THE Supreme Court has ruled that the city government of Taguig is the rightful owner of Fort Bonifacio, which includes the posh Bonifacio Global City (BGC) financial and lifestyle district.
The high court denied the petition for review on certiorari filed by Makati City questioning the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) that junked with finality its bid to acquire territorial jurisdiction over Fort Bonifacio.
In a 53-page decision dated Dec. 1, 2021 which was released only recently, the Supreme Court reinstated with modification the verdict of the lower court.
The case arose from Taguig’s territorial dispute with Makati over the areas comprising the Enlisted Men’s Barangay (EMBOs) and the entire Fort Bonifacio, headquarters of the Philippine Army.
The city government of Taguig argued, among others, that the areas comprising the EMBOs and the inner fort in Fort Bonifacio are within its territory and jurisdiction.
It said that the municipality of Taguig has been in existence for over 400 years, initially as a pueblo (settlement) of the province of Manila during the Spanish colonial period.
The CA affirmed the July 2011 decision of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court that gave Taguig jurisdiction over the area being contested by Makati City.
The city government of Makati subsequently filed an appeal before the Pasig RTC, but at the same time, it lodged a petition for annulment of judgment with the CA, thus violating the forum shopping rule.
The CA held that in its July 30, 2013 ruling, it brushed aside the issue of forum shopping for being moot as it gave way to the ruling of the appellate court’s 7th Division in the annulment case.
However, it also pointed out that since the Supreme Court had already spoken and laid to rest the issue of whether or not Makati had committed willful and deliberate forum shopping, it no longer had any option but to adhere to it.
The appellate tribunal dismissed Makati’s appeal, prompting it to file a motion for reconsideration which was also denied on Oct. 3, 2017, forcing Makati to elevate the case before the high court.
While the Supreme Court agreed with Makati in its assertions that the appeals court erred in dismissing its appeal because of forum shopping, it found in the end that Taguig was able to prove its cause of action by the requisite preponderance of the evidence.
In the ruling, the Supreme Court held that the CA overstepped its bounds and thus erred in dismissing the case based on forum shopping.
But then again, the Supreme Court explained that it “cannot blame the CA for deciding in the manner that it did as we are also aware of the sanctions that should have ordinarily been imposed in cases of forum shopping.”
“Moreover, the imperatives of judicial economy dictate that the present case be resolved on the merits,” the court opined.
“Judicial economy mandates that litigation be with the least cost to the parties and to the courts’ time, effort, and resources. This controversy had dragged on for almost two decades, requiring both parties to expend incalculable resources,” it stated.
“However, Makati, despite presenting a valid ground to set aside the procedural lapse committed by the CA, cannot as yet lay claim over the disputed territory as it appears that the contested areas, based on historical, documentary, and testimonial evidence, indeed fall within the territorial jurisdiction of Taguig.”
According to the high tribunal, “Taguig is unyielding in its stand that factual issues are outside the province of a petition for review on certiorari, but the general rule that only questions of law are entertained in petitions of this nature admits of several exceptions.”
It further “resolved the boundary dispute without resorting to constitutional adjudication of the assailed proclamations.”
“Fort Bonifacio Military Reservation, consisting of Parcels 3 and 3, Psu-2031, is confirmed to be part of the territory of the city of Taguig[,]” the decision read.
“The writ of preliminary injunction dated August 2, 1994 issued by the RTC [Regional Trial Court] of Pasig, explicitly referring to Parcels 3 and 4, Psu-2031, comprising Fort Bonifacio, be made permanent insofar as it enjoined the municipality, now city of Makati, from exercising jurisdiction over, making improvements on, or otherwise treating as part of its territory, Parcels 3 and 4, Psu-2031, comprising Fort Bonifacio.”
The high tribunal also ordered the city of Makati to pay the costs of the suit.
The ruling was penned by Associate Justice Ricardo Rosario and concurred in by Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Rosmari Carandang, Rodil Zalameda and Jose Midas Marquez.