G.R. No. 223862, July 10, 2017 - HON. MYLYN P. CAYABYAB, IN HER CAPACITY AS THE MUNICIPAL MAYOR OF LUBAO, PAMPANGA, AND ANGELITO L. DAVID, IN HIS CAPACITY AS THE BARANGAY CHAIRMAN OF PRADO SIONGCO, LUBAO, PAMPANGA, REPRESENTED BY THEIR ATTORNEY-IN-FACT, EMMANUEL SANTOS, Petitioners, v. JAIME C. DIMSON, REPRESENTED BY HIS ATTORNEYS-IN-FACT, CARMELA R. DIMSON AND IRENE R. DIMSON, Respondent.
Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari1 assailing the Decision2 dated December 18, 2015 and the Resolution3 dated March 21, 2016 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 138699, which directed the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Guagua, Pampanga, Branch 51 to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Cease and Desist Order4 (CDO) and the Closure Order5 of petitioner Mayor Mylyn P. Cayabyab (Mayor Cayabyab) upon posting of a bond to be determined by the RTC.The Facts
Respondent Jaime C. Dimson (Dimson) is the owner of a poultry farm located in Barangay Prado Siongco, Lubao, Pampanga (subject poultry farm) which had been operating for more than 30 years. In January 2014, he applied for a barangay clearance with the office of petitioner Prado Siongco Barangay Chairman Angelita L. David (Chairman David), preparatory to his application for a business permit, and was informed that the issuance thereof is conditioned on a prior ocular inspection of the subject poultry farm by the Office of the Mayor of Lubao, Pampanga, Mayor Cayabyab. However, despite the conduct of an ocular inspection, Chairman David refused to issue the clearance; hence, no business permit was issued in favor of Dimson.6
On April 29, 2014, Dimson received7
dated April 28, 2014 from the Office of Mayor Cayabyab, directing him to desist from further conducting any poultry farming on the grounds of: (a
) lack of a Barangay Business Permit and a Mayor's Permit; (b
) lack of a pollution control officer; (c
) foul odor being emitted by the subject poultry farm that offended passing motorists, and for which complaints were filed by those affected; and (d
) the said poultry farm being situated only five (5) meters away from the national road, in violation of the 500-meter minimum distance requirement under the Code of Sanitation of the Philippines (Sanitation Code).9
In his motion for reconsideration,10
Dimson denied that there was foul odor coming from his poultry farm, at the same time, manifesting that he had already employed a pollution control officer.11
Said motion was denied by Lubao Acting Mayor Robertito V. Diaz in a letter12
dated May 20, 2014. Dissatisfied, Dimson filed another motion for reconsideration,13
contending that the subject poultry farm is not a nuisance per se
that can be abated by the local government without the intervention of the courts.14
The motion was denied by Mayor Cayabyab in a letter15
dated June 13, 2014, which clarified that the CDO was primarily issued on the lack of the requisite Barangay Business Permit and Mayor's Permit. Thereafter, a Closure Order16
dated June 20, 2014 was issued by Mayor Cayabyab effectively shutting down the subject poultry farm.17The RTC Proceedings
Aggrieved, Dimson filed a Petition for Certiorari, Mandamus,
Prohibition (With Application for Preliminary Mandatory Injunction)18
and prayed for the issuance of a TRO against Mayor Cayabyab and Chairman David (petitioners) before the RTC of Guagua, Pampanga, docketed as Sp. Civil Case No. G-14-685, which was raffled to Branch 52. He maintained that his poultry farm is not a nuisance per se
that can be summarily abated; hence, respondents grossly abused their discretion when they withheld his permits, and issued the CDO and Closure Order.19
In their defense,20
respondents averred that: (a
) the non-issuance of the Barangay Business Permit was based on valid grounds as there were written complaints against the operation of the poultry farm, and a public hearing was conducted thereon; (b
) the non-issuance of the Mayor's Permit was justified considering the lack of a Barangay Business Permit; (c
) the issuance of the CDO and Closure Order was justified and in accordance with due process; and (d
) the poultry farm violated not only the Sanitation Code but also the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning Ordinance requiring poultry farms to be 500 meters away from the major roads and/or highways.21
In an Order22
dated October 2, 2014, the RTC denied Dimson's application for TRO for failure to establish a clear and unmistakable right to the said issuance and to show that he will suffer irreparable injury. Moreover, the RTC opined that the issue of whether or not petitioners have the right to order the closure of the subject farm is best threshed out in the main case. It likewise ruled that the TRO can no longer serve its purpose as the act sought to be restrained was already fait accompli
, since a notice of closure was already posted on the concrete wall of the subject poultry farm effective September 29, 2014.23
Due to the Presiding Judge's voluntary inhibition in the case, the same was re-raffied to Branch 51 of the same RTC.24
Dimson filed a motion for reconsideration which was, however, denied in an Order25
dated December 22, 2014. Unperturbed, Dimson filed a petition for certiorari26
before the CA, seeking to set aside the Orders dated October 2, 2014 and December 22, 2014, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 138699.27The CA Ruling
In a Decision28
dated December 18, 2015, the CA granted the petition, and directed the RTC to issue a TRO against the implementation of the CDO and the Closure Order of Mayor Cayabyab.29
The CA ruled that the RTC gravely abused its discretion in denying Dimson's application for a TRO which was essentially rooted on a determination of whether the subject poultry farm is a nuisance per se
or a nuisance per accidens
. Considering that poultry farming is a legitimate business, by its nature alone, the same can only be a nuisance per accidens
if in the course of its operations, it should become objectionable to such extent that it offends some laws, public policy, or should become a danger to public health and welfare. It may only be abated on the strength of judicial fiat.30
Consequently, the CA held that Dimson was able to establish the concurrence of the requisites for the issuance of injunctive relief, to wit: (a
) he has the right to engage in poultry farming; (b
) the issuance of the CDO and the closure order would work injustice to him; and (c
) the issuance of the said orders which amounted to an abatement of his poultry enterprise without the required judicial intervention violates his rights, which cannot be justified under the general welfare clause.31
The CA likewise held that the issuance of a TRO cannot be denied on the ground of fait accompli
since the acts complained of is a continuing prohibition on an otherwise legitimate business. Hence, Dimson could still resume his operations in the meantime, or until a final decision on the merits of the main case is rendered by the RTC, and the status quo ante
may still be attained, and, thereafter, preserved.32
Dissatisfied, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration,33
which was, however, denied in a Resolution34
dated March 21, 2016; hence, the instant petition.The Issue Before the Court
The essential issue for the Court's resolution is whether or not the CA committed reversible error in directing the issuance of a TRO against the implementation of the CDO and the Closure Order of Mayor Cayabyab.The Court's Ruling
The Court grants the petition.
"A writ of preliminary injunction and a TRO are injunctive reliefs and preservative remedies for the protection of substantive rights and interests."35
To be entitled to the injunctive writ, the applicant must show that: (a
) there exists a clear and unmistakable right to be protected; (b
) this right is directly threatened by an act sought to be enjoined; (c
) the invasion of the right is material and substantial; and (d
) there is an urgent and paramount necessity for the writ to prevent serious and irreparable damage. The grant or denial of an injunctive relief in a pending case rests on the sound discretion of the court since the assessment and evaluation of evidence towards that end involve findings of fact left for the conclusive determination of the said court.36
"Hence, the exercise of judicial discretion by a court in injunctive matters must not be interfered with, except when there is grave abuse of discretion."37
The burden is, thus, on the applicant to show that there is meritorious ground for the issuance of a TRO in his favor,38
since an application for injunctive relief is construed strictly against him.39
Here, Dimson failed to sufficiently show the presence of the requisites to warrant the issuance of a TRO against the CDO and the Closure Order of Mayor Cayabyab.
Preliminarily, it must be clarified that contrary to the CA's ruling,40
the grant or denial of Dimson's application for TRO was not
essentially rooted on a determination of whether the subject poultry farm is a nuisance per se
or a nuisance per accidens
, but rather on whether or not there was an ostensible showing of a sufficient justification for the issuance of the CDO and the Closure Order. Corollary is the issue of whether or not there were prima facie
valid reasons for the withholding of the barangay clearance, which is a prerequisite to the renewal of Dimson's business permit to operate.
A business permit must be secured from the municipal business permits and licensing office in order for the business to legally operate in the locality.41
While poultry farming is admittedly a legitimate business, it cannot operate without a business permit, which expires on the 31st
of December of every year and must be renewed before the end of January of the following year.
In the present case, there is no showing that Dimson filed any application for renewal of his business permit to operate the subject poultry farm in 2014, apparently due to his failure to secure the necessary barangay clearance which was not issued based on complaints of foul odor being emitted by the said farm. Records show that complaints from neighboring barangays were received by the office of Mayor Cayabyab bewailing the foul odor coming from the said farm,42
which was confirmed upon ocular inspection conducted by the Health and Sanitation Office of the Municipality of Lubao, Pampanga.43
Settled is the rule that acts of public officers are presumed to be regular and valid, unless sufficiently shown to be otherwise.44
In this case, Dimson was unable to refute the finding that foul odor is being emitted by his farm, having failed to present the inspection report of the sanitary officer who purportedly did not note any such foul smell in the fann.45
Not having passed the necessary sanitation standard, there was, therefore, a prima facie
valid reason for the withholding of the required barangay clearance, which is a prerequisite to the renewal of Dimson's business permit to operate.
Having failed to apply for and secure the necessary business pennit to operate in 2014 on account of his inability to obtain the required barangay clearance due to non-compliance with a requirement standard,46
Dimson may not legally operate in the Municipality of Lubao, Pampanga, thereby, warranting the issuance by Mayor Cayabyab of the CDO and the Closure Order. Accordingly, no error, much less grave abuse of discretion can be ascribed on the RTC in denying Dimson's application for the issuance of a TRO against the said orders. In the absence of a business permit, Dimson has no clear legal right to resume his operations pending final determination by the RTC of the merits of the main case for certiorari
, and prohibition. A clear legal right means one clearly founded in or granted by law or is enforceable as a matter of law, which is not extant in the present case. It is settled that the possibility of irreparable damage without proof of an actual existing right is not a ground for the issuance of an injunctive relief.47
In fine, it was grave error for the CA to order the issuance of a TRO against the implementation of the CDO and the Closure Order of Mayor Cayabyab. A court may issue injunctive relief against acts of public officers only when the applicant has made out a case of invalidity or irregularity strong enough to overcome the presumption of validity or regularity, and has established a clear legal right to the remedy sought,48
which was not shown here.WHEREFORE
, the petltlon is GRANTED
. The Decision dated December 18, 2015 and the Resolution dated March 21, 2016 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 138699 are hereby SET ASIDE
.SO ORDERED.Sereno, C.J., (Chairperson), Leonardo-De Castro
, and Caguioa, JJ.
, concur.Del Castillo, J.
, on official leave.
1Rollo, pp. 3-14.
2 Id. at 25-36. Penned by Associate Justice Ricardo R. Rosario with Associate Justices Edwin D. Sorongon and Henri Jean Paul B. Inting concurring.
3 Id. at 43.
4 Records, Vol. I, p. 42.
5 Id. at 60.
6Rollo, p. 26.
7 Id. at 27.
8 Records, Vol. I, p. 42.
10 See Motion for Reconsideration with Motion to Lift Cease and Desist Order dated May 5, 2014; id. at 43-48.
11 See id. at 44-46. See also rollo, p. 27.
12 Records, Vol. I, pp. 49-52.
13 See Manifestation with Second Motion for Reconsideration dated June 2, 2014; id. at 53-58.
14 See id. at 55. See also rollo, p. 27.
15 Records, Vol. I, p. 59.
16 Id. at 60.
17 See rollo, p. 27.
18 Dated June 27, 2014. Records, Vol. I, pp. 16-39.
19 See id. at 35-36.
20 See Answer with Special Affirmative Defense and Counterclaim with Opposition to Issuance of Provisional Remedies dated September 11, 2014; records, Vol. II, pp. 358-365.
21 See id. at 362.
22Rollo, pp. 17-21. Issued by Judge Jonel S. Mercado.
23 See id. at 20-21.
24 Id. at 28. See also Order dated October 7, 2014; records, Vol. II, pp. 620-625.
25Rollo, pp. 22-23. Penned by Presiding Judge Merideth D. Delos Santos-Mailig.
26 Not attached to the rollo.
27 See rollo, p. 25.
28 Id. at 25-36.
29 Id. at 35.
30 See id. at 32-33.
31 Id. at 34.
32 See id. at 34-35.
33 Dated January 5, 2016; id. at 37-40.
34 Id. at 43.
35Australian Professional Realty, Inc. v. Municipality of Padre Garcia, Batangas, 684 Phil. 283, 291-292 (2012).
36 Id. at 292-293.
37 Id. at 293.
39 See St. James College of Parañaque v. Equitable PCI Bank, 641 Phil. 452, 471 (2010).
40 See rollo, p. 32.
41 See Item 3.3 of Department of Interior and Local Government-Department of Trade and Industry (DILG-DTI) Joint Memorandum Circular No. 01, series of 2010, dated August 6, 2010.
42 See records, Vol. II, pp. 384-387 and 390-411.
43 See rollo, p. 9.
44Secretary Boncodin v. National Power Corp. Employees Consolidated Union (NECU), 534 Phil. 741, 759 (2006).
45 See records, Volume I, p. 33.
46 Under Item 4.2.2 (l) of DILG-DTI Joint Memorandum Circular No. 01, series of 2010, dated August 6, 2010, inspections to check compliance with all the requirement standards, i.e., zoning and environment ordinances, building and fire safety, health and sanitation regulations, will be undertaken within the year after the issuance of the business permit.
47 See Australian Professional Realty, Inc. v. Municipality of Padre Garcia, Batangas, supra note 35, at 293.
48 See Secretary Boncodin v. National Power Corp. Employees Consolidated Union (NECU), supra note 44, at 759-760.