DOCTRINE: By virtue of R.A. 7610, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan is vested with the function, not only to bring the contending parties together and intervening or assisting in the amicable settlement of the dispute, but with the original jurisdiction to hear and decide the case in accordance with the procedure laid down in the law and its implementing rules and regulations. The Regional Trial Court can decide the case only on appeal, should any party aggrieved by the decision of the Sanggunian elevate the same.
FACTS: On October 16, 1980, petitioner Municipality of Sta. Fe, in the Province of Nueva Vizcaya, filed before the RTC of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, for the Determination of Boundary Dispute involving the barangays of Bantinan and Canabuan.
Realizing its oversight under existing law, the court ordered the suspension of the proceedings and the referral of the case to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Nueva Vizcaya. In turn, the Sanggunian concerned passed on the matter to its Committee on Legal Affairs, Ordinances and Resolutions, which recommended adopting Resolution No. 64 of the former members of its Provincial Board. Said resolution previously resolved to adjudicate the barangays of Bantinan and Canabuan as parts of respondents territorial jurisdiction and enjoin petitioner from exercising its governmental functions within the same.
Back in the RTC, respondent moved to consider Resolution No. 64 as final and executory. The trial court, however, denied the motion that since there was no amicable settlement reached at the time the Provincial Board had exceeded its authority in issuing a decision favoring a party.
Subsequently, respondent again filed a motion this time praying for the dismissal of the case for lack of jurisdiction. The ground relied upon was that under the prevailing law at the time of the filing of the motion, the power to try and decide municipal boundary disputes already belonged to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and no longer with the trial court.
The MR having been denied, an appeal was elevated by petitioner to the CA. The CA, however, affirmed in toto the assailed Order: In the instant case, there is nothing wrong in holding that Regional Trial Courts no longer have jurisdiction over boundary disputes.’
Before this Court, petitioner submits that the CA erred when it affirmed the dismissal of the case for lack of jurisdiction by upholding the RTCs application of the doctrine enunciated in the Municipality of Sogod, namely, that being political in character, this case has been overtaken by different laws which should now prevail. Petitioner also claims that the CA erred in relying on the provisions of the 1987 Constitution and the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991 on the creation, division, merger, abolition, and alteration of boundaries of political units instead of the specific provisions on the settlement of boundary disputes.
ISSUE: Whether or not the CA erred in affirming the trial courts dismissal of the instant case for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that at the time of the filing of the motion to dismiss the original jurisdiction to hear and decide, the case had been vested on the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and no longer on the RTC.
HELD: The Court rules that the appellate court did not err. Almost a decade passed and R.A. No. 7160 or the LGC of 1991 was signed into law on October 10, 1991 and took effect on January 1, 1992. As the latest law governing jurisdiction over the settlement of boundary disputes, Sections 118 and 119 of the Code now mandate:
SEC. 118. Jurisdictional Responsibility for Settlement of Boundary Dispute. Boundary disputes between and among local government units shall, as much as possible, be settled amicably. To this end: x x x (b) Boundary disputes involving two (2) or more municipalities within the same province shall be referred for settlement to the sangguniang panlalawigan concerned.
This Court agrees with petitioners contention that the trial court had jurisdiction to take cognizance of the complaint when it was filed on October 16, 1980 since the prevailing law then was Section 2167 of the RAC, as amended by Sec. 1 of R.A. No. 6128, which granted the Court of First Instance (now RTC) the jurisdiction to hear and decide cases of municipal boundary disputes. The antecedents of the Municipality of Sogod case reveal that it dealt with the trial courts dismissal of cases filed for lack of jurisdiction because at the time of the institution of the civil actions, the law in force was the old provision of Sec. 2167 of the RAC, which empowered the provincial boards, not the trial courts, to hear and resolve such cases.
The difference in the factual setting notwithstanding, Municipality of Sogod still applies in the sense that similar thereto the pendency of the present case has also been overtaken by events the ratification of the 1987 Constitution and the enactment of the LGC of 1991.
Only in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction can the proper RTC decide the case, on appeal, should any party aggrieved by the decision of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan elevate the same. The Court, therefore, sees no error, much less grave abuse of discretion, on the part of the CA in affirming the trial courts dismissal of petitioners complaint. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit.