On dilapidated buildings, public nuisances
El Hogar Filipino Building is an early skyscraper built on the corner of Juan Luna Street and Muelle dela Industría in Binondo, Manila.
This five-storey office building was given as a wedding present in celebration of the marriage of the affluent Doña Margarita Zobél y de Ayala and Don Antonio Melián Pavia, had housed flourishing businesses, and survived the Second World War, barely scorched.
Decades later, the El Hogar is abandoned, dilapidated, and in danger of being demolished to give way to another condominium building.
In an article entitled, “El Hogar to stay… for now” published in the June 26 issue of the Inquirer, the Manila Building Office had reportedly “recommended demolition, calling the building ‘ruinous, dangerous and a nuisance posing imminent danger of collapse.’”
While heritage advocates and ordinary citizens successfully petitioned against its proposed demolition, the El Hogar is just one of the many dilapidated historic buildings in our country that needs to be restored or otherwise become a life-threatening nuisance that must be demolished.
Said dilapidated buildings may be classified as a nuisance, which the Civil Code defines as among others, any property that: (a) injures or endangers the health or safety of others; (b) annoys or offends the senses; (c) obstructs or interferes with the free passage of any public highway or street, or any body of water; or (d) hinders or impairs the use of property.
Nuisance is either public or private. A public nuisance affects a community of neighborhood or any considerable number of persons, although the extent of the annoyance, danger, or damage upon individuals may be unequal. Meanwhile, a private nuisance is one which “violates only private rights and produces damage to but one or a few person.”
Nuisance may likewise be classified as nuisance per se or nuisance per accidens. A nuisance per se is a nuisance under any and all circumstances because it poses as a direct menace to public health or safety, and thus, may be summarily abated, while a nuisance per accidens is such nuisance, depending upon certain conditions, and thus, cannot be summarily abated.
A person aggrieved by a public nuisance may: (a) file a criminal case based on the Revised Penal Code or any local ordinance; (b) institute a civil action; or (c) have said nuisance summarily abated by a public official.
A private person may likewise abate a public nuisance which is specially injurious to him by removing, or if necessary, by destroying the thing which constitutes the same, peacefully and without unnecessary injury.
Said private person, however, must necessarily: (a) make a prior demand for the owner or possessor of the property to abate the nuisance; (b) such owner or possessor refused to comply with the demand; (c) the abatement is approved by the district health officer and executed with the assistance of the local police; and (d) the value of the destruction does not exceed P3,000.
Meanwhile, a private person aggrieved by a private nuisance may: (a) institute a civil action; or (b) have said nuisance summarily abated by a public official. Also, such person must comply with the requisites for abating a public nuisance, so that the private nuisance may be summarily abated.
The aggrieved private person or public official shall be liable for damages for extrajudicially abating the nuisance if: (a) he causes unnecessary injury; or (b) the alleged nuisance is later declared by the courts to be not a real nuisance.
In this case, the El Hogar may be classified as a public nuisance, if left unattended. Thus, any person injured by the El Hogar’s dilapidated state may seek any of the three above-mentioned remedies against a public nuisance. Should said party choose to have El Hogar summarily abated or demolished, however, he may be held liable for damages if any of the two grounds thereof are present.
With the foregoing, restoring the grandeur of the El Hogar and other dilapidated buildings in our country is the more practical and safer option than waiting for them to wither and become nuisances that threaten the lives and properties of the members of their communities.
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