The word “nuisance” is usually heard during elections. When an individual files his candidacy for presidency for instance, but without any visible means to launch a nationwide campaign, the Commission on Elections would declare such individual as a “nuisance candidate”. A nuisance under our laws is not just something which annoys, but also includes those which can be dangerous or impedes the proper enjoyment or use of a property by its owner or the community as a whole. Nuisance was defined by the Supreme Court thus: “There is a nuisance when there is “any act, omission, establishment, business, condition of property, or anything else which: (1) injures or endangers the health or safety of others; or (2) annoys or offends the senses; or (3) shocks, defies or disregards decency or morality; or (4) obstructs or interferes with the free passage of any public highway or street, or any body of water; or (5) hinders or impairs the use of property.” But other than the statutory definition, jurisprudence recognizes that the term “nuisance” is so comprehensive that it has been applied to almost all ways which have interfered with the rights of the citizens, either in person, property, the enjoyment of his property, or his comfort.” (G.R. No. 188213, January 11, 2016) Local sanggunians are empowered under the Local Government Code to declare, prevent, or abate nuisance. It is this power that a certain punong barangay used for her defense and justify her acts.
Punong Barangay Natividad Cruz was punong barangay of Barangay 848, Manila. One day while some individuals were playing basketball in a court in her barangay, she ordered one of her tanod to destroy the rings to render the same unusable. The individuals who were there heard her yelling at them asserting her power to order the destruction or closure of the basketball court. Feeling offended by her acts, the owners of the basketball court filed cases against Cruz “for Malicious Mischief, Grave Misconduct, Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service and Abuse of Authority” before the prosecutor and the Ombudsman. Before the Ombudsman, Cruz justified her actuations saying that the subject court was the venue for riots, betting, and other unruly behaviors disrupting the peace and tranquility of the community. That being the punong barangay, it is her sworn duty to maintain peace and order in her barangay by preventing the conduct of illegal activities. The case against Cruz was dismissed by the Ombudsman saying that she “was only motivated by Cruz and Dela Cruz performing their sworn duty, as defined in the Local Government Code. It found the act to be a mere response to the clamor of constituents.” On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the Ombudsman and found Natividad guilty for conduct prejudicial to the interest of service and as penalty, was suspended for six months and one day. She appealed to the Supreme Court.
PB Not Empowered to Abate Nuisance
Contrary to the Ombudsman’s assertion that Cruz’s acts were justified under the general welfare clause of the Local Government Code, the Supreme Court upheld the CA decision. “We agree with the appellate court that the petitioners’ actions, though well-intentioned, were improper and done in excess of what was required by the situation and fell short of the aforementioned standards of behavior for public officials” said the Court. As to the justification that Cruz was performing her sworn duty to protect her community by abetting a nuisance the Court clarified the issue. It said: “Prevailing jurisprudence holds that unless a nuisance is a nuisance per se, it may not be summarily abated.” The acts Natividad intended to suppress cannot be considered as nuisance per se. But even if they are, she does not have the power to abate, prevent or suppress them. The Local Government Code vests upon the sanggunian the power to “declare, prevent, or abate” nuisance and not with the Punong Barangay on her own. Natividad’s intentions may have been highly commendable, her acts were not in accordance with prevailing law and jurisprudence