Antonio Favis vs The City of Baguio

G.R. No. L-29910 – 27 SCRA 1060 – Political Law – Municipal Corporations – Patrimonial Property – Discretionary Power

Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Damnum Absque Injuria

Antonio Favis owns a parcel of land fronting Lapu-Lapu street in Baguio City. There is an 8-meter wide passage from his property to the street. In 1961, the city authorized a new contract of lease between it and Shell. The contract stipulated a widened lot for Shell to build its structure and this necessitates the taking of at least 4 meters from the 8 meter wide passage being used by Favis. Favis assailed this contract.

There was also a law in place that time stating that streets and roads should be not less than 10 meters (but existing roads which are less than 10 meters are retained to avoid massive expenses in expropriation cases in case the 10 meter is strictly imposed). Favis averred that the contract between Shell and Baguio violated the said ordinance.

Favis also argues that the city council does not have the power to close city streets like Lapu-Lapu Street. He asserts that since municipal bodies have no inherent power to vacate or withdraw a street from public use, there must be a specific grant by the legislative body to the city or municipality concerned.

ISSUE: Whether or not the City can withdraw parts of a street from public use and use the remainder as a mere alley.

HELD: Yes. Looking at the city’s charter, Section 2558 of the Review Administrative Code (Baguio Charter), the city is empowered to close a city street. Considering that “municipal corporations in the Philippines are mere creatures of Congress; that, as such, said corporations possessed, and may exercise, only such power as Congress may deem fit to grant thereto”,  as what actually happened in the case at bar, the city was granted such power via its charter.

Favis may not challenge the city council’s act of withdrawing a strip of Lapu-Lapu Street at its dead end from public use and converting the remainder thereof into an alley. These are acts well within the ambit of the power to close a city street. The city council is the authority competent to determine whether or not a certain property is still necessary for public use or public service (patrimonial property).  Such power to vacate a street or alley is discretionary. And the discretion will not ordinarily be controlled or interfered with by the courts, absent a plain case of abuse or fraud or collusion. Favis, being a property owner in city, recognizes when he bought said property that is after such buying of property the city authorities abandon a portion of the street to which his property is not immediately adjacent, he may suffer loss because of the inconvenience imposed, but the public treasury cannot be required to recompense him. Such case is damnum absque injuria.

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