Latest on the fight for BGC: SC upholds Taguig, finds Makati guilty of abuse of legal process


Taguig City has scored a victory in its long-running legal battle with Makati for control of Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

 

The Supreme Court (SC), in its 27- page Decision released on 19 July 2016, that Makati abused the legal processes by simultaneously availing of the twin remedies of a Motion for Reconsideration and Petition for Annulment of Judgment.

 

The case began in 1993, when Taguig (a municipality then) filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig a complaint against Makati (then also a municipality) asserting “that the areas comprising the Enlisted Men’s Barangays, or EMBOs, as well as the area referred to as Inner Fort in Fort Bonifacio, were within its territory and jurisdiction”. After almost two decades of trial, the RTC ruled in favor of Taguig.

 

Stung by the judicial setback, Makati filed a motion for reconsideration with the RTC. At the same time, it elevated the case to the Court of Appeals (CA) by filing a petition for Annulment of judgment. The two remedies basically asked for the same thing, the reversal of the RTC’s decision. The RTC eventually denied Makati’s motion for reconsideration, prompting Makati to file an appeal with the CA where its petition for annulment of judgment (of the same RTC decision) has been pending. The CA eventually held that the petition for annulment of judgment has become moot. This led Taguig to raise the issue with the Supreme Court by averring that Makati should be sanctioned for abusing the legal process resulting in the confusion of rulings which has characterized the handling of the territorial dispute by the Court of Appeals.

 

The SC held that Makati, which has filed a motion for reconsideration of the RTC’s decision, has no justification whatsoever for its simultaneous filing of a petition for annulment of judgment with the CA. It held that Makati, by filing two actions with two different courts asking for essentially the same relief, gave rise to the odious situation in which two courts would issue two different and conflicting rulings on the same issue. In this case, the RTC ruled that Makati was guilty of forum shopping (or pursuing simultaneous remedies in two different fora) while the CA, after initially ruling that Makati was indeed guilty of forum shopping, later reversed itself by deeming Makati’s petition for relief of judgment as moot.

 

In its decision, the SC took note of the CA’s acts of “flip-flopping” on the question of Makati’s forum shopping and ruled that the actions of Makati “have not only vexed courts and an adverse litigant… [but they] have actually and already given rise to conflicting decisions, not only between different courts – the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals – but even with the Court of Appeals itself. The damage to the administration of justice is not hypothetical; it is a realized harm.”

Saying that is “putting its foot down” on this abuse of the legal process, the SC adjudged the counsels of Makati responsible for its forum shopping violation guilty of direct contempt and imposed fines on them. ###


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