Boundary disputes
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison () - August 19, 2003 - 12:00am
Section 118 of the Local Government Code provides for the procedure in the settlement of boundary disputes between and among local government units particularly between two or more barangays in the same city or municipality, two or more municipalities within the same province, municipalities or component cities of different provinces, a component city or municipality on the one hand and a highly urbanized city on the other, or two or more highly urbanized cities. These disputes shall be referred to the respective sanggunian bayan, panlungsod or panlalawigan for amicable settlement, and if no settlement is arrived at in 60 days, the dispute shall be tried by the sanggunian concerned which shall render a decision within 60 days.

Obviously Section 118 does not cover a boundary dispute between a municipality and an independent component city in the same province. An independent component city is one whose charter prohibits its voters from voting for provincial elective officials. In such a situation, who has jurisdiction over the dispute? This is answered in this case of the Municipality of Kananga and the component City of Ormoc in Leyte.

The boundary dispute was first referred to the joint session of the sanguniang bayan of Kananga and the sangguniang panlungsod of Ormoc. But no amicable settlement was reached so both sanggunians adopted a resolution to elevate the dispute to the proper court by any of the interested parties.

Pursuant to said resolution, the City of Ormoc filed before the Regional Trial Court of Ormoc City a complaint against the Municipality of Kananga for the settlement of the boundary dispute. The municipality of Kananga, filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the main ground that the RTC has no jurisdiction under Section 118. It also contended that the condition precedent for filing the complaint provided in said section has not been complied with

But the RTC denied the motion to dismiss. It ruled that it had jurisdiction under the Judiciary Act (BP 129). Section 118 of the LGC only provides for the venue, not jurisdiction, and therefore can be waived as the parties did when they agreed to elevate the matter to the court. It further held that said section 118 has been substantially complied with because both parties had occasion to meet and thresh out their differences when their sanggunians met in joint session.

Was the lower court correct?


Jurisdiction is the right to act on a case or the power and authority to hear and determine a cause. It is vested by law. In this case, both parties aver that section 118 of the LGC is the governing law for settlement of boundary disputes. But said section does not cover a situation in which a component city seeks to settle a dispute with a municipality.

Inasmuch as Section 118 of the LGC finds no application to the instant case, the general rules governing jurisdiction should then be used. The applicable provision is found in the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 (BP 129) which gives the RTC original exclusive jurisdiction, "in all cases not within the exclusive jurisdiction of any court, tribunal, person or body exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions". Indeed RTCs have general jurisdiction to adjudicate all controversies except those expressly withheld from their plenary powers

These disputes must be resolved with fairness and certainty, by drawing with precise strokes the territorial boundaries of a local government unit. Any uncertainty in the boundaries of the local government units will sow costly conflicts in the exercise of governmental powers which ultimately prejudice the people’s welfare. (Municipality of Kananga vs. Judge Madrona et al., G.R. 141375, April 30, 2003)
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