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G.R. No. L-14355; October 31, 1919 THE CITY OF MANILA, plaintiff-appellant vs. CHINESE COMMUNITY OF MANILA, ET AL.

, defendantsappellees FACTS: In 1916, Manila presented a petition in the CFI, praying that certain lands in Binondo be expropriated for the purpose of constructing a public improvement. The defendant, the Comunidad de Chinos de Manila [Chinese Community of Manila], a corporation allegedly for the benefit and general welfare of the Chinese Community, said that it was the owner of parcels one and two of the land and denied that it was either necessary or expedient that the said parcels be expropriated for street purposes. The plaintiff alleged that the expropriation was necessary. The defendants each alleged (a) that no necessity existed for said expropriation and (b) that the land in question was a cemetery, which had been used as such for many years, and was covered with sepulchers and monuments, and that the same should not be converted into a street for public purposes. The theory of the plaintiff is, that once it has established the fact, under the law, that it has authority to expropriate land, it may expropriate any land it may desire; that the only function of the court in such proceedings is to ascertain the value of the land in question. ISSUE: Whether or not the courts may inquire into and hear proof upon the necessity of the expropriation proceedings by the city of Manila. HELD: YES. That the city of Manila has authority to expropriate private lands for public purposes, is not denied, as stated in Section 2429 of Act No. 2711 (Charter of the city of Manila). If the Legislature should grant general authority to a municipal corporation to expropriate private land for public purposes, we think the courts have ample authority in this jurisdiction to make inquiry and to hear proof, upon an issue properly presented, concerning whether or not the lands were private and whether the purpose was, in fact, public. When the courts come to determine the question, they must only find (a) that a law or authority exists for the exercise of the right of eminent domain, but (b) also that the right or authority is being exercised in accordance with the law. In the present case there are two conditions imposed upon the authority conceded to the City of Manila: First, the land must be private; and, second, the purpose must be public. Where a cemetery is open to public, it is a public use and no part of the ground can be taken for other public uses under a general authority. The cemetery in question seems to have been established under governmental authority. To disturb the mortal remains of those endeared to us in life sometimes becomes the sad duty of the living; but, except in cases of necessity, or for laudable purposes, the sanctity of the grave, the last resting place of our friends, should be maintained, and the preventative aid of the courts should be invoked for that object. In the present case, even granting that a necessity exists for the opening of the street in question, the record contains no proof of the necessity of opening the same through the cemetery. The record shows that adjoining and adjacent lands have been offered to the city free of charge, which will answer every purpose of the plaintiff.