Artoo P. Garin, vs. City Of Muntinlupa

G.R. No. 216492, January 20, 2021.

FACTS

Garin (Garin), a resident of Pasig City, wanted to build a house in Katarungan Village in Muntinlupa City. Per Section 10 of Muntinlupa City Ordinance No. 02-047, one of the prerequisites to secure a building permit is a clearance from the homeowners’ association. Garin requested clearance from Katarungan Village Homeowners Association (Katarungan), but clarified that “he is not a member of the association.” However, Katarungan refused to give the required clearance until he paid an assessment fee and signed up for membership in their association. 

Garin filed a Petition for Mandamus to compel the City of Muntinlupa to accept his application for processing, even without the required clearance. He also prayed that Section 10 of Muntinlupa City Ordinance No. 02-047 be declared unconstitutional “insofar as it relates to the tasking of the homeowners association for the issuance of clearance.

The RTC denied petitioner’s application for preliminary injunction and suspended the case pending petitioner’s exhaustion of administrative remedies.

ISSUES: 

1. Whether petitioner Garin has complied with all the requisites of judicial review to question the constitutionality of Muntinlupa City Ordinance No. 02-047;

2. Whether the Housing  and Land Use Regulatory Board has primary jurisdiction over the case even if petitioner is not a member of the homeowners’ association.

HELD: 

1. NO. The Court’s power of judicial review may only be exercised if a case presents the following requisites: first, an actual case or controversy; second, the person bringing the case must have legal standing; third, the constitutional question is raised at the earliest possible opportunity; and fourth, the resolution of the constitutional question must be the very lis mota of the case, that is, it must be absolutely necessary for its determination.

The first three requisites are present here. The denial of petitioner’s building permit application presents an actual controversy and legal standing. Petitioner is the homeowner who was directly “injured” by the non-issuance of the clearance by respondent Katarungan. He also raised the constitutional question at the earliest possible opportunity, submitting it before the trial court after his permit application had been denied. 

The last requisite, however, remains wanting. Petitioner’s cause of action can be resolved without having to pass upon the constitutional question. Petitioner’s cause of action is against respondent Katarungan, not the City of Muntinlupa. However, the petitioner did not attach any document to support his claim that there is no provision on automatic membership. The Ordinance’s requirement to secure a homeowners’ association clearance applies to all homeowners’ associations in Muntinlupa City, and not just respondent Katarungan. While the requisites for securing a clearance from respondent Katarungan may seem violative of Republic Act No. 9904 for allegedly forcing petitioner to become a member, it does not follow that the requirements for the issuance of a clearance by all other homeowners’ associations within Muntinlupa City violate the law.

Petitioner’s cause of action, therefore, was not the result of the alleged invalidity of Section 10 of Muntinlupa City Ordinance No. 02-047, but the alleged illegality of respondent Katarungan’s clearance requirements. His case can be resolved in the proper proceeding without passing upon the constitutional question.

2.  YES. The issue in this case may be considered a matter involving the internal affairs of the association. For internal affairs of the association, the Implementing Rules and Regulations does not mention that at least one of the parties to the dispute must be a member of the association.

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