Monday, February 20, 2012

Republic vs. Tagle

Facts: Helena Benitez is a registered owner of 2 parcels of land in Bgy. Salwag, Dasmarinas, Cavite. Sometime in Sept. 1982, the Philippine Government, through the Philippine Human Resources Development Center (PHRDC), an agency under the Ministry of Human Settlements, negotiated with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Survey Team on technicalities of the establishment of ASEAN Human Resources Development Project in the Philippines. Among the the 5 main programs of the proposed project was the Construction Manpower Development Center (CMDC), an agency now under the Department of Trade and Industry.

Several transaction and agreements were entered into between Benitez (together with Philippine Women’s University) and the PHRDC with regards to the lease and consequently, the possible sale of the land which did not push through because of Benitez’s desistance. Thereafter, Benitez and PWU demanded from PHRDC the payment of rentals and to vacate the premises. Benitez later filed an unlawful detainer case against PHRDC. In turn, the state through DTI (with GMA as undersecretary), to which CMDF is attached instituted a complaint for Eminent Domain, pursuant to EO 1935. In compliance with Section 2, Rule 67 of the Rules of Court, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 42, DTI deposited with PNB in favor of Benitez P708,490 an amount equivalent to the provisional value of the land sought to be expropriated. Subsequently, DTI filed a Motion for Issuance of Writ of Possession which had been granted but subsequently quashed by MTC Judge Tagle.

Issue: Whether Judge Tagle may quash a writ of possession on the ground that the expropriating government agency is already occupying the property sought to be expropriated.

Held: No. Judge Tagle is required to issue a writ of possession in favor DTI pursuant to Sec. 7 of EO 1035:

“SEC 7. Expropriation. If the parties fail to agree in negotiation of the sale of the land as provided in the preceding section, the government implementing agency/instrumentality concerned shall have authority to immediately institute expropriation proceedings through the Office of the Solicitor General, as the case may be. The just compensation to be paid for the property acquired through expropriation shall be in accordance with the provisions of P.D. No. 1533. Courts shall give priority to the adjudication of cases on expropriation and shall immediately issue the necessary writ of possession upon deposit by the government implementing agency/instrumentality concerned of an amount equivalent to ten per cent (10%) of the amount of just compensation provided under P.D. No. 1533; Provided, That the period within which said writ of possession shall be issued shall in no case extend beyond five (5) days from the date such deposit was made.”

Under this statutory provision, when the government or its authorized agent makes the required deposit, the trial court has a ministerial duty to issue a writ of possession.

The expropriation of real property does not include mere physical entry or occupation of land. Although eminent domain usually involves a taking of title, there may also be compensable taking of only some, not all, of the property interests in the bundle of rights that constitute ownership. The writ of possession is both necessary and practical, because mere physical possession that is gained by entering the property is not equivalent to expropriating it with the aim of acquiring ownership over, or even the right to possess, the expropriated property.

Clearly, an ejectment suit ordinarily should not prevail over the State’s power of eminent domain. DTI has deposited not just the 10 percent required under EO 1035, but the whole amount of the just compensation that private respondent is entitled to. Thus, there is no any legal impediment for the issuance of a writ of possession in favor of DTI. Precisely, the purpose of instituting expropriation proceedings is to prevent petitioner from being ejected from the subject property; otherwise, the above-mentioned absurd and circuitous rulings would arise.  

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