Sunday, January 31, 2010

SC round-up Jan 22-25 2010

The site is down this morning, so we turned to the servers, which fortunately are updated on Supreme Court decisions.

The Supreme Court paves the way for the construction of a 85-story Skycity condominium building in Ortigas Ave., cor, EDSA Greenhills, San Juan as it overrules the objections of Greenhills East Association, Inc. The Court says,

The Court cannot find fault in HLURB’s assertion that the real test of whether a land use serves the need of a district is not in the size or height of the buildings but in the sufficiency or surplus of the business or human activities in a given district to which they cater. Land use is affected by the intensity of such activities. Extraordinary population density or overcrowding, brought about by competition for space in the scarce area of the district, is to be avoided. Using this test, the HLURB, which is the clearing house for efficient land use, found no clear showing that respondent EGI’s project if finished would cause havoc in the population level of the land district where the project lies.

What is more, the houses of petitioner GEA’s members are separated by fence and guarded gates from the adjacent areas outside their subdivision. Their exclusiveness amply protects their yen for greater space than the rest of the people of the metropolis outside their enclave can hope for. Respondent EGI’s project offers no threat to the subdivision’s privacy.1avvphil It is on the other side of the fence, wholly unconnected to the workings within the subdivision. The new building would be in the stream of human traffic that passes EDSA and Ortigas Avenue. Consequently, it would largely attract people whose primary activities connect to those wide avenues. It would seem unreasonable for petitioner GEA to dictate on property owners outside their gates how they should use their lands if such use is not in contravention of law.

In another housing law matter, the Court rules that the office of the public prosecutor and the trial court have jurisdiction over criminal actions for violation of P.D. 957; and declares that HLURB’s subsequent issuance to a developer of a license to sell did not extinguish his criminal liability for selling subdivision lots prior to the issuance of such license.

In an ejectment case, the Court agrees with the Court of Appeals on the issue of recalling a writ of possession after the PNB, who applied for it, failed to renew its leasehold right over the subject property, a two hectare lot in Binondo Manila.

The Court also restores the tenants of a farm in Urdaneta Pangasinan after the tenants signed away their tenancy rights for Php 3,000. The Court says,

"...tenancy relations cannot be bargained away except for the strong reasons provided by law which must be convincingly shown by evidence in line with the State's policy of achieving a dignified existence for the small farmers free from pernicious institutional restraints and practices."

In criminal law, the Court applies the chain of custody rule in acquitting a drug suspect.

In taxation, the Courtdeclares that credit cooperatives are not liable for withholding taxes on interest from the savings and time deposits of its members and rules in favor of the Municiplaity of Pagbilao and the Province of Quezon over NAPOCOR's claims of exemption from real property taxes for the reason, among others, that NAPOCOR failed to pay under protest before lodging an appeal with the Local Board of Assessment Appeals.

In political law, the Supreme Court, through Justice Antonio Carpio shoots down the law creating a new legislative district of the City of Malolos. Justice Roberto Abad dissents.

On the side issue of legal ethics, the Court looks with disfavor on the lawyer who managed to delay the proceedings for the take over of his foreclosed home by GSIS and asks the Integrated bar of the Philippines to initiate disciplinary action on him.

Lastly, the Supreme Court agrees with the Court of Appeals that the principal is not bound by the real estate mortgage executed by the authorized agent in her own name without indicating the principal, but nonetheless, reverses the Court of Appeals on the ground that the principal slept on his rights. Said the Supreme Court,

Notwithstanding the nullity of the real estate mortgage executed by Tabing and her husband, we find that the equity principle of laches is applicable in the instant case. Laches is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it. Its essential elements are: (1) conduct on the part of the defendant, or of one under whom he claims, giving rise to the situation complained of; (2) delay in asserting complainant’s right after he had knowledge of the defendant’s conduct and after he has an opportunity to sue; (3) lack of knowledge or notice on the part of the defendant that the complainant would assert the right on which he bases his suit; and (4) injury or prejudice to the defendant in the event relief is accorded to the complainant.

There is no absolute rule on what constitutes laches. It is a creation of equity and applied not really to penalize neglect or sleeping upon one’s rights but rather to avoid recognizing a right when to do so would result in a clearly inequitable situation. The question of laches, we said, is addressed to the sound discretion of the court and each case must be decided according to its particular circumstances. Verily, in a number of cases, it had been held that laches, the essence of which is the neglect to assert a right over a long period of time, may prevent recovery of a titled property.

In the present case, records clearly show that respondents could have filed an action to annul the mortgage on their properties, but for unexplained reasons, they failed to do so. They only questioned the loan and mortgage transactions in December 1996, or after the lapse of more than five (5) years from the date of the foreclosure sale. It bears noting that the real estate mortgage was registered and annotated on the titles of respondents, and the latter were even informed of the extrajudicial foreclosure and the scheduled auction. Instead of impugning the real estate mortgage and opposing the scheduled public auction, respondents’ lawyer wrote a letter to petitioner and merely asked that the scheduled auction be postponed to a later date. Even after five (5) years, respondents still failed to oppose the foreclosure and the subsequent transfer of titles to petitioner when their agent, Tabing, acting in behalf of Cayetano, sent a letter proposing to buy back the properties. It was only when the negotiations failed that respondents filed the instant case. Clearly, respondents slept on their rights.

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