SC rules against Manila gov't in expropriation case
MANILA, Philippines – The city government of Manila lost its expropriation case intended for its Land for the Landless program to a landed family.
The Supreme Court (SC), in a 12-page decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr, ruled in favor of respondents from the Roces-Prieto families. The High Court affirmed an earlier Court of Appeals decision that reversed the writ of possession issued by a Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) in October 2006.
The High Court said the exercise of the power of eminent domain “drastically affects a landowner’s right to private property, which is as much as constitutionally-protected right necessary for the preservation and enhancement of personal dignity and intimately connected with the rights to life and liberty.”
It added that a local government unit (LGU) “has no inherent power of eminent domain” as such power is lodged in the legislative branch – although it may be “validly delegated to local government units, other public entities and public utilities.”
Initial win by Manila government
A Manila court had previously ruled in favor of the city government, with Lito Atienza as sitting mayor at the time, after it deposited at least P5.6 million in the bank, representing the assessed value of the properties.
The court ruled that all the requirements for the Manila government’s exercise of the power of eminent domain had been met. For instance, it found that there was an ordinance passed by the Manila City Council expropriating the properties for the local government’s Land for the Landless program, a clear intent of public use. The court also agreed with the Manila government that onsite development was more practical and advantageous to beneficiaries of the program.
The Court of Appeals, however, reversed this ruling in a decision issued in June 2015. Among others, it said the city government failed to exhaust other modes of land acquisition before resorting to expropriation. It also said the intended beneficiaries of the housing program were not underprivileged nor homeless as required by law.
The respondent-family who owned the properties argued that their land, which was being expropriated by the city government, was also worth much more than the assessed value by the Manila government.
The SC concurred with the CA when it pointed out that beneficiaries, according to records, are not underprivileged. Instead, they were professionals like doctors, nurses, dentists, and teachers.
The SC decision said that while housing is “one of the most serious social problems” that the Manila LGU needs to address, LGUs don’t have “unbridled authority” to exercise its power to solve this problem. There is a need to “assure that every right is protected and every mandate is properly discharged," the SC said.
The SC ruling favored the respondents Alejandro Roces Prieto, Benito Roces Prieto, Mercedes Delgado Prieto, Monica Lopez Prieto, Martin Lopez Prieto, Beatriz Prieto de Leon, Rafael Roces Prieto, Benito Legarda Inc, Alegar Corporation, Benito Legarda Jr, Pechaten Corporation, and Rosario M. Llora. – Rappler.com