Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

 

G.R. No. 103882 November 25, 1998

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,
vs.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS AND REPUBLIC REAL ESTATE CORPORATION, respondents, CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES, intervenor.

G.R. No. 105276 November 25, 1998

PASAY CITY AND REPUBLIC REAL ESTATE CORPORATION, petitioners,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

 

PURISIMA, J.:

At bar are two consolidated petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court. Here, the Court is confronted with a case commenced before the then Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) of Rizal in Pasay City, in 1961, more than 3 decades back, that has spanned six administrations of the Republic and outlasted the tenure of ten (10) Chief Justices of the Supreme Court.

In G.R. No. 103882, the Republic of the Philippines, as petitioner, assails the Decision, dated January 29, 1992 and Amended Decision, dated April 28, 1992, of the Court of Appeals 1 which affirmed with modification the Decision of the former Court of First Instance of Rizal (Branch 7, Pasay City) in Civil Case No. 2229-P, entitled "Republic of the Philippines vs. Pasay City and Republic Real Estate Corporation".

The facts that matter are, as follows:

Republic Act No. 1899 ("RA 1899"), which was approved on June 22, 1957, authorized the reclamation of foreshore lands by chartered cities and municipalities. Section I of said law, reads:

Sec. 1. Authority is hereby granted to all municipalities and chartered cities to undertake and carry out at their own expense the reclamation by dredging, filling, or other means, of any foreshore lands bordering them, and to establish, provide, construct, maintain and repair proper and adequate docking and harbor facilities as such municipalities and chartered cities may determine in consultation with the Secretary of Finance and the Secretary of Public Works and Communications.

On May 6, 1958, invoking the a forecited provision of RA 1899, the Pasay City Council passed Ordinance No. 121, for the reclamation of Three Hundred (300) hectares of foreshore lands in Pasay City, empowering the City Mayor to award and enter into reclamation contracts, and prescribing terms and conditions therefor. The said Ordinance was amended on April 21, 1959 by Ordinance No. 158, which authorized the Republic Real Estate Corporation ("RREC") to reclaim foreshore lands of Pasay City under certain terms and conditions.

On April 24, 1959, Pasay City and RREC entered into an Agreement 2 for the reclamation of the foreshore lands in Pasay City.

On December 19, 1961, the Republic of the Philippines ("Republic") filed a Complaint 3 for Recovery of Possession and Damages with Writ of Preliminary Preventive injunction and Mandatory Injunction, docketed as Civil Case No. 2229-P before the former Court of First Instance of Rizal, (Branch 7, Pasay City).

On March 5, 1962, the Republic of the Philippines filed an Amended Complaint 4 questioning subject Agreement between Pasay City and RREC (Exhibit "P") on the grounds that the subject-matter of such Agreement is outside the commerce of man, that its terms and conditions are violative of RA 1899, and that the said Agreement was executed without any public bidding.

The Answers 5 of RREC and Pasay City, dated March 10 and March 14, 1962, respectively, averred that the subject-matter of said Agreement is within the commerce of man, that the phrase "foreshore lands" within the contemplation of RA 1899 has a broader meaning than the cited definition of the term in the Words and Phrases and in the Webster's Third New International Dictionary and the plans and specifications of the reclamation involved were approved by the authorities concerned.

On April 26,1962, Judge Angel H. Mojica, (now deceased) of the former Court of First Instance of Rizal (Branch 7, Pasay City) issued an Order 6 the dispositive portion of which was to the following effect:

WHEREFORE, the court hereby orders the defendants, their agents, and all persons claiming under them, to refrain from "further reclaiming or committing acts of dispossession or dispoilation over any area within the Manila Bay or the Manila Bay Beach Resort", until further orders of the court.

On the following day, the same trial court issued a writ of preliminary injunction 7 which enjoined the defendants, RREC and Pasay City, their agents, and all persons claiming under them "from further reclaiming or committing acts of dispossession."

Thereafter, a Motion to Intervene 8, dated June 27, 1962, was filed by Jose L. Bautista, Emiliano Custodio, Renato Custodio, Roger de la Rosa, Belen Gonzales, Norma Martiner, Emilia E. Paez, Ambrosio R. Parreno, Antolin M. Oreta, Sixto L. Orosa, Pablo S. Sarmiento, Jesus Yujuico, Zamora Enterprises, Inc., Industrial and Commercial Factors, Inc., Metropolitan Distributors of the Philippines, and Bayview Hotel, Inc. stating inter alia that they were buyers of lots in the Manila Bay area being reclaimed by RREC, whose rights would be affected by whatever decision to be rendered in the case. The Motion was granted by the trial court and the Answer attached thereto admitted. 9

The defendants and the intervenors then moved to dismiss 10 the Complaint of the Republic, placing reliance on Section 3 of Republic Act No. 5187, which reads:

Sec. 3. Miscellaneous Projects

xxx xxx xxx

m. For the construction of seawall and limited access highway from the south boundary of the City of Manila to Cavite City, to the south, and from the north boundary of the City of Manila to the municipality of Mariveles, province of Bataan, to the north, including the reclamation of the foreshore and submerged areas: Provided, That priority in the construction of such seawalls, highway and attendant reclamation works shall be given to any corporation and/or corporations that may offer to undertake at its own expense such projects, in which case the President of the Philippines may, after competitive didding, award contracts for the construction of such project, with the winning bidder shouldering all costs thereof, the same to be paid in terms of percentage fee of the contractor which shall not exceed fifty percent of the area reclaimed by the contractor and shall represent full compensation for the purpose, the provisions of the Public Land Law concerning disposition of reclaimed and foreshore lands to the contrary notwithstanding: Provided, finally, that the foregoing provisions and those of other laws, executive orders, rules and regulations to the contrary notwithstanding, existing rights, projects and/or contracts of city or municipal governments for the reclamation of foreshore and submerged lands shall be respected. . . . . (emphasis ours).

Since the aforecited law provides that existing contracts shall be respected, movants contended that the issues raised by the pleadings have become "moot, academic and of no further validity or effect."

Meanwhile, the Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc. ("PLCU") moved to intervene 11, alleging as legal interest in the matter in litigation the avowed purpose of the organization for the promotion of good government in Pasay City. In its Order of June 10, 1969, the lower court of origin allowed the said intervention 12.

On March 24, 1972, the trial court of origin came out with a Decision, disposing, thus:

WHEREFORE, after carefully considering (1) the original complaint, (2) the first Amended Complaint, (3) the Answer of Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation to the first Amended Complaint, (4) the Answer of Defendant Pasay City to the first Amended Complaint, (5) the Second Amended Complaint, (6) the Answer of Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation to the Second Amended Complaint, (7) the Answer of Defendant Pasay City to the Second Amended Complaint, (8) the Memorandum in Support of Preliminary Injunction of Plaintiff, (9) the Memorandum In Support of the Opposition to the Issuance of Preliminary Injunction of Defendant Pasay City and Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation, (10) the Answer in Intervention of Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (11) Plaintiff's Opposition to Motion to Intervene, (12) the Reply to Opposition to Motion to Intervene of Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (13) the Stipulation of Facts by all the parties, (14) the Motion for Leave to Intervene of Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc., (15) the Opposition to Motion For Leave to Intervene of Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (16) the Reply of Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc., (17) the Supplement to Opposition to Motion to Intervene of Defendant Pasay City and Republic Real Estate Corporation (18) the Complain in Intervention of Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc., (19) the Answer of Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation, (20) the Answer of Intervenor Jose L. Bautista, et. al., to Complaint in Intervention, (21) the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation, and Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (22) the Opposition of Plaintiff to said Motion to Dismiss, (23) the Opposition of Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc., (24) the Memorandum of the Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation, (25) the Memorandum for the Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc., (26) the Manifestation of Plaintiff filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, and all the documentary evidence by the parties to wit: (a) Plaintiff's Exhibits "A" to "YYY- 4", (b) Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation's Exhibits "1-RREC" to "40-a" and (c) Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc's., Exhibits "A-PLACU" to "C-PLACU", the Court hereby:

(1) Denies the "Motion to Dismiss" filed on January 10, 1968, by Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation and Intervenors Bautista, et. al., as it is the finding of this Court that Republic Act No. 5187 was not passed by Congress to cure any defect in the ordinance and agreement in question and that the passage of said Republic Act No. 5187 did not make the legal issues raised in the pleadings "moot, academic and of no further validity or effect;" and

(2) Renders judgment:

(a) dismissing the Plaintiff's Complaint;

(b) Dismissing the Complaint in Intervention of Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc.,

(c) Enjoining Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation and Defendant Pasay City to have all the plans and specifications in the reclamation approved by the Director of Public Works and to have all the contracts and sub-contracts for said reclamation awarded by means of, and only after, public bidding; and

(d) Lifting the preliminary Injunction issued by the Court on April 26, 1962, as soon as Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation and Defendant Pasay City shall have submitted the corresponding plans and specifications to the Director of Public Works, and shall have obtained approval thereof, and as soon as the corresponding public bidding for the award to the contractor and sub-contractor that will undertake the reclamation project shall have been effected.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED. (See Court of Appeals' Decision dated January 28, 1992; pp. 6-8)

Dissatisfied with the said judgment, the Republic appealed therefrom to the Court of Appeals. However, on January 11, 1973, before the appeal could be resolved, Presidential Decree No. 3-A issued, amending Presidential Decree No. 3, thus:

Sec. 1. Section 7 of Presidential Decree No. 3, dated September 26, 1972, is hereby amended by the addition of the following paragraphs:

The provisions of any law to the contrary notwithstanding, the reclamation of areas under water, whether foreshore or inland, shall be limited to the National Government or any person authorized by it under a proper contract.

All reclamations made in violation of this provision shall be forfeited to the State without need of judicial action.

Contracts for reclamation still legally existing or whose validity has been accepted by the National Government shall be taken over by the National Government on the basis of quantum meruit, for proper prosecution of the project involved by administration.

On November 20, 1973, the Republic and the Construction Development Corporation of the Philippines ("CDCP") signed a Contract 13 for the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road Project (Phases I and II) which contract included the reclamation and development of areas covered by the Agreement between Pasay City and RREC. Then, there was issued Presidential Decree No. 1085 which transferred to the Public Estate Authority ("PEA") the rights and obligations of the Republic of the Philippines under the contract between the Republic and CDCP.

Attempts to settle amicably the dispute between representatives of the Republic, on the one hand, and those of Pasay City and RREC, on the other, did not work out. The parties involved failed to hammer out a compromise.

On January 28, 1992, the Court of Appeals came out with a Decision 14 dismissing the appeal of the Republic and holding, thus:

WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED with the following modifications:

1. The requirement by the trial court on public bidding and submission of RREC's plans specification to the Department Public Works and Highways in order that RREC may continue the implementation of the reclamation work is deleted for being moot and academic;

2. Ordering the plaintiff-appellant to turn over to Pasay City the ownership and possession over all vacant spaces in the twenty-one hectare area already reclaimed by Pasay City and RREC at the time it took over the same. Areas thereat over which permanent structures has (sic) been introduced shall, including the structures, remain in the possession of the present possessor, subject to any negotiation between Pasay City and the said present possessor, as regards the continued possession and ownership of the latter area.

3. Sustaining RREC's irrevocable option to purchase sixty (60%) percent of the Twenty-One (21) hectares of land already reclaimed by it, to be exercised within one (1) year from the finality of this decision, at the same terms and condition embodied in the Pasay City-RREC reclamation contract, and enjoining appellee Pasay City to respect RREC's option.

SO ORDERED.

On February 14, 1992, Pasay City and RREC presented a Motion for Reconsideration of such Decision of the Court of Appeals, contending, among others, that RREC had actually reclaimed Fifty-Five (55) hectares, and not only Twenty-one (21) hectares, and the respondent Court of Appeals erred in not awarding damages to them, movants.

On April 28, 1992, the Court of Appeals acted favorably on the said Motion for Reconsideration, by amending the dispositive portion of its judgment of January 28, 1992, to read as follows:

WHEREFORE, the dispositive portion of our Decision dated January 28, 1992 is hereby AMENDED to read as follows:

1. The requirement by the trial court on public bidding and the submission of the RREC's plans and specification to the Department of Public Works and Highways in order that RREC may continue the implementation of the reclamation work is deleted for being moot and academic.

2. Ordering plaintiff-appellant to turn over to Pasay City the ownership and possession of the above enumerated lots (1 to 9).

3. Sustaining RREC's irrevocable option to purchase sixty (60%) percent of the land referred to in No. 2 of this dispositive portion, to be exercised within one (1) year from the finality of this Decision, at the same terms and condition embodied in the Pasay City-RREC reclamation contract, and enjoining Pasay City to respect RREC's irrevocable option.

SO ORDERED.

From the Decision and Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals aforementioned, the Republic of the Philippines, as well as Pasay City and RREC, have come to this Court to seek relief, albeit with different prayers.

On September 10, 1997, the Court commissioned the former thirteenth Division of Court of Appeals to hear and receive evidence on the controversy. The corresponding Commissioner's Report, dated November 25, 1997, was submitted and now forms part of the records.

On October 11, 1997, the Cultural Center of the Philippines ("CCP") filed a Petition in Intervention, theorizing that it has a direct interest in the case being the owner of subject nine (9) lots titled in its (CCP) name, which the respondent Court of Appeals ordered to be turned over to Pasay City. The CCP, as such intervenor, was allowed to present its evidence, as it did, before the Court of Appeals, which evidence has been considered in the formulation of this disposition.

In G.R. No. 103882, the Republic of the Philippines theorizes, by way of assignment of errors, that:

I

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN UPHOLDING THE VALIDITY OF PASAY CITY ORDINANCE NO. 158 DATED APRIL 21, 1959 AND THE RECLAMATION CONTRACT ENTERED INTO BETWEEN PASAY CITY AND RREC;

II

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING THAT RREC HAD RECLAIMED 55 HECTARES AND IN ORDERING THE TURN-OVER TO PASAY CITY OF THE OWNERSHIP AND POSSESSION OF NINE (9) LOTS TITLED IN THE NAME OF CCP.

In G.R. No. 105276, the petitioners, Pasay City and RREC, contend, that:

I

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT DECLARING PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 3-A UNCONSTITUTIONAL;

II

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT AWARDING DAMAGES IN FAVOR OF PASAY CITY AND RREC.

Let us first tackle the issues posed in G.R. No. 103882.

On the first question regarding the validity of Pasay City Ordinance No. 158 dated April 21, 1959 and the Agreement dated April 24, 1959 between Pasay City and RREC, we rule in the negative.

Sec. 1 of RA 1899, reads:

Sec. 1. Authority is hereby granted to all municipalities and chartered cities to undertake and carry out at their own expense the reclamation by dredging, filling, or other means, of any foreshore lands bordering them, and to establish, provide, construct, maintain and repair proper and adequate docking and harbor facilities as such municipalities and chartered cities may determine in consultation with the Secretary of Finance and the Secretary of Public Works and Communications.

It is the submission of the petitioner, Republic of the Philippines, that there are no foreshore lands along the seaside of Pasay City 15; that what Pasay City has are submerged or offshore areas outside the commerce of man which could not be a proper subject matter of the Agreement between Pasay City and RREC in question as the area affected is within the National Park, known as Manila Bay Beach Resort, established under Proclamation No. 41, dated July 5, 1954, pursuant to Act No. 3915, of which area it (Republic) has been in open, continuous and peaceful possession since time immemorial.

Petitioner faults the respondent court for unduly expanding what may be considered "foreshore land" through the following disquisition:

The former Secretary of Justice Alejo Mabanag, in response to a request for an opinion from the then Secretary of Public Works and Communications as to whether the term, "foreshore areas" as used in Section I of the immediately aforequoted law is that defined in Webster's Dictionary and the Law of Waters so as to make any dredging or filling beyond its prescribed limit illegal, opined:

According to the basic letter of the Director of Public Works, the law of Waters speaks of "shore" and defines it thus: "that space movement of the tide. Its interior or terrestrial limit in the line reached by highest equinoctial tides."

Webster's definition of foreshore reads as follows:

That part of the shore between high water and low-water marks usually fixed at the line to which the ordinary means tide flows: also, by extension, the beach, the shore near the water's edge.

If we were to be strictly literal the term foreshore or foreshore lands should be confined to but a portion of the shore, in itself a very limited area. (p. 6, Intervenors-appellees' brief).

Bearing in mind the (Webster's and Law of Waters) definitions of "shore" and of foreshore lands, one is struck with the apparent inconsistency between the areas thus described and the purpose to which that area, when reclaimed under the provision of Republic Act No. 1899, shall be devoted. Section I (of said Law) authorizes the construction thereat of "adequate docking and harbor facilities". This purpose is repeated in Sections 3 and 4 of the Act.

And yet, it is well known fact that foreshore lands normally extend only from 10 to 20 meters along the coast. Not very much more if at all. In fact certain parts in Manila bordering on Manila Bay, has no foreshore to speak of since the sea washes the sea wall.

It does not seem logical, then, that Congress had in mind. Webster's limited concept of foreshore when it enacted Republic Act No. 1899, unless it intends that the wharves, piers, docks, etc. should be constructed parallel to the shore, which is impractical.

Since it is to be presumed that Congress could not have intended to enact an ineffectual measure not one that would lead to absurd consequences, it would seem that it used "foreshore" in a sense wider in scope that defined by Webster. . . .

To said opinion on the interpretation of the R.A. 1899, plaintiff-appellant could not offer any refutation or contrary opinion. Neither can we. In fact, the above construction is consistent with the "rule on context" in statutory construction which provides that in construing a statute, the same must be construed as a whole. The particular words, clauses and phrases should not be studied as detached and isolated expressions, but the whole and every part of the statute must be considered in fixing the meaning of any of its parts in order to produce a harmonious whole (see Araneta vs. Concepcion, 99 Phil. 709). There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the force and significance of particular expressions will largely depend upon the connection in which they are found and their relation to the general subject-matter of the law. The legislature must be understood to have expressed its whole mind on the special object to which the legislative act is directed but the vehicle for the expressions of that meaning is the statute, considered as one entire and continuous act, and not as an agglomeration of unrelated clauses. Each clause or provision will be illuminated by those which are cognate to it and by the general tenor of the whole statute and thus obscurities end ambiguities may often be cleared up by the most direct and natural means. Secondly effect must be given, if it is possible, to every word and clause of the statute, so that nothing shall be left devoid of meaning or destitute of force. To this end, each provision of the statute should be read in the light of the whole. For the general meaning of the legislature, as gathered from the entire act, may often prevail over the construction which would appear to be the most natural and obvious on the face of a particular clause. If is by this means that contradiction and repugnance between the different parts of the statute may be avoided. (See Black, Interpretation of Laws, 2nd Ed., pp. 317-319).

Resorting to extrinsic aids, the "Explanatory Note" to House Bill No. 3830, which was subsequently enacted as Republic Act No. 1899, reads:

In order to develop and expand the Maritime Commerce of the Philippines, it is necessary that harbor facilities be correspondingly improved and, where necessary, expanded and developed. The national government is not in a financial position to handle all this work. On the other hand, with a greater autonomy many chartered cities and provinces are financially able to have credit position which will allow them to undertake these projects. Some cities, such as the City of Bacolod under R.A. 161, has been authorized to reclaim foreshore lands bordering it.

Other cities end provinces have continuously been requesting for authority to reclaim foreshore lands on the basis of the Bacolod City pattern, and to undertake work to establish, construct on the reclaimed area and maintain such port facilities as may be necessary. In order not to unduly delay the undertaking of these projects, and inorder to obviate the passage of individual pieces of legislation for every chartered city and province, it is hereby recommended that the accompanying bill be approved. It covers Authority for All chartered cities and provinces to undertake this work. . . . (emphasis supplied)

Utilizing the above explanatory note in interpreting and construing the provisions of R.A. 1899, then Secretary of Justice Mabanag opined:

It is clear that the "Bacolod City pattern" was the basis of the enactment of the aforementioned bill of general application. This so-called "Bacolod City pattern" appears to be composed of 3 parts, namely: Republic Ad No. 161, which grants authority to Bacolod City to undertake or carry out . . . the reclamation . . . of any [sic] carry out the reclamation project conformably with Republic Act No. 161; and Republic Act No. 1132 authorizing Bacolod City to contract indebtedness or to issue bonds in the amount not exceeding six million pesos to finance the reclamation of land in said city.

Republic Act No. 161 did not in itself specify the precise space therein referred to as "foreshore" lands, but it provided that docking and harbor facilities should be erected on the reclaimed portions thereof, while not conclusive would indicate that Congress used the word "foreshore" in its broadest sense. Significantly, the plan of reclamation of foreshore drawn up by the Bureau of Public Works maps out an area of approximately 1,600,000 square meters, the boundaries of which clearly extend way beyond Webster's limited concept of the term "foreshore". As a contemporaneous construction by that branch of the Government empowered to oversee at least, the conduct of the work, such an interpretation deserves great weight. Finally, Congress in enacting Republic Act No. 1132 (supplement to RA 161), tacitly confirmed and approved the Bureau's interpretation of the term 'foreshore' when instead of taking the occasion to correct the Bureau of over extending its plan, it authorized the city of Bacolod to raise the full estimated cost of reclaiming the total area covered by the plan. The explanatory note to House Bill No. 1249 which became Republic Act No. 1132 states among the things:

The Bureau of Public Works already prepared a plan for the reclamation of about 1,600,000 square meters of land at an estimated costs of about P6,000,000.00. The project is self-supporting because the proceeds from the sales or leases of lands so reclaimed will be more than sufficient to cover the cost of the project.

Consequently, when Congress passed Republic Act No. 1899 in order to facilitate the reclamation by local governments of foreshore lands on the basis of the Bacolod City pattern and in order to obviate the passage of individual pieces of legislation for every chartered city and provinces requesting authority to undertake such projects, the lawmaking body could not have had in mind the limited area described by Webster as "foreshore" lands. . . . .

If it was really the intention of Congress to limit the area to the strict literal meaning of "foreshore" lands which may be reclaimed by chartered cities and municipalities, Congress would have excluded the cities of Manila, Iloilo, Cebu, Zamboanga and Davao from the operation of RA 1899 as suggested by Senator Cuenco during the deliberation of the bill considering that these cities do not have 'foreshore' lands in the strict meaning of the term. Yet, Congress did not approve the proposed amendment of Senator Cuenco, implying therefore, that Congress intended not to limit the area that may be reclaimed to the strict definition of "foreshore" lands.

The opinion of the then Secretary of Justice Mabanag, who was at that time the chief law officer and legal adviser of the government and whose office is required by law to issue opinions for the guidance of the various departments of the government, there being then no judicial interpretation to the contrary, is entitled to respect (see Bengzon vs. Secretary of Justice and Insular Auditor, 68 Phil. 912).

We are not unmindful of the Supreme Court Resolution dated February 3, 1965 in Ponce vs. Gomez (L-21870) and Ponce vs. City of Cebu (L-2266), by a unanimous vote of six (6) justices (the other five (5) members deemed it unnecessary to express their view because in their opinion the questions raised were not properly brought before the court), which in essence applied the strict dictionary meaning of "foreshore lands" as used in RA 1899 in the case of the city of Cebu. But this was promulgated long after the then Secretary of Justice Mabanag rendered the above opinion on November 16, 1959 and long after RREC has started the subject reclamation project.

Furthermore, as held by the lower court, Congress, after the Supreme Court issued the aforementioned Resolution, enacted RA 5187. In Sec. 3 (m) of said law, Congress appropriated money "for the construction of the seawall and limited access highway from the South boundary of the city of Manila to Cavite City, to the South, and from the North boundary of the city of Manila to the municipality of Mariveles, province of Bataan, to the North (including the reclamation of foreshore and submerged areas . . . provided . . . that . . . existing projects and/or contracts of city or municipal governments for the reclamation of foreshore and submerged lands shall be respected . . ." This is a clear manifestation that Congress in enacting RA 1899, did not intend to limit the interpretation of the term "foreshore land" to its dictionary meaning.

It is presumed that the legislature was acquainted with and had in mind the judicial construction given to a former statute on the subject, and that the statute on the subject, and that the statute was enacted having in mind the judicial construction that the prior enactment had received, or in the light of such existing judicial decisions as have direct bearing upon it (see 50 Am. Jur., Sec. 321, pp. 312-313). But notwithstanding said interpretation by the Supreme Court of RA 1899 in the Ponce cases, Congress enacted a law covering the same areas previously embraced in a RA 1899 (as mentioned earlier, cities without foreshore lands which were sought to be excluded from the operation of RA 1899 were not excluded), providing that respect be given the reclamation of not only foreshore lands but also of submerged lands signifying its non-conformity to the judicial construction given to RA 1899. If Congress was in accord with the interpretation and construction made by the Supreme Court on RA 1899, it would have mentioned reclamation of "foreshore lands" only in RA 5187, but Congress included "submerged lands" in order to clarify the intention on the grant of authority to cities and municipalities in the reclamation of lands bordering them as provided in RA 1899. It is, therefore, our opinion that it is actually the intention of Congress in RA 1899 not to limit the authority granted to cities and municipalities to reclaim foreshore lands in its strict dictionary meaning but rather in its wider scope as to include submerged lands.

The Petition is impressed with merit.

To begin with, erroneous and unsustainable is the opinion of respondent court that under RA 1899, the term "foreshore lands" includes submerged areas. As can be gleaned from its disquisition and rationalization aforequoted, the respondent court unduly stretched and broadened the meaning of "foreshore lands", beyond the intentment of the law, and against the recognized legal connotation of "foreshore lands". Well entrenched, to the point of being elementary, is the rule that when the law speaks in clear and categorical language, there is no reason for interpretation or construction, but only for application. 16 So also, resort to extrinsic aids, like the records of the constitutional convention, is unwarranted, the language of the law being plain and unambiguous. 17 Then, too, opinions of the Secretary of Justice are unavailing to supplant or rectify any mistake or omission in the law. 18 To repeat, the term "foreshore lands" refers to:

The strip of land that lies between the high and low water marks and that is alternately wet and dry according to the flow of the tide. (Words and Phrases, "Foreshore")

A strip of land margining a body of water (as a lake or stream); the part of a seashore between the low-water line usually at the seaward margin of a low-tide terrace and the upper limit of wave wash at high tide usually marked by a beach scarp or berm. (Webster's Third New International Dictionary)

The duty of the court is to interpret the enabling Act, RA 1899. In so doing, we cannot broaden its meaning, much less widen the coverage thereof. If the intention of Congress were to include submerged areas, it should have provided expressly. That Congress did not so provide could only signify the exclusion of submerged areas from the term "foreshore lands".

Neither is there any valid ground to disregard the Resolution of this Court dated February 3, 1965 in Ponce v. Gomez (L-21870) and Ponce v. City of Cebu (L-22669) despite the enactment of Republic Act No. 5187 ("RA 5187"), the relevant portion of which, reads:

Sec. 3. Miscellaneous Projects

xxx xxx xxx

m. For the construction of seawall and limited access highway from the south boundary of the City of Manila to Cavite City, to the south, and from the north boundary of the City of Manila to the municipality of Mariveles, province of Bataan, to the north, including the reclamation of the foreshore and submerged areas: Provided, That priority in the construction of such seawalls, highway and attendant reclamation works shell be given to any corporation and/or corporations that may offer to undertake at its own expense such projects, in which case the President of the Philippines may, after competitive bidding, award contracts for the construction of such projects, with the winning bidder shouldering all costs thereof, the same to be paid in terms of percentage fee of the contractor which shall not exceed fifty percent of the area reclaimed by the contractor and shall represent full compensation for the purpose, the provisions of the Public Land Law concerning disposition of reclaimed and foreshore lands to the contrary notwithstanding: Provided, finally, that the foregoing provisions and those of other laws, executive orders, rules and regulations to the contrary notwithstanding, existing rights, projects and/or contracts of city or municipal governments for the reclamation of foreshore and submerged lands shall be respected. . . . .

There is nothing in the foregoing provision of RA 5187 which can be interpreted to broaden the scope of "foreshore lands." The said law is not amendatory to RA 1899. It is an Appropriations Act, entitled "AN ACT APPROPRIATING FUNDS FOR PUBLIC WORKS, SYNCHRONIZING THE SAME WITH PREVIOUS PUBLIC WORKS APPROPRIATIONS."

All things viewed in proper perspective, we reiterate what was said in Ponce v. Gomez (L-21870) and Ponce v. City of Cebu (L-22669) that the term "foreshore" refers to "that part of the land adjacent to the sea which is alternately covered and left dry by the ordinary flow of the tides." As opined by this Court in said cases:

WHEREAS, six (6) members of the Court (Justices Bautista Angelo, Concepcion, Reyes, Barrera, Dizon and Jose P. Bengzon) opine that said city ordinance and contracts are ultra vires and hence, null and void, insofar as the remaining 60% of the area aforementioned, because the term "foreshore lands" as used in Republic Act No. 1899 should be understood in the sense attached thereto by common parlance; (emphasis ours)

The aforesaid ruling was applied by then Secretary of Justice Claudio Teehankee, in his opinion dated December 22, 1966, in a case with analogous facts as the present one, to wit:

December 22, 1966

The Secretary of Agriculture

and Natural Resources

Diliman, Quezon City

Sir:

xxx xxx xxx

I. Facts

1. On January 19, 1961, pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 1899, the Municipality of Navotas enacted Ordinance No. 1 authorizing the Municipal Mayor to enter into a reclamation contract with Mr. Chuanico.

2. On March 15, 1961, a reclamation contract was concluded between the Municipality of Navotas, represented by the Municipal Mayor, and Mr. Chuanico in accordance with the above ordinance. Thereunder, Mr. Chuanico shall be the attorney-in-fact of the Municipality in prosecuting the reclamation project and shall advance the money needed therefor; that the actual expenses incurred shall be deemed a loan to the Municipality; that Mr. Chuanico shall have the irrevocable option to buy 70% of the reclaimed area at P7.00 per square meter; that he shall have the full and irrevocable powers to do any and all things necessary and proper in and about the premises," including the power to hire necessary personnel for the prosecution of the work, purchase materials and supplies, and purchase or lease construction machineries and equipment, but any and all contracts to be concluded by him in behalf of the Municipality shall be submitted to public bidding.

xxx xxx xxx

3. On March 16, 1961, the Municipal Council of Navotas passed Resolution No. 22 approving and ratifying the contract.

xxx xxx xxx

III. Comments

1. The above reclamation contract was concluded on the basis of Navotas Ordinance No. 1 which, in turn, had been enacted avowedly pursuant to Republic Act No. 1899. This being so, the contract, in order to be valid, must conform to the provisions of the said law.

By authorizing local governments "to execute by administration any reclamation work," (Republic Act No. 1899 impliedly forbids the execution of said project by contract. Thus, in the case or Ponce et al. vs. Gomez (February 3, 1966), five justices of the Supreme Court voted to annul the contract between Cebu Development Corporation and Cebu City for the reclamation of foreshore lands because "the provisions of said . . . contract are not . . . in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act No. 1899," as against one Justice who opined that the contract substantially complied with the provisions of the said law. (Five Justices expressed no opinion on this point.)

Inasmuch as the Navotas reclamation contract is substantially similar to the Cebu reclamation contract, it is believed that the former is likewise fatally defective.

2. The Navotas reclamation project envisages the construction of a channel along the Manila Bay periphery of that town and the reclamation of approximately 650 hectares of land from said channel to a seaward distance of one kilometer. In the basic letter it is stated that "practically, all the 650 hectares of lands proposed to be reclaimed under the agreement" do not constitute foreshore lands and that "the greater portion of the area . . . is in fact navigable and presently being used as a fishing harbor by deep-sea fishing operators as well as a fishing ground of sustenance fisherman. Assuming the correctness of these averments, the Navotas reclamation contract evidently transcends the authority granted under Republic Act No. 1899, which empowers the local governments to reclaim nothing more than "foreshore lands, i.e., "that part of the land adjacent to the see which is alternately covered and left dry by the ordinary flow of the tides." (26 C.J. 890.) It was for this reason that in the cited case Ponce case, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 6-0 with five Justices abstaining, declared ultra vires and void the contractual stipulation for the reclamation of submerged lands off Cebu City, and permanently enjoined its execution under Republic Act No. 1899.

xxx xxx xxx

In accordance with the foregoing, I have the honor to submit the view that the Navotas reclamation contract is not binding and should be disregarded for non-compliance with law.

Very truly yours,

(SGD) CLAUDIO TEEHANKEE

Secretary of Justice

The said opinion of Justice Secretary Teehankee who became Associate Justice, and later Chief Justice, of this Court, did, in our considered view, supersede the earlier opinion of former justice Secretary Alejo Mabanag, aforestated, as the cases, in connection with which subject opinions were sought, were with similar facts. The said Teehankee opinion accords with RA 1899.

It bears stressing that the subject matter of Pasay City Ordinance No. 121, as amended by Ordinance No. 158, and the Agreement under attack, have been found to be outside the intendment and scope of RA 1899, and therefore ultra vires and null and void.

What is worse, the same Agreement was vitiated by the glaring absence of a public bidding.

Obviously, there is a complete dearth of evidence to prove that RREC had really reclaimed 55 hectares. The letter of Minister Baltazar Aquino relied upon by RREC is no proof at all that RREC had reclaimed 55 hectares. Said letter was just referring to a tentative schedule of work to be done by RREC, even as it required RREC to submit the pertinent papers to show its supposed accomplishment, to secure approval by the Ministry of Public Works and Highways to the reclamation plan, and to submit to a public bidding all contracts and sub-contracts for subject reclamation project but RREC never complied with such requirements and conditions sine qua non.

No contracts or sub-contracts or agreements, plans, designs, and/or specifications of the reclamation project were presented to reflect any accomplishment. Not even any statement or itemization of works accomplished by contractors or subcontractors or vouchers and other relevant papers were introduced to describe the extent of RREC's accomplishment. Neither was the requisite certification from the City Engineer concerned that "portions of the reclamation project not less than 50 hectares in area shall have been accomplished or completed" obtained and presented by RREC.

As a matter of fact, no witness ever testified on any reclamation work done by RREC, and extent thereof, as of April 26, 1962. Not a single contractor, sub-contractor, engineer, surveyor, or any other witness involved in the alleged reclamation work of RREC testified on the 55 hectares supposedly reclaimed by RREC. What work was done, who did the work, where was it commenced, and when was it completed, was never brought to light by any witness before the court. Certainly, onus probandi was on RREC and Pasay City to show and point out the as yet unidentified 55 hectares they allegedly reclaimed. But this burden of proof RREC and Pasay City miserably failed to discharge.

So also, in the decision of the Pasay Court of First Instance dismissing the complaint of plaintiff-appellant, now petitioner Republic of the Philippines, the lifting of the writ of Preliminary Injunction issued on April 26, 1962 would become effective only "as soon as Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation and Defendant Pasay City shall have submitted the corresponding plans and specifications to the Director of Public Work, and shall have obtained approval thereof, and as soon as corresponding public bidding for the award to the contractor and sub-contractor that will undertake the reclamation project shall have been effected." (Rollo, pp. 127-129, G.R. No. 103882)

From the records on hand, it is abundantly clear that RREC and Pasay City never complied with such prerequisites for the lifting of the writ of Preliminary Injunction. Consequently, RREC had no authority to resume its reclamation work which was stopped by said writ of preliminary injunction issued on April 26, 1962.

From the Contract for Dredging Work, dated November 26, 1960, marked Exhibit "21-A" for RREC before the lower court, and Exhibit "EE" for CCP before the Court of Appeals, it can be deduced that only on November 26, 1960 did RREC contract out the dredging work to C and A Construction Company, Inc., for the reclamation of the 55 hectares initially programmed to be reclaimed by it. But, as stated by RREC itself in the position paper filed with this Court on July 15, 1997, with reference to CDCP's reclamation work, mobilization of the reclamation team would take one year before a reclamation work could actually begin. Therefore, the reclamation work undertaker by RREC could not have started before November 26, 1961.

Considering that on April 26, 1962 RREC was enjoined from proceeding any further with its reclamation work, it had barely five (5) months, from November, 1961 to April, 1962, to work on subject reclamation project. It was thus physically impossible for RREC to reclaim 55 hectares, with the stipulated specifications and elevation, in such a brief span of time. In the report of RREC (Exhibit "DD" for CCP), it was conceded that due to the writ of preliminary injunction issued on April 26, 1962, C and A Construction Co., Inc. had suspended its dredging operation since May, 1962.

The "graphical report" on the Pasay Reclamation project, as of April 30, 1962, attached to the Progress Report marked Exhibit "DD", is a schematic representation of the work accomplishment referred to in such Progress Report, indicating the various elevations of the land surface it embraced, ranging from 0.00 meters to the highest elevation of 2.5 meters above MLLW. Such portrayal of work accomplished is crucial in our determination of whether or not RREC had actually "reclaimed" any land as under its Contract for Dredging Work with C and A Construction Company (Exhibit "EE", the required final elevation for a completely reclaimed land was 3.5 meters above MLLW, as explicitly provided in said Contract for Dredging Work. So, the irresistible conclusion is when the work on subject RREC-Pasay City reclamation project stopped in April, 1962 in compliance with the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the trial court of origin, no portion of the reclamation project worked on by RREC had reached the stipulated elevation of 3.5 meters above MLLW. The entire area it worked on was only at sea level or 0.00 meter above MLLW. In short, RREC had not yet reclaimed any area when the writ of preliminary injunction issued in April 1962.

On this point, the testimonies of Architect Ruben M. Protacio, Architect and Managing partner of Leandro V. Locsin and partners, Architect and City Planner Manuel T. Mañoza, Jr. of Planning Resources and Operation System, Inc., Rose D. Cruz, Executive Assistant, Office of the President, from 1966 to 1970, and Dr. Lucrecia Kasilag, National Artist and member of CCP Advisory Committee, come to the fore. These credible, impartial and knowledgeable witnesses recounted on the witness stand that when the construction of the Main Building of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) began in 1966, the only surface land available was the site for the said building (TSN, Sept. 29, 1997, pages 8, 14 and 50), what could be seen in front of and behind it was all water (TSN, Sept. 29, 1997 pages 127-128). When the CCP Main Building was being constructed, from 1968 to 1969, the land above sea level thereat was only where the CCP Main Building was erected and the rest of the surroundings were all under water, particularly the back portion fronting the bay. (TSN, Sept. 13, 1997, pp. 181, 182, 185, 186, 188). Dr. Lucrecia R. Kasilag stressed that on April 16, 1966, during the ground breaking for the CCP Main Building, it was water all around (TSN, Sept. 30, 1997, pp. 320, 324, 325).

There was indeed no legal and factual basis for the Court of Appeals to order and declare that "the requirement by the trial court on public bidding and the submission of RREC's plans and specification to the Department of Public Works and Highways in order that RREC may continue the implementation of the reclamation work is deleted for being moot and academic." Said requirement has never become moot and academic. It has remained indispensable, as ever, and non-compliance therewith restrained RREC from lawfully resuming the reclamation work under controversy, notwithstanding the rendition below of the decision in its favor.

Verily, contrary to what the Court of Appeals found, RREC had not reclaimed any area with the prescribed elevation of 3.5 meters above MLLW, so much so that in 1978, it (RREC) opted to file with the former Ministry of Public Highways, a claim for compensation of P30,396,878.20, for reclamation work allegedly done before the CDCP started working on the reclamation of the CCP grounds. On September 7, 1979, RREC asked the Solicitor General to settle its subject claim for compensation at the same amount of P30,396,878.20. But on June 10, 1981, guided by the cost data, work volume accomplished and other relevant information gathered by the former Ministry of Public Highways, the Solicitor General informed RREC that the value of what it had accomplished, based on 1962 price levels, was only P8,344,741.29, and the expenses for mobilization of equipment amounted to P2,581,330.00. The aforesaid evaluation made by the government, through the then Minister of Public Highways, is factual and realistic, so much so that on June 25, 1981, RREC, in its reply letter to the Solicitor General, stated:

We regret that we are not agreeable to the amount of P10,926,071.29, based on 1962 cost data, etc., as compensation based on quantum meruit. The least we would consider is the amount of P10,926,071.29 plus interest at the rate of 6% per annum from 1962 to the time of payment. We feel that 6% is very much less than the accepted rate of inflation that has supervened since 1962 to the present, and even less than the present legal rate of 12% per annum. 19

Undoubtedly, what RREC claimed for was compensation for what it had done, and for the dredge fill of 1,558,395 cubic meters it used, on subject reclamation project.

Respondent Court likewise erred in ordering the turn-over to Pasay City of the following titled lots, to wit:

LOT NO. BUILDING AREA OCT/TCT

42 Gloria Maris 9,516 sq.m. OCT 159 in the

Restaurant name of GSIS

3 Asean Garden 76,299 sq.m. OCT 10251 in the

name of CCP

12 Folk Arts Theater 1.7503 hec. TCT 18627 in the

and PICC parking name of CCP

space

22 landscaped with 132,924 sq.m. TCT 75676 in the

sculpture of Asean name of CCP

Artists-site of

Boom na Boom

23 open space, back 34,346 sq.m. TCT 75677 in the

of Philcite name of CCP

24 Parking space for 10,352 sq.m. TCT 75678 in the

Star City, CCP, name of CCP

Philcite

25 open space 11,323 sq.m. TCT 75679 in the

occupied by Star name of CCP

City

28 open space, 27,689 sq.m. TCT 75684 in the

beside PICC name of CCP

29 open space, 106,067 sq.m. TCT 75681 in the

leased by El name of CCP

Shaddai

We discern no factual basis nor any legal justification therefor. In the first place, in their answer to the Complaint and Amended Complaint below, RREC and Pasay City never prayed for the transfer to Pasay City of subject lots, title to which had long become indefeasible in favor of the rightful title holders, CCP and GSIS, respectively.

The annotation of a notice of lis pendens on the certificates of title covering the said lots is of no moment. It did not vest in Pasay City and RREC any real right superior to the absolute ownership thereover of CCP and GSIS. Besides, the nature of the action did not really warrant the issuance of a notice of lis pendens.

Sec. 14 of Rule 13, Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, reads:

Sec. 14. Notice of lis pendens. In an action affecting the title or the right of possession of real properly, the plaintiff and the defendant, when affirmative relief is claimed in his answer, may record in the office of the registry of deeds of the province in which the property is situated a notice of the pendency of the action. Said notice shall contain the names of the parties and the object of the action or defense, and a description of the property in that province affected thereby. Only from the time of filing such notice for record shall a purchaser, or encumbrancer of the property affected thereby, be deemed to have constructive notice of the pendency of the action, and only of its pendency against the parties designated by their real names.

The notice of lis pendens herein above mentioned may be cancelled only upon order of the court, after proper showing that the notice is for the purpose of molesting the adverse party, or that it is not necessary to protect the rights of the party who caused it to be recorded.

Under the aforecited provision of law in point, a notice of lis pendens is necessary when the action is for recovery of possession or ownership of a parcel of land. In the present litigation, RREC and Pasay City, as defendants in the main case, did not counterclaim for the turnover to Pasay City of the titled lots aforementioned.

What is more, a torrens title cannot be collaterally attacked. The issue of validity of a torrens title, whether fraudulently issued or not, may be posed only in an action brought to impugn or annul it. (Halili vs. National Labor Relations Commission, 257 SCRA 174, Cimafranca vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 147 SCRA 611.) Unmistakable, and cannot be ignored, is the germane provision of Section 48 of P.D. 1529, that a certificate of title can never be the subject of a collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding instituted in accordance with law.

Although Pasay City and RREC did not succeed in their undertaking to reclaim any area within subject reclamation project, it appearing that something compensable was accomplished by them, following the applicable provision of law and hearkening to the dictates of equity, that no one, not even the government, shall unjustly enrich oneself/itself at the expense of another 20, we believe; and so hold, that Pasay City and RREC should be paid for the said actual work done and dredge-fill poured in, worth P10,926,071.29, as verified by the former Ministry of Public Highways, and as claimed by RREC itself in its aforequoted letter dated June 25, 1981.

It is fervently hoped that long after the end of our sojourn in this valley of tears, the court, for its herein historic disposition, will be exalted by the future generations of Filipinos, for the preservation of the national patrimony and promotion of our cultural heritage. As writer Channing rightly puts it: "Whatever expands the affections, or enlarges the sphere of our sympathies Whatever makes us feel our relation to the universe and all that it inherits in time and in eternity, and to the great and beneficent cause of all, must unquestionably refine our nature, and elevate us in the scale of being."

WHEREFORE:

In G.R. No. 103882, the Petition is GRANTED; the Decision, dated January 28, 1992, and Amended Decision, dated April 28, 1992, of the Court of Appeals, are both SET ASIDE; and Pasay City Ordinance No. 121, dated May 6, 1958, and Ordinance No. 158, dated April 21, 1959, as well as the Reclamation Agreements entered into by Pasay City and Republic Real Estate Corporation (RREC) as authorized by said city ordinances, are declared NULL and VOID for being ultra vires, and contrary to Rep. Act 1899.

The writ of preliminary injunction issued on April 26, 1962 by the trial court a quo in Civil Case No. 2229-P is made permanent and the notice of lis pendens issued by the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CV No. 51349 ordered CANCELLED. The Register of Deeds of Pasay City is directed to take note of and annotate on the certificates of title involved, the cancellation of subject notice of lis pendens.

The petitioner, Republic of the Philippines, is hereby ordered to pay Pasay City and Republic Real Estate Corporation the sum of TEN MILLION NINE HUNDRED TWENTY-SIX THOUSAND SEVENTY-ONE AND TWENTY-NINE CENTAVOS (P10,926,071.29) PESOS, plus interest thereon of six (6%) percent per annum from May 1, 1962 until full payment, which amount shall be divided by Pasay City and RREC, share and share alike.

In G.R. No. 105276, the Petition is hereby DENIED for lack of merit.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, Melo, Quisumbing and Pardo, JJ., concur.

Narvasa, C.J., I DISSENT: Ponce is not binding precedent, and P.D. 3-A is in utter nullity:

Davide, Jr., J., also that of the concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Puno.

Romero, J., Please see Separate Opinion.

Puno, J., Please see Concurring Opinion.

Vitug, J., In the result.

Kapunan, J., No part, having appeared for the Gov't. when I was in the OSG.

Mendoza, J., I concur in this and in the concurring opinion of Justice Puno.

Panganiban, J., Please see Separate Opinion.

Martinez, J., I join the Chief Justice in his dissent.

 

 

 

Separate Opinions

 

ROMERO, J., separate opinion;

Culture doesn't save anything or any-one, it doesn't justify. But it's a product of man: he projects himself into it, he recognizes himself in it; that critical mirror alone offers him his image." So said Jean Paul Sartre, one of the greatest philosophical thinkers of our time. Matthew Arnold referred to it as the "pursuit of our total perfection" or the "study of perfection." The English mathematican and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, placing premium on human subjectivity, declared, "Culture is activity of thought, and receptiveness to beauty and humane feeling.

Image, perfection, beauty, and feeling. These are elements which are also associated with art and creation. Yet, art in itself is a multi-faceted concept. The revered and, at times, controversial President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, in one of his numerous speeches, elevated art to the level of a pyscho-social necessity of man when he said, ". . . (A)rt establishes the basic human truths which ust serve as the touchstone of our judgment." Indeed, there is no question that art satisfies one of the deepest spiritual needs of man.

Of course, when one speaks of art and culture, he in fact speaks of it in two ways: the abstract and the concrete. What is abstract is conditioned by time; that which is and the concrete is ravaged by it. While the concept of "culture and art" endures man's folies, amassing innumerable, priceless enhancements as it effortlessly slides through generations of human progress, its tangible counterpart, that which is preserved for our children's appreciation, is unfortunately fragile. Art works, music, architecture, literature, and other cultural embellishments which exhibit extraordinary longevity are proclaimed as national treasures, and rightly so, for they are lasting testiminials of man's boundless imagination and creativity, that single trait that places the human species above all other creatures of the Almighty.

Most evidence of a culture's richness are lost, not in the tide of nature's frivolity, but through man's foolishness and capriciousness. Wars used to be the main culprit in the virtual obliteration of the works of ancient scholars. We are now, and for the past century or so, faced with a greater foe: progress. Progress and development are the hallmarks of successful governance. Our leaders, and there are so many of them now, decide "what is best" for the public. Inopportunely, what is perceived to be in the "best interest" of the majority in the name of "progress" may sometimes, and in the long run, the calamitous to the entire people in terms of cultural atrophy. This is the quandary in which this Court finds itself as it attempts to weigh once more private rights against sovereignty and the general welfare.

Background Facts

In a nutshell, the undisputed facts in these consolidated petitions follow.

Pursuant to Republic Act No. 1899, which authorized chartered cities and municipalities to reclaim adjoining foreshore lands, the City Council of Pasay resolved to reclaim a portion of the Manila Bay covering the Manila-Pasay-Parañaque bounderies and, for this purpose, enacted Ordinance No. 121 on May 6, 1958. Two days later, on the strength of said ordinance, Pasay City Mayor Pablo Cuneta contracted with Republic Real Estate Corporation (RREC) for the reclamation of portions of the Manila Bay. On April 21, 1959, the City Council of Pasay amended Ordinance No. 121 by enacting Ordinance No. 158. A new agreement between the parties (the Reclamation Agreement) was executed three days thereafter, whcih, among other things, granted the reclamation project to RREC and gave it an irrevocable option to purchase a maximum of 60% of the area reclaimed at P10.00 per square meter, the amount of which could be set off against any outstanding obligation of the City to RREC. Such an option could only be effected within a year from the time the City Engineer certified that 50 hectares had been reclaimed. The reclamation itself was made by the RREC through third parties who were awarded contracts on the various phases of the project through public bidding. To raise more funds, RREC entered into contracts to sell the reclaimed areas which it could purchase from Pasay City by exercising its option under the Reclamation Agreement.

Proceedings before the trial court

On December 19, 1961, the Republic of the Philippines filed a complaint (amended on March 5, 1962) against Pasay City and RREC for "Recovery of Possession and Damages with Writ of Preliminary Preventive Injunction and Mandatory Injunction" before Branch 7 of the then Court of First Instance of Rizal, Pasay City, praying for the declaration of nullity of Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158, the Reclamation Agreement, and the Contracts to Sell between RREC and the buyers of the reclaimed land. Among other things, the following matters were alleged: (a) the area reclaimed was already reserved as a national park under Proclamation No. 41, dated July 5, 1954 and Act No. 3915, hence, the subject of the Reclamation Agreement was beyond man's commerce; (b) Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158 were ultra vires and void ab initio for being violative of R.A. No. 1899, because they involved the reclamation of "submerged areas" and not "foreshore lands" as allowed by said law; and (c) the Reclamation Agreement was illegal, contrary to morals and public policy because it was executed with neither authority from the National Government nor any public bidding.

In their separate answer, Pasay City and RREC set forth the following negative defenses: (a) Pasay City was empowered by R.A. No. 1899 to reclaim any portion of the Manila Bay; (b) the area reclaimed was not a portion of the Manila Bay Resort, which was the area reserved as a national park under Proclamation No. 41 and Act No. 3915; (c) under R.A. No. 1899, the term "foreshore lands" meant much more than its technical definition and extended to submerged areas beyond the water marks of the shore; and (d) all the actuations of the City RREC regarding the reclamation project were in accordance with R.A. No. 1899 and related laws.

On April 26, 1962, the trial court issued a writ of preliminary injunction ordering Pasay City and RREC to refrain from their activities at the Manila Bay. On January 10, 1968, however, RREC filed a "Motion to Dismiss" the complaint on the ground that the passage of Republic Act No. 5187 (otherwise known as the Public Works Act) on September 16, 1967, rendered the issues raised by the Republic of the Philippines moot and academic. Specifically, RREC relied on Section 3 (m) thereof which stated that all "contracts of city or municipal governments for the reclamation of foreshore and submerged lands shall be respected" during the construction by the national government of a sea wall and limited access highway passing through the projected area of the reclamation. In the meantime, the trial court allowed Jose Bautista and others who allegedly bought in good faith and for value from RREC some portions of the reclaimed land, to intervene in the action and join cause with Pasay City and RREC. On the other hand, the Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc. (PLCUI), a civic organization, joined with the Republic of the Philippines and filed a complaint in intervention.

On May 24, 1972, the court a quo rendered a judgment on the pleadings, upholding the validity of Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158 of the Reclamation Agreement; dismissing the complaint as well as PLCUI's complaint in intervention; enjoining RREC and Pasay City "to have all the plans and specifications in the reclamation approved by the Director of Public Works, and to have all the contracts and subcontracts for said reclamation awarded by means of, and only after, public bidding"; and lifting the preliminary injunction, dated April 26, 1962, as soon as said conditions shall have been met by RREC and Pasay City.

Proceedings before the Court of Appeals

During the pendency of the State's appeal with the Court of Appeals, President Marcos issued on January 11, 1973, Pressidential Decree No. 3-A, providing, inter alia, that "the reclamation of areas under water, whether foreshore or inland, shall be limited to the National Government or any person aurhorized by it under a proper contract," and that it shall take over any validly existing reclamation contract on the basis of quantum meruit. On the strength of P.D. No. 3-A, the Commission of Public Highways and the Construction Development Corporation of the Philippines (CDCP) took over the reclamation contract between Pasay City and RREC for the construction of the Manila-Cavite City Coastal Road. CDCP development the area already reclaimed by RREC and continued reclaiming where the latter left off. These areas, which came to be known as the Cultural Center Complex and the Financial Center Complex, were registered in the name of the CCP.

On February 4, 1977, the Public Estates Authority (PEA) was created by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1084. It was designated as the agency primarily responsible for all the reclaation projects of the national government. The PEA then took over the Manila Bay reclamation contract between the Republic of the Philippines and CDCP.

In 1978, RREC filed a claim for P30,396,878.20 with the ten Ministry of Public Highways (MPH) for its actual reclamation in the CCP Complex before CDCP assumed authority over the project. The MPH, on the other hand, determined the amount of reclamation by RREC to be only P10,926,071.29. Later, RREC offered to settle the case with the Office of the Solicitor General for the original amount of its claim. The OSG would, however, settle only for the lesser amount assessed by the MPH. This was acceptable to RREC only with an additional 6% interest per annum from 1962 up to the time of payment. Within the decade that followed, RREC's proposals for settling the case ballooned from a P35,455,011.31 cash settlement or a property settlement of 3.5 hectares in the CCP Complex covered by TCT No. 75676, to a cash settlement of P175 million, then later, P245 million. The Office of the President, to which the proposals were referred, rejected the same. In other words, no amicable settlement was reached.

The first decision

On January 28, 1992, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision, affirming the trial court's judgment with the following modifications: (a) the requirement on public bidding and submission of plans and specifications to the DPWH by RREC was deleted; (b) the Republic of the Philippines was ordered to turn over to Pasay City the ownership and possession of the 21 hectares already reclaimed by RREC; and (c) RREC's irrevocable option to purchase 60% of the 21 hectares it had already reclaimed was sustained.

The amended decision

On April 28, 1992, the appellate court rendered an amended decision. It agreed with the position of Pasay City and RREC in their motion for reconsideration that the actual the reclaimed was 55, not 21, hectares. Considering, however, that latter were willing to accept 35 hectares of open land in the CCP Complex, the court ordered the Republic of the Philippines to reconvey to Pasay City and RREC said parcels of land comprising nine lots registered in the name of CCP. This is the decision being assailed by both parties in the instant consolidated petitions.

Issues raised

In G.R. No. 103882

Are Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158, as well as the Reclamation Agreement between Pasay City and RREC, valid and bindings as against the National Government and the Cultural Center of the Philippines?

The Republic of the Philippines claims that the Court of Appeals erred in sustaining the validity of Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158 and the Reclamation Agreement executed pursuant thereto, and in ordering the reconveyance of the nine lots titled in the name of CCP to the City of Pasay and RREC. It stresses that the reclamation project undertaken by Pasay City and RREC violated R.A. No. 1899, especially since the subject areas were "submerged lands", not "foreshore lands" which are the only lands that may be reclaimed by local governments under said law.

The CCP, as intervenor in G.R. No. 103882, alleges that the appellate court's amended decision was not binding upon it because it was never made a party to the action and that it was compelled to intervene in the instant petitions to protect its proprietary interests. It claims that the Court of Appeals erred in findings that the actual area reclaimed by RREC was 55 hectares, and in ordering it to turn over to RREC and Pasay City the nine lots registered in its name.

In G.R. No. 105276

Is P.D. 3-A constitutional?

The City of Pasay and RREC claim it is not and that the Court of Apealls erred in not ruling upon its constitutionality, considering that said decree deprived them of their property and rights of ownership without due process of law and without payment of just compensation, and that it violated the non-impairment clause of the Constitution; and in not awarding them damages for the alleged illegal takeover of the reclamation contract and the reclaimed area. Thus, they pray for the modification of the assailed amended decision by awarding them damages and conveying to them, not merely 35, but 55 hectares of the land allegedly reclaimed.

The Commissioner's Report

On September 10, 1997, the Court's Second Division issued a Resolution remanding the case to the Court of Appeals to receive further evidence and determine the actual area reclaimed by RREC and the arreas of the CCP Complex which are "open spaces." In its Commissioner's Report dated November 25, 1997, the appellate court conclude that the CCP and the Solicitor General failed to refute its earleir finding that RREC and Pasay City were able to reclaim 55 hectares of the Manila Bay.

Discussion of Issues

1. Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158, as well as the Reclamation Agreement between Pasay City and RREC, are null and void for violating the clear and unambiguous provisions of R.A. No. 1899.

In 1984, the term "foreshore lands" was defined by this Court in the case of Republic v. Court of Appeals. 1 Although the subject of this case was part of the Laguna de Bay, the Court nevertheless applied Bouvier's definition of "foreshore lands," viz: "that part of the land immediately in front of the shore; the part which is between high and low water marks, and alternately covered with water and left dry by the flux and reflux of the tides. It is indicated by a middle line between the highest and lowest tides."

This judicial interpretation did not escape the attention of the legislature in the enactment of later related laws. In R.A. No. 5187, for example, Congress specified the areas that may be reclaimed in the construction of the Manila-Cavite City Coastal Road to include both "foreshore and submerged areas." The Chief Executive also recognized the disparity between the two terms when he signed into law P.D. No. 3-A, authorizing the reclamation of "areas under water, whether foreshore or inland." Similarly, P.D. No. 1094, creating the Public Estates authority to "reclaim land, including foreshore and submerged areas."

Initially, legislative intent and later jurisprudential usage clearly delimited the term "foreshore lands" to that part of the land where the tides literally converge, thus excluding submerged lands. This restricted explication was unquestionably ackonwledged by the other branches of government when, in passing subsequent related statutes, they added the terms "submerged areas" or "areas under water" to foreshore lands." Under the principles of legal construction, since R.A No. 1899 partakes of the nature of a legislative grant of a sovereign right to municipalities and chartered cities, that is, the right "to reclaim," it must be strictly construed against the latter.

R.A. No. 1899 was, therefore, enacted to apply strictly to "foreshore lands." Thus, when RREC was permitted by the City of Pasay, through Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158 and the ensuing Reclamation Agreement, to reclaim up to a one-kilometer stretch into the Manila Bay, more than just "foreshore lands" was obviously contemplated and involved. Furthermore, R.A. No. 1899 mandates that any reclamation must be carried out by the municipality or chartered city concerned 2 with the aid of funds which it may borrow from third persons or lending institution. 3 The reclamation of Manila Bay was undertaken, not by Pasay City, but by RREC itself under a special power of attorney from Pasay City using funds exclusively borrowed by the latter from RREC. To compound the anomaly of it all, the reclamation project itself was awarded by Pasay City to RREC without any public bidding. Finally, to complete Pasay City's absolute abdication of its duty to champion public over private interest, RREC was granted an irrevocable option to purchase the land reclaimed in lieu of simply paying for it using a determinable and liquadated amount "in Philippine currency or in the currency in which the principal has been originally received," 4 as required by R.A. No. 1899. In fact, RREC began disposing of the land by entering into contracts to sell with various third persons while the reclamation project was still in progress and long before it acquired any right of dominion over the lands yet to be reclaimed. These are all blatant violations of R.A. No. 1899. Hence, Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158, no less than the Reclamation Agreement and the Contracts to Sell it has spawned, should all be deemed null and void, the reclamation itself being ultra vires.

2. P.D. No. 3-A is constitutional and valid

Applying the regalian doctrine, the State owns all waters and lands of the public domain, including those physically reclaimed. As a general rule, therefore, only the National Government can reclaim foreshore lands and other submerged areas. At times, though, the State, to effectuate an expressed public, policy, delagates some of its sovereign powers either to the legislature or to some of its alter egos. One such instance was R.A. No. 1899 which was intended to increase the autonomy of local governments, an innovation introduced by the Marcos administration. There is no doubt, however, that R.A. No. 1899 was a mere public grant, a privilege which may be withdrawn by the granting authority, the sovereign, in the exercise of police power. This is precisely what President Marcos did when he issued P.D. No. 3-A, a valid and effective means of regaining the State's right to reclaim. It must be noted that this decree was not revoked by President Aquino when she assumed the presidency.

P.D. No. 3-A does not violate the equal protection clause, as claimed by Pasay City and RREC, because, far from singling out the latter, its terminology is simple and extensive enough to cover just about any municipality or city. The decree was signed by President Marcos under his emergency powers when martial law was in effect throughout the country. Thus, it is not an undue delegation or usurpation of legislation power. Neither does it authorize the taking of property without just compensation, for it specifically allows such payment, albeit based on quantum meruit. Incidentally, while RREC attacks the constitutionality of P.D. No. 3-A, and only at this late stage in the proceedings, it relied on this "quantum meruit compensation" clause in the same decree when it filed a claim before the then Ministry of Public Works way back in 1978 and again in 1983. This is an oddity which this Court takes notice of in disallowing RREC from taking contrary positions regarding the validity of a statute in this action. It cannot take advantage of a provision of law even as it attacks the same.

Finally, the Court notes that the amended decision of the Court of Appeals dated April 28, 1992, is based on inadequate evidence. Its conclusion that RREC was able to reclaim 35 hectares is totally unsupported by the dubious proof presented by Pasay City and RREC.

In ruling in favor of Pasay City and RREC, the appellate court relied mostly on three documents issued by the government to the RREC, namely, the "Cost of Data for Items of Work Covered by the Republic Real Estate Corporation for Work Performed in the Manila Bay" issued by the Ministry of Public Highways, and two letters both addressed to RREC Executive Vice President Vicente Asuncion, Jr., one dated June 6, 1979, from then Minister of Public Highways Baltazar Aquino, and another, dated June 10, 1981; from then Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza. These documents, however, never proved that RREC was able to reclaim 35 hectares. In fact, the letter of Aquino, finding that RREC had reclaimed 55 hectares, was in its own words, merely "tentative, pending the submittal of corroborative documents"; hence, it does not amount to the "certification" contemplated in R.A. No. 1899. Mendoza's letter, on the other hand, far from supporting RREC's position, rejected RREC's proposal in the latter's attempt at settlement. It is puzzling why the appellate court even considered this letter in favor of RREC and Pasay City .

On the other hand, there is aimple proof that RREC was not able to reclaim the 55 hectares which it claims it did, or even 35 hectares, as found by the Court of Appeals as follows: aerial photographs of the Manila Bay area in 1966 and 1968; photographs of the CCP taken 1967 and 1968 during construction of the main building; and the testimonies of the persons familiar with the circumstances under which said photographs were taken, as well as the other witnesses who were, one way or another, connected with the construction of the CCP main building, including a member of the Board of Directors of RREC.

3. RREC is entitled to some monetary award

While the extent of reclamation actually done by RREC is debatable, there is no dispute that it did reclaim some portion of the Manila Bay. In the preceding discussion, we declared the nullity of Ordinace Nos. 121 and 158 and the Reclamation Agreement, which are the wellsprings of RREC's right to be compensated. Its reclamation efforts were also found to be ultra vires. Equity and fairness, however, dictate that it be compensated for the work actually performed by it. After all, the State cannot deny that it did benefit from such reclamation. RREC was initially willing to settle the case for P30,396,878.20. In view of the foregoing premises, we believe that RREC should only be given the amount which the State was willing to pay, that is P10,929,071.29, without legal interest. It is axiomatic that legal interest is given either for the use of the money (a loan or forbearance of money) or as a penalty for beach of an obligation (damages). In the case of Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 5 the Court had occassion to set the guidelines by which litigants may claim or be awarded interest as or by way of actual or compensatory damages. Thus,

II. With regard particularly to an award of interest in the concept of actual and compensatory damages, the rate of interest, as well as the accrual thereof, is imposed, as follows:

1. When the obligation is breached, and it consists in the payment of a sum of money, i.e., a loan or forbearance of money, the interest due should be that which may have been stipulated in writing. Furthermore, the interest due shall itself earn legal interest from the time it is judicially demanded. In the absence of stipulation, the rate of interest shall be 12% per annum to be computed from default, i.e., from judicial or extrajudicial demand under and subject to the provisions of Article 1169 of the Civil Code.

2. When an obligation not consisting of a loan or forbearance of money, is breached, an interest on the amount of damages awarded may be imposed at the discretion of the court at the rate of 6% per annum. No interest, however, shall be adjudged on unliquidated claims or damages can be established with reasonable certainty. Accordingly, were the demand is established with reasonable certainty, the interest shall begin to run from the time the claim is made judicially or extrajudicially (Art. 1169, Civil Code) but when such certainty cannot be so reasonably established at the time the demand is made, the interest shall begin to run only from the date the judgment of the court is made (at which time the quantification damages may be deemed to have been reasonably ascertained). The actual base for the computation of legal interest shall, in any case, be on the amount finally adjudged. . . . (Citations omitted)

These are the only circumstances under which interest in the concept of actual or compensatory damages, liquidated or otherwise, may be justified. In the case at bar, no loan or forbearance of money is involved; neither is there any breach of obligation. Consequently, the lone commitment of the State would be the payment for services allegedly rendered, services for which RREC would have the National Government cede to it its property, the value of which has been inflated to unimaginable proportions since the inception of the reclamation project. This is manifestly cupidity at its worst. Neither should the state be penalized for something for which it is entirely blameless. The circumstances which led to the filing of these twin actions have long been overtaken by supervening events, rendering the issues incipiently raised moot and academic. Thus, RREC and Pasay City are, as they should be, only entilled to P10,926,071.29. No more, no less.

Conclusion

For almost three decades, the Cultural Center of the Philippines has been the principal, if not the sole, purveyor of the arts in this country. It has weathered criticism, civil unrest, and "internecine" politics. It relies on the occasional beneficence of loyal patrons, the so-called "cultured" class scorned and spurned by the "masa." Otherwise, it subsists on the rental income it receives from private entities leasing portions of the CCP Complex. With the trial and appellate courts upholding their claims, Pasay City and RREC wish to dismember this bastion of cultural heritage and stunt its growth by claiming ownership over a substantial portion of its property, that which literally serves as its bloodline. This must not be countenanced. The CCP is certainly not about to draw its curtains and take a final bow. As Matthew Arnold said more than a century ago, "I am a Liberal, yet I am a Liberal tempered by experience, reflection, and renouncement, and I am, above all, a believer in culture.

I vote to grant the State's petition, with the qualification adverted to above.

 

PANGANIBAN, J., separate opinion;

I concur with the persuasive ponencia of Mr. Justice Fidel P. Purisima, as fortified by the Separate Opinion of Mr. Justice Reynato S. Puno, insofar as it (1) nullifies (a) the Reclamation Agreement between Pasay City and the Republic Real Estate Corporation (RREC) and (b) Pasay City Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158, and (2) retains ownership of the reclaimed land in favor of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. With due respect, I submit, however, that the majority has no factual basis for its determination of the compensation awarded to RREC and Pasay City.

(1) Nullity of Reclamation Agreement and Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158.

Pasay City justifies its execution of the Reclamation Agreement with RREC and the passage of Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158 on the basis of Republic Act No. 1899 (RA 1899), the law authorizing chartered cities and municipalities to undertake the undertake the reclamation of foreshore lands. The questioned Agreement and Ordinance, however, cover submerged areas of the Manila Bay. As explained in the ponencia, with which I agree, the legal and common definition of foreshore land does not include areas that are fully submerged by the sea.

The Manila Bay area is, therefore, definitely outside the scope of RA 1899. It remains part of the public domain and is, as such, outside the commerce of man. It could not be the object of ordinary contracts or ordinances. The questioned Agreement and Ordinances, the objects of which involve such public property, are thus null and void.

(2) Reclained Area

Belongs to CCP

As a consequence, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), to which PD Nos. 15 and 774 have conveyed ownership of the reclaimed land, remains the lawful owner of the subject land. Title to the nine (9) lots, which Respondent Court wrongfully ordered to be turned over to Pasay City, had long been issued in favor of CCP (One subsequently to the GSIS as a successor-in-interest). Such titles are unaffected by the claims of RREC and cannot be collaterally attacked 1 in this litigation.

(3) No Factual Basis for

Determination of Compensation

Even if the Agreement and Ordinances were null and void, it cannot be denied that RREC and the city government of Pasay spent time, money and effort which undoubtedly inured to the benefit of the government. It is a time-honored principle that no one, not even the government, may be enriched at the expenses of another, 2 particularly one who, like RREC and Pasay City, acted on good faith.

While RREC and Pasay City should be compensated for their work on the reclamation project, I respectfully submit that the amount of such compensation must be supported by substantial and material proof of the reasonable expenses they incurred. But, the records of the case are bereft of any such factual evidence.

However, the records do indicate some attempts of the parties to reach an amicable settlement as a consequence of the promulgation of PD 3-A by former President Ferdinand Marcos. Thus, in 1978, RREC sought the amount of P30,396.878.20 representing the supposed monetory value of the reclamation work that it had undertaken so far. The then Ministry of Public Highways (MPH) (and later the solicitor general also) rejected this offer in 1981 and, instead, counteroffered P10,926,071.29 as the reasonable value of such work. RREC replied that it would be consider such amount only if it would bear six (6) percent interest per annum from 1962 up to the time of payment. It submitted other proposals, but all were rejected by the government. No final extrajudicial settlement was ever reached.

Obviously, the offers and counteroffer were made by the parties with a view to arriving at compromise agreement. At that point, they were not submitted as evidence, but only as a means of arriving at a peaceful settlemet prior to judgment. By then, the case, which had commenced in December 1961 and was still on appeal with the Court of Appeals, was already dragging on for the two decades.

Nature of Compromise

A compromise is an agreement between two or more parties whereby their differences are adjusted in a manner which they mutually agree on, and which they prefer to "hope of gaining, balanced by the danger of losing. 3 The parties usually make reciprocal concessions in order to avoid litigation or terminate a pending one. 4

However, basic is the rule on evidence that in civil cases, an offer of compromise cannot be taken as an admission of liability; nor can it be admissable as an evidence against the offeror. 5 The offer to compromise a claim or a cause of action is not an admission that the claim is valid, but merely admits that there is a dispute and that an amount is to be paid to avoid or end the controversy. 6 I submit that an unaccepted offer or counteroffer of compromise cannot be the basis of the sum to be adjudged in favor of or against a party, more so if such sum is unsuported by competent evidence. In such case, the court itself insofar as it adopts the amount either offered or conteroffered would be bereft of factual basis for its decision. Where the proposed compromise is not accepted, the parties to the litigation would be back to square one; they have to present before the court sufficient and credible evidence to prove their respective claims.

As a rule, an offer or a counteroffer given in an effort to reach a compromise should not be accorded evidentiary value on its face, because by its very nature, a compromise is concessionary. And if one of the parties does not concur, the court cannot impose an amount based on the unaccepted offer, even if culpability of a party has been duly established. The amount of any such liability must be independently ascertained with competent evidence. Otherwise, this Court would be setting a dangerous precedent. Hence, parties, would not submit offers to compromise for fear that such offers, if not accepted, would be used by the Court against them. Upon the other hand, parties may offer bloated amounts in the hope that siad sums could influence the court to eventually grant them a relief more than they deserve. In any, event, the rationale for the policy encouraging compromise would be defeated.

In the case at bar, we should bear in mind that when RREC conceded in 1981 to the solicitor general's counteroffer of P10,926,071.29, provided the amount would bear 6 percent interest per annum, it was with the caveat that such interest rate was already "very much less that the accepted rate of inflation that has supervened since 1962 . . . ." Indeed, if we are to compare current prices with those of three and a half decades ago, or even seventheen years ago, such interest rate on the principal may no longer compensate the 1962 expense. In other words, what may have been a "fair and reasonable" compromise in 1981 may no longer be acceptable at this time. In any event, the solicitor general's counteroffer, not being supported with factual evidence, still cannot be the basis of a judicial award.

Need to Receive Evidence of

Value of RREC Accomplishment

In the instant case, there appears no dispute that RREC has undertaken partil work for the Manila Bay reclamation project to the extent of 1,558,395 cubic meteres of dredge-fill work. In the words of the ponencia:

Undoubtedly, what RREC claimed for was the payment for what it had done on, and for dredge-fill of 1,558.395 cubic meters used for the reclamation project worked on.

This case must therefore be remanded for the purpose of receiving evidence of the peso value of the 1,558,395 cubic meters of dredge-fill work undisputedly done by RREC.

WHEREFORE, I vote for the following:

1. The RECLARATION of the nullity of (a) the Reclamation Agreement Between Pasay City and RREC and (b) Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158 of Pasay City.

2. The RETENTION of ownership of the reclaimed land in favor of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

3. The REMAND of the case to the Commission composed of the former Thirteenth Division of the Court of Appeals (consisting of Associate Justices Arturo B. Buena, chairman; Minerva P. Gonzaga-Reyes and Quirino D. Abad Santos Jr.) for the sole purpose of receiving evidence of the peso value of the work accomplished by RREC and Pasay City for which they shall be paid by the national government.

Separate Opinions

ROMERO, J., separate opinion;

Culture doesn't save anything or any-one, it doesn't justify. But it's a product of man: he projects himself into it, he recognizes himself in it; that critical mirror alone offers him his image." So said Jean Paul Sartre, one of the greatest philosophical thinkers of our time. Matthew Arnold referred to it as the "pursuit of our total perfection" or the "study of perfection." The English mathematican and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, placing premium on human subjectivity, declared, "Culture is activity of thought, and receptiveness to beauty and humane feeling.

Image, perfection, beauty, and feeling. These are elements which are also associated with art and creation. Yet, art in itself is a multi-faceted concept. The revered and, at times, controversial President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, in one of his numerous speeches, elevated art to the level of a pyscho-social necessity of man when he said, ". . . (A)rt establishes the basic human truths which ust serve as the touchstone of our judgment." Indeed, there is no question that art satisfies one of the deepest spiritual needs of man.

Of course, when one speaks of art and culture, he in fact speaks of it in two ways: the abstract and the concrete. What is abstract is conditioned by time; that which is and the concrete is ravaged by it. While the concept of "culture and art" endures man's folies, amassing innumerable, priceless enhancements as it effortlessly slides through generations of human progress, its tangible counterpart, that which is preserved for our children's appreciation, is unfortunately fragile. Art works, music, architecture, literature, and other cultural embellishments which exhibit extraordinary longevity are proclaimed as national treasures, and rightly so, for they are lasting testiminials of man's boundless imagination and creativity, that single trait that places the human species above all other creatures of the Almighty.

Most evidence of a culture's richness are lost, not in the tide of nature's frivolity, but through man's foolishness and capriciousness. Wars used to be the main culprit in the virtual obliteration of the works of ancient scholars. We are now, and for the past century or so, faced with a greater foe: progress. Progress and development are the hallmarks of successful governance. Our leaders, and there are so many of them now, decide "what is best" for the public. Inopportunely, what is perceived to be in the "best interest" of the majority in the name of "progress" may sometimes, and in the long run, the calamitous to the entire people in terms of cultural atrophy. This is the quandary in which this Court finds itself as it attempts to weigh once more private rights against sovereignty and the general welfare.

Background Facts

In a nutshell, the undisputed facts in these consolidated petitions follow.

Pursuant to Republic Act No. 1899, which authorized chartered cities and municipalities to reclaim adjoining foreshore lands, the City Council of Pasay resolved to reclaim a portion of the Manila Bay covering the Manila-Pasay-Parañaque bounderies and, for this purpose, enacted Ordinance No. 121 on May 6, 1958. Two days later, on the strength of said ordinance, Pasay City Mayor Pablo Cuneta contracted with Republic Real Estate Corporation (RREC) for the reclamation of portions of the Manila Bay. On April 21, 1959, the City Council of Pasay amended Ordinance No. 121 by enacting Ordinance No. 158. A new agreement between the parties (the Reclamation Agreement) was executed three days thereafter, whcih, among other things, granted the reclamation project to RREC and gave it an irrevocable option to purchase a maximum of 60% of the area reclaimed at P10.00 per square meter, the amount of which could be set off against any outstanding obligation of the City to RREC. Such an option could only be effected within a year from the time the City Engineer certified that 50 hectares had been reclaimed. The reclamation itself was made by the RREC through third parties who were awarded contracts on the various phases of the project through public bidding. To raise more funds, RREC entered into contracts to sell the reclaimed areas which it could purchase from Pasay City by exercising its option under the Reclamation Agreement.

Proceedings before the trial court

On December 19, 1961, the Republic of the Philippines filed a complaint (amended on March 5, 1962) against Pasay City and RREC for "Recovery of Possession and Damages with Writ of Preliminary Preventive Injunction and Mandatory Injunction" before Branch 7 of the then Court of First Instance of Rizal, Pasay City, praying for the declaration of nullity of Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158, the Reclamation Agreement, and the Contracts to Sell between RREC and the buyers of the reclaimed land. Among other things, the following matters were alleged: (a) the area reclaimed was already reserved as a national park under Proclamation No. 41, dated July 5, 1954 and Act No. 3915, hence, the subject of the Reclamation Agreement was beyond man's commerce; (b) Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158 were ultra vires and void ab initio for being violative of R.A. No. 1899, because they involved the reclamation of "submerged areas" and not "foreshore lands" as allowed by said law; and (c) the Reclamation Agreement was illegal, contrary to morals and public policy because it was executed with neither authority from the National Government nor any public bidding.

In their separate answer, Pasay City and RREC set forth the following negative defenses: (a) Pasay City was empowered by R.A. No. 1899 to reclaim any portion of the Manila Bay; (b) the area reclaimed was not a portion of the Manila Bay Resort, which was the area reserved as a national park under Proclamation No. 41 and Act No. 3915; (c) under R.A. No. 1899, the term "foreshore lands" meant much more than its technical definition and extended to submerged areas beyond the water marks of the shore; and (d) all the actuations of the City RREC regarding the reclamation project were in accordance with R.A. No. 1899 and related laws.

On April 26, 1962, the trial court issued a writ of preliminary injunction ordering Pasay City and RREC to refrain from their activities at the Manila Bay. On January 10, 1968, however, RREC filed a "Motion to Dismiss" the complaint on the ground that the passage of Republic Act No. 5187 (otherwise known as the Public Works Act) on September 16, 1967, rendered the issues raised by the Republic of the Philippines moot and academic. Specifically, RREC relied on Section 3 (m) thereof which stated that all "contracts of city or municipal governments for the reclamation of foreshore and submerged lands shall be respected" during the construction by the national government of a sea wall and limited access highway passing through the projected area of the reclamation. In the meantime, the trial court allowed Jose Bautista and others who allegedly bought in good faith and for value from RREC some portions of the reclaimed land, to intervene in the action and join cause with Pasay City and RREC. On the other hand, the Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc. (PLCUI), a civic organization, joined with the Republic of the Philippines and filed a complaint in intervention.

On May 24, 1972, the court a quo rendered a judgment on the pleadings, upholding the validity of Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158 of the Reclamation Agreement; dismissing the complaint as well as PLCUI's complaint in intervention; enjoining RREC and Pasay City "to have all the plans and specifications in the reclamation approved by the Director of Public Works, and to have all the contracts and subcontracts for said reclamation awarded by means of, and only after, public bidding"; and lifting the preliminary injunction, dated April 26, 1962, as soon as said conditions shall have been met by RREC and Pasay City.

Proceedings before the Court of Appeals

During the pendency of the State's appeal with the Court of Appeals, President Marcos issued on January 11, 1973, Pressidential Decree No. 3-A, providing, inter alia, that "the reclamation of areas under water, whether foreshore or inland, shall be limited to the National Government or any person aurhorized by it under a proper contract," and that it shall take over any validly existing reclamation contract on the basis of quantum meruit. On the strength of P.D. No. 3-A, the Commission of Public Highways and the Construction Development Corporation of the Philippines (CDCP) took over the reclamation contract between Pasay City and RREC for the construction of the Manila-Cavite City Coastal Road. CDCP development the area already reclaimed by RREC and continued reclaiming where the latter left off. These areas, which came to be known as the Cultural Center Complex and the Financial Center Complex, were registered in the name of the CCP.

On February 4, 1977, the Public Estates Authority (PEA) was created by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1084. It was designated as the agency primarily responsible for all the reclaation projects of the national government. The PEA then took over the Manila Bay reclamation contract between the Republic of the Philippines and CDCP.

In 1978, RREC filed a claim for P30,396,878.20 with the ten Ministry of Public Highways (MPH) for its actual reclamation in the CCP Complex before CDCP assumed authority over the project. The MPH, on the other hand, determined the amount of reclamation by RREC to be only P10,926,071.29. Later, RREC offered to settle the case with the Office of the Solicitor General for the original amount of its claim. The OSG would, however, settle only for the lesser amount assessed by the MPH. This was acceptable to RREC only with an additional 6% interest per annum from 1962 up to the time of payment. Within the decade that followed, RREC's proposals for settling the case ballooned from a P35,455,011.31 cash settlement or a property settlement of 3.5 hectares in the CCP Complex covered by TCT No. 75676, to a cash settlement of P175 million, then later, P245 million. The Office of the President, to which the proposals were referred, rejected the same. In other words, no amicable settlement was reached.

The first decision

On January 28, 1992, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision, affirming the trial court's judgment with the following modifications: (a) the requirement on public bidding and submission of plans and specifications to the DPWH by RREC was deleted; (b) the Republic of the Philippines was ordered to turn over to Pasay City the ownership and possession of the 21 hectares already reclaimed by RREC; and (c) RREC's irrevocable option to purchase 60% of the 21 hectares it had already reclaimed was sustained.

The amended decision

On April 28, 1992, the appellate court rendered an amended decision. It agreed with the position of Pasay City and RREC in their motion for reconsideration that the actual the reclaimed was 55, not 21, hectares. Considering, however, that latter were willing to accept 35 hectares of open land in the CCP Complex, the court ordered the Republic of the Philippines to reconvey to Pasay City and RREC said parcels of land comprising nine lots registered in the name of CCP. This is the decision being assailed by both parties in the instant consolidated petitions.

Issues raised

In G.R. No. 103882

Are Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158, as well as the Reclamation Agreement between Pasay City and RREC, valid and bindings as against the National Government and the Cultural Center of the Philippines?

The Republic of the Philippines claims that the Court of Appeals erred in sustaining the validity of Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158 and the Reclamation Agreement executed pursuant thereto, and in ordering the reconveyance of the nine lots titled in the name of CCP to the City of Pasay and RREC. It stresses that the reclamation project undertaken by Pasay City and RREC violated R.A. No. 1899, especially since the subject areas were "submerged lands", not "foreshore lands" which are the only lands that may be reclaimed by local governments under said law.

The CCP, as intervenor in G.R. No. 103882, alleges that the appellate court's amended decision was not binding upon it because it was never made a party to the action and that it was compelled to intervene in the instant petitions to protect its proprietary interests. It claims that the Court of Appeals erred in findings that the actual area reclaimed by RREC was 55 hectares, and in ordering it to turn over to RREC and Pasay City the nine lots registered in its name.

In G.R. No. 105276

Is P.D. 3-A constitutional?

The City of Pasay and RREC claim it is not and that the Court of Apealls erred in not ruling upon its constitutionality, considering that said decree deprived them of their property and rights of ownership without due process of law and without payment of just compensation, and that it violated the non-impairment clause of the Constitution; and in not awarding them damages for the alleged illegal takeover of the reclamation contract and the reclaimed area. Thus, they pray for the modification of the assailed amended decision by awarding them damages and conveying to them, not merely 35, but 55 hectares of the land allegedly reclaimed.

The Commissioner's Report

On September 10, 1997, the Court's Second Division issued a Resolution remanding the case to the Court of Appeals to receive further evidence and determine the actual area reclaimed by RREC and the arreas of the CCP Complex which are "open spaces." In its Commissioner's Report dated November 25, 1997, the appellate court conclude that the CCP and the Solicitor General failed to refute its earleir finding that RREC and Pasay City were able to reclaim 55 hectares of the Manila Bay.

Discussion of Issues

1. Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158, as well as the Reclamation Agreement between Pasay City and RREC, are null and void for violating the clear and unambiguous provisions of R.A. No. 1899.

In 1984, the term "foreshore lands" was defined by this Court in the case of Republic v. Court of Appeals. 1 Although the subject of this case was part of the Laguna de Bay, the Court nevertheless applied Bouvier's definition of "foreshore lands," viz: "that part of the land immediately in front of the shore; the part which is between high and low water marks, and alternately covered with water and left dry by the flux and reflux of the tides. It is indicated by a middle line between the highest and lowest tides."

This judicial interpretation did not escape the attention of the legislature in the enactment of later related laws. In R.A. No. 5187, for example, Congress specified the areas that may be reclaimed in the construction of the Manila-Cavite City Coastal Road to include both "foreshore and submerged areas." The Chief Executive also recognized the disparity between the two terms when he signed into law P.D. No. 3-A, authorizing the reclamation of "areas under water, whether foreshore or inland." Similarly, P.D. No. 1094, creating the Public Estates authority to "reclaim land, including foreshore and submerged areas."

Initially, legislative intent and later jurisprudential usage clearly delimited the term "foreshore lands" to that part of the land where the tides literally converge, thus excluding submerged lands. This restricted explication was unquestionably ackonwledged by the other branches of government when, in passing subsequent related statutes, they added the terms "submerged areas" or "areas under water" to foreshore lands." Under the principles of legal construction, since R.A No. 1899 partakes of the nature of a legislative grant of a sovereign right to municipalities and chartered cities, that is, the right "to reclaim," it must be strictly construed against the latter.

R.A. No. 1899 was, therefore, enacted to apply strictly to "foreshore lands." Thus, when RREC was permitted by the City of Pasay, through Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158 and the ensuing Reclamation Agreement, to reclaim up to a one-kilometer stretch into the Manila Bay, more than just "foreshore lands" was obviously contemplated and involved. Furthermore, R.A. No. 1899 mandates that any reclamation must be carried out by the municipality or chartered city concerned 2 with the aid of funds which it may borrow from third persons or lending institution. 3 The reclamation of Manila Bay was undertaken, not by Pasay City, but by RREC itself under a special power of attorney from Pasay City using funds exclusively borrowed by the latter from RREC. To compound the anomaly of it all, the reclamation project itself was awarded by Pasay City to RREC without any public bidding. Finally, to complete Pasay City's absolute abdication of its duty to champion public over private interest, RREC was granted an irrevocable option to purchase the land reclaimed in lieu of simply paying for it using a determinable and liquadated amount "in Philippine currency or in the currency in which the principal has been originally received," 4 as required by R.A. No. 1899. In fact, RREC began disposing of the land by entering into contracts to sell with various third persons while the reclamation project was still in progress and long before it acquired any right of dominion over the lands yet to be reclaimed. These are all blatant violations of R.A. No. 1899. Hence, Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158, no less than the Reclamation Agreement and the Contracts to Sell it has spawned, should all be deemed null and void, the reclamation itself being ultra vires.

2. P.D. No. 3-A is constitutional and valid

Applying the regalian doctrine, the State owns all waters and lands of the public domain, including those physically reclaimed. As a general rule, therefore, only the National Government can reclaim foreshore lands and other submerged areas. At times, though, the State, to effectuate an expressed public, policy, delagates some of its sovereign powers either to the legislature or to some of its alter egos. One such instance was R.A. No. 1899 which was intended to increase the autonomy of local governments, an innovation introduced by the Marcos administration. There is no doubt, however, that R.A. No. 1899 was a mere public grant, a privilege which may be withdrawn by the granting authority, the sovereign, in the exercise of police power. This is precisely what President Marcos did when he issued P.D. No. 3-A, a valid and effective means of regaining the State's right to reclaim. It must be noted that this decree was not revoked by President Aquino when she assumed the presidency.

P.D. No. 3-A does not violate the equal protection clause, as claimed by Pasay City and RREC, because, far from singling out the latter, its terminology is simple and extensive enough to cover just about any municipality or city. The decree was signed by President Marcos under his emergency powers when martial law was in effect throughout the country. Thus, it is not an undue delegation or usurpation of legislation power. Neither does it authorize the taking of property without just compensation, for it specifically allows such payment, albeit based on quantum meruit. Incidentally, while RREC attacks the constitutionality of P.D. No. 3-A, and only at this late stage in the proceedings, it relied on this "quantum meruit compensation" clause in the same decree when it filed a claim before the then Ministry of Public Works way back in 1978 and again in 1983. This is an oddity which this Court takes notice of in disallowing RREC from taking contrary positions regarding the validity of a statute in this action. It cannot take advantage of a provision of law even as it attacks the same.

Finally, the Court notes that the amended decision of the Court of Appeals dated April 28, 1992, is based on inadequate evidence. Its conclusion that RREC was able to reclaim 35 hectares is totally unsupported by the dubious proof presented by Pasay City and RREC.

In ruling in favor of Pasay City and RREC, the appellate court relied mostly on three documents issued by the government to the RREC, namely, the "Cost of Data for Items of Work Covered by the Republic Real Estate Corporation for Work Performed in the Manila Bay" issued by the Ministry of Public Highways, and two letters both addressed to RREC Executive Vice President Vicente Asuncion, Jr., one dated June 6, 1979, from then Minister of Public Highways Baltazar Aquino, and another, dated June 10, 1981; from then Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza. These documents, however, never proved that RREC was able to reclaim 35 hectares. In fact, the letter of Aquino, finding that RREC had reclaimed 55 hectares, was in its own words, merely "tentative, pending the submittal of corroborative documents"; hence, it does not amount to the "certification" contemplated in R.A. No. 1899. Mendoza's letter, on the other hand, far from supporting RREC's position, rejected RREC's proposal in the latter's attempt at settlement. It is puzzling why the appellate court even considered this letter in favor of RREC and Pasay City .

On the other hand, there is aimple proof that RREC was not able to reclaim the 55 hectares which it claims it did, or even 35 hectares, as found by the Court of Appeals as follows: aerial photographs of the Manila Bay area in 1966 and 1968; photographs of the CCP taken 1967 and 1968 during construction of the main building; and the testimonies of the persons familiar with the circumstances under which said photographs were taken, as well as the other witnesses who were, one way or another, connected with the construction of the CCP main building, including a member of the Board of Directors of RREC.

3. RREC is entitled to some monetary award

While the extent of reclamation actually done by RREC is debatable, there is no dispute that it did reclaim some portion of the Manila Bay. In the preceding discussion, we declared the nullity of Ordinace Nos. 121 and 158 and the Reclamation Agreement, which are the wellsprings of RREC's right to be compensated. Its reclamation efforts were also found to be ultra vires. Equity and fairness, however, dictate that it be compensated for the work actually performed by it. After all, the State cannot deny that it did benefit from such reclamation. RREC was initially willing to settle the case for P30,396,878.20. In view of the foregoing premises, we believe that RREC should only be given the amount which the State was willing to pay, that is P10,929,071.29, without legal interest. It is axiomatic that legal interest is given either for the use of the money (a loan or forbearance of money) or as a penalty for beach of an obligation (damages). In the case of Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 5 the Court had occassion to set the guidelines by which litigants may claim or be awarded interest as or by way of actual or compensatory damages. Thus,

II. With regard particularly to an award of interest in the concept of actual and compensatory damages, the rate of interest, as well as the accrual thereof, is imposed, as follows:

1. When the obligation is breached, and it consists in the payment of a sum of money, i.e., a loan or forbearance of money, the interest due should be that which may have been stipulated in writing. Furthermore, the interest due shall itself earn legal interest from the time it is judicially demanded. In the absence of stipulation, the rate of interest shall be 12% per annum to be computed from default, i.e., from judicial or extrajudicial demand under and subject to the provisions of Article 1169 of the Civil Code.

2. When an obligation not consisting of a loan or forbearance of money, is breached, an interest on the amount of damages awarded may be imposed at the discretion of the court at the rate of 6% per annum. No interest, however, shall be adjudged on unliquidated claims or damages can be established with reasonable certainty. Accordingly, were the demand is established with reasonable certainty, the interest shall begin to run from the time the claim is made judicially or extrajudicially (Art. 1169, Civil Code) but when such certainty cannot be so reasonably established at the time the demand is made, the interest shall begin to run only from the date the judgment of the court is made (at which time the quantification damages may be deemed to have been reasonably ascertained). The actual base for the computation of legal interest shall, in any case, be on the amount finally adjudged. . . . (Citations omitted)

These are the only circumstances under which interest in the concept of actual or compensatory damages, liquidated or otherwise, may be justified. In the case at bar, no loan or forbearance of money is involved; neither is there any breach of obligation. Consequently, the lone commitment of the State would be the payment for services allegedly rendered, services for which RREC would have the National Government cede to it its property, the value of which has been inflated to unimaginable proportions since the inception of the reclamation project. This is manifestly cupidity at its worst. Neither should the state be penalized for something for which it is entirely blameless. The circumstances which led to the filing of these twin actions have long been overtaken by supervening events, rendering the issues incipiently raised moot and academic. Thus, RREC and Pasay City are, as they should be, only entilled to P10,926,071.29. No more, no less.

Conclusion

For almost three decades, the Cultural Center of the Philippines has been the principal, if not the sole, purveyor of the arts in this country. It has weathered criticism, civil unrest, and "internecine" politics. It relies on the occasional beneficence of loyal patrons, the so-called "cultured" class scorned and spurned by the "masa." Otherwise, it subsists on the rental income it receives from private entities leasing portions of the CCP Complex. With the trial and appellate courts upholding their claims, Pasay City and RREC wish to dismember this bastion of cultural heritage and stunt its growth by claiming ownership over a substantial portion of its property, that which literally serves as its bloodline. This must not be countenanced. The CCP is certainly not about to draw its curtains and take a final bow. As Matthew Arnold said more than a century ago, "I am a Liberal, yet I am a Liberal tempered by experience, reflection, and renouncement, and I am, above all, a believer in culture.

I vote to grant the State's petition, with the qualification adverted to above.

 

PANGANIBAN, J., separate opinion;

I concur with the persuasive ponencia of Mr. Justice Fidel P. Purisima, as fortified by the Separate Opinion of Mr. Justice Reynato S. Puno, insofar as it (1) nullifies (a) the Reclamation Agreement between Pasay City and the Republic Real Estate Corporation (RREC) and (b) Pasay City Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158, and (2) retains ownership of the reclaimed land in favor of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. With due respect, I submit, however, that the majority has no factual basis for its determination of the compensation awarded to RREC and Pasay City.

(1) Nullity of Reclamation Agreement and Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158.

Pasay City justifies its execution of the Reclamation Agreement with RREC and the passage of Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158 on the basis of Republic Act No. 1899 (RA 1899), the law authorizing chartered cities and municipalities to undertake the undertake the reclamation of foreshore lands. The questioned Agreement and Ordinance, however, cover submerged areas of the Manila Bay. As explained in the ponencia, with which I agree, the legal and common definition of foreshore land does not include areas that are fully submerged by the sea.

The Manila Bay area is, therefore, definitely outside the scope of RA 1899. It remains part of the public domain and is, as such, outside the commerce of man. It could not be the object of ordinary contracts or ordinances. The questioned Agreement and Ordinances, the objects of which involve such public property, are thus null and void.

(2) Reclained Area

Belongs to CCP

As a consequence, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), to which PD Nos. 15 and 774 have conveyed ownership of the reclaimed land, remains the lawful owner of the subject land. Title to the nine (9) lots, which Respondent Court wrongfully ordered to be turned over to Pasay City, had long been issued in favor of CCP (One subsequently to the GSIS as a successor-in-interest). Such titles are unaffected by the claims of RREC and cannot be collaterally attacked 1 in this litigation.

(3) No Factual Basis for

Determination of Compensation

Even if the Agreement and Ordinances were null and void, it cannot be denied that RREC and the city government of Pasay spent time, money and effort which undoubtedly inured to the benefit of the government. It is a time-honored principle that no one, not even the government, may be enriched at the expenses of another, 2 particularly one who, like RREC and Pasay City, acted on good faith.

While RREC and Pasay City should be compensated for their work on the reclamation project, I respectfully submit that the amount of such compensation must be supported by substantial and material proof of the reasonable expenses they incurred. But, the records of the case are bereft of any such factual evidence.

However, the records do indicate some attempts of the parties to reach an amicable settlement as a consequence of the promulgation of PD 3-A by former President Ferdinand Marcos. Thus, in 1978, RREC sought the amount of P30,396.878.20 representing the supposed monetory value of the reclamation work that it had undertaken so far. The then Ministry of Public Highways (MPH) (and later the solicitor general also) rejected this offer in 1981 and, instead, counteroffered P10,926,071.29 as the reasonable value of such work. RREC replied that it would be consider such amount only if it would bear six (6) percent interest per annum from 1962 up to the time of payment. It submitted other proposals, but all were rejected by the government. No final extrajudicial settlement was ever reached.

Obviously, the offers and counteroffer were made by the parties with a view to arriving at compromise agreement. At that point, they were not submitted as evidence, but only as a means of arriving at a peaceful settlemet prior to judgment. By then, the case, which had commenced in December 1961 and was still on appeal with the Court of Appeals, was already dragging on for the two decades.

Nature of Compromise

A compromise is an agreement between two or more parties whereby their differences are adjusted in a manner which they mutually agree on, and which they prefer to "hope of gaining, balanced by the danger of losing. 3 The parties usually make reciprocal concessions in order to avoid litigation or terminate a pending one. 4

However, basic is the rule on evidence that in civil cases, an offer of compromise cannot be taken as an admission of liability; nor can it be admissable as an evidence against the offeror. 5 The offer to compromise a claim or a cause of action is not an admission that the claim is valid, but merely admits that there is a dispute and that an amount is to be paid to avoid or end the controversy. 6 I submit that an unaccepted offer or counteroffer of compromise cannot be the basis of the sum to be adjudged in favor of or against a party, more so if such sum is unsuported by competent evidence. In such case, the court itself insofar as it adopts the amount either offered or conteroffered would be bereft of factual basis for its decision. Where the proposed compromise is not accepted, the parties to the litigation would be back to square one; they have to present before the court sufficient and credible evidence to prove their respective claims.

As a rule, an offer or a counteroffer given in an effort to reach a compromise should not be accorded evidentiary value on its face, because by its very nature, a compromise is concessionary. And if one of the parties does not concur, the court cannot impose an amount based on the unaccepted offer, even if culpability of a party has been duly established. The amount of any such liability must be independently ascertained with competent evidence. Otherwise, this Court would be setting a dangerous precedent. Hence, parties, would not submit offers to compromise for fear that such offers, if not accepted, would be used by the Court against them. Upon the other hand, parties may offer bloated amounts in the hope that siad sums could influence the court to eventually grant them a relief more than they deserve. In any, event, the rationale for the policy encouraging compromise would be defeated.

In the case at bar, we should bear in mind that when RREC conceded in 1981 to the solicitor general's counteroffer of P10,926,071.29, provided the amount would bear 6 percent interest per annum, it was with the caveat that such interest rate was already "very much less that the accepted rate of inflation that has supervened since 1962 . . . ." Indeed, if we are to compare current prices with those of three and a half decades ago, or even seventheen years ago, such interest rate on the principal may no longer compensate the 1962 expense. In other words, what may have been a "fair and reasonable" compromise in 1981 may no longer be acceptable at this time. In any event, the solicitor general's counteroffer, not being supported with factual evidence, still cannot be the basis of a judicial award.

Need to Receive Evidence of

Value of RREC Accomplishment

In the instant case, there appears no dispute that RREC has undertaken partil work for the Manila Bay reclamation project to the extent of 1,558,395 cubic meteres of dredge-fill work. In the words of the ponencia:

Undoubtedly, what RREC claimed for was the payment for what it had done on, and for dredge-fill of 1,558.395 cubic meters used for the reclamation project worked on.

This case must therefore be remanded for the purpose of receiving evidence of the peso value of the 1,558,395 cubic meters of dredge-fill work undisputedly done by RREC.

WHEREFORE, I vote for the following:

1. The RECLARATION of the nullity of (a) the Reclamation Agreement Between Pasay City and RREC and (b) Ordinance Nos. 121 and 158 of Pasay City.

2. The RETENTION of ownership of the reclaimed land in favor of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

3. The REMAND of the case to the Commission composed of the former Thirteenth Division of the Court of Appeals (consisting of Associate Justices Arturo B. Buena, chairman; Minerva P. Gonzaga-Reyes and Quirino D. Abad Santos Jr.) for the sole purpose of receiving evidence of the peso value of the work accomplished by RREC and Pasay City for which they shall be paid by the national government.

Footnotes

1 Penned by Associate Justice Quirino D. Abad Santos and concurred by Associate Justices Arturo B. Buena and Minerva Gonzaga-Reyes.

2 Exh. "P"; Folder No. I, Record on Appeal, p. 24.

3 Annex "A"; Record on Appeal, pp. 10-17.

4 Annex "E"; Record on Appeal, pp. 64-73.

5 Annexes "F" and "G"; Record on Appeal, pp. 74-105.

6 Annex "H", Record on Appeal, p. 106.

7 Annex "I"; Record on Appeal, p. 107.

8 Annex "J"; Record on Appeal, pp. 109-128.

9 Annex "H"; Record on Appeal, p. 129.

10 Annex "N"; Record on Appeal, pp. 169-172.

11 Annex "O"; Record on Appeal, pp. 175-176.

12 Annex "T"; Record on Appeal, p. 193.

13 Rollo, G.R. No. 103882, pp. 853-869.

14 Rollo, G.R. No. 105276, pp. 7-47.

15 See Amended Complaint; supra, footnote 4.

16 Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, 258 SCRA 405.

17 People v. Amigo, 252 SCRA 43.

18 Largado v. Masaganda, 5 SCRA 552.

19 CA Rollo, p. 760.

20 Art. 2142, Civil Code:

Certain lawful, voluntary and unilateral acts give rise to the juridical relation of quasi-contract to the end that no one shall be unjustly enriched or benefited at the expense of another.

ROMERO, J., separate opinion;

1 131 SCRA 532.

2 At Section 1, in relation to Section 9.

3 At Section 3.

4 At Section 6.

5 234 SCRA 78, 95-96 (1994).

PANGANIBAN, J., separate opinion;

1 Halili v. Court of Industrial Relations, 257 SCRA 174,184, May 30, 1996.

2 Art. 22, Civil Code. Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co., 148 SCRA 315, 324, March 9, 1987; Ramie Textiles, Inc. v. Mathay Sr., SCRA 586, 592, April 30, 1979.

3 Del Rosario v. Madayag, 247 SCRA 767, August 28, 1995.

4 Galay v. Court of Appeals, 250 SCRA 629, December 4, 1995; Domingo v. Court Appeals, 255 SCRA 189, March 20, 1996; Sanchez v. Court of Appeals, 279 SCRA 647, 675, September 29, 1997.

5 26, Rule 130, Rules of Court. See also Servicewide Specialists, Inc. v. Court of Apeals, 257 SCRA 643, 656, June 26, 1996.

6 Servicewide Specialists, Inc., ibid., citing 15A CJS Compromise and Settlement 22.


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