United BF Homeowners’ Associations, Inc. vs. The (Municipal) City Mayor, Parañaque City
G.R. No. 141010. February 7, 2007
BF Homes Parañaque Subdivision is the largest subdivision in the country. On 11 November 1997, the Municipal Council of Parañaque enacted Municipal Ordinance No. 97-085 entitled, “An Ordinance Prescribing the Comprehensive Land Use Plan & Zoning of the Municipality of Parañaque Pursuant to the Local Government Code of 1991 and Other Pertinent Laws.” Sections 11.5 and 11.6 of Municipal Ordinance No. 97-08, reclassifying El Grande and Aguirre Avenues in BF Homes Parañaque from residential to commercial areas.
In 1998, petitioners alleged that the reclassification of certain portions of BF Homes Parañaque from residential to commercial zone is unconstitutional because it amounts to impairment of the contracts between the developer of BF Homes Parañaque and the lot buyers. Petitioners cited the annotation on the lot buyers’ titles which provides that “the property shall be used for residential purposes only and for no other purpose.” Public respondents alleged that the passage of Municipal Ordinance No. 97-08 is a valid exercise of police power by the Municipal Council of Parañaque and that such ordinance can nullify or supersede the contractual obligations entered into by the petitioners and the developer.
The Court of Appeals held that the enactment was a valid exercise of police power by the Municipality.
(1) Whether or not Municipal Ordinance No. 97-08 is a legitimate exercise of police power;
(2) Whether or not Municipal Ordinance No. 97-08 is constitutional considering that it impairs a contractual obligation annotated in homeowners’ titles and violates the doctrine of separation of powers;
(1) Yes. The Court find Municipal Ordinance No. 97-08 reasonable and not discriminating or oppressive with respect to BF Homes Parañaque. As held by the Court of Appeals, the increasing number of homeowners in BF Homes Parañaque necessitated the addition of commercial areas in the subdivision to service the needs of the homeowners.
(3) No. The Court has upheld in several cases the superiority of police power over the non-impairment clause. The constitutional guaranty of non-impairment of contracts is limited by the exercise of the police power of the State, in the interest of public health, safety, morals and general welfare. In this case, Municipal Ordinance No. 97-08 is a legitimate exercise of police power and the reclassification of El Grande and Aguirre Avenues in BF Homes Parañaque is not arbitrary or unreasonable. In Ortigas & Co., Limited Partnership v. Feati Bank and Trust Co., the Court held that contractual restrictions on the use of property could not prevail over the reasonable exercise of police power through zoning regulations.
Judgment and resolution affirmed.
It should be stressed, that while non-impairment of contracts is constitutionally guaranteed, the rule is not absolute, since it has to be reconciled with the legitimate exercise of police power, i.e., “the power to prescribe regulations to promote the health, morals, peace, education, good order or safety and general welfare of the people.” Invariably described as “the most essential, insistent, and illimitable of powers” and “in a sense, the greatest and most powerful attribute of government,”
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