( Rules of Court, Rule 67)
SECTION 1. The complaint.-The right of eminent domain shall be exercised by the filing of a verified complaint which shall state with certainty the right and purpose of expropriation, describe the real or personal property sought to be expropriated, and join as defendants all persons owning or claiming to own, or occupying, any part thereof or interest therein, showing, so far as practicable, the separate interest of each defendant. If the title to any property sought to be expropriated appears to be in the Republic of the Philippines, although occupied by private individuals, or if the title is otherwise obscure or doubtful so that the plaintiff cannot with accuracy or certainty specify who are the real owners, averment to that effect shall be made in the complaint. (1a)
SEC. 2. Entry of plaintiff upon depositing value with authorized government depository.-Upon the filing of the complaint or at any time thereafter and after due notice to the defendant, the plaintiff shall have the right to take or enter upon the possession of the real property involved if he deposits with the authorized government depositary an amount equivalent to the assessed value of the property for purposes of taxation to be held by such bank subject to the orders of the court. Such deposit shall be in money, unless in lieu thereof the court authorizes the deposit of a certificate of deposit of a government bank of the Republic of the Philippines payable on demand to the authorized government depositary.
If personal property is involved, its value shall be provisionally ascertained and the amount to be deposited shall be promptly fixed by the court.
After such deposit is made the court shall order the sheriff or other proper officer to forthwith place the plaintiff in possession of the property involved and promptly submit a report thereof to the court with service of copies to the parties. (2a)
SEC. 3. Defenses and objections.-If a defendant has no objection or defense to the action or the taking of his property, he may file and serve a notice of appearance and a manifestation to that effect, specifically designating or identifying the property in which he claims to be interested, within the time stated in the summons. Thereafter, he shall be entitled to notice of all proceedings affecting the same.
If a defendant has any objection to the filing of or the allegations in the complaint, or any objection or defense to the taking of his property, he shall serve his answer within the time stated in the summons. The answer shall specifically designate or identify the property in which he claims to have an interest, state the nature and extent of the interest claimed, and adduce all his objections and defenses to the taking of his property. No counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party complaint shall be alleged or allowed in the answer or any subsequent pleading.
A defendant waives all defenses and objections not so alleged but the court, in the interest of justice, may permit amendments to the answer to be made not later than ten (10) days from the filing thereof. However, at the trial of the issue of just compensation, whether or not a defendant has previously appeared or answered, he may present evidence as to the amount of the compensation to be paid for his property, and he may share in the distribution of the award.
SEC. 4. Order of expropriation.-If the objections to and the defenses against the right of the plaintiff to expropriate the property are overruled, or when no party appears to defend as required by this Rule, the court may issue an order of• expro¬priation declaring that the plaintiff has a lawful right to take the property sought to be expropriated, for the public use or purpose described in the complaint, upon the payment of just compensation to be determined as of the date of the taking of the property or the filing of the complaint, whichever came first.
A final order sustaining the right to expropriate the property may be appealed by any party aggrieved thereby. Such appeal, however, shall not prevent the court from determining the just compensation to be paid.
After the rendition of such an order, the plaintiff shall not be permitted to dismiss or discontinue the proceeding except on such terms as the court deems just and equitable. (4a)
APPOINTMENT OF COMMISSIONERS
SEC. 5. Ascertainment of compensation.-Upon the rendition of the order of expropriation, the court shall appoint not more than three (3) competent and disinterested persons as commissioners to ascertain and report to the court the just compensation for the property sought to be taken. The order of appointment shall designate the time and place of the first session of the hearing to be held by the commissioners and specify the time within which their report shall be submitted to the court.
Copies of the order shall be served on the parties. Objections to the appointment of any of the commissioners shall be filed with the court within ten (10) days from service, and shall be resolved within thirty (30) days after all the commissioners shall have received copies of the objections. (5a)
SEC. 6. Proceedings by commissioners.-Before entering upon the performance of their duties, the commissioners shall take and subscribe an oath that they will faithfully perform their duties as commissioners, which oath shall be filed in court with the other proceedings in the case. Evidence may be introduced by either party before the commissioners who are authorized to administer oaths on hearings before them, and the commissioners shall, unless the parties consent to the contrary, after due notice to the parties to attend, view and examine the property sought to be expropriated and its surroundings, and may measure the same, after which either party may, by himself or counsel, argue the case. The commissioners shall assess the consequential damages to the property not taken and deduct from such consequential damages the consequential benefits to be derived by the owner from the public use or purpose of the property taken, the operation of its franchise by the corporation or the carrying on of the business of the corporation or person taking the property. But in no case shall the consequential benefits assessed exceed the consequential damages assessed, or the owner be deprived of the actual value of his property so taken.(6a)
SEC. 7. Report by commissioners and judgment thereupon.- The court may order the commissioners to report when any particular portion of the real estate shall have been passed upon by them, and may render judgment upon such partial report, and direct the commissioners to proceed with their work as to subsequent portions of the property sought to be expropriated, and may from time to time so deal with such property. The commis¬sioners shall make a full and accurate report to the court of all their proceedings, and such proceedings shall not be effectual until the court shall have accepted their report and rendered judgment in accordance with their recommendations. Except as otherwise expressly ordered by the court, such report shall be filed within sixty (60) days from the date the commissioners were notified of their appointment, which time may be extended in the discretion of the court. Upon the filing of such report, the clerk of the court shall serve copies thereof on all interested parties, with notice that they are allowed ten (10) days within which to file objections to the findings of the report, if they so desire. (7a)
SEC. 8. Action upon commissioners’ report.-Upon the expiration of the period of ten (10) days referred to in the preceding section, or even before the expiration of such period but after all the interested parties have filed their objections to the report or their statement of agreement therewith, the court may, after hearing, accept the report and render judgment in accordance therewith; or, for cause shown, it may recommit the same to the commissioners for further report of facts; or it may set aside the report and appoint new commissioners; or it may accept the report in part and reject it in part; and it may make such order or render such judgment as shall secure to the plaintiff the property essential to the exercise of his right of expropriation, and to the defendant just compensation for the property so taken. (8a)
SEC. 9. Uncertain ownership; conflicting claims.-If the ownership of the property taken is uncertain, or there are conflicting claims to any part thereof, the court may order any sum or sums awarded as compensation for the property to be paid to the court for the benefit of the person adjudged in the same proceeding to be entitled thereto. But the judgment shall require the payment of the sum or sums awarded to either the defendant or the court before the plaintiff can enter upon the property, or retain it for the public use or purpose if entry has already been made. (9a)
SEC. 10. Rights of plaintiff after judgment and payment.- Upon payment by the plaintiff to the defendant of the compensation fixed by the judgment, with legal interest thereon from the taking of the possession of the property, or after tender to him of the amount so fixed and payment of the costs, the plaintiff shall have the right to enter upon the property expropriated and to appropriate it for the public use or purpose defined in the judgment, or to retain it should he have taken immediate possession thereof under the provisions of section 2 hereof. If the defendant and his counsel absent themselves from the court, or decline to receive the amount tendered, the same shall be ordered to be deposited in court and such deposit shall have the same effect as actual payment thereof to the defendant or the person ultimately adjudged entitled thereto. (10a)
SEC. 11. Entry not delayed by appeal; effect of reversal.- The right of the plaintiff to enter upon the property of the defendant and appropriate the same for public use or purpose shall not be delayed by an appeal from the judgment. But if the appellate court determines that plaintiff has no right of expropriation, judgment shall be rendered ordering the Regional Trial Court to forthwith enforce the restoration to the defendant of the possession of the property, and to determine the damages which the defendant sustained and may recover by reason of the possession taken by the plaintiff. (11a)
SEC. 12. Costs, by whom paid.-The fees of the commis¬sioners shall be taxed as a part of the costs of the proceedings. All costs, except those of rival claimants litigating their claims, shall be paid by the plaintiff, unless an appeal is taken by the owner of the property and the judgment is affirmed, in which event the costs of the appeal shall be paid by the owner. (12a)
SEC. 13. Recording judgment, and its effect.-The judgment entered in expropriation proceedings shall state definitely, by an adequate description, the particular property or interest therein expropriated, and the nature of the public use or purpose for which it is expropriated. When real estate is expropriated, a certified copy of such judgment shall be recorded in the registry of deeds of the place in which the property is situated, and its effect shall be to vest in the plaintiff the title to the real estate so described for such public use or purpose. (13a)
SEC. 14. Power of guardian in such proceedings.-The guardian or guardian ad litem of a minor or of a person judicially declared to be incompetent may, with the approval of the court first had, do and perform on behalf of his ward any act, matter, or thing respecting the expropriation for public use or purpose of property belonging to such minor or person judicially declared to be incompetent, which such minor or person judicially declared to be incompetent could do in such proceedings if he were of age or competent. (14a)
ON JUST COMPENSATION
Just Compensation, zonal valuation, fair market value, RA 8974 (AN ACT TO FACILITATE THE ACQUISITION OF RIGHT-OF-WAY, SITE OR LOCATION FOR NATIONAL GOVERNMENT INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES)
G.R. No. 192100, March 12, 2014
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS (DPWH), 1 vs. ASIA PACIFIC INTEGRATED STEEL CORPORATION,
Asia Pacific Integrated Steel Corporation (respondent) is the registered owner of a 17,175-square meter property situated in Barangay Sta. Monica, Municipality of San Simon, Province of Pampanga and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 271813-R.
On March 1, 2002, the Republic of the Philippines (petitioner) through the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) instituted expropriation proceedings against the respondent over a portion of their property. The affected area, consisting of 2,024 square meters, shall be traversed by the expansion of the San Simon Interchange, an integral component of the construction, rehabilitation and expansion of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX Project). Subsequently, petitioner filed an urgent ex-parte motion for issuance of writ of possession, stating that it deposited with the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) the amount of P607,200.00 (100% of the value of the property based on current zonal valuation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue [BIR]) in accordance with Section 4 (a) of Republic Act No. 8974 6 (R.A. 8794), and hence the court has the ministerial duty to place petitioner in possession pursuant to Section 2, Rule 67 of the Rules of Civil Procedure.
Issue: What is the proper basis for determining the amount of just compensation in expropriation cases pursuant to RA 8974 (AN ACT TO FACILITATE THE ACQUISITION OF RIGHT-OF-WAY, SITE OR LOCATION FOR NATIONAL GOVERNMENT INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES)?
Section 5 of R.A. 8974 enumerates the standards for assessing the value of expropriated land taken for national government infrastructure projects, thus:
SECTION 5. Standards for the Assessment of the Value of the Land Subject of Expropriation Proceedings or Negotiated Sale. — In order to facilitate the determination of just compensation, the court may consider, among other well-established factors, the following relevant standards:
(a)The classification and use for which the property is suited;
(b)The developmental costs for improving the land;
(c)The value declared by the owners;
(d)The current selling price of similar lands in the vicinity;
(e)The reasonable disturbance compensation for the removal and/or demolition of certain improvements on the land and for the value of the improvements thereon;
(f)The size, shape or location, tax declaration and zonal valuation of the land;
(g)The price of the land as manifested in the ocular findings, oral as well as documentary evidence presented; and
(h)Such facts and events as to enable the affected property owners to have sufficient funds to acquire similarly-situated lands of approximate areas as those required from them by the government, and thereby rehabilitate themselves as early as possible.
In this case, the trial court considered only (a) and (d): (1) the classification of the subject property which is located in an area with mixed land use (commercial, residential and industrial) and the property’s conversion from agricultural to industrial land, and (2) the current selling price of similar lands in the vicinity — the only factors which the commissioners included in their Report. It also found the commissioners’ recommended valuation of P1,000.00 to P1,500.00 per square to be fair and just despite the absence of documentary substantiation as said prices were based merely on the opinions of bankers and realtors.
In National Power Corporation v. Manubay Agro-Industrial Development Corporation, the recommended price of the city assessor was rejected by this Court. The opinions of the banks and the realtors as reflected in the computation of the market value of the property and in the Commissioners’ Report, were not substantiated by any documentary evidence.
Similarly, in National Power Corporation v. Diato-Bernal, this Court rejected the valuation recommended by court-appointed commissioners whose conclusions were devoid of any actual and reliable basis. The market values of the subject property’s neighboring lots were found to be mere estimates and unsupported by any corroborative documents, such as sworn declarations of realtors in the area concerned, tax declarations or zonal valuation from the BIR for the contiguous residential dwellings and commercial establishments. Thus, we ruled that a commissioners’ report of land prices which is not based on any documentary evidence is manifestly hearsay and should be disregarded by the court.
We find that the trial court did not judiciously determine the fair market value of the subject property as it failed to consider other relevant factors such as the zonal valuation, tax declarations and current selling price supported by documentary evidence. Indeed, just compensation must not be arrived at arbitrarily, but determined after an evaluation of different factors.
Just compensation is defined as the full and fair equivalent of the property taken from its owner by the expropriator. The measure is not the taker’s gain, but the owner’s loss. The word “just” is used to intensify the meaning of the word “compensation” and to convey thereby the idea that the equivalent to be rendered for the property to be taken shall be real, substantial, full, and ample. Such “just”-ness of the compensation can only be attained by using reliable and actual data as bases in fixing the value of the condemned property. Trial courts are required to be more circumspect in its evaluation of just compensation due the property owner, considering that eminent domain cases involve the expenditure of public funds.
We agree with the trial court that it was not bound by the assessment report of the commissioners and that it had the discretion to reject the same and substitute its own judgment on its value as gathered from the record, or it may accept the report/recommendation of the commissioners in toto and base its judgment thereon. However, the decision of the court must be based on all established rules, upon correct legal principles and competent evidence. The court is proscribed from basing its judgment on speculations and surmises.
Nonetheless, we cannot subscribe to petitioner’s argument that just compensation for the subject property should not exceed the zonal valuation (P300.00 per square meter).
In Republic v. Court of Appeals, we held that —
The constitutional limitation of “just compensation” is considered to be the sum equivalent to the market value of the property, broadly described to be the price fixed by the seller in open market in the usual and ordinary course of legal action and competition or the fair value of the property as between one who receives, and one who desires to sell, it fixed at the time of the actual taking by the government. . . .
Zonal valuation is just one of the indices of the fair market value of real estate. By itself, this index cannot be the sole basis of “just compensation” in expropriation cases. As this Court ruled in Leca Realty Corporation v. Rep. of the Phils.:
The Republic is incorrect, however, in alleging that the values were exorbitant, merely because they exceeded the maximum zonal value of real properties in the same location where the subject properties were located. The zonal value may be one, but not necessarily the sole, index of the value of a realty. National Power Corporation v. Manubay Agro-Industrial held thus:
“. . . [Market value] is not limited to the assessed value of the property or to the schedule of market values determined by the provincial or city appraisal committee. However, these values may serve as factors to be considered in the judicial valuation of the property.”
The above ruling finds support in EPZA v. Dulay in this wise:
“Various factors can come into play in the valuation of specific properties singled out for expropriation. The values given by provincial assessors are usually uniform for very wide areas covering several barrios or even an entire town with the exception of the poblacion. Individual differences are never taken into account. The value of land is based on such generalities as its possible cultivation for rice, corn, coconuts or other crops. Very often land described as ‘cogonal’ has been cultivated for generations. Buildings are described in terms of only two or three classes of building materials and estimates of areas are more often inaccurate than correct. Tax values can serve as guides but cannot be absolute substitutes for just compensation.” (Emphasis supplied.)
Among the factors to be considered in arriving at the fair market value of the property are the cost of acquisition, the current value of like properties, its actual or potential uses, and in the particular case of lands, their size, shape, location, and the tax declarations thereon. The measure is not the taker’s gain but the owner’s loss. 30 To be just, the compensation must be fair not only to the owner but also to the taker.
It is settled that the final conclusions on the proper amount of just compensation can only be made after due ascertainment of the requirements set forth under R.A. 8974 and not merely based on the declarations of the parties. 32 Since these requirements were not satisfactorily complied with, and in the absence of reliable and actual data as bases in fixing the value of the condemned property, remand of this case to the trial court is in order.