Constitutional Law, Political Law

Lagcao vs. Labra G.R. No. 155746 October 13, 2004 Eminent Domain

FACTS:

After acquiring title, petitioners tried to take possession of the lot only to discover that it was already occupied by squatters. Thus a demolition order was issued. However, when the demolition order was about to be implemented, Cebu City Mayor Alvin Garcia wrote two letters] to the MTCC, requesting the deferment of the demolition on the ground that the City was still looking for a relocation site for the squatters. Acting on the mayors request, the MTCC issued two orders suspending the demolition for a period of 120 days. Unfortunately for Petitioners, during the suspension period, the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) of Cebu City passed a resolution which identified Lot 1029 as a socialized housing site pursuant to RA 7279.

In this appeal, petitioners argue that Ordinance No. 1843 is unconstitutional as it sanctions the expropriation of their property for the purpose of selling it to the squatters, an endeavor contrary to the concept of public use contemplated in the Constitution. They allege that it will benefit only a handful of people.

ISSUE:

What is Eminent Domain? Was this validly exercised in this case?

 

RULING:

It is where a local government unit may, through its chief executive and acting pursuant to an ordinance, exercise the power of eminent domain for public use, or purpose, or welfare for the benefit of the poor and the landless, upon payment of just compensation, pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution and pertinent.

No, it has not been validly invoked in this case due to the fact that The foundation of the right to exercise eminent domain should be a genuine necessity and that necessity must be of public character. Government may not capriciously or arbitrarily choose which private property should be expropriated. In this case, there was no showing at all why petitioners property was singled out for expropriation by the city ordinance or what necessity impelled the particular choice or selection. Ordinance No. 1843 stated no reason for the choice of petitioners property as the site of a socialized housing project.

It should also be noted that, as early as 1998, petitioners had already obtained a favorable judgment of eviction against the illegal occupants of their property but Mayor Garcia requested the trial court to suspend the demolition on the pretext that the City was still searching for a relocation site for the squatters. However, instead of looking for a relocation site during the suspension period, the city council suddenly enacted Ordinance No. 1843 for the expropriation of petitioners lot. It was trickery and bad faith, pure and simple. The unconscionable manner in which the questioned ordinance was passed clearly indicated that respondent City transgressed the Constitution, RA 7160 and RA 7279.

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