Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jesus is Lord Christian School Foundation, Inc. v. City of Pasig

Facts: The Municipality of Pasig needed an access road from E. R. Santos Street, a municipal road near the Pasig Public Market, to Barangay Sto. Tomas Bukid, Pasig, where 60 to 70 houses, mostly made of light materials, were located. The road had to be at least three meters in width, as required by the Fire Code, so that fire trucks could pass through in case of conflagration. Likewise, the residents in the area needed the road for water and electrical outlets. The municipality then decided to acquire 51 square meters out of the 1,791-square meter property of Lorenzo Ching Cuanco, Victor Ching Cuanco and Ernesto Ching Cuanco Kho covered by a transfer certificate of title which is abutting E. R. Santos Street.

On April 19, 1993, the Sangguniang Bayan of Pasig approved an Ordinance authorizing the municipal mayor to initiate expropriation proceedings to acquire the said property and appropriate the fund therefor. The ordinance stated that the property owners were notified of the municipality’s intent to purchase the property for public use as an access road but they rejected the offer.

On July 21, 1993, the municipality filed a complaint, amended on August 6, 1993, against the Ching Cuancos for the expropriation of the property under Section 19 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code. The plaintiff alleged therein that it notified the defendants, by letter, of its intention to construct an access road on a portion of the property but they refused to sell the same portion. The plaintiff appended to the complaint a photocopy of the letter addressed to defendant Lorenzo Ching Cuanco.

The respondent has demonstrated the necessity for constructing a road from E. R. Santos Street to Sto. Tomas Bukid. The witnesses, who were residents of Sto. Tomas Bukid, testified that although there were other ways through which one can enter the vicinity, no vehicle, however, especially fire trucks, could enter the area except through the newly constructed Damayan Street. This is more than sufficient to establish that there is a genuine necessity for the construction of a road in the area. After all, absolute necessity is not required, only reasonable and practical necessity will suffice.

Issue: Whether or not there was no due process

Held: Petition is granted. However, as correctly pointed out by the petitioner, there is no showing in the record that an ocular inspection was conducted during the trial. If, at all, the trial court conducted an ocular inspection of the subject property during the trial, the petitioner was not notified thereof. The petitioner was, therefore, deprived of its right to due process. It bears stressing that an ocular inspection is part of the trial as evidence is thereby received and the parties are entitled to be present at any stage of the trial.[73] Consequently, where, as in this case, the petitioner was not notified of any ocular inspection of the property, any factual finding of the court based on the said inspection has no probative weight. The findings of the trial court based on the conduct of the ocular inspection must, therefore, be rejected.

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