Villanueva vs. Castaneda G.R. No. L-61311, September 2l, 1987 154 SCRA 142 (1987)

Facts: There is in the vicinity of the public market of San Fernando, Pampanga which stands a conglomeration of vendors stalls together forming what is commonly known as a talipapa. The petitioners claim they have a right to remain in and conduct business in this area by virtue of a previous authorization granted to them by the municipal government. The respondents deny this and justify the demolition of their stalls as illegal constructions on public property. Acting thereon after an investigation conducted by the municipal attorney, respondent Macalino, issued a resolution requiring the municipal treasurer and the municipal engineer to demolish the stalls in the subject place. The reaction of the petitioners was to file a petition for prohibition with the Court of First Instance of Pampanga. The respondent judge denied the petition on and the motion for reconsideration. The basic contention of the petitioners is that the disputed area is under lease to them by virtue of contracts they had entered into with the municipal government, first in 1961 insofar as the original occupants were concerned, and later with them and the other petitioners by virtue of the space allocations made in their favor in 1971 for which they saw they are paying daily fees. 21 The municipal government has denied making such agreements. In any case, they argue, since the fees were collected daily, the leases, assuming their validity, could be terminated at will, or any day, as the claimed rentals indicated that the period of the leases was from day to day.

Issue: Whether the demolition of their talipapa of the petitioners in the Plaza violates their right to Non-Impairment Clause as they pay daily rent?

Held: No, A public plaza is beyond the commerce of man and so cannot be the subject of lease or any other contractual undertaking. This is elementary, where the Court declared as null and void the lease of a public plaza of the said municipality in favor of a private person. The Civil Code, article 1271, prescribes that everything which is not outside the commerce of man may be the object of a contract, and plazas and streets are outside of this commerce, as was decided by the supreme court of Spain in its decision of February 12, 1895, which says: “communal things that cannot be sold because they are by their very nature outside of commerce are those for public use, such as the plazas, streets, common lands, rivers, fountains, etc.” Applying this well-settled doctrine, the court rule that the petitioners had no right in the first place to occupy the disputed premises and cannot insist in remaining there now on the strength of their alleged lease contracts and that the respondent was seeking to enforce when he ordered the demolition of the stags constructed in the disputed area. As officer-in-charge of the office of the mayor, he had the duty to clear the area and restore it to its intended use as a parking place and public plaza of the municipality of San Fernando, conformably to the aforementioned orders from the court and the council. It is, therefore, not correct to say that he had acted without authority or taken the law into his hands in issuing his order.


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