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357 Phil. 165


[ G.R. No. 108725-26, September 25, 1998 ]




The People of the Philippines, represented by the Provincial Prosecutor of Occidental Mindoro, and the private complainant, Farmers’ Cooperative Marketing Association (FACOMA), brought this special civil action for certiorari and mandamus, to annul the orders, dated January 18 and February 4, 1993, respectively, of Presiding Judge Emilio L. Leachon, Jr. of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 46, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, who dismissed Criminal Case Nos. R-2877 and R-2828, and denied herein petitioners’ motion for reconsideration. Petitioners further pray that respondent Judge be ordered to proceed with the trial of said cases.

The antecedent facts that matter are, as follows:

On August 7, 1990, pursuant to the Resolution of the Municipal Trial Court of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, the Provincial Prosecutor of Occidental Mindoro filed two separate informations for violation of P. D. 772, otherwise known as the Anti-Squatting Law, against Noli Hablo, Edmundo Mapindan and Diego Escala, docketed as Criminal Case Nos. R-2877 and R-2828, before the Regional Trial Court of Occidental Mindoro presided over by respondent judge.
The cases proceeded to trial. After presenting its evidence, the prosecution rested the cases, sending in a written offer of evidence on November 14, 1991.
On August 18, 1992, almost a year after the prosecution had rested, the respondent Judge issued an Order dismissing the said cases motu proprio on the ground of “lack of jurisdiction.”
From the aforesaid order of dismissal, petitioners appealed to this Court via a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus, which was referred to the Court of Appeals for proper disposition.

On December 24, 1992, the 12th Division of the Court of Appeals came out with a decision reversing the appealed Order of dismissal, ordering continuation of trial of subject criminal cases, and disposing, thus:

“IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING considerations, the petition is given due course and the orders of respondent judge dated August 19, 1992 and September 1, 1992 are set aside and declared null and void. Respondent judge is hereby directed to proceed with the hearing of the case, i.e., with the presentation of evidence by the accused, then the rebuttal or surrebuttal evidence, if necessary and thereafter, to decide the case on the basis of the evidence adduced. No pronouncement as to costs.

On January 19, 1993, instead of conducting the trial, as directed by the Court of Appeals, the respondent judge dismissed the cases motu proprio, once more, opining that P.D. 772 is rendered obsolete and deemed repealed by Sections 9 and 10, Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution, which provide that “urban or rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwellings demolished except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner.”

Petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration interposed on January 29, 1993, having been denied by the respondent Judge on February 4, 1993, petitioners found their way to this court via the instant petition.

The issue posited here is whether or not the respondent judge acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in dismissing subject criminal cases for violation of the Anti-Squatting Law, and in declaring the said law as repugnant to the provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

To begin with, to every legislative act attaches the presumption of constitutionality. (Misolas vs.Panga, 181 SCRA 648; Alvarez vs. Guingona, Jr., 252 SCRA 695). Unless otherwise repealed by a subsequent law or adjudged unconstitutional by this Court, a law will always be presumed valid and the first and fundamental duty of the court is to apply the law. (Lim vs. Pacquing, 240 SCRA 649; National Federation of Labor vs. Eisma, 127 SCRA 419)

Then, too, it is a basic rule of statutory construction that repeals by implication are not favored unless it is manifest that such is the legislative intent. (Napocor vs. Province of Lanao del Sur, 264 SCRA 271) This doctrine is premised on the rationale that the will of the legislature cannot be overturned by the judicial function of construction and interpretation. (Ty vs. Trampe, 250 SCRA 500; Frivaldo vs. Comelec, 257 SCRA 727; Agujetas vs. Court of Appeals, 261 SCRA 17)

Presidential Decree No. 772, otherwise known as the Anti-Squatting Law, enjoys this presumption of constitutionality. At the time the respondent Judge rendered the questioned Decision and issued the orders of dismissal in 1993, Presidential Decree No. 772, Anti-Squatting Law, was still effective. Neither has this Court declared its unconstitutionality, notwithstanding the social justice provision of Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution, specifically on urban land reform and housing.

Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution, provides:

“Section 9. The State shall, by law, and for the common good, undertake, in cooperation with the private sector, a continuing program of urban land reform and housing which will make available at affordable cost decent housing and basic services to underprivileged and homeless citizens in urban centers and resettlement areas. It shall also promote adequate employment opportunities to such citizens. In the implementation of such program the State shall respect the rights of small property owners.”
“Sec. 10. Urban or rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwellings demolished, except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner.
No resettlement of urban or rural dwellers shall be undertaken without adequate consultation with them and the communities where they are to be relocated."

Presidential Decree No. 772, on the other hand, states:

“Sec. 1. Any person, with the use of force, intimidation or threat, or taking advantage of the absence or tolerance of the landowner, succeeds in occupying or possessing the property of the latter against his will for residential, commercial or any other purposes, shall be punished by imprisonment ranging from six months to one year or a fine not less than one thousand or more than five thousand pesos at the discretion of the Court, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.
If the offender is a corporation or association, the maximum penalty of five years and the fine of thousand pesos shall be imposed upon the president, director, manager or managing partners thereof.”

In dismissing subject criminal cases for anti-squatting, respondent Judge ratiocinated that “if all the accused in these cases were convicted and ordered evicted, it will run counter to the said specific constitutional provisions because the conviction and eviction will not be in a just and humane manner as the government has not yet undertaken the resettlement of urban and rural dwellers (referring to all accused in the cases at bar) and neither has the government consulted all the accused as to where they should be relocated.”

From the aforequoted portion of the questioned disposition below, it can be gleaned that the reason of respondent Judge in dismissing subject cases is that the eviction of the accused was not effected in a just and humane manner as the government has not yet established a resettlement area for the accused, and those who would be evicted have not been consulted as to the place of their relocation. The import of the Order of dismissal under scrutiny is that- should the eviction be in a just and humane manner, the same shall be valid and upheld.

The Court holds that the respondent judge did not err in so construing the aforecited constitutional provision. Under the Constitution, what makes the eviction and demolition of urban or rural poor dwellers illegal or unlawful is when the same are not done in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner.

However, respondent Judge erred in predicating the validity or legality of eviction on the existence of a resettlement plan and area. The constitutional requirement that the eviction and demolition be in accordance with law and conducted in a just and humane manner does not mean that the validity or legality of the demolition or eviction is hinged on the existence of a resettlement area designated or earmarked by the government. What is meant by “in accordance with law” and “just and humane manner” is that the person to be evicted be accorded due process or an opportunity to controvert the allegation that his or her occupation or possession of the property involved is unlawful or against the will of the landowner; that should the illegal or unlawful occupation be proven, the occupant be sufficiently notified before actual eviction or demolition is done; and that there be no loss of lives, physical injuries or unnecessary loss of or damage to properties.

Precisely, the enactment of an anti-squatting law affords the alleged “squatters” the opportunity to present their case before a competent court where their rights will be amply protected and due process strictly observed. By filing the proper informations in court, complainants have complied with the first requirement of due process, that is, the opportunity for the accused to be heard and present evidence to show that his or her occupation or possession of the property is not against the will or without the consent of the landowner and is not tainted by the use of force, intimidation, threat or by the taking advantage of the absence of or tolerance by the landowners.

Furthermore, what gives impetus to P. D. 772 is the constitutional mandate that - “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Far from contravening, P. D. 772 conforms with the 1987 Constitution, in that it protects the rights of a property owner against unlawful and illegal intrusion.

It should likewise be noted that a constitutional question will not be decided unless it is properly raised in appropriate cases (Tropical Homes Inc. vs. National Housing Authority, 142 SCRA 540). Before the court can assume jurisdiction over a constitutional question, the following requisites must first be met: (1) there must be an actual case or controversy, including a conflict of rights susceptible of judicial determination; (2) the constitutional question must be raised by a proper party; (3) the constitutional question must be raised at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the resolution of the constitutional question must be necessary for the resolution of the case. (Board of Optometry vs Colet, 260 SCRA 88)

In the case at bar, the respondent Judge dismissed subject cases motu proprio, after the prosecution had rested the same and without giving the three accused an opportunity to present their evidence. What is more, there is no showing that the issue of constitutionality of P. D. 772 was ever posed by the accused. Consequently, such an issue cannot be given due course for the simple reason that it was not raised by the proper party at the earliest opportunity.

But the foregoing antecedent facts and proceedings notwithstanding, the petition cannot now prosper because on October 27, 1997, Republic Act No. 8368, entitled “An Act Repealing Presidential Decree No. 772 Entitled ‘Penalizing Squatting and Other Similar Acts’” was enacted. Section 3 of the said Act provides that “all pending cases under the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 772 shall be dismissed upon the effectivity of this Act.”

WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby DISMISSED, without any pronouncement as to costs.


Narvasa, C.J., (Chairman), Romero, and Kapunan, JJ., concur.

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