Political Law

Felicidad Villanueva vs Mariano Castañeda, Jr.

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G.R. No. L-61311 – 154 SCRA 142 – Political Law – Police Power Cannot Be Bargained Away Through a Contract

There is in the vicinity of the public market of San Fernando, Pampanga, along Mercado Street, a strip of land measuring 12 by 77 meters on which stands a conglomeration of vendors stalls together forming what is commonly known as a talipapa. The petitioners claim they have a right to remain in and conduct business in this area by virtue of a previous authorization granted to them by the municipal government. The respondents deny this and justify the demolition of their stalls as illegal constructions on public property. At the petitioners’ behest, we have issued a temporary restraining order to preserve the status quo between the parties pending our decision.

This dispute goes back to November 7, 1961, when the municipal council of San Fernando adopted Resolution No. 218 authorizing some 24 members of the Fernandino United Merchants and Traders Association to construct permanent stalls and sell in the above-mentioned place. The action was protested on November 10, 1961, in Civil Case No. 2040, where the Court of First Instance of Pampanga, Branch 2, issued a writ of preliminary injunction that prevented the defendants from constructing the said stalls until final resolution of the controversy. On January 18, 1964, while this case was pending, the municipal council of San Fernando adopted Resolution No. 29, which declared the subject area as “the parking place and as the public plaza of the municipality,” thereby impliedly revoking Resolution No. 218, series of 1961. Four years later, on November 2, 1968, Judge Andres C. Aguilar decided the aforesaid case and held that the land occupied by the petitioners, being public in nature, was beyond the commerce of man and therefore could not be the subject of private occupancy. The writ of preliminary injunction was made permanent.


Even assuming a valid lease of the property in dispute, the resolution could have effectively terminated the agreement for it is settled that the police power cannot be surrendered or bargained away through the medium of a contract. In fact, every contract affecting the public interest suffers a congenital infirmity in that it contains an implied reservation of the police power as a postulate of the existing legal order. This power can be activated at any time to change the provisions of the contract, or even abrogate it entirely, for the promotion or protection of the general welfare. Such an act will not militate against the impairment clause, which is subject to and limited by the paramount police power.

We hold that the respondent judge did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying the petition for prohibition. On the contrary, he acted correctly in sustaining the right and responsibility of the mayor to evict the petitioners from the disputed area and clear it of all the structures illegally constructed therein.

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