Lex Rex Ph

For Governmental Purpose Are Public Lands | Province of Zamboanga del Norte vs. City of Zamboanga

Province of Zamboanga del Norte vs. City of Zamboanga

March 28, 1968 (First Decision)
June 30, 1969 (Second Resolution)

(P) Plaintiff-Appellee: Province of Zamboanga Del Norte (del Norte)
(D) Defendants/Appellants: City of Zamboanga (City), Sec. of Finance and CIR

Zamboanga vs. Zamboanga: Lands devoted to public or governmental service are public lands.

Zamboanga del Norte Province FILED a case against Zamboanga City praying that the latter should pay for the province’s lands located in the city on the grounds that these lands are patrimonial or private property of the municipality/province.


  • Commonwealth Act 39 provided that “Buildings and properties which the province shall abandon upon the the transfer of the capital to another place will be acquired and paid for by the City of Zamboanga at a price fixed by the Auditor General.”
  • The province of Zamboanga transferred 50 properties to the City, including:
    • Capitol, Schools, Hospitals, Leprosarium, High School Playground, Burleighs, Hydro-electric Site, 23 lots vacant <—SC: “These may not be for public use purposes, but these are for governmental purposes.”
  • In 1952, the province was divided into two. The law provided that the assets and obligations of the old province were to be divided between the two.
  • The auditor general apportioned the obligations of the defunct province between Del Norte and Del Sur. Del Norte became entitled to 54.39% of the value of the properties in question or P704,220.05 payable by Zamboanga City.
    • (Zamboanga became defunct. Divided into two. Abandoned the building in the City. Since province is responsible for 54.39%, the responsibility is transferred to the City).
  • In 1961, RA 3039 provided “all buildings belong to former province of Zamboanga and located within the City are hereby transferred, free of charge, in favor of the City of Zamboanga.
    • SC Ruling:
      • Only public properties be transferred free of charge
      • Patrimonial properties shall not be free
  • Consequently, (D) Sec of Finance ordered the CIR to stop collecting further payments from del Norte. Orders province to return sums to the City. The City admits that a major portion has already been returned to it.
RA 3039 be declared unconstitutional depriving the plaintiff province of property without due process and just compensation
SoF and CIR enjoined from reimbursing sum
City be ordered to continue paying the balance of 704,220
Properties are PATRIMONIAL
Properties in question are NOT PATRIMONIAL PROPERTIES of DEL NORTE
Del Norte is guilty of Laches.

THE CFI Zambo. Del Norte RULED: Favored del Norte

  • RA 3039 unconstitutional – it deprives del Norte’s properties
  • City to pay the plaitiff 704,220 deducted from regular quarterly internal revenue equivalent to 25% thereof every quarter
  • SoF to direct CIR to deduct 25% of the regular internal allotment for the City and remit the same to plaintiff del Norte until sum of P704,220 be paid in full
  • del Norte to execute public instrument to the City
  • del Norte’s MR: Pay us in lump some with 6$ interest per annum. CFI granted.

Who filed to SC: City of Zamboanga

Ponente:  Bengzon

ISSUE 1: Are the lands in question public domain or patrimonial property? Public

Though not for all for public use, the Court calls them as for “Governmental Purpose” (as distinguished from public purpose).


  • The validity of RA 3039 ultimately depends on the nature of the 50 lots and buildings
    • If the municipal corporation (del Norte) owns the properties in its public and governmental capacity, then the property is public and Congress has absolute control over it.
    • If del Norte owns them in its private capacity, properties are patrimonial and Congress has no absolute control. The municipality cannot be deprived of it without due process and payment of just compensation.
Public and Governmental CapacityPatrimonial Property
Congress has absolute controlCongress has no absolute control
Would not favor del Norte provinceWould favor del Norte province (Decision and second resolution: Only 26 are patrimonial and others to be determined by trial court)

Are the lands in question public property? The answer may vary depending on what norm is applied:

Norm 1: Civil CodeNorm 2: Municipal Code or Law of Municipal Corporations
Would favor del Norte provinceWould not favor del Norte province
Only property for public use are public property. (423) All other are patrimonial, “without prejudice to special laws.” (424)
-Article 423 and 424
(applied by lower court)
Properties devoted to public service are deemed public. The rest remained patrimonial.
Under CC, even capitol and hospital sites are patrimonial for they are not for public use.
“public use” – free and indiscriminate use by anyone
It is enough that a property is devoted to public service to be considered public.
Jurisprudential precedents: Tacloban vs. Director of Lands
Mun. of Catbalogan v. Director of Lands
Hinunangan v. Director of Lands
Viuda de Tantoco v. Municipal Council of Iloilo: “municipal properties necessary for government purposes are public in nature”
Mun. of Batangas vs. Cantos: “Lots devoted to school purposes is dedicated to public use and not patrimonial.”
SC upholds this view

Assuming the buildings were constructed using the funds of Del Norte, the buildings are mere accessories of the lands, which are public in nature, so they follow the nature of said lands. Moreover, these are not for exclusive use of city residents, but also by provincial ones.

“We are inclined to uphold the latter view”

  • The controversy here is more along the domains of Law of Municipal Corporations that of Civil law.
  • We are not inclined to hold the property devoted to public service (schools, capitol, hospitals, leprosarium) are private property. THE CONSEQUENCES ARE DIRE. (Like what? Like the LGU/MunCorp can sell it at their own whims and desires) Examples of DIRE CONSEQUENCES:
    • As ordinary private properties, they can be levied and attached.
    • They can be acquired through adverse possession
    • Plus, the last sentence says, “without prejudice to special laws.” The Law of Municipal Corporations can be considered as “special law”

The classification that property devoted for GOVERNMENTAL PURPOSES are PUBLIC and should prevail over the Civil Code classification 423 and 424.

ISSUE 2: Is RA 3039 valid where it transfers the 50 lots and buildings of the province to the city free of charge? Partly.

  • RA 3039 can only be applied to properties that are used for GOVERNMENTAL PURPOSES
  • But RA 3039 cannot be applied to the 26 properties that are not used for governmental purposes, hence PATRIMONIAL PROPERTIES
  • DECISION: City should pay the 54.39 share of the Zamboanga del Norte to the 26 lots because these 26 lots are purely patrimonial.

ISSUE 3: Is del Norte guilty of laches?

RULING/RATIO 3: No. It seasonably sought reconsideration after the Auditor General fixed the value of properties in 1949. Negative laches.

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