Wednesday, March 14, 2012

NAPOCOR v Henson G.R. No. 129998. December 29, 1998

J. Pardo

On March  21, 1990, the National Power Corporation initiated with the Regional Trial Court, Pampanga, a complaint for eminent domain  for the taking for public use of five (5) parcels of land, owned or claimed by respondents, with a total aggregate area of 58,311 square meters, for the expansion of the NPC Mexico Sub-Station. The respondents, 5 couples, were the owners.
The petitioner tried to fix the value of the land but was met of a price of 180 to 250 pesos due to the respondents. The respondents also filed a motion to dismiss.
In the trial court, the motion to dismiss was quashed. However, the court fixed the provisional value of the land at P100.00 per square meter, for a total area of 63,220 sqm.  The petitioner deposited the amount.  The trial court allowed respondents a motion to withdraw P5,831,100.00, with a balance of P690,900.00 as the purchase value.
3 commissioners were then authorized by the trial court to determine the provisional value of the land for just compensation. The values were in 350, 375, and 170 per sqm from Tiglao, Atienza and Orocio.
In May 19, 1993, the trial court rendered judgment fixing the amount of just compensation to be paid by petitioner for the taking of the entire area of 63,220 square meters at P400.00 per square meter, with  legal  interest  from September 11, 1990, when petitioner was placed in possession of the land, plus attorney’s fees of P20,000.00, and costs of the proceedings.
The CA merely deleted the attorney’s fees.

Issue: What  is  the  just compensation for the taking of respondents’ property for the expansion of the NPC’s Mexico Sub-station?

Held: P375.00 per sqm. CA decision modified.

The parcels of land sought to be expropriated  are undeniably idle, undeveloped, raw agricultural land, bereft of any improvement.   Except for the Henson family, all the other respondents were admittedly farmer beneficiaries under operation land transfer of the Department of Agrarian Reform.  However, the land has been re-classified as residential.  The nature and character of the land at the time of its taking is the principal criterion to determine just compensation to the landowner.
CA fixed 400.00 due to the similarity with the price in the adjacent Sto. Domingo Village. The land in question, however, was an undeveloped, idle land, principally agricultural in character, though re-classified as residential. There was no evidence for the value. It was even higher than that of the commissioners’ valuation.
On the other hand, Commissioner Atienza recommended a fair market value at P375.00 per square meter.  This appears to be the closest valuation to the market value of lots in the adjoining fully developed subdivision.  Considering that the subject parcels of land are undeveloped raw land, the price of P375.00 per square meter would appear to the Court as the just compensation for the taking of such raw land.
The court agreed with petitioner that the area of the communal irrigation canal consisting of 4,809 square meters must be excluded from the land to be expropriated.  To begin with, it is excluded in the amended complaint. Hence, the trial court and the Court of Appeals erred in including the same in the area to be taken.
The trial court erroneously ordered double payment for 3,611 square meters of lot 5 (portion) in the dispositive part of its decision, and, hence, this must be deleted.
The decision for legal interest was correct. Napocor was exempted from costs of proceedings.

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