The Constitution guarantees our rights against the taking of our property by the state without compensation. In other words, the state may take our property provided there is just compensation. This power to “forced sale” is one of the fundamental powers of the state in order for it to pursue its mandate to work for the welfare of the public. This power is limited by the guarantee imposed by our Constitution that it shall be for public purpose and just compensation must be paid. It appears that the owner of the private property does not really have any recourse against the taking of his property and the only issue to be determined is the amount of compensation. R.A. 10752 or the “Right-ofWay Act” was signed into law by former president Benigno Aquino III which puts into place certain rules when it comes to expropriation which can be adopted by local government units. This new law aims to clarify or streamline the process of expropriation, but in a relatively new case the government lost its expropriation proceedings against the private owners in the city of Manila.
Expropriation by City of Manila
The City of Manila intended to purchase through negotiation a parcel of land for its “Land-for-the-Landless” program (G.R. No. 221366, July 08, 2019). The City offered to buy from the respondent-private owners their land at the price of 2,000.00 per square meter but the same was rejected. According to the land owners, the offer was very low and the price of their lot is way more than what the government is offering. After the offer was rejected, the City Government then filed its complaint for expropriation with the Regional trial Court (RTC). After deposit of the required amount by the City of Manila, the RTC issued a Writ of Possession. On appeal before the Court of Appeals, the CA ruled in favor of the land owners and over turned the decision of the RTC. The City brought the case before the Supreme Court insisting that it had complied with all the requirements laid down by the Local Government Code on expropriation proceedings.
The City Failed to Comply
The Supreme Court ultimately agreed with the CA that the City of Manila has not satisfied the stringent requirements in expropriation proceedings. The Court found that the Local Government Code was is not the only rule to be followed in the present case but also the provisions of R.A. 7279 or the “Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992”. It appears that the acquisition of private lands for the purpose of housing development is the last option. The City of Manila failed to show that it tried to acquire other lands mentioned in the law for its program. The City of Manila insists that it has complied with all the requirements of the Local Government code and that it made a valid offer which was rejected by the owner. The SC said that this is not sufficient and the provisions of RA 7279 must be strictly followed. It was also pointed out that the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Local Government Code (LGC) was not also followed. It appears that the owners are willing to sell but at a higher price. Paragraph (c) of Article 35 of said IRR states that: “If the owner or owners are willing to sell their property but at a price higher than that offered to them, the local chief executive shall call them to a conference for the purpose of reaching an agreement on the selling price”. The expropriation is not valid.