The Court of Appeals has overturned a ruling rendered by a Makati City regional trial court in 2013 that restrained the Metro Manila Development Authority from exercising its authority to issue clearances and permits for billboards and advertising signs along major and secondary thoroughfares in Metro Manila.
In a 21-page decision, the CA’s Second Division through Associate Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando dismissed the complaint filed by advertising firms—Summit Publishing Co. Inc., Bigboard Advertising Corp. and Sygoo Enterprises—questioning the legality of the memorandum of agreement between the Department of Public Works and Highways and the MMDA deputizing the latter to implement provisions of the National Building Code that regulates the issuances of clearances to applicants of billboard permits.
The advertising firms also assailed the validity of memorandum circulars issued by the MMDA pertaining to guidelines for the issuances of clearances and permits for billboards.
In its order issued on October 25, 2013, the Makati City Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 58, Presiding Judge Eugene Paras issued a writ of preliminary injunction restraining the MMDA from consfiscating, rolling down and demolishing their billboards and all other entities similarly engaged in the business of outdoor media advertising on the basis of non-compliance with the memorandum circulars and the MoA between the DPWH and the MMDA.
The respondent advertising firms initiated the petition for the issuance of a writ of injunction against the MMDA after the their applications for billboard clearances were denied for failure to comply with the requirements as to height, size and setback prescribed under the circulars and the MoA between MMDA and DPWH.
In ruling against the advertising firms, the appellate court ruled that Judge Paras committed grave abuse of discretion that would warrant the reversal of its order.
“Anent the writ of preliminary injunction, public respondent Judge gravely abused its discretion when it issued the same despite private respondents’ failure to prove that they have a clear and unmistakable right to the relief sought and that they would suffer great and irreparable injury,” the CA stressed.
According to the appellate court, the advertising firm wrongly filed a petition for declaratory relief due to its failure to satisfy one of the six elements for such action, particularly the requirement that “there must have been no breach of the documents in question.”
“While the private respondents argue that their petition for declaratory relief is not about the alleged ‘violation’―its purpose being to question the validity or constitutionality of the assailed MCs―the issue of violation or breach of said MCs is important in determining whether the private respondents availed of the proper remedy,” the CA ruled.
“For, if there was already a violation of the questioned MCs, declaratory relief would no longer be the appropriate remedy,” it said.
The appellate court noted that the firms’ non-compliance with the requirements of the National Building Code and the MMDA MCs can “hardly be disputed.”
The CA noted that Judge Paras “not merely overlooked, but clearly ignored or disregarded” the advertising firms’ admission that they violated MMDA’s billboard rules.
Associate Justices Priscilla J. Baltazar-Padilla and Socorro B. Inting concurred with the ruling.