By Vann Marlo M. Villegas
THE SUPREME COURT has lifted the temporary restraining order (TRO) on a Quezon City 2016 ordinance that increased the fair market values of real property for taxation purposes, saying the petitioner Alliance of Quezon City Homeowners’ Association, Inc. (AQCHAI) had no legal capacity to file the case in the first place.
In its Sept. 18 ruling, the court en banc noted that AQCHAI itself admitted that it has no juridical personality as its certificate of registration from the Securities and Exchange Commission had been revoked and it failed to register to the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board.
“Wherefore, the petition is dismissed due to petitioner Alliance of Quezon City Homeowners’ Association, Inc.’s lack of legal capacity to sue. The Temporary Restraining Order issued on April 18, 2017 is hereby lifted,” the decision read.
“Jurisprudence provides that an unregistered association, having no separate judicial personality, lacks the capacity to sue in its own name,” it stated.
Rules of court state that “only natural or juridical persons, or entities authorized by laws, may be parties in civil action.”
AQCHAI insisted that its petition should not be dismissed since it was filed by the members of its board of trustees in their “own personal capacities” by authorizing its treasurer, Danilo Liwanag, through an authorization letter, to file on their behalf.
The high court disagreed, saying it was evident in the title and the “Parties” section of the petition that the AQCHAI was the petitioner and the authorization letter indicated that the signatories “signed merely in their official capacities as Alliance’s trustees.”
“Thus, the resolution of the issues anent the validity and constitutionality of Quezon City Ordinance No. SP-2556, Series of 2016 — while indeed of great public interest and of transcendental importance — must nonetheless await the filing of the proper case by the proper party,” the decision read.
The court issued the TRO on April 18 last year.
AQCHAI had argued the hefty hike in fair market values had “no factual basis,” were “unjust, excessive, oppressive, arbitrary, and confiscatory” and resulted from a “brief one-day” consultation in November 2016 before its approval on Dec. 14, 2016.
The ordinance raised the fair market values of residential, commercial and industrial real properties by 400-733.33%, consequently raising tax payable by real property owners by 39-131%.
New assessment levels are five percent for residential and 14% for commercial and industrial lands.
Before the ordinance was enacted, these values were last adjusted in December 1995 even if Republic Act No. 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991, requires adjustment every three years.
Many local governments fail to observe the law, however, since their officials are elected every three years. Mid-term elections are scheduled in May 2019.
The offices of the mayor, vice-mayor and treasurer of Quezon City could not be reached for comment, while an AQCHAI official declined to comment, saying he had yet to read the decision.
Latest available data from the Finance department’s Bureau of Local Government Finance showed that Quezon City was the biggest contributor to Metro Manila’s revenues last year, accounting for P15.161 billion (four percent more than P14.535 billion in 2016) or nearly a fifth of the National Capital Region’s P77.099-billion total collections.
Real property tax was Quezon City’s second-biggest tax revenue source last year at P3.431 billion, next to P9.204 billion in business tax.
By Vann Marlo M. Villegas