order the Municipality of Sinacaban. However, where a municipality created as such by executive order is later impliedly recognized and its acts are accorded legal validity, its creation can no longer be questioned.

A municipality has been conferred the status of at least a de facto municipal corporation where its legal existence has been recognized and acquiesced publicly and officially.

A quo warranto suit against a corporation for forfeiture of its charter must be commenced within 5 years from the act complained of was done/committed. Sinacaban has been in existence for 16 years, yet the validity of E.O. No. 258 creating it had never been questioned. Created in 1949, it was only 40 years later that its existence was questioned and only because it had laid claim to an area that is apparently desired for its revenue. The State and even the Municipality of Jimenez itself has recognized Sinacaban’s corporate existence. Sinacaban is constituted part of a municipal circuit for purposes of the establishment of MTCs in the country. Jimenez had earlier recognized Sinacaban in 1950 by entering into an agreement with it regarding their common boundary.

The Municipality of Sinacaban attained a de jure status by virtue of the Ordinance appended to the 1987 Constitution, apportioning legislative districts throughout the country, which considered Sinacaban part of the Second District of Misamis Occidental. Sec. 442(d) of the Local Government Code of 1991 must be deemed to have cured any defect in the creation of Sinacaban since it states that:

Municipalities existing as of the date of the effectivity of this Code shall continue to exist and operate as such. Existing municipal districts organized pursuant to presidential issuances/executive orders and which have their respective set of municipal officials holding office at the time of the effectivity of this Code shall henceforth be regular municipalities.”

2. Sinacaban is not subject to the plebiscite requirement since it attained de facto status at the time the 1987 Constitution took effect. The plebiscite requirement for the creation of municipalities applies only to new municipalities created for the first time under the Constitution – it cannot be applied to municipalities created before.

3. E.O. No. 258 does not say that Sinacaban comprises only the barrios (now barangays) therein mentioned. What it says is that “Sinacaban contains” those barrios. The reason for this is that the technical description, containing the metes and bounds of a municipality’s territory, is controlling. The trial court correctly ordered a relocation survey as the only means of determining the boundaries of the municipality & consequently to which municipality the barangays in question belong.

Any alteration of boundaries that is not in accordance with the law is not the carrying into effect of the law but its amendment – and a resolution of a provincial Board declaring certain barrios part of one or another municipality that is contrary to the technical description of the territory of the municipality is not binding. If Resolution No. 77 of the Provincial Board of Misamis Occidental is contrary to the technical description of the territory of Sinacaban, it cannot be used by Jimenez as basis for opposing Sinacaban’s claim.

In case no settlement of boundary disputes is made, the dispute should be elevated to the RTC of the province (Sec. 79, LGC of 1983). Jimenez properly brought to the RTC for review the Decision and Resolution of the Provincial Board. This was in accordance with the LGC of 1983, the governing law when the action was brought by Jimenez in 1989. The governing law now is Secs. 118-119, LGC of 1991 (RA 7160).

Jimenez’s contention that the RTC failed to decide the case “within 1 yr from the start of the proceedings” as required by Sec. 79 of the LGC of 1983 and the 90-day period provided for in Art.VIII, Sec.15 of the Constitution does not affect the validity of the decision rendered. Failure of a court to decide within the period prescribed by law does not divest it of its jurisdiction to decide the case but only makes the judge thereof liable for possible administrative sanction.

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