FACTS: Petitioner Sta. Lucia Realty & Development, Inc. (Sta. Lucia) is the registered owner of several parcels of land with Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT) Nos. 39112, 39110 and 38457, all of which indicated that the lots were located in Barrio Tatlong Kawayan, Municipality of Pasig (Pasig).
The parcel of land covered by TCT No. 39112 was consolidated with that covered by TCT No. 518403, which was situated in Barrio Tatlong Kawayan, Municipality of Cainta, Province of Rizal (Cainta). The two combined lots were subsequently partitioned into three, for which TCT Nos. 532250, 598424, and 599131, now all bearing the Cainta address, were issued.
TCT No. 39110 was also divided into two lots, becoming TCT Nos. 92869 and 92870.
The lot covered by TCT No. 38457 was not segregated, but a commercial building owned by Sta. Lucia East Commercial Center, Inc., a separate corporation, was built on it.
Upon Pasig’s petition to correct the location stated in TCT Nos. 532250, 598424, and 599131, the Land Registration Court, on June 9, 1995, ordered the amendment of the TCTs to read that the lots with respect to TCT No. 39112 were located in Barrio Tatlong Kawayan, Pasig City.
On January 31, 1994, Cainta filed a petition for the settlement of its land boundary dispute with Pasig before the RTC, Branch 74 of Antipolo City (Antipolo RTC). This case, docketed as Civil Case No. 94-3006, is still pending up to this date.
On November 28, 1995, Pasig filed a Complaint, docketed as Civil Case No. 65420, against Sta. Lucia for the collection of real estate taxes, including penalties and interests, on the lots covered by TCT Nos. 532250, 598424, 599131, 92869, 92870 and 38457, including the improvements thereon (the subject properties).
Sta. Lucia, in its Answer, alleged that it had been religiously paying its real estate taxes to Cainta, just like what its predecessors-in-interest did, by virtue of the demands and assessments made and the Tax Declarations issued by Cainta on the claim that the subject properties were within its territorial jurisdiction. Sta. Lucia further argued that since 1913, the real estate taxes for the lots covered by the above TCTs had been paid to Cainta.
Cainta was allowed to file its own Answer-in-Intervention when it moved to intervene on the ground that its interest would be greatly affected by the outcome of the case. It averred that it had been collecting the real property taxes on the subject properties even before Sta. Lucia acquired them. Cainta further asseverated that the establishment of the boundary monuments would show that the subject properties are within its metes and bounds.
Sta. Lucia and Cainta thereafter moved for the suspension of the proceedings, and claimed that the pending petition in the Antipolo RTC, for the settlement of boundary dispute between Cainta and Pasig, presented a “prejudicial question” to the resolution of the case.
ISSUE: WON THE ISSUE ON GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION OF THE PROPERTY IS PREJUDICIAL QUESTION BEFORE A LGC MAY COLLECT REAL PROPERTY TAXES.
Sec. 5. Appraisal of Real Property. — All real property, whether taxable or exempt, shall be appraised at the current and fair market value prevailing in the locality where the property is situated.
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Sec. 57. Collection of tax to be the responsibility of treasurers. — The collection of the real property tax and all penalties accruing thereto, and the enforcement of the remedies provided for in this Code or any applicable laws, shall be the responsibility of the treasurer of the province, city or municipality where the property is situated. (Emphases ours.) SDECAI
Section 201. Appraisal of Real Property. — All real property, whether taxable or exempt, shall be appraised at the current and fair market value prevailing in the locality where the property is situated. The Department of Finance shall promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for the classification, appraisal, and assessment of real property pursuant to the provisions of this Code.
Section 233. Rates of Levy. — A province or city or a municipality within the Metropolitan Manila Area shall fix a uniform rate of basic real property tax applicable to their respective localities as follows: . . . . (Emphases ours.)
The only import of these provisions is that, while a local government unit is authorized under several laws to collect real estate tax on properties falling under its territorial jurisdiction, it is imperative to first show that these properties are unquestionably within its geographical boundaries.
Accentuating on the importance of delineating territorial boundaries, this Court, in Mariano, Jr. v. Commission on Elections said:
The importance of drawing with precise strokes the territorial boundaries of a local unit of government cannot be overemphasized. The boundaries must be clear for they define the limits of the territorial jurisdiction of a local government unit. It can legitimately exercise powers of government only within the limits of its territorial jurisdiction. Beyond these limits, its acts are ultra vires. Needless to state, any uncertainty in the boundaries of local government units will sow costly conflicts in the exercise of governmental powers which ultimately will prejudice the people’s welfare. This is the evil sought to be avoided by the Local Government Code in requiring that the land area of a local government unit must be spelled out in metes and bounds, with technical descriptions.
The significance of accurately defining a local government unit’s boundaries was stressed in City of Pasig v. Commission on Elections, which involved the consolidated petitions filed by the parties herein, Pasig and Cainta, against two decisions of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) with respect to the plebiscites scheduled by Pasig for the ratification of its creation of two new Barangays. Ruling on the contradictory reliefs sought by Pasig and Cainta, this Court affirmed the COMELEC decision to hold in abeyance the plebiscite to ratify the creation of Barangay Karangalan; but set aside the COMELEC’s other decision, and nullified the plebiscite that ratified the creation of Barangay Napico in Pasig, until the boundary dispute before the Antipolo RTC had been resolved. The aforementioned case held as follows:
1. The Petition of the City of Pasig in G.R. No. 125646 is DISMISSED for lack of merit; while
2. The Petition of the Municipality of Cainta in G.R. No. 128663 is GRANTED. The COMELEC Order in UND No. 97-002, dated March 21, 1997, is SET ASIDE and the plebiscite held on March 15, 1997 to ratify the creation of Barangay Napico in the City of Pasig is declared null and void. Plebiscite on the same is ordered held in abeyance until after the courts settle with finality the boundary dispute between the City of Pasig and the Municipality of Cainta, in Civil Case No. 94-3006.
Clearly therefore, the local government unit entitled to collect real property taxes from Sta. Lucia must undoubtedly show that the subject properties are situated within its territorial jurisdiction; otherwise, it would be acting beyond the powers vested to it by law.
Although it is true that “Pasig” is the locality stated in the TCTs of the subject properties, both Sta. Lucia and Cainta aver that the metes and bounds of the subject properties, as they are described in the TCTs, reveal that they are within Cainta’s boundaries. This only means that there may be a conflict between the location as stated and the location as technically described in the TCTs. Mere reliance therefore on the face of the TCTs will not suffice as they can only be conclusive evidence of the subject properties’ locations if both the stated and described locations point to the same area.The Antipolo RTC, wherein the boundary dispute case between Pasig and Cainta is pending, would be able to best determine once and for all the precise metes and bounds of both Pasig’s and Cainta’s respective territorial jurisdictions. The resolution of this dispute would necessarily ascertain the extent and reach of each local government’s authority, a prerequisite in the proper exercise of their powers, one of which is the power of taxation. This was the conclusion reached by this Court in City of Pasig v. Commission on Elections, and by the First Division of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 52874. We do not see any reason why we cannot adhere to the same logic and reasoning in this case.