G.R. No. 202342, July 19, 2017
AMA LAND, INC., Petitioner, v. WACK WACK RESIDENTS' ASSOCIATION, INC., Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Before the Court is a petition1 for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the Decision2 dated June 14, 2012 (Decision) of the Court of Appeals3 (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 118994, granting the petition filed by respondent Wack Wack Residents' Association, Inc. (WWRAI), reversing and setting aside the October 28, 2010 and February 23, 2011 Orders4 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City assigned in San Juan (Metropolitan Manila), Branch 264 (RTC) in Civil Case No. 65668, ordering the RTC to issue the injunctive relief prayed for by WWRAI pending the determination of the petition for the declaration of permanent easement of right of way, and directing WWRAI to amend the title and the averments in the petition before the CA by disclosing the names of its principals and bringing the action in a representative capacity.
A commercial and residential building project located at Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue comer Fordham Street in Wack Wack Village, Mandaluyong City, was proposed by x x x AMA Land, Inc. (AMALI x x x) in [the] mid-1990s. As the latter proceeded to secure the needed licenses and permits for the construction of the project, the following were issued: Building Location Permit; Certificate of Locational Viability; Locational Clearance; Excavation and Ground Preparation Permit; Building Permit; Environmental Compliance Certificate; HLURB Certificate of Registration; and HLURB License to Sell.The CA Ruling
On March 18, 1996, AMALI notified [WWRAI] - a registered homeowners' association of Wack Wack Village - of its intention to use Fordham Street as an access road and staging area of the project. As AMALI received no response from [WWRAI], the former temporarily enclosed the job site and set up a field office along Fordham Street. [WWRAI] claimed, however, that AMALI already converted part of the said street as barrack site and staging area even before March 18, 1996. All subsequent attempts of [WWRAI] to remove the said field office proved futile.
[On May 8, 1996,] AMALI then filed a petition before the [RTC], [wherein it seeks the temporary use of Fordham Street belonging to WWRAI as an access road to AMALI's construction site of its AMA Tower project pursuant to Article 6565 of the Civil Code, and to establish a permanent easement of right of way in its favor over a portion of Fordham Street pursuant to Article 6496 of the Civil Code. Aside from its prayer for the declaration of temporary and permanent easement of right of way in its favor over a portion of Fordham Street, AMALI is also] praying for: (a) a temporary restraining order (TRO) to immediately enjoin [WWRAI] from demolishing and removing the temporary field office, constructing a fence isolating Fordham Street, and preventing AMALI from gaining access to the construction site; (b) a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction directing [WWRAI] to allow AMALI to use Fordham Street as an access road and staging area; (c) an order making the TRO and the aforesaid writ permanent; and (d) an order declaring a permanent right of way in favor of AMALI.
In its answer, [WWRAI] contends that the project of AMALI violates the applicable zoning ordinances; that the licenses and permits issued in favor of AMALI were irregular and unlawful; that the project is a nuisance, and; that Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue can be utilized as the staging area of the project.
On July 24, 1997, the [RTC] granted the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction "directing [WWRAI] to allow [AMALI] to use Fordham Street through a temporary easement of right of way".
In 1998, due to financial crisis, the construction of the project was put on hold and AMALI was constrained to finish merely the basement. Although AMALI asserted that "it continued to pay [WWRAI] for the use of Fordham Street", [WWRAI] claimed otherwise.
In 2002, before the Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa, Branch 256, AMALI filed a petition for corporate rehabilitation which was later on approved. Also, the said rehabilitation court in Muntinlupa directed the Office of the Building Official and/or Office of the City Engineer of Mandaluyong City to issue an Amended Building Permit in favor of AMALI. As a consequence, Building Permit No. 08-2011-0048 was issued.
As AMALI resume[d] the project, [WWRAI] filed in January 2010, an "Urgent Motion to Set for Hearing" its application for temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction. The [RTC] heard the application and received the evidence presented by [WWRAI]. AMALI, on the other hand, failed to attend the proceedings. On October 28, 2010, the [RTC] ruled against the motion. Thus, it ordered the following:WHEREFORE, [WWRAI]'s application for the issuance of temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction is DENIED for lack of merit.A motion for reconsideration of the above order was filed but was denied on February 23, 2011. Hence, the x x x petition [for certiorari under Rule 65 before the CA].
[AMALI] is directed to make representations with the Building Officials of Mandaluyong City on its application for permit to construct the building.
Attention of the Building Officials of Mandaluying (sic) City is invited to the pending controversy of [the] parties involved, hence, his (sic) prompt final decision is suggested. x x x
On June 10, 2011, after a [clarificatory] hearing, [the CA] granted [WWRAI]'s application for a temporary restraining order[, and, accordingly, AMALI was commanded to cease and desist from further committing the act complained of, which is the construction of the commercial and residential condominium project located along EDSA comer Fordham Street in Wack Wack Village.7] Then, on July 28, 2011, the application of [WWRAI] for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction was granted as well pending resolution of the x x x petition for certiorari [before the CA].8
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is GRANTED. The October 28, 2010 and February 23, 2011 Orders of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City assigned in San Juan (Metropolitan Manila), BranchWithout filing a motion for reconsideration, AMALI filed the instant Rule 45 petition for review on certiorari.
264, in Civil Case No. 65668 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The latter court is hereby ordered to issue the injunctive relief prayed for by the petitioner Wack Wack Residents Association, Inc. pending determination of the petition for the declaration of PERMANENT easement of right of way.
Also, the petitioner is DIRECTED to AMEND the following: (a) the TITLE; and (b) the AVERMENTS, in the present petition by disclosing the names of its principals and bringing the action in a representative capacity.
whether WWRAI is guilty of forum shopping;
whether WWRAI is entitled to a temporary restraining order and/or a writ of preliminary injunction;
whether the CA Decision amounts to a prejudgment of the merits of Civil Case No. 65668 (original petition for easement of right of way);
whether the CA Decision disturbed the status quo prevailing before the filing of the WWRAI petition; and
whether WWRAI is the real party in interest in this case.10
A writ of preliminary injunction is a provisional remedy which is adjunct to a main suit, as well as a preservative remedy issued to maintain the status quo of the things subject of the action or the relations between the parties during the pendency of the suit. The purpose of injunction is to prevent threatened or continuous irremediable injury to the parties before their claims can be thoroughly studied and educated. Its sole aim is to preserve the status quo until the merits of the case are fully heard. Under Section 3, Rule 58 of the Rules of Court, an application for a writ of preliminary injunction may be granted if the following grounds are established:Thus, to be entitled to the injunctive writ, the petitioner must show that: (1) there exists a clear and unmistakable right to be protected; (2) this right is directly threatened by the act sought to be enjoined; (3) the invasion of the right is material and substantial; and (4) there is an urgent and paramount necessity for the writ to prevent serious and irreparable damage.13
(a) That the applicant is entitled to the relief demanded, and the whole or part of such relief consists in restraining the commission or continuance of the act or acts complained of, or in requiring the performance of an act or acts, either for a limited period or perpetually; (b) That the commission, continuance or non-performance of the act or acts complained of during the litigation would probably work injustice to the applicant; or (c) That a party, court, agency or a person is doing, threatening, or is attempting to do, or is procuring or suffering to be done, some act or acts probably in violation of the rights of the applicant respecting the subject of the action or proceeding, and tending to render the judgment ineffectual.12
[WWRAI]'s allegation that [its members'16] right to live in a peaceful, quiet and safe environment will be violated in the event that the condominium project of [AMALI] will be erected is untenable. The alleged noise and dust that may be caused by the construction is the natural consequence thereof. However, this annoyance that may be brought by the construction is not permanent in nature but is merely temporary and once the building is completed, [said members'] right to live in a peaceful, quiet and safe environment will be restored without noise and dust.Indeed, WWRAI was unable to convincingly demonstrate a clear and unmistakable right that must be protected by the injunctive writ. The apprehensions of its members are, as correctly ruled by the RTC, speculative and insufficient to substantiate the element of serious and irreparable damage.
As to the allegations that [said members'] privacy may be invaded for the reason that they may be photographed or videotaped without their knowledge, these fears are merely speculative and cannot be taken into consideration.
As admitted by [WWRAI's] witness, the construction activity is suspended, hence, there is nothing to restrain x x x. There is no urgent and paramount necessity for the writ to prevent serious damage.17
First of all, the CA Decision categorically found that WWRAI is the owner of the subject Fordham Street as this was expressly admitted by AMALI and pursuant to the RTC's pre-trial order.25 Thus, inasmuch as AMALI prays for the grant of both temporary and permanent easements of right of way over a portion of Fordham Street against WWRAI in the original petition, WWRAI should be deemed to be the owner of the servient estate. Simply stated, WWRAI, and not its members, is the real party in interest in this case. To be sure, even AMALI itself filed the original petition against WWRAI and not against the latter's members.
FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
(DECLARATION OF TEMPORARY EASEMENT OF RIGHT OF WAY)
x x x x
3.2 [AMALI]'s use of Fordham Street belonging to [WWRAI) as an access road to [AMALI)'s construction site is indispensable to the construction of AMA TOWER Project. 3.3 [AMALI]'s property is so situated that the temporary site construction office and the temporary ingress and egress for the construction workers can only be created with least prejudice in Fordham Street. The Dolmar property on the right side of [AMALI]'s property is an existing commercial structure while the Sta. Cruz's at the back is a residential property. The front portion of [AMALI]'s property is facing a main thorough fare[, Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA),] and will be a part of the construction itself. 3.4 [AMALI] is ready, willing and able to pay the proper indemnity. 3.5 Article 656 of the New Civil Code provides that: "Art. 656. If it be indispensable for the construction, repair, improvement, alteration or beautification of a building, to carry materials through the estate of another, or to raise thereon scaffolding or other objects necessary for the work, the owner of such estate shall be obliged to permit the act, after receiving payment of the proper indemnity for the damage caused him. (5691)"
SECOND CAUSE OF ACTIONx x x x
(DECLARATION OF PERMANENT EASEMENT OF RIGHT OF WAY)
4.2 The property of [AMALI] where the site of AMA TOWER is situated is surrounded by estates of others. A commercial building of Dolmar is on the right side of [AMALI]'s property and a residential property of Sta. Cruz is at the back. The front portion of [AMALI]'s property is facing a main thorough fare. 4.3 The property of [AMALI] has no adequate outlet to a public highway. The front portion of the property facing EDSA is a difficult and dangerous outlet not only for [AMALI] but for the public as well. 4.4 The use of small portion of Fordham Street near EDSA is a point least prejudicial to [WWRAI]. 4.5 [AMALI] is ready, willing and able to pay the proper indemnity. 4.6 Article 649 of the New Civil Code provides that: "Art. 649. The owner, or any person who by virtue of a real right may cultivate or use any immovable, which is surrounded by other immovables pertaining to other persons and without adequate outlet to a public highway, is entitled to demand a right of way through the neighboring estates, after payment of the proper indemnity. x x x x"24
Article 656 of the New Civil Code provides:The RTC did not even factor in its Order the fact that the front portion of AMALI's property where the proposed AMA Tower project is situated is facing EDSA, which AMALI describes as a main thoroughfare. The said Order also fails to identify the specific portion of Fordham Street that would be subject to the temporary easement of right of way."If it be indispensable for the construction, repair, improvement, alteration or beautification of a building, to carry materials through the estate of another, or to raise thereon scaffolding or other objects necessary for the work, the owner of such estate shall be obliged to permit the act, after receiving payment of the proper indemnity for the damage caused him."[WWRAI's] obligation is undoubtedly established by the above provision.
From a map of the area in question (Annex "G" of [AMALI's] Reply), it is unmistakable that Fordham Street in Wack Wack Village, which is owned by [WWRAI], is the only road which [AMALI] is able to use with respect to the necessary preparations relative to the construction project.34
The prevailing rule is that courts should avoid issuing a writ of preliminary injunction which would in effect dispose of the main case without trial. x x x There would in effect be a prejudgment of the main case and a reversal of the rule on the burden of proof since it would assume the proposition which the petitioners are inceptively bound to prove.36The RTC erred and/or gravely abused its discretion when it granted AMALI's application for preliminary mandatory injunction because, in so doing, it prematurely decided disputed facts and disposed of the merits of the case without the benefit of a full-blown trial wherein testimonial and documentary evidence could be fully and exhaustively presented, heard and refuted by the parties.37 As such, the RTC Order dated July 24, 1997 insofar as it granted a temporary easement of right of way over Fordham Street in favor of AMALI is concerned is declared void and of no force and effect.38 The RTC lacked jurisdiction to declare a temporary easement of right of way arising from Article 656 of the Civil Code without a full-blown trial.
* Designated additional member per Raffle dated July 12, 2017 vice Associate Justice Estela M. PerlasBernabe.
1Rollo (Vol. I), pp. 3-49 (exclusive of Annexes).
2 Id. at 51-65. Penned by Associate Justice Danton Q. Bueser, with Associate Justices Sesinando E. Villon and Ricardo R. Rosario concurring.
3 Special Former Tenth Division.
4Rollo (Vol. I), pp. 66-79. Both Orders were penned by Presiding Judge Leoncio M. Janolo, Jr.
5 CIVIL CODE, Art. 656. If it be indispensable for the construction, repair, improvement, alteration or beautification of a building, to carry materials through the estate of another, or to raise thereon scaffolding or other objects necessary for the work, the owner of such estate shall be obliged to permit the act, after receiving payment of the proper indemnity for the damage caused him.
6 Id., Art. 649. The owner, or any person who by virtue of a real right may cultivate or use any immovable, which is surrounded by other immovables pertaining to other persons and without adequate outlet to a public highway, is entitled to demand a right of way through the neighboring estates, after payment of the proper indemnity.
Should this easement be established in such a manner that its use may be continuous for all the needs of the dominant estate, establishing a permanent passage, the indemnity shall consist of the value of the land occupied and the amount of the damage caused to the servient estate.
In case the right of way is limited to the necessary passage for the cultivation of the estate surrounded by others and for the gathering of its crops through the servient estate without a permanent way, the indemnity shall consist in the payment of the damage caused by such encumbrance.
This easement is not compulsory if the isolation of the immovable is due to the proprietor's own acts.
7Rollo (Vol. I), p. 401.
8 Id. at 53-56.
9 Id. at 63-64.
10 Id. at 16.
11 728 Phil. 608 (2014).
12 Id. at 617.
13Australian Professional Realty, Inc. v. Municipality of Padre Garcia, Batangas, 684 Phil. 283, 292 (2012); citation omitted.
14 Id. at 292-293; citations omitted.
15 Id. at 293; citation omitted.
16 Per RTC Order dated October 28, 2010, WWRAI presented the judicial affidavits of four of its members, namely: Milagros Santos, Victoria Huang, Albert Montilla and Miguel Angelo Sarte Silverio; rollo (Vol. I), p. 69.
17 RTC Order dated October 28, 2010, id. at 74-75.
18Rollo (Vol. II), pp. 890-897.
19 Id. at 897.
20 See RULES OF COURT, Rule 131, Sec. 3(m).
21Tapay v. Cruz, 264 Phil. 850, 856 and 860 (1990).
22Rollo (Vol. I), pp. 330-347.
23 RTC Order dated July 24, 1997, id. at 353.
24 Petition before the RTC, id. at 316-318.
25Rollo (Vol. I), p. 63.
26 CIVIL CODE, Art. 650. The easement of right of way shall be established at the point least prejudicial to the servient estate, and, insofar as consistent with this rule, where the distance from the dominant estate to a public highway may be the shortest.
27 See Costabella Corp. v. Court of Appeals, 271 Phil. 350, 358 (1991).
28 De Leon and De Leon, COMMENTS AND CASES ON PROPERTY (2011 ed.), p. 520, citing Rivera v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 251 Phil. 287 (1989).
29Ramos, Sr. v. Gatchalian Realty, Inc., 238 Phil. 689, 698 (1987).
30 De Leon and De Leon, COMMENTS AND CASES ON PROPERTY, supra note 28, at 519.
31 See Costabella Corp. v. Court of Appeals, supra note 27.
32 Order of the RTC dated July 24, 1997, rollo (Vol. I), p. 354.
33 Id. at 349.
34 Id. at 353.
35 G.R. No. 64220, March 31, 1992, 207 SCRA 622.
36 Id. at 629-630; cases cited omitted.
37 See Republic v. Spouses Lazo, 744 Phil. 367, 400-401 (2014).
38 See id. at 402.
39Searth Commodities Corp. v. Court of Appeals, supra note 35, at 630; cases cited omitted.