Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1988 > December 1988 Decisions > G.R. No. 71169 December 22, 1988 - JOSE D. SANGALANG, ET AL. v. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, ET AL.:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 71169. December 22, 1988.]

JOSE D. SANGALANG and LUTGARDA D. SANGALANG, Petitioners, FELIX C. GASTON and DOLORES R. GASTON, JOSE V. BRIONES and ALICIA R. BRIONES, and BEL-AIR VILLAGE ASSOCIATION, INC., intervenors-petitioners, v. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, and AYALA CORPORATION, Respondents.

[G.R. No. 74376.]

BEL-AIR VILLAGE ASSOCIATION, INC., Petitioner, v. THE INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, ROSARIO DE JESUS TENORIO, and CECILIA GONZALVEZ, Respondents.

[G.R. No. 76394.]

BEL-AIR VILLAGE ASSOCIATION, INC., Petitioner, v. THE COURT OF APPEALS, and EDUARDO and BUENA ROMUALDEZ, Respondents.

[G.R. No. 78182.]

BEL-AIR VILLAGE ASSOCIATION, INC., Petitioner, v. COURT OF APPEALS, DOLORES FILLEY, and J. ROMERO & ASSOCIATES, Respondents.

[G.R. No. 82281.]

BEL-AIR VILLAGE ASSOCIATION, INC., Petitioner, v. COURT OF APPEALS, VIOLETA MONCAL, and MAJAL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, Respondents.

Sangco, Anastacio, Castañeda & Duran Law Office for petitioners & private intervenors-petitioners.

Raul S. Sison Law Offices for intervenor-petitioner Bel-Air Village Association, Inc.

Renato L. Dela Fuente for respondent Ayala Corporation.

Raul S. Sison Law Offices for Petitioner.

Sergio L. Guadiz for Private Respondents.

Raul S. Sison Law Offices for Petitioner.

Gruba, Tanlimco, Lamson and Apuhin Law Offices for Respondents.

Funk & Associates, for Petitioners.

Tee Tomas & Associates for Respondents.

Funk & Associates for Petitioner.

Castillo, Laman, Tan & Associates for Private Respondents.


D E C I S I O N


SARMIENTO, J.:


Before the Court are five consolidated petitions, 1 docketed as G.R. Nos. 71169, 74376, 76394, 78182, and 82281 hereof, in the nature of appeals (by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court) from five decisions of the Court of Appeals, denying specific performance and damages.cralawnad

The proceedings were commenced at the first instance by Jose Sangalang, joined by his wife Lutgarda Sangalang, both residents of No. 110 Jupiter Street, Makati, Metro Manila (G.R. No. 71169) to enforce by specific performance restrictive easement upon property, specifically the Bel-Air Village subdivision in Makati, Metro Manila, pursuant to stipulations embodied in the deeds of sale covering the subdivision, and for damages. Later, the Sangalangs were joined by Felix Gaston, a resident of No. 64 Jupiter Street of the same municipality, and by Mr. and Mrs. Jose and Alicia Briones, both of No. 66 Jupiter Street. Pending further proceedings, the Bel-Air Village Association, Inc. (BAVA), an incorporated homeowners’ association, entered its appearance as plaintiff-in-intervention.

BAVA itself had brought its own complaints, four in number, likewise for specific performance and damages to enforce the same "deed restrictions." (See G.R. Nos. 74376, 76394, 78182, and 82281.)

ANTECEDENTS FACTS

I. G.R. No. 71169

The facts are stated in the decision appealed from. We quote:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

x       x       x


(1) Bel-Air Village is located north of Buendia Avenue extension (now Sen. Gil J. Puyat Ave.) across a stretch of commercial block from Reposo Street in the west up to Zodiac Street in the east. When Bel-Air Village was planned, this block between Reposo and Zodiac Streets adjoining Buendia Avenue in front of the village was designated as a commercial block. (Copuyoc, TSN, p. 10, Feb. 12, 1982)

(2) Bel-Air Village was owned and developed into a residential subdivision in the 1950s by Makati Development Corporation (hereinafter referred to as MDC), which in 1968 was merged with appellant Ayala Corporation.

(3) Appellees-spouses Sangalang reside at No. 110 Jupiter Street between Makati Avenue and Reposo Street; appellees-spouses Gaston reside at No. 64 Jupiter Street between Makati Avenue and Zodiac Street; appellees-spouses Briones reside at No. 66 Jupiter Street also between Makati Avenue and Zodiac Street; while appellee Bel-Air Village Association, Inc. (hereinafter referred to as BAVA) is the homeowners’ association in Bel-Air Village which takes care of the sanitation, security, traffic regulations and general welfare of the village.

(4) The lots which were acquired by appellees Sangalang and spouse Gaston and spouse and Briones and spouse in 1960, 1957 and 1958, respectively, were all sold by MDC subject to certain conditions and easements contained in Deed Restrictions which formed a part of each deed of sale. The pertinent provisions in said Deed Restrictions, which are common to all lot owners in Bel-Air Village, are as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"I — BEL-AIR ASSOCIATION

The owner of this lot/s or his successors in interest is required to be and is automatically a member of the Bel-Air Association and must abide by such rules and regulations laid down by the Association in the interest of the sanitation, security and the general welfare of the community.

"The association will also provide for and collect assessments, which will constitute as a lien on the property junior only to liens of the government for taxes and to voluntary mortgages for sufficient consideration entered into in good faith.

"II — USE OF LOTS

"Subject to such amendments and additional restrictions, reservations, servitudes, etc., as the Bel-Air Association may from time to time adopt and prescribe, this lot is subject to the following restrictions:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"a. This lot/s shall not be subdivided. However, three or more lots may be consolidated and subdivided into a lesser number of lots provided that none of the resulting lots be smaller in area than the smallest lot before the consolidation and that the consolidation and subdivision plan be duly approved by the governing body of the Bel-Air Association.

"b. This lot/s shall only be used for residential purposes.

"c. Only one single family house may be constructed on a single lot, although separate servants’ quarters or garage may be built.

"d. Commercial or advertising signs shall not be placed, constructed, or erected on this lot. Name plates and professional signs of homeowners are permitted so long as they do not exceed 80 x 40 centimeters in size.

"e. No cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, ducks, geese, roosters or rabbits shall be maintained in the lot, except that pets may be maintained but must be controlled in accordance with the rulings of the Association. The term "pets" includes chickens not in commercial quantities.

"f. The property is subject to an easement of two (2) meters within the lot and adjacent to the rear and sides thereof not fronting a street for the purpose of drainage, sewage, water and other public facilities as may be necessary and desirable; and the owner, lessee or his representative shall permit access thereto by authorized representatives of the Bel-Air Association or public utility entities for the purposes for which the easement is created.

"g. This lot shall not be used for any immoral or illegal trade or activity.

"h. The owner and/or lessee of this lot/s shall at all times keep the grass cut and trimmed to reduce the fire hazard of the property.

x       x       x


"VI — TERM OF RESTRICTIONS

"The foregoing restrictions shall remain in force for fifty years from January 15, 1957, unless sooner cancelled in its entirety by two thirds vote of members in good standing of the Bel-Air Association. However, the Association may, from time to time, add new ones, amend or abolish particular restrictions or parts thereof by majority rule.

"VII — ENFORCEMENT OF RESTRICTIONS

"The foregoing restrictions may be enjoined and/or enforced by court action by the Bel-Air Association, or by the Makati Development Corporation or its assigns, or by any registered owner of land within the boundaries of the Bel-Air Subdivision (Sub-division plan PSD-49226 and Lot 7-B, Psd-47848) or by any member in good standing of the Bel-Air association." (Exh. 1-b; Exh. 22, Annex "B"). (Appellant’s Brief, pp. 4-6)

(5) When MDC sold the above-mentioned lots to appellees’ predecessors-in-interest, the whole stretch of the commercial block between Buendia Avenue and Jupiter Street, from Reposo Street in the west to Zodiac Street in the east, was still undeveloped. Access, therefore, to Bel-Air Village was opened to all kinds of people and even animals. So in 1966, although it was not part of the original plan, MDC constructed a fence or wall on the commercial block along Jupiter Street. In 1970, the fence or wall was partly destroyed by typhoon "Yoling." The destroyed portions were subsequently rebuilt by the appellant. (Copuyoc, TSN, pp. 31-34, Feb. 12, 1982). When Jupiter Street was widened in 1972 by 3.5 meters, the fence or wall had to be destroyed. Upon request of BAVA, the wall was rebuilt inside the boundary of the commercial block. (Copuyoc, TSN, pp. 44-47, Feb. 12, 1982).

(6) When the appellant finally decided to subdivide and sell the lots in the commercial block between Buendia and Jupiter, BAVA wrote the appellant on May 9, 1972, requesting for confirmation on the use of the commercial lots. The appellant replied on May 16, 1972, informing BAVA of the restrictions intended to be imposed in the sale and use of the lots. Among these restrictions are: that the building shall have a set back of 19 meters; and that with respect to vehicular traffic — along Buendia Avenue, entrance only will be allowed, and along Jupiter Street and side streets, both entrance and exit will be allowed.

(7) On June 30, 1972, appellant informed BAVA that in a few months it shall subdivide and sell the commercial lots bordering the north side of Buendia Avenue Extension from Reposo Street up to Zodiac Street. Appellant also informed BAVA that it had taken all precautions and will impose upon the commercial lot owners deed restrictions which will harmonize and blend with the development and welfare of Bel-Air Village. Appellant further applied for special membership in BAVA of the commercial lot owners. A copy of the deed restrictions for the commercial lots was also enclosed. The proposed deed restrictions shall include the 19 meter set back of buildings from Jupiter Street, the requirement for parking space within the lot of one (1) parking slot for every seventy five (75) meters of office space in the building and the limitation of vehicular traffic along Buendia to entrance only, but allowing both vehicular entrance and vehicular exit through Jupiter Street and any side street.

In its letter of July 10, 1972, BAVA acknowledged the above letter of appellant and informed the latter that the application for special membership of the commercial lot owners in BAVA would be submitted to BAVA’s board of governors for decision.

(8) On September 25, 1972, appellant notified BAVA that, after a careful study, it was finally decided that the height limitation of buildings on the commercial lots shall be increased from 12.5 meters to 15 meters. Appellant further informed BAVA that Jupiter Street shall be widened by 3.5 meters to improve traffic flow in said street. BAVA did not reply to said letter, but on January 22, 1973, BAVA wrote a letter to the appellant informing the latter that the Association had assessed the appellant, as special member of the association, the amount of P40,795.00 (based on 81,590 square meters at P.50 per square meter) representing the membership dues to the commercial lot owners for the year 1973, and requested the appellant to remit the amount which its board of governors had already included in its current budget. In reply, appellant on January 31, 1973 informed BAVA that due to the widening of Jupiter Street, the area of the lots which were accepted by the Association as members was reduced to 76,726 square meters. Thus, the corresponding dues at P.50 per square meter should be reduced to P38,363.00. This amount, therefore, was remitted by the appellant to BAVA. Since then, the latter has been collecting membership dues from the owners of the commercial lots as special members of the Association. As a matter of fact, the dues were increased several times. In 1980, the commercial lot owners were already being charged dues at the rate of P3.00 per square meter. (Domingo, TSN, p. 36, March 19, 1980). At this rate, the total membership dues of the commercial lot owners amount to P230,178.00 annually based on the total area of 76,726 square meters of the commercial lots.

(9) Meantime, on April 4, 1975, the municipal council of Makati enacted its ordinance No. 81, providing for the zonification of Makati (Exh. 18). Under this Ordinance, Bel-Air Village was classified as a Class A Residential Zone, with its boundary in the south extending to the center line of Jupiter Street (Exh. 18-A).

Thus, Chapter III, Article I, Section 3.03, par. F. of the Ordinance provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"F. Bel-Air Village area, as bounded on the N by Polaris and Mercedes streets and on the NE by Estrella Street; on the SE by Epifanio de los Santos Avenue and on the SW by the center line of Jupiter Street. Then bounded on the N by the abandoned MRR Pasig Line; on the E by Makati Avenue; on the S by the center line of Jupiter Street and on the W by the center line of Reposo Street." (Exh. 18-A)

Similarly, the Buendia Avenue Extension area was classified as Administrative Office Zone with its boundary in the North-North East Extending also up to the center line of Jupiter Street (Exh. 18-b).

Thus, Chapter III, Article I, Section 3.05, par. C. of the Ordinance provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"C. The Buendia Avenue Extension areas, as bounded on the N-NE by the center line of Jupiter Street, on the SE by Epifanio de los Santos Avenue; on the SW by Buendia Avenue and on the NW by the center line of Reposo Street, then on the N-E by Malugay Street; on the SE by Buendia Avenue and on the W by Ayala Avenue Extension." (Exh. 18-B)

The Residential Zone and the Administrative Office Zone, therefore, have a common boundary along the center line of Jupiter Street.

The above zoning under Ordinance No. 81 of Makati was later followed under the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance for the National Capital Region adopted by the Metro Manila Commission as Ordinance 81-01 on March 14, 1981 (Exh. 19). However, under this ordinance, Bel-Air Village is simply bounded in the South-Southeast by Jupiter Street — not anymore up to the center line of Jupiter Street (Exh. B). Likewise, the block-deep strip along the northwest side of Buendia Avenue Extension from Reposo to EDSA was classified as a High Intensity Commercial Zone (Exh. 19-c).

Thus, the Zoning District Boundaries — Makati, in Annex B of the Ordinance provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"R-1 — Low Intensity Residential.

x       x       x


"4. Bel-Air 1, 3, 4

Bounded on the North — J.P. Rizal and Amapola St.

South — Rockwell

Northwest — P. Burgos

Southeast — Jupiter

Southwest — Epifanio de los Santos Ave. (EDSA).

5. Bel-Air 2

Bounded on the Northwest — J.P. Rizal

Southwest — Makati Avenue

South — Jupiter

Southeast — Pasig Line

East — South Avenue" (Exh. 19-b)

x       x       x


"C-3 — High Intensity Commercial Zone.

"2. A block deep strip along the northwest side of Buendia Ave. Ext. from Reposo to EDSA." (Exh. 19-c)

Under the above zoning classifications, Jupiter Street, therefore, is a common boundary of Bel-Air Village and the commercial zone.

(10) Meanwhile, in 1972, BAVA had installed gates at strategic locations across Jupiter Street which were manned and operated by its own security guards who were employed to maintain, supervise and enforce traffic regulations in the roads and streets of the village. (Villavicencio, TSN, pp. 22-25, Oct. 30, 1980; BAVA Petition, par. 11, Exh. 17).

Then, on January 17, 1977, the Office of the Mayor of Makati wrote BAVA directing that, in the interest of public welfare and for the purpose of easing traffic congestion, the following streets in Bel-Air Village should be opened for public use:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Amapola Street — from Estrella Street to Mercedes Street

Amapola Street — junction of Palma Street gate going to J. Villena Street

Mercedes Street — from EDSA to Imelda Avenue and Amapola junction

Zodiac Street — from Mercedes Street to Buendia Avenue

Jupiter Street — from Zodiac Street to Reposo Street connecting Metropolitan Avenue to Pasong Tamo and V. Cruz Extension intersection

Neptune Street — from Makati Avenue to Reposo Street

Orbit Street — from F. Zobel — Candelaria intersection — to Jupiter Street Paseo de Roxas — from Mercedes Street to Buendia Avenue (Exh. 17, Annex A, BAVA Petition)

On February 10, 1977, BAVA wrote the Mayor of Makati, expressing the concern of the residents about the opening of the streets to the general public, and requesting specifically the indefinite postponement of the plan to open Jupiter Street to public vehicles. (Exh. 17, Annex B, BAVA Petition).

However, BAVA voluntarily opened to the public Amapola, Mercedes, Zodiac, Neptune and Paseo de Roxas streets. (Exh. 17-A, Answer of Makati par. 3-7).

Later, on June 17, 1977, the Barangay Captain of Bel-Air Village was advised by the Office of the Mayor that, in accordance with the agreement entered into during the meeting on January 28, 1977, the Municipal Engineer and the Station Commander of the Makati Police were ordered to open for public use Jupiter Street from Makati Avenue to Reposo Street. Accordingly, he was requested to advise the village residents of the necessity of the opening of the street in the interest of public welfare. (Exh. 17, Annex E, BAVA Petition)

Then, on June 10, 1977, the Municipal Engineer of Makati in a letter addressed to BAVA advised the latter to open for vehicular and pedestrian traffic the entire portion of Jupiter Street from Makati Avenue to Reposo Street (Exh. 17, BAVA Petition, par. 14).

Finally, on August 12, 1977, the municipal officials of Makati concerned allegedly opened, destroyed and removed the gates constructed/located at the corner of Reposo Street and Jupiter Street as well as the gates/fences located/constructed at Jupiter Street and Makati Avenue forcibly, and then opened the entire length of Jupiter Street to public traffic. (Exh. 17, BAVA Petition, pars. 16 and 17)

(11) Before the gates were removed, there was no parking problem or traffic problem in Jupiter Street, because Jupiter Street was not allowed to be used by the general public (Villavicencio, TSN, pp. 24-25, Oct. 30, 1930). However, with the opening of Zodiac Street from Estrella Street to Jupiter Street and also the opening to the public of the entire length of Jupiter Street, there was a tremendous increase in the volume of traffic passing along Jupiter Street coming from EDSA to Estrella Street, then to Zodiac Street to Jupiter Street, and along the entire length of Jupiter Street to its other end at Reposo Street. (Villavicencio, TSN, pp. 30-32, Oct. 30, 1980)

In the meantime, the purchasers of the commercial lots between Jupiter Street and Buendia Avenue extension had started constructing their respective buildings in 1974-1975. They demolished the portions of the fence or wall standing within the boundary of their lots. Many of the owners constructed their own fences or walls in lieu of the wall and they employed their own security guards. (TSN, p. 83, Feb. 20, 1931; TSN, pp. 53-54; 72-74, March 20, 1981; TSN, pp. 54-55, July 23, 1981)

(12) Then, on January 27, 1978, appellant donated the entire Jupiter Street from Metropolitan Avenue to Zodiac Street to BAVA (Exh. 7). However, even before 1978, the Makati Police and the security force of BAVA were already the ones regulating the traffic along Jupiter Street after the gates were opened in 1977. (Sancianco, TSN, pp. 26-30, Oct. 2, 1981)

In October, 1979, the fence at the corner of Orbit and Neptune Streets was opened and removed (BAVA Petition, par. 22, Exh. 17). The opening of the whole stretch of Orbit Street from J.P. Rizal Avenue up to Imelda Avenue and later to Jupiter Street was agreed to at the conference attended by the President of BAVA in the office of the Station Commander of Makati, subject to certain conditions, to wit:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"That, maintenance of Orbit St. up to Jupiter St. shall be shouldered by the Municipality of Makati.

"That, street lights will be installed and maintenance of the same along Orbit St. from J.P. Rizal Ave. up to Jupiter St. shall be undertaken by the Municipality.

"That for the security of the residents of San Miguel Village and Bel-Air Village, as a result of the opening of Orbit Street, police outposts shall be constructed by the Municipality of Makati to be headed by personnel of Station No. 4, in close coordination with the Security Guards of San Miguel Village and Bel-Air Village." (CF. Exh. 3 to Counter-Affidavit, of Station Commander, Ruperto Acle. p. 253, records)" (Order, Civil Case No. 34948, Exh. 17-c)

(13) Thus, with the opening of the entire length of Jupiter Street to public traffic, the different residential lots located in the northern side of Jupiter Street ceased to be used for purely residential purposes. They became, for all purposes, commercial in character.

(14) Subsequently, on October 29, 1979, the plaintiffs-appellees Jose D. Sangalang and Lutgarda D. Sangalang brought the present action for damages against the defendant-appellant Ayala Corporation predicated on both breach of contract and on tort or quasi-delict. A supplemental complaint was later filed by said appellees seeking to augment the reliefs prayed for in the original complaint because of alleged supervening events which occurred during the trial of the case. Claiming to be similarly situated as the plaintiffs-appellees, the spouses Felix C. Gaston and Dolores R. Gaston, Jose V. Briones and Alicia R. Briones, and the homeowners’ association (BAVA) intervened in the case.

(15) After trial on the merits, the then Court of First Instance of Rizal, Pasig, Metro Manila, rendered a decision in favor of the appellees the dispositive portion of which is as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby accordingly rendered as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

ON PLAINTIFFS’ COMPLAINT:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Defendant is ordered to pay to the plaintiffs-spouses Sangalang the following damages:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. The sum of P500,000.00 as actual and consequential damages;

2. The sum of P2,000,000.00 as moral damages;

3. The sum of P500,000.00 as exemplary damages;

4. The sum of P100,000.00 as attorney’s fees; and

5. The costs of suit.

ON INTERVENORS FELIX and DOLORES GASTON’S COMPLAINT:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Defendant is ordered to pay to the spouses Felix and Dolores Gaston, the following damages:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. The sum of P400,000.00 as consequential damages;

2. The sum of P500,000.00 as moral damages;

3. The sum of P500,000.00 as exemplary damages:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

4. The sum of P50,000.00 as attorney’s fees; and

5. The costs of suit.

ON INTERVENORS JOSE and ALICIA BRIONES’ COMPLAINT:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Defendant is ordered to pay to the spouses Jose and Alicia Briones, the following damages:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. The sum of P400,000.00 as consequential damages;

2. The sum of P500,000.00 as moral damages;

3. The sum of P500,000.00 as exemplary damages;

4. The sum of P50,000.00 as attorney’s fees; and

5. The costs of suit.

ON INTERVENOR BAVA’S COMPLAINT:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Defendant is ordered to pay intervenor BAVA, the following damages:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. The sum of P400,000.00 as consequential damages;

2. The sum of P500,000.00 as exemplary damages

3. The sum of P50,000.00 as attorney’s fees; and

4. The costs of suit.

The above damages awarded to the plaintiffs and intervenors shall bear legal interest from the filing of the complaint.

Defendant is further ordered to restore/reconstruct the perimeter wall at its original position in 1966 from Reposo Street in the west to Zodiac Street in the east, at its own expense, within SIX (6) MONTHS from finality of judgment.

SO ORDERED."cralaw virtua1aw library

(Record on Appeal, pp. 400-401) 2

x       x       x


On appeal, the Court of Appeals 3 rendered a reversal, and disposed as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

ACCORDINGLY, finding the decision appealed from as not supported by the facts and the law on the matter, the same is hereby SET ASIDE and another one entered dismissing the case for lack of a cause of action. Without pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED. 4

II. G.R. No. 74376

This petition was similarly brought by BAVA to enforce the aforesaid restrictions stipulated in the deeds of sale executed by the Ayala Corporation. The petitioner originally brought the complaint in the Regional Trial Court of Makati, 5 "principally for specific performance, plaintiff [now, petitioner] alleging that the defendant [now, private respondent] Tenorio allowed defendant [Tenorio’s co-private respondent] Gonzalves to occupy and convert the house at 60 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air Village, Makati, Metro Manila, into a restaurant, without its knowledge and consent, and in violation of the deed restrictions which provide that the lot and building thereon must be used only for residential purposes upon which the prayed-for main relief was for ‘the defendants to permanently refrain from using the premises as commercial and to comply with the terms of the Deed Restrictions.’" 6 The trial court dismissed the complaint on a procedural ground, i.e., pendency of an identical action, Civil Case No. 32346, entitled "Bel-Air Village Association, Inc. v. Jesus Tenorio." The Court of Appeals 7 affirmed, and held, in addition, that Jupiter Street "is classified as High density commercial (C-3) zone as per Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance No. 81-01 for National Capital Region," 8 following its own ruling in AC-G.R. No. 66649, entitled "Bel-Air Village Association, Inc. v. Hy-Land Realty & Development Corporation, Et. Al."cralaw virtua1aw library

III. G.R. No. 76394

x       x       x


Defendants-spouses Eduardo V. Romualdez, Jr. and Buena Tioseco are the owners of a house and lot located at 108 Jupiter St., Makati, Metro Manila as evidenced by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 332394 of the Registry of Deeds of Rizal. The fact is undisputed that at the time the defendants acquired the subject house and lot, several restrictions were already annotated on the reverse side of their title; however, for purposes of this appeal we shall quote hereunder only the pertinent ones, to wit:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"(b) This lot/s shall be used only for residential purposes."cralaw virtua1aw library

x       x       x


"IV. Term of Restriction.

The foregoing restriction(s) shall remain in force for fifty years from January 15, 1957, unless sooner cancelled in its entirety by two-thirds vote of the members in good standing of the Bel-Air Association. However, the Association may from time to time, add new ones, amend or abolish particular restrictions or parts thereof by majority rule."cralaw virtua1aw library

During the early part of 1979, plaintiff noted that certain renovations and constructions were being made by the defendants on the subject premises, for which reason the defendants were advised to inform the plaintiff of the kind of construction that was going on. Because the defendants failed to comply with the request of the plaintiff, the latter’s chief security officer visited the subject premises on March 23, 1979 and found out that the defendants were putting up a bake and coffee shop, which fact was confirmed by defendant Mrs. Romualdez herself. Thereafter, the plaintiff reminded defendants that they were violating the deed restriction. Despite said reminder, the defendants proceeded with the construction of the bake shop. Consequently, plaintiff sent defendants a letter dated April 30, 1979 warning them that if they will not desist from using the premises in question for commercial purposes, they will be sued for violations of the deed restrictions.

Despite the warning, the defendants proceeded with the construction of their bake shop. 9

x       x       x


The trial court 10 adjudged in favor of BAVA. On appeal, the Court of Appeals 11 reversed, on the strength of its holding in AC-G.R No. 66649 earlier referred to.

BAVA then elevated the matter to the Court by a petition for review on certiorari. The Court 12 initially denied the petition "for lack of merit, it appearing that the conclusions of the respondent Court of Appeals that private respondents’ bake and coffee shop lies within a commercial zone and that said private respondents are released from their obligations to maintain the lot known as 108 Jupiter Street for residential purposes by virtue of Ordinance No. 81 of the Municipality of Makati and Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance No. 81-01 of the Metropolitan Manila Commission, are in accord with law and jurisprudence," 13 for which BAVA sought a reconsideration. Pending resolution, the case was referred to the Second Division of this Court, 14 and thereafter, to the Court En Banc en consulta. 15 Per our Resolution, dated April 29, 1988, we consolidated this case with G.R. Nos. 74376 and 82281. 16

IV. G.R. No. 78182.

x       x       x


The case stemmed from the leasing by defendant Dolores Filley of her building and lot situated at No. 205 Reposo Street, Bel-Air Village Makati, Metro Manila to her co-defendant, the advertising firm J. Romero and Associates, in alleged violation of deed restrictions which stipulated that Filley’s lot could only be used for residential purposes. Plaintiff sought judgment from the lower court ordering the defendants to "permanently refrain" from using the premises in question "as commercial" and to comply with the terms of the deed restrictions.

After the proper proceedings, the court granted the plaintiff the sought-for relief with the additional imposition of exemplary damages of P50,000.00 and attorney’s fees of P10,000.00. The trial court gave emphasis to the restrictive clauses contained in Filley’s deed of sale from the plaintiff, which made the conversion of the building into a commercial one a violation.

Defendants now seek review and reversal on three (3) assignments of errors, namely:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

I.


THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE REGULATIONS PROMULGATED BY THE MUNICIPAL AUTHORITIES IN MAKATI AND THE MINISTRY OF HUMAN SETTLEMENTS CHANGING THE CHARACTER OF THE AREAS IN QUESTION HAD RENDERED THE RESTRICTIVE EASEMENT ON THE TITLE OF THE APPELLANTS VACATED.

II.


THE COURT ERRED IN NOT RULING THAT BECAUSE THE APPELLEE(S) HAD ALLOWED THE USE OF THE PROPERTY WITHIN THE VILLAGE FOR NON-RESIDENTIAL PURPOSES, IT IS NOW ESTOPPED FROM ENFORCING THE RESTRICTIVE PROHIBITIONS SUBJECT MATTER OF THIS CASE.

III.


THE COURT ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THERE EXISTED A BILATERAL CONTRACT BETWEEN THE PARTIES AND THAT SINCE APPELLEE HAD NOT PERFORMED ITS OBLIGATIONS UNDER THIS ARRANGEMENT THE APPELLANT IN TURN WAS UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO ANNOTATE THE RESTRICTIVE PROHIBITIONS ON THE BACK OF THE TITLE.

Appellants anchor their appeal on the proposition that the Bel-Air Village area, contrary to plaintiff-appellee’s pretension of being a strictly residential zone, is in fact commercial and characterize the restrictions contained in appellant Filley’s deed of sale from the appellee as completely outmoded, which have lost all relevance to the present-day realities in Makati, now the premier business hub of the nation, where there is a proliferation of numerous commercial enterprises established through the years, in fact even within the heart of so-called "residential" villages. Thus, it may be said that appellants base their position on the inexorable march of progress which has rendered at naught the continued efficacy of the restrictions. Appellant on the other hand, relies on a rigid interpretation of the contractual stipulations agreed upon with appellant Filley, in effect arguing that the restrictions are valid ad infinitum.

The lower court quite properly found that other commercial establishments exist in the same area (in fact, on the same street) but ignored it just the same and said —

"The fact that defendants were able to prove the existence of several commercial establishments inside the village does not exempt them from liability for violating some of the restrictions."cralaw virtua1aw library

evidently choosing to accord primacy to contractual stipulation. 17

x       x       x


The Court of Appeals 18 overturned the lower court, 19 likewise based on AC-G.R. No. 66649. The respondent Court observed also that J. Romero & Associates had been given authority to open a commercial office by the Human Settlements Regulatory Commission.

V. G.R. No. 82281

The facts of this case have been based on stipulation. We quote:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"COMES NOW, the Parties, assisted by their respective counsel and to this Honorable Court, respectfully enter into the following stipulations of facts, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. The parties admit the personal circumstances of each other as well as their capacities to sue and be sued.

2. The parties admit that plaintiff (BAVA for short) is the legally constituted homeowners’ association in Bel-Air Subdivision, Makati, Metro Manila.

3. The parties admit that defendant Violeta Moncal is the registered owner of a parcel of land with a residential house constructed thereon situated at No. 104 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air Village, Makati, Metro Manila; that as such lot owner, she is a member of the plaintiff association.

4. The parties admit that defendant Majal Development Corporation (Majal for short) is the lessee of defendant Moncal’s house and lot located at No. 104 Jupiter Street.

5. The parties admit that a deed restrictions is annotated on the title of defendant Moncal, which provides, among others, that the lot in question must be used only for residential purposes;" that at time Moncal purchased her aforesaid lot in 1959 said deed restrictions was already annotated in the said title.

6. The parties admit that when Moncal leased her subject property to Majal, she did not secure the consent of BAVA to lease the said house and lot to the present lessee.

7. The parties admit that along Jupiter Street and on the same side where Moncal’s property is located, there are restaurants, clinics, placement or employment agencies and other commercial or business establishments. These establishments, however, were sued by BAVA in the proper court.

8. The parties admit that at the time Moncal purchased the subject property from the Makati Development Corporation, there was a perimeter wall, running along Jupiter Street, which wall was constructed by the subdivision owner; that at that time the gates of the entrances to Jupiter Street were closed to public traffic. In short, the entire length of Jupiter which was inside the perimeter wall was not then open to public traffic.

9. The parties admit that subsequent thereto, Ayala tore down the perimeter wall to give way to the commercial building fronting Buendia Avenue (now Gil J. Puyat Avenue).

10. The parties admit that on August 12, 1977, the Mayor of Makati forcibly opened and removed the street gates constructed on Jupiter Street and Reposo Street, thereby opening said streets to the public.

11. The parties admit plaintiffs letters of October 10, 23 and 31, 1984; as well as defendants’ letters-reply dated October 17 and 29, 1984. 20

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The trial court 21 dismissed the petitioner’s complaint, a dismissal affirmed on appeal, 22 According to the appellate court, the opening of Jupiter Street to human and vehicular traffic, and the commercialization of the Municipality of Makati in general, were circumstances that had made compliance by Moncal with the aforesaid "deed restrictions" "extremely difficult and unreasonable," 23 a development that had excused compliance altogether under Article 1267 of the Civil Code.

VI. The cases before the Court; the Court’s decision.

In brief, G.R. Nos. 74376, 76394, 78182, and 82281 are efforts to enforce the "deed restrictions" in question against specific residents (private respondents in the petitions) of Jupiter Street and with respect to G.R. No. 78182, Reposo Street. The private respondents are alleged to have converted their residences into commercial establishments (a restaurant in G.R. No. 74376, a bakery and coffee shop in G.R. No. 76394, an advertising firm in G.R. No. 78182; and a construction company, apparently, in G.R. No. 82281) in violation of the said restrictions. 24

Their mother case, G. R. No. 71169 is, on the other hand, a petition to hold the vendor itself, Ayala Corporation (formerly Makati Development Corporation), liable for tearing down the perimeter wall along Jupiter Street that had theretofore closed its commercial section from the residences of Bel-Air Village and ushering in, as a consequence, the full "commercialization" of Jupiter Street, in violation of the very restrictions it had authored.

As We indicated, the Court of Appeals dismissed all five appeals on the basis primarily of its ruling in AC-G.R. No. 66649, "Bel-Air Village, Inc. v. Hy-Land Realty Development Corporation, Et Al.," in which the appellate court explicitly rejected claims under the same "deed restrictions" as a result of Ordinance No. 81 enacted by the Government of the Municipality of Makati, as well as Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance No. 8101 promulgated by the Metropolitan Manila Commission, which two ordinances allegedly allowed the use of Jupiter Street both for residential and commercial purposes. It was likewise held that these twin measures were valid as a legitimate exercise of police power.

The Court of Appeals’ reliance on Ordinance Nos. 81 and 8101 is now assailed in these petitions, particularly the Sangalang, Et. Al. petition.

Aside from this fundamental issue, the petitioners likewise raise procedural questions. G.R. No. 71169, the mother case, begins with one.

1. G.R. No. 71169

In this petition, the following questions are specifically put to the Court:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

May the Honorable Intermediate Appellate Court reverse the decision of the trial court on issues which were neither raised by AYALA in its Answers either to the Complaint or Supplemental Complaint nor specifically assigned as one of the alleged errors on appeal?25cralaw:red

May the Honorable Intermediate Appellate Court arbitrarily ignore the decisive findings of fact of the trial court, even if uncontradicted and/or documented, and premised mainly on its own unsupported conclusions totally reverse the trial court’s decision? 26

May the Honorable Intermediate Appellate Court disregard the trial court’s documented findings that respondent Ayala for its own self-interest and commercial purposes contrived in bad faith to do away with the Jupiter Street perimeter wall it put up three times which wall was really intended to separate the residential from the commercial areas and thereby insure the privacy and security of Bel-Air Village pursuant to respondent Ayala’s express continuing representation and/or covenant to do so? 27

a.

The first question represents an attack on the appellate court’s reliance on Ordinances Nos. 81 and 81-01, a matter not supposedly taken up at the trial or assigned as an error on appeal. As a rule, the Court of Appeals (then the Intermediate Appellate Court) may determine only such questions as have been properly raised to it, yet, this is not an inflexible rule of procedure. In Hernandez v. Andal, 28 it was stated that "an unassigned error closely related to an error properly assigned, or upon which the determination of the question raised by the error properly assigned is dependent, will be considered by the appellate court notwithstanding the failure to assign it as error." 29 In Baquiran v. Court of Appeals, 30 we referred to the "modern trend of procedure . . . accord[ing] the courts broad discretionary power," 31 and in which we allowed consideration of matters "having some bearing on the issue submitted which the parties failed to raise or the lower court ignore[d]." 32 And in Vda. de Javellana v. Court of Appeals, 33 we permitted the consideration of a "patent error" of the trial court by the Court of Appeals under Section 7, of Rule 51, of the Rules of Court, 34 although such an error had not been raised in the brief.

But what we note is the fact that the Ayala Corporation did raise the zoning measures as affirmative defenses, first in its answer 35 and second, in its brief, 36 and submitted at the trial as exhibits. 37 There is accordingly no cause for complaint on the part of the petitioners for Ayala’s violation of the Rules.

But while there was reason for the consideration, on appeal, of the said zoning ordinances in question, this Court nevertheless finds as inaccurate the Court of Appeals’ holding that such measures, had "in effect, [made] Jupiter Street .. a street which could be used not only for residential purposes," 38 and that" [i]t lost its character as a street for the exclusive benefit of those residing in Bel-Air Village completely." 39

Among other things, there is a recognition under both Ordinances Nos. 81 and 81-01 that Jupiter Street lies as the boundary between Bel-Air Village and Ayala Corporation’s commercial section. And since 1957, it had been considered as a boundary — not as a part of either the residential or commercial zones of Ayala Corporation’s real estate development projects. Thus, the Bel-Air Village Association’s articles of incorporation state that Bel-Air Village is "bounded on the NE., from Amapola St., to de los Santos Ave., by Estrella St., on the SE., from Estrella St., to Pedestrian Lane, by E. De los Santos Ave., on the SW., from Pedestrian Lane to Reposo St., by Jupiter Street . . ." 40 Hence, it cannot be said to have been "for the exclusive benefit" of Bel-Air Village residents.

We come to the perimeter wall then standing on the commercial side of Jupiter Street the destruction of which opened the street to the public. The petitioners contend that the opening of the thoroughfare had opened, in turn, the floodgates to the commercialization of Bel-Air Village. The wall, so they allege, was designed precisely to protect the peace and privacy of Bel-Air Village residents from the din and uproar of mercantile pursuits, and that the Ayala Corporation had committed itself to maintain it. It was the opinion of the Court of Appeals, as we said, that Ayala’s liability therefor, if one existed, had been overtaken by the passage of Ordinances Nos. 81 and 82-01, opening Jupiter Street to commerce.

It is our ruling, we reiterate, that Jupiter Street lies as a mere boundary, a fact acknowledged by the authorities of Makati and the National Government and, as a scrutiny of the records themselves reveals, by the petitioners themselves, as the articles of incorporation of Bel-Air Village Association itself would confirm. As a consequence, Jupiter Street was intended for the use by both the commercial and residential blocks. It was not originally constructed, therefore, for the exclusive use of either block, least of all the residents of Bel-Air Village, but, we repeat, in favor of both, as distinguished from the general public.

When the wall was erected in 1966 and rebuilt twice, in 1970 and 1972, it was not for the purpose of physically separating the two blocks. According to Ayala Corporation, it was put up to enable the Bel-Air Village Association "better control of the security in the area" 41 and as the Ayala Corporation’s "show of goodwill," 42 a view we find acceptable in the premises. For it cannot be denied that at that time, the commercial area was vacant, "open for [sic] animals and people to have access to Bel-Air Village." 43 There was hence a necessity for a wall.

In any case, we find the petitioners’ theory, that maintaining the wall was a matter of a contractual obligation on the part of Ayala, to be pure conjecture. The records do not establish the existence of such a purported commitment. For one, the subdivision plans submitted did not mention anything about it. For another, there is nothing in the "deed restrictions" that would point to any covenant regarding the construction of a wall. There is no representation or promise whatsoever therein to that effect.

With the construction of the commercial buildings in 1974, the reason for which the wall was built — to secure Bel-Air Village from interlopers — had naturally ceased to exist. The buildings themselves had provided formidable curtains of security for the residents. It should be noted that the commercial lot buyers themselves were forced to demolish parts of the wall to gain access to Jupiter Street, which they had after all equal right to use.

In fine, we cannot hold the Ayala Corporation liable for damages for a commitment it did not make, much less for alleged resort to machinations in evading it. The records, on the contrary, will show that the Bel-Air Village Association had been informed, at the very outset, about the impending use of Jupiter Street by commercial lot buyers. We quote:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

x       x       x


1. Exh. I of appellee, the memorandum of Mr. Carmelo Caluag, President of BAVA, dated May 10, 1972, informing the BAVA Board of Governors and Barrio Council members about the future use of Jupiter Street by the lot owners fronting Buendia Avenue. The use of Jupiter Street by the owners of the commercial lots would necessarily require the demolition of the wall along the commercial block adjoining Jupiter Street.

2. Exh. J of appellee, the minutes of the joint meeting of BAVA Board of Governors and the Bel-Air Barrio Council where the matter that "Buendia lot owners will have equal rights to use Jupiter Street," and that Ayala’s "plans about the sale of lots and use of Jupiter Street" were precisely taken up. This confirms that from the start BAVA was informed that the commercial lot owners will use Jupiter Street and that necessarily the wall along Jupiter Street would be demolished.

3. Exh. 10, the letter of Mr. Demetrio Copuyoc to the President of BAVA, dated May 16, 1972, expressly stating that vehicular entrance and exit to the commercial lots would be allowed along Jupiter and side streets.

4. Exhs. 27, 27-A, 27-B, the letter of Atty. Salvador J. Lorayes, dated June 30, 1972, with enclosed copy of proposed restriction for the commercial lots to BAVA. The proposed restriction again expressly stated that "Vehicular entrances and exits are allowed thru Jupiter and any side streets.

5. Exh. L of appellee, the minutes of the meeting of the members of BAVA, dated August 26, 1972, where it is stated "Recently, Ayala Corporation informed the Board that the lots fronting Buendia Avenue will soon be offered for sale, and that future lot owners will be given equal rights to use Jupiter Street as well as members of the Association.

6. Exh. 25, the letter of Atty. Lorayes, dated September 25, 1972, informing BAVA of the widening of Jupiter Street by 3.5 meters to improve traffic flow in said street to benefit both the residents of Bel-Air and the future owners of the commercial lots. 44

The petitioners cannot successfully rely on the alleged promise by Demetrio Copuyoc, Ayala’s manager, to build a" [f]ence along Jupiter with gate for entrance and/or exit" 45 as evidence of Ayala’s alleged continuing obligation to maintain a wall between the residential and commercial sections. It should be observed that the fence referred to included a "gate for entrance and or exit" which would have defeated the purpose of a wall, in the sense the petitioners would put in one, that is to say, an impenetrable barrier. But as Ayala would point out subsequently, the proposed fence was not constructed because it had become unnecessary when the commercial lot owners commenced constructions thereon.

Be that as it may, the Court cannot visualize any purported obligation by Ayala Corporation to keep the wall on the strength of this supposed promise alone. If truly Ayala promised anything — assuming that Capuyoc was authorized to bind the corporation with a promise — it would have been with respect to the fence. It would not have established the preexisting obligation alleged with respect to the wall.

Obligations arise, among other things, from contract. 46 If Ayala, then, were bound by an obligation, it would have been pursuant to a contract. A contract, however, is characterized by a "meeting of minds between two persons. 47 As a consensual relation, it must be shown to exist as a fact, clearly and convincingly. But it cannot be inferred from a mishmash of circumstances alone disclosing some kind of an "understanding," when especially, those disparate circumstances are not themselves incompatible with contentions that no accord had existed or had been reached. 48

The petitioners cannot simply assume that the wall was there for the purpose with which they now give it, by the bare coincidence that it had divided the residential block from the commercial section of Bel-Air. The burden of proof rests with them to show that it had indeed been built precisely for that objective, a proof that must satisfy the requirements of our rules of evidence. It cannot be made to stand on the strength of plain inferences.

b.

This likewise answers the petitioners’ second query, whether or not the Court of Appeals had "arbitrarily ignore[d] the decisive findings of the trial court," 49 i.e., findings pointing to alleged acts performed by the Ayala Corporation proving its commitment to maintain the wall abovesaid. Specifically, the petitioners refer to, among other things: (1) Ayala’s alleged announcement to Bel-Air Village Association members that" [t]he perimeter wall along Jupiter Street will not be demolished;" 50 (2) Ayala’s alleged commitment "during the pendency of the case in the trial court" to restore the wall; (3) alleged assurances by Copuyoc that the wall will not be removed; (4) alleged contrivances by the corporation to make the association admit as members the commercial lot buyers which provided them equal access to Jupiter Street; and (5) Ayala’s donation to the association of Jupiter Street for "private use" of Bel-Air residents. 51

As we stated, the Ayala Corporation’s alleged conduct prior to or during the proceedings below are not necessarily at war with claims that no commitment had been in fact made.

With respect to Ayala’s alleged announcement before the association, the Court does not agree that Ayala had categorically assumed as an obligation to maintain the wall "perpetually," i.e., until the year 2007 (the expiration date under the "deed restrictions.") There is nothing in its statement that would bare any commitment. In connection with the conference between the parties "during the pendency" of the trial, it is to be noted that the Ayala Corporation denies having warranted the restoration of the said wall therein. What, on the other hand, appears in the records is the fact that Ayala did make that promise, but provided that the Mayor allowed it. It turned out, however, that the Mayor balked at the idea. 52 But assuming that Ayala did promise to rebuild the wall (in that conference), it does not seem to us that it did consequently promise to maintain it in perpetuity.

It is unfair to say, as the trial court did, that the Ayala had "contrived to make future commercial lot owners special members of BAVA and thereby acquire equal right with the regular members thereof to use Jupiter Street," 53 since, as we stated, the commercial lot buyers have the right, in any event, to make use of Jupiter Street, whether or not they are members of the association. It is not their memberships that give them the right to use it. They share that right with Bel-Air residents from the outset.

The objective of making the commercial lot owners special members of the Bel-Air Village Association was not to accord them equal access to Jupiter Street and inferentially, to give them the right to knock down the perimeter wall. It was, rather, to regulate the use of the street owing precisely to the "planned" nature of Ayala’s development project, and real estate development in general, and this could best be done by placing the commercial lot owners under the association’s jurisdiction.

Moreover, Ayala’s overtures with the association concerning the membership of commercial lot buyers therein have been shown to be neither perfidious nor unethical nor devious (paraphrasing the lower court). We quote anew:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

x       x       x


(7) On June 30, 1972, appellant informed BAVA that in a few months it shall subdivide and sell the commercial lots bordering the north side of Buendia Avenue Extension from Reposo Street up to Zodiac Street. Appellant also informed BAVA that it had taken all precautions and will impose upon the commercial lot owners deed restrictions which will harmonize and blend with the development and welfare of Bel-Air Village. Appellant further applied for special membership in BAVA of the commercial lot owners. A copy of the deed restrictions for the commercial lots was also enclosed. The proposed deed restrictions shall include the 19 meter set back of buildings from Jupiter Street, the requirement for parking space within the lot of one (1) parking slot for every seventy five (75) meters of office space in the building and the limitation of vehicular traffic along Buendia to entrance only, but allowing both vehicular entrance and vehicular exit through Jupiter Street and any side street.

In its letter of July 10, 1972, BAVA acknowledged the above letter of appellant and informed the latter that the application for special membership of the commercial lot owners in BAVA would be submitted to BAVA’s board of governors for decision.

(8) On September 25, 1972, appellant notified BAVA that, after a careful study, it was finally decided that the height limitation of buildings on the commercial lots shall be increased from 12.5 meters to 15 meters. Appellant further informed BAVA that Jupiter Street shall be widened by 3.5 meters to improve traffic flow in said street. BAVA did not reply to said letter, but on January 22, 1973, BAVA wrote a letter to the appellant informing the latter that the Association had assessed the appellant, as special member of the association, the amount of P40,795.00 (based on 81,590 square meters at P.50 per square meter) representing the membership dues of the commercial lot owners for the year 1973, and requested the appellant to remit the amount which its board of governors had already included in its current budget. In reply, appellant on January 31, 1973 informed BAVA that due to the widening of Jupiter Street, the area of the lots which were accepted by the Association as members was reduced to 76,726 square meters. Thus, the corresponding due — at P.50 per square meter should be reduced to P38,363.00. This amount, therefore, was remitted by the appellant to BAVA. Since then, the latter has been collecting membership dues from the owners of the commercial lots as special members of the Association. As a matter of fact, the dues were increased several times. In 1980, the commercial lot owners were already being charged dues at the rate of P3.00 per square meter. (Domingo, TSN, p. 36, March 19, 1980). At this rate, the total membership dues of the commercial lot owners amount to P230,178.00 annually based on the total area of 76,726 square meters of the commercial lots. 54

x       x       x


The alleged undertaking, finally, by Ayala in the deed of donation (over Jupiter Street) to leave Jupiter Street for the private use of Bel-Air residents is belied by the very provisions of the deed. We quote:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

x       x       x


"IV. That the offer made by the DONOR had been accepted by the DONEE subject to the condition that the property will be used as a street for the use of the members of the DONEE, their families, personnel, guests, domestic help and, under certain reasonable conditions and restrictions, by the general public, and in the event that said lots or parts thereof cease to be used as such, ownership thereof shall automatically revert to the DONOR. The DONEE shall always have Reposo Street, Makati Avenue, and Paseo de Roxas open for the use of the general public. It is also understood that the DONOR shall continue the maintenance of the street at its expense for a period of three years from date hereof." (Deed of Donation, p. 6, Exh. 7) 55

x       x       x


The donation, on the contrary, gave the general public equal right to it.

The Court cannot then say, accepting the veracity of the petitioners’ "facts" enumerated above, that the Ayala Corporation may be held liable for specific performance of a demandable obligation, let alone damages.

The Court adds that Ayala can hardly be held responsible for the alleged deterioration of "living and environmental conditions" 56 of the Bel-Air area, as a consequence of "Ayala’s authorized demolition of the Jupiter perimeter wall in 1974-1975." 57 We agree with Ayala that until 1976, "there was peace and quiet" at Jupiter Street, as the petitioners’ (Sangalang, Gaston, and Briones) complaints admit. Hence, the degeneration of peace and order in Bel-Air cannot be ascribed to the destruction of the wall in 1974 and 1975.

What Ayala submits as the real cause was the opening of Jupiter Street to vehicular traffic in 1977. 58 But this was upon orders of the Mayor, and for which the homeowners’ association had precisely filed suit (Civil Case No. 34998) 59 to contest the act of the Mayor.

c.

This likewise disposes of the third question presented. The petitioners’ reliance on Ayala’s alleged conduct (proving its alleged commitment), so we have ruled, is not well-taken. Ayala’s alleged acts do not, by themselves, reflect a commitment to maintain the wall in dispute. It cannot be therefore said that the Court of Appeals "arbitrarily ignore[d]" 60 the lower court’s findings. Precisely, it is the duty of the appellate court to review the findings of the trial judge, be they of fact or law. 61 It is not bound by the conclusions of the judge, for which reason it makes its own findings and arrives at its own conclusions. Unless a grave abuse of discretion may be imputed to it, it may accept or reject the lower tribunal’s determinations and rely solely on the records.

Accordingly, the Court affirms the Court of Appeals’ holding that the Ayala Corporation, in its dealings with the petitioners, the Bel-Air Village Association in particular, had "acted with justice, gave the appellees [petitioners] their due and observed honesty and good faith." 62 "Therefore, under both Articles 19 and 21 of the Civil Code, the appellant [Ayala] cannot be held liable for damages." 63

2. G.R. Nos. 74376, 76394, 78182, & 82281.

Our decision also resolves, quite anticlimactically, these companion cases. But we do so for various other reasons. In the Sangalang case, we absolve the Ayala Corporation primarily owing to our finding that it is not liable for the opening of Jupiter Street to the general public. Insofar as these petitions are concerned, we likewise exculpate the private respondents, not only because of the fact that Jupiter Street is not covered by the restrictive easements based on the "deed restrictions" but chiefly because the National Government itself, through the Metro Manila Commission (MMC), had reclassified Jupiter Street into a "high density commercial (C-3) zone," 64 pursuant to its Ordinance No. 81-01. Hence, the petitioners have no cause of action on the strength alone of the said "deed restrictions."cralaw virtua1aw library

In view thereof, we find no need in resolving the questions raised as to procedure, since this disposition is sufficient to resolve these cases.

It is not that we are saying that restrictive easements, especially the easements herein in question, are invalid or ineffective. As far as the Bel-Air subdivision itself is concerned, certainly, they are valid and enforceable. But they are, like all contracts, subject to the overriding demands, needs, and interests of the greater number as the State may determine in the legitimate exercise of police power. Our jurisdiction guarantees sanctity of contract and is said to be the "law between the contracting parties," 65 but while it is so, it cannot contravene "law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy." 66 Above all, it cannot be raised as a deterrent to police power, designed precisely to promote health, safety, peace, and enhance the common good, at the expense of contractual rights, whenever necessary. In Ortigas & Co., Limited Partnership v. Feati Bank and Trust Co., 67 we are told:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

x       x       x


2. With regard to the contention that said resolution cannot nullify the contractual obligations assumed by the defendant-appellee — referring to the restrictions incorporated in the deeds of sale and later in the corresponding Transfer Certificates of Title issued to defendant-appellee — it should be stressed, that while non-impairment of contracts is constitutionally guaranteed, the rule is not absolute, since it has to be reconciled with the legitimate exercise of police power, i.e., "the power to prescribe regulations to promote the health, morals, peace, education, good order or safety and general welfare of the people." Invariably described as "the most essential, insistent, and illimitable of powers" and "in a sense, the greatest and most powerful attribute of government," the exercise of the power may be judicially inquired into and corrected only if it is capricious, whimsical, unjust or unreasonable, there having been a denial of due process or a violation of any other applicable constitutional guarantee. As this Court held through Justice Jose P. Bengson in Philippine Long Distance Company v. City of Davao, Et. Al. police power "is elastic and must be responsive to various social conditions; it is not confined within narrow circumscriptions of precedents resting on past conditions; it must follow the legal progress of a democratic way of life." We were even more emphatic in Vda. de Genuino v. The Court of Agrarian Relations, Et Al., when We declared: "We do not see why public welfare when clashing with the individual right to property should not be made to prevail through the state’s exercise of its police power."cralaw virtua1aw library

Resolution No. 27, s-1960 declaring the western part of Highway 54, now E. de los Santos Avenue (EDSA, for short) from Shaw Boulevard to the Pasig River as an industrial and commercial zone, was obviously passed by the Municipal Council of Mandaluyong, Rizal in the exercise of police power to safeguard or promote the health, safety, peace, good order and general welfare of the people in the locality. Judicial notice may be taken of the conditions prevailing in the area, especially where Lots Nos. 5 and 6 are located. The lots themselves not only front the highway; industrial and commercial complexes have flourished about the place. EDSA, a main traffic artery which runs through several cities and municipalities in the Metro Manila area, supports an endless stream of traffic and the resulting activity, noise and pollution are hardly conducive to the health, safety or welfare of the residents in its route. Having been expressly granted the power to adopt zoning and subdivision ordinances or regulations, the municipality of Mandaluyong, through its Municipal Council, was reasonably, if not perfectly, justified under the circumstances, in passing the subject resolution. 68

x       x       x


Undoubtedly, the MMC Ordinance represents a legitimate exercise of police power. The petitioners have not shown why we should hold otherwise other than for the supposed "non-impairment" guaranty of the Constitution, which, as we have declared, is secondary to the more compelling interests of general welfare. The Ordinance has not been shown to be capricious or arbitrary or unreasonable to warrant the reversal of the judgments so appealed. In that connection, we find no reversible error to have been committed by the Court of Appeals.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, these petitions are DENIED. No pronouncement as to costs.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

Fernan, (C.J.), Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Gancayco, Bidin, Cortés, Griño-Aquino, Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., concur.

Narvasa, J., on leave.

Paras, J., no part; member of the Bel-Air Village Asso.

Feliciano, J., no part; member of BAVA.

Padilla, J., no part; former Board Member of Ayala Corporation.

Endnotes:



1. Consolidated pursuant to our Resolution dated July 18, 1988.

2. Rollo, G.R. No. 71169, 102-113. The decision of the Court of Appeals makes mention of specified areas in Makati having been converted into a "High Intensity Commercial Zone" as well as "Low Intensity Residential" (see page 9 of this Decision). This should be either "high" or "low" density.

3. Jurado, Desiderio, J., Campos, Jr., Jose and Camilon, Serafin, JJ., Concurring. Pascual, Crisolito, J., Dissenting. The decision set aside, dated October 1, 1982, was penned by Hon. Gregorio Pineda, Presiding Judge, Court of First Instance of Rizal, Seventh Judicial District, Pasig, Metro Manila, Branch XXI.

4. Rollo, id., 128.

5. Civil Case No. 49217, Hon. Rafael T. Mendoza, Presiding Judge; rollo, G.R. No. 74376, 82.

6. Rollo, id.

7. Camilon, Serafin, J., Pascual, Crisolito, Campos, Jr., Jose, and Jurado, Desiderio, JJ., Concurring.

8. Rollo, id., 34; emphasis in original.

9. Rollo, G.R. No. 76394, 24-25.

10. Civil Case No. 33112; see id., 8, 10.

11. Jurado, Desiderio, J., Campos, J., Jose and Camilon, Serafin, JJ., Concurring; Pascual, Crisolito, J., Chairman, on leave.

12. First Division.

13. Rollo, id., 81.

14. Per Resolution, dated February 22, 1988.

15. Per Resolution, dated April 4, 1988.

16. See fn. 1, supra.

17. Rollo, G.R. No. 78182, 36-38.

18. Camilon, Serafin, J., Pronove, Ricardo and Cacdac, Bonifacio, JJ., Concurring.

19. Civil Case No. 27719, Regional Trial Court, Makati, Branch 145.

20. Rollo, G.R. No. 82281, 33-35.

21. Civil Case No. 8936, Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch CXL, Hon. Ansberto P. Paredes, presiding, see id., 32.

22. Bengzon, Eduardo, J., Kapunan, Santiago and Buena, Arturo, JJ., Concurring.

23. Rollo, id., 38.

24. See supra, 103-108.

25. Id., 32.

26. Id., 38.

27. Id., 50-51.

28. 78 Phil. 196 (1947).

29. Supra, 209; Emphasis supplied.

30. No. L-14551, July 31, 1961, 2 SCRA 873.

31. Supra, 877.

32. Supra.

33. No. L-60129, July 29, 1983, 123 SCRA 799.

34. The rule states: Questions that may be decided. - No error which does not affect the jurisdiction over the subject matter will be considered unless stated in the assignment of errors and properly argued in the brief, save as the court, as its option, may notice plain errors See rollo, G.R. No. 71169, id., 168. The pertinent paragraph of the answer states:

10. That in 1975, the Municipal Government of Makati enacted a zoning ordinance and classified the blocks between Buendia Avenue Extension and Jupiter Street as an administrative office zone with the north-northeast boundary of the zone extending up to the center line of Jupiter street. Under the said ordinance, Bel-Air Village has likewise been classified into a residential zone, with its boundary at the southwest being delimited only up to the center line of the Jupiter Street. Similarly, under Ordinance No. 81-01 of the Metro Manila Commission, Jupiter Street has been made a common boundary of the commercial blocks along the north side of the Buendia Avenue Extension and the Bel-Air Village Subdivision, so that the said street is subject to the common use of the owners of both the commercial blocks as well as the residential areas.

11. That the restoration/reconstruction of the wall on the blocks along the southern side of Jupiter Street will close the entire southside portion of Jupiter Street and will illegally deprive the abutting lot owners on the commercial blocks of their rights to have the street kept open and to have access to the street, in violation of Act 496, as amended by Republic Act 440.

35.

36. See id., 169.

37. Exhibits Nos. "18" and "19" ; see id., 168.

38. Id., 116.

39. Id.

40. Id., 66.

41. Rollo, G.R. No. 71169, id., 124.

42. Id.

43. Id.

44. Id., 124-126; emphasis in original.

45. Id., 52.

46. CIVIL CODE, art 1157, par. (2).

47. Supra, art. 1305.

48. This case should be distinguished from Perez v. Pomar, 2 Phil. 682 (1903), where it was held that "whether the plaintiff’s services were solicited or whether they were offered to the defendant for his assistance, inasmuch as these services were accepted and made use of by the latter, we must consider that there was a tacit and mutual consent as to the rendition of services." (At 686.) In that case, the defendant had enormously benefitted from the services that entitled the plaintiff to compensation on the theory that no one may unjustly enrich himself at the expense of another. (Solutio indebiti) The facts of this case differ.

49. Rollo, id., 38.

50. Id., 40.

51. Id., 47.

52. Id., 183-185.

53. Id., 92.

54. Id., 105-106.

55. Id., 193; emphasis in original.

56. Id., 45.

57. Id.

58. Id., 108-110.

59. Id., 193.

60. Id., 38.

61. RULES OF COURT, Rule 46, sec. 18.

62. Rollo, G.R. No. 71169, id., 126.

63. Id.

64. See rollo, G.R. No. 71169, id., 117.

65. CIVIL CODE, supra, art. 1159.

66. Supra, art. 1306.

67. No. L-24670, December 14, 1979, 94 SCRA 533.

68. Supra, 545-547.




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December-1988 Jurisprudence                 

  • G.R. No. 78214 December 5, 1988 - YOLANDA CABALLES v. DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM

  • G.R. No. 78207 December 6, 1988 - NEGROS NAVIGATION CO. v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION

  • G.R. No. 83177 December 6, 1988 - EDUARDO KAPUNAN, JR. v. RENATO S. DE VILLA

  • G.R. No. L-41291 December 8, 1988 - LOPEZ, LOCSIN, LEDESMA & CO. v. COURT OF APPEALS

  • G.R. No. L-53417 December 8, 1988 - EMPERATRIZ LABAYO-ROWE v. REPUBLIC OF THE PHIL.

  • G.R. No. L-54285 December 8, 1988 - CEBU STEVEDORING CO. v. REGIONAL DIRECTOR/MINISTER OF LABOR

  • G.R. No. L-58313 December 8, 1988 - GENARO NOLASCO v. TEODORO K. BELTRAN

  • G.R. No. 72321 December 8, 1988 - DIOSDIDIT CUENCA v. RESTITUTO CUENCA

  • G.R. No. 78692 December 8, 1988 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILS. v. ANTONIO LAGAHAN

  • G.R. No. 78728 December 8, 1988 - ARTEMIO BALTAZAR v. COURT OF APPEALS

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  • G.R. Nos. 80143-44 December 8, 1988 - HYDRO RESOURCES CONTRACTORS CORP. v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION

  • G.R. No. 84297 December 8, 1988 - CARMELO F. LAZATIN v. HOUSE ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL

  • G.R. No. 77294 December 12, 1988 - ANGELICA VIAJAR v. COURT OF APPEALS

  • G.R. No. L-49081 December 13, 1988 - ALLIED BANKING CORPORATION v. EMILIO V. SALAS

  • G.R. No. L-58886 December 13, 1988 - MALLARI v. PEOPLE OF THE PHIL.

  • G.R. No. L-29727 December 14, 1988 - PEDRO OLIVERAS v. CANDIDO LOPEZ

  • G.R. No. L-30821 December 14, 1988 - VIDAL BERNARDO v. COURT OF APPEALS

  • G.R. No. L-41040 & 43908-10 December 14, 1988 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILS. v. BEDA DERPO

  • G.R. No. L-46274 December 14, 1988 - CAMILO ROSELLO, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 74811 December 14, 1988 - CHUA YEK HONG v. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT

  • G.R. No. 75428 December 14, 1988 - SOCIAL SECURITY COMMISSION v. PONCIANO L. ALMEDA, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 76583 December 14, 1988 - DOMINGO ILETO v. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT

  • G.R. No. 77568 December 14, 1988 - MELISANDE MIRAFLOR v. CONCHITA CARPIO-MORALES

  • G.R. No. 76950 December 15, 1988 - PROVINCE OF CEBU v. RAMON AM. TORRES

  • G.R. No. 77770 December 15, 1988 - JOSE S. GOMEZ v. COURT OF APPEALS

  • G.R. No. 75466 December 19, 1988 - ANTONIO TOLEDO v. JOSE P. BURGOS

  • G.R. No. 78223 December 19, 1988 - HEIRS OF FRANCISCO GUBALLA, SR., ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-68111 December 20, 1988 - BERNOLI P. ARQUERO v. NAPOLEON J. FLOJO

  • G.R. No. 76824 December 20, 1988 - ROLAND ALFONSO v. COURT OF APPEALS

  • G.R. No. 76880 December 20, 1988 - ILUMINADA N. VILLEGAS v. COURT OF APPEALS

  • G.R. No. 76944 December 20, 1988 - REPUBLIC OF THE PHILS. v. CLEMENTE M. SORIANO

  • G.R. No. 77733 December 20, 1988 - LANDOIL RESOURCES CORP. v. RICARDO TENSUAN

  • G.R. No. 80452 December 20, 1988 - B. STA. RITA & CO. v. LEDIO ARROYO

  • G.R. No. L-32751 December 21, 1988 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILS. v. DIOMEDE ORONGAN

  • G.R. No. 72977 December 21, 1988 - BIENVENIDO R. BATONGBACAL v. ASSOCIATED BANK

  • G.R. No. L-47822 December 22, 1988 - PEDRO DE GUZMAN v. COURT OF APPEALS

  • G.R. No. L-56168 December 22, 1988 - CARLOTA P. VALENZUELA v. COURT OF APPEALS

  • G.R. No. 71169 December 22, 1988 - JOSE D. SANGALANG, ET AL. v. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, ET AL.

  • G.R. Nos. 76149-50 December 22, 1988 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILS. v. ROGELIO ALPETCHE

  • G.R. No. 76952 December 22, 1988 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. JUANITO SABADO

  • G.R. No. 84034 December 22, 1988 - ALBERTO SIEVERT v. COURT OF APPEALS

  • G.R. No. L-69158 December 29, 1988 - PACIFIC BANKING CORPORATION v. RAFAEL T. MENDOZA

  • G.R. No. 78698 December 29, 1988 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILS. v. YABES GATONG-O

  • G.R. No. 80347 December 29, 1988 - MANILA MIDTOWN COMMERCIAL CORP. v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION

  • G.R. No. 81771 December 29, 1988 - MAGNA RUBBER MANUFACTURING CORP. v. FRANKLIN M. DRILON

  • G.R. No. 83942 December 29, 1988 - ROMEO S. AMURAO v. COURT OF APPEALS