Duty of mayors to enforce laws and ordinances (case digest)

(Social Justice Society, et al. vs. Atienza, Jr., G.R. No. 156052, 7 March 2007; Corona, J.; First Division) – Digest

Facts: On November 20, 2001, the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Manila enacted Ordinance No. 8027, which ordinance became effective on December 28, 2001, after its publication. Ordinance No. 8027 reclassified the area described therein from industrial to commercial and directed the owners and operators of businesses disallowed under Section 1 to cease and desist from operating their businesses within six months from the date of effectivity of the ordinance. Among the businesses situated in the area are the so-called Pandacan Terminals of the oil companies Caltex, Petron and Shell.

However, on June 26, 2002, the City of Manila and the Department of Energy (DOE) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the oil companies in which they agreed that the scaling down of the Pandacan Terminals [was] the most viable and practicable option. Under the MOU, the City of Manila and the DOE committed, among others, to enable the OIL COMPANIES to continuously operate in compliance with legal requirements, within the limited area resulting from the joint operations and the scale down program.

The Sangguniang Panlungsod ratified the MOU in Resolution No. 97. In the same resolution, the Sanggunian declared that the MOU was effective only for a period of six months starting July 25, 2002. Thereafter, on January 30, 2003, the Sanggunian adopted Resolution No. 13 extending the validity of Resolution No. 97 to April 30, 2003 and authorizing Mayor Atienza to issue special business permits to the oil companies. Resolution No. 13, s. 2003 also called for a reassessment of the ordinance.

Petitioners filed this original action for mandamus on December 4, 2002 praying that Mayor Atienza be compelled to enforce Ordinance No. 8027 and order the immediate removal of the terminals of the oil companies.

Issue: Whether or not respondent has the mandatory legal duty to enforce Ordinance No. 8027 and order the removal of the Pandacan Terminals.

Under Rule 65, Section 3 of the Rules of Court, a petition for mandamus may be filed when any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station. Mandamus is an extraordinary writ that is employed to compel the performance, when refused, of a ministerial duty that is already imposed on the respondent and there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. The petitioner should have a well-defined, clear and certain legal right to the performance of the act and it must be the clear and imperative duty of respondent to do the act required to be done.

When a mandamus proceeding concerns a public right and its object is to compel a public duty, the people who are interested in the execution of the laws are regarded as the real parties in interest and they need not show any specific interest. Besides, as residents of Manila, petitioners have a direct interest in the enforcement of the city ordinances. Respondent never questioned the right of petitioners to institute this proceeding.

On the other hand, the Local Government Code imposes upon respondent the duty, as city mayor, to enforce all laws and ordinances relative to the governance of the city. One of these is Ordinance No. 8027. As the chief executive of the city, he has the duty to enforce Ordinance No. 8027 as long as it has not been repealed by the Sanggunian or annulled by the courts. He has no other choice. It is his ministerial duty to do so.

Issue: Whether or not the June 26, 2002 MOU and the resolutions ratifying it can amend or repeal Ordinance No. 8027.

This issue need not be resolved. Assuming that the terms of the MOU were inconsistent with Ordinance No. 8027, the resolutions which ratified it and made it binding on the City of Manila expressly gave it full force and effect only until April 30, 2003. There is nothing that legally hinders respondent from enforcing Ordinance No. 8027.

5 thoughts on “Duty of mayors to enforce laws and ordinances (case digest)

  1. amicus curiae

    Admittedly, the Philipiines has a great deal of good laws in its repository, albeit, dormant. It’s actually the law versus the power of money, influence and politics; a tug-of-war, to which, no clear-cut solution is forseeable.

    While a special civil action of mandamus is available, to enforce implementation of legislative acts that are purely ministerial in nature, the lack of initiative on the part of those mandated and/or accountable for their enforcement, often creates more detriment, creates and compounds problems more aggravating than what could be the result of the absence of such a law to be enforced.

    Should the people always resort to an action for mandamus to compel officials to implement a law and carry out the purpose for which it was enacted? This can be a costly proposition, both for the people and the government.

    I see no reason for an executive official’s refusal therefor, other than the factors heretofore-mentioned, for certainly, in a case of a ministerial duty, the latter is devoid of any legally-founded power of discretion.

    Reply
  2. Atty. Fred Post author

    Amicus, very well said, thanks for dropping by. In fairness to the city government, maybe they have reasons which they believe are legitimate. Still, you’re absolutely correct that the need to compel public officials to perform their functions is a costly proposition. Besides, it doesn’t reflect well on our society if the people has to file a court case to compel public officials to perform their duties.

    Reply
  3. roman

    can a municipality impose lower rates for its residents compared to non-residents, and allow a certain number of fishing vessels from other municipalities to fish within their municipal waters?

    Reply
  4. Hiram

    is there any power for a a Municipal Vice Mayor that when given authorization by the Mayor then the Vice mayor can implement all enacted ordinances
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    Reply

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