By Atty. Eduardo T. Reyes III
Much concern has been raised about the cracks that were found in the Ungka II flyover that connects Jaro, Iloilo City and Pavia, Iloilo. This came on the heels of a report that motorists experienced a “wavy” feel while traversing the P680-Million project shortly after it was opened for use. Due to this, the DPWH-6 decided to close it from traffic on September 18, 2022 to address its “strange structural” behavior.
It is still too early to make conclusions and point accusing fingers albeit a concern involving such a mega project will surely have far-reaching ramifications.
Flyovers are meant to de-clog traffic in heavily congested roads usually in the metro and in the suburbs.
Given the enormous amount of funds that must be coughed up to build a flyover project, it is curious to know that there are only a few cases involving flyovers in Philippine jurisprudence. Too, the legal issues hardly tangentially deal with the construction process itself.
To start off, in Judge Renato A. Fuentes v. Ombudsman-Mindanao, G.R. No. 124295 October 23, 2001, which involves the mounting of the first flyover in Davao City, an expropriation case was filed before the court presided by Judge Fuentes. While the expropriation case was approved, the issue came about in respect to the payment of just compensation to the land owners whose lands were affected. A writ of levy was issued by the sheriff on the scrap materials found on the DPWH premises in Panacan, Davao City. Claiming that the attachment of the scrap materials was irregular, DPWH lodged administrative cases against the sheriff and the judge before the Ombudsman. There it was held that only the Supreme Court can investigate the actions of a judge, not any other investigative body. Thus:
“Petitioner’s questioned order directing the attachment of government property and issuing a writ of execution were done in relation to his office, well within his official functions. The order may be erroneous or void for lack or excess of jurisdiction. However, whether or not such order of execution was valid under the given circumstances, must be inquired into in the course of the judicial action only by the Supreme Court that is tasked to supervise the courts. “No other entity or official of the Government, not the prosecution or investigation service of any other branch, not any functionary thereof, has competence to review a judicial order or decision–whether final and executory or not–and pronounce it erroneous so as to lay the basis for a criminal or administrative complaint for rendering an unjust judgment or order. That prerogative belongs to the courts alone”.
Next is the case of Republic v. Bank of the Philippine Islands, G.R. No. 203039 September 11, 2013 where it was instructed that the DPWH must compensate the property owner not only for the actual land occupied by the Alabang flyover but also the loss of value of the landowner’s building after the flyover was mounted on the land.
Then as an off-shoot of a vehicular accident which happened in one of the flyovers along EDSA, a case for damages was filed against the taxi company conveying the passenger. One of the main issues congealed therein is whether the testimony of a witness that favors his/ her case can be admitted and is not self-serving. This served as an occasion for the Supreme Court in Heirs of Ochoa v. G & S Transport Corporation, G.R. No. 170071 March 9, 2011, to explain the real meaning of “self-serving evidence”. Thus:
‘Self-serving evidence,’ perhaps owing to its descriptive formulation, is a concept much misunderstood. Not infrequently, the term is employed as a weapon to devalue and discredit a party’s testimony favorable to his cause. That, it seems, is the sense in which petitioners are using it now. This is a grave error. “Self-serving evidence” is not to be taken literally to mean any evidence that serves its proponent’s interest. The term, if used with any legal sense, refers only to acts or declarations made by a party in his own interest at some place and time out of court x x x.”
Finally, a major transport group sued for injunction a local government unit for passing an ordinance prohibiting the loading and unloading of passengers under the Shaw Boulevard-EDSA flyover. The transport group asserted that its members’ daily income was reduced by Five Hundred Pesos (Php500.00) because of the prohibition.
The Supreme Court disagreed even as it was shown during the trial that the supposed “lost income” was attributed to the passengers’ act of hopping in to the jeepneys without the knowledge or consent of the driver. It was concluded in Bagong Repormang Samahan Ng Mga Tsuper At Operator etc v. City of Mandaluyong, G.R. No. 218593, June 15, 2020, that such a speculative proposition cannot substantiate the need for issuance of an injunction:
“Further, petitioner-appellant admitted that its members cannot load and/or unload passengers under the Shaw Boulevard-EDSA flyover. Based on Appendix V of the Traffic Code, which enumerates the loading and unloading zones in the city, members of petitioner-appellant cannot load and/or unload passengers under the Shaw Boulevard-EDSA flyover since the said area is not included in the loading and unloading zone list. Nonetheless, on the pretext that it is the riding public, not the jeepney drivers-members of petitioner-appellant, who ride on and alight from the jeepneys, there has been an unbridled violation, albeit it is admitted that members of petitioner-appellant derive income from violating the no loading-unloading zone in the prohibited area under the Shaw Boulevard-EDSA flyover. When the local government unit, through its Traffic Enforcement Division, strictly implemented the prohibition and the no loading-unloading zone to enforce discipline, it was only then that petitioner-appellant, confronted with the loss of its income, cried foul and filed the petition for injunction”.
Flyovers are bridges built above other roads, not waters. They are a sign of progress.
But as issues on the structural integrity of the Ungka II flyover start to surface, it is imperative that the DPWH must give concrete answers to mollify people’s fears.
Will motorists have faith to traverse the said flyover once it is opened again?
We will cross the bridge when we get there.
(The author is the senior partner of ET Reyes III & Associates– a law firm based in Iloilo City. He is a litigation attorney, a law professor and a law book author. His website is etriiilaw.com).