After a long-drawn legal battle over who has ownership of the 729-hectare Bonifacio Global City complex and some adjoining barangays in Makati City, the Supreme Court (SC) finally ruled that these areas belonged to Taguig City.
In a 53-page decision written by Associate Justice Ricardo Rosario, the SC’s Third Division affirmed the July 8, 2011 decision rendered by the Pasig City Regional Trial Court, and upheld by the Court of Appeals in 2017.
The High Court also made permanent the writ of preliminary injunction issued on August 2, 1994 issued by the Pasig RTC enjoining the Makati City government “from exercising jurisdiction over, making improvements on, or otherwise treating as part of its territory Parcels 3 and 4, Psu 2031, comprising Fort Bonifacio, including the so-called Inner Fort comprising of Barangays Pembo, Comembo, Cembo, South Cembo, West Rembo, East Rembo and Pitogo.”
Court records showed that the Philippine Army headquarters, along with a Navy installation, a Marines’ headquarters, the Consular area, the JUSMAG area, the Heritage Park, the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the AFP Officers Village, and the so-called six villages were situated in the disputed areas.
“Considering the historical evidence adduced, cadastral surveys submitted, and the contemporaneous acts of lawful authorities, We find that Taguig presented evidence that is more convincing and worthier of belief than proffered by Makati. Consequently, we rule that Taguig has a superior claim to the disputed areas,” the SC ruling stated, in effect denying the petition filed by the Makati City government seeking the reversal of the Court of Appeals decision that rejected its appeal to reverse the Pasig RTC ruling on the ground of forum shopping.
In its petition for certiorari before the SC, the Makati City government asserted that the appellate court, in dismissing its appeal on the ground of forum shopping, deviated from well-settled jurisprudence giving primacy to substantial justice over rules of procedure, especially in important cases.
Makati City asserted that Presidential Proclamation Nos. 2475 and 518 were constitutional. It said these proclamations did not alter boundaries but merely confirmed that the disputed areas were under Makati’s jurisdiction.
But the Pasig City RTC declared as unconstitutional Presidential Proclamations No. 2475, Series of 1986 and No. 518, Series of 1990, for altering the boundaries of Taguig without the benefit of a plebiscite.
However, the High Tribunal amended the Pasig City RTC ruling as it decided not to rule on the constitutionality of the cited proclamations.
“Taguig claimed that Presidential proclamation Nos. 2475, 2. 1986, and 518 s. 1990 violated this constitutional guarantee when they altered Taguig’s boundaries without complying with the plebiscite requirement,” the SC stressed.
“We note, however, that both the assailed proclamations did not expressly alter Taguig’s boundaries. Rather, they merely opened disposition on certain portions of the military reservation covered by Proclamation No. 423, s. of 1975 and amendments thereto. The assailed proclamations’ only error lies in the declarations that the disputed areas are within the jurisdiction of Makati,” the SC said.
“We thus reiterate our policy of constitutional avoidance, that is, if the controversy on the constitutionality of a statute can be settled on other grounds, this Court stays its hand from ruling on the constitutional issue,” the SC added.
According to the tribunal, it resolved the boundary dispute without resorting to constitutional adjudication of the assailed proclamations.
The SC also held that it cannot rule on the constitutionality of the said proclamations considering that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) did not enter its appearance on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines in the petition.