After nine years since Valenzuela City instituted an expropriation case over 7,526 square meters of land for the expansion of the city’s Sitero High School, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled in favor of the land owners finally getting the right compensation for their property at P2,700 per square meter instead of only P30 pegged by the city government in 2013.
In a decision rendered last September 7 and made public last October 4, the SC sustained the rulings of both the regional trial court (RTC) and the Court of Appeals (CA) that the land owners, spouses William and Belen Gosiaco, should be paid P20,320,200 for their expropriated property.
The ruling came as the high tribunal denied the petition filed by the Valenzuela City government through then Mayor Rexlon T. Gatchalian.
Acting on the expropriation proceedings, the RTC ruled that Valenzuela City has the right to institute the case and ordered the creation of a Board of Commissioners to determine just compensation.
The board recommended P400 per square meter or P3,010,400 as the fair market value of the Gosiaco’s property.
However, the RTC in its decision on July 5, 2017 fixed the just compensation at P2,700 per square meter or a total of P20,320,200 for the lot. The remaining balance from the city government of P19,868,640 should earn interest at six percent annually computed from the filing of the expropriation case until fully paid.
When the Valenzuela City’s motion for reconsideration was denied by the RTC, it elevated the case before the CA which affirmed the ruling of the trial court.
In its February. 4, 2021 decision, the CA agreed with the RTC in fixing the fair market value of the subject property using the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) zonal value, among others, since the tax declaration alone cannot be the proper basis for compensation based on the several factors used in determining the fair market value of the property — location of the property, classification of the residential property, surroundings, improvements, and the adjacent properties.
Undaunted, Valenzuela City elevated the case to the SC.
In ruling against the Valenzuela City, the SC upheld the decision by the court of appeals, which affirmed the valuation of the RTC for being appropriate since it was computed using reliable and actual data.
“After a judicious study of the case, the Court resolves to affirmed with modification the Decision dated 04 February 202123 and Resolution dated 29 November 202124 of the CA in CA-G.R. CV No. 110024 for failure of petitioner (Valenzuela City) to sufficiently show that the CA committed any reversible error in upholding the valuation of just compensation reflected in the Decision dated 05 July 201725 of Br. 269, RTC, Valenzuela City, in the amount of P2,700 per square meter or the total amount of P20,320,200 for respondents,” the SC said.
“As correctly ruled by the CA, the valuation of the RTC was appropriate since it was computed using reliable and actual data, and there was circumspect evaluation of the same,” the SC added.
The high court noted that as supported by jurisprudence and contrary to petitioner’s claim, the RTC used the BIR zonal valuation as simply one of the indices of the fair market value of the subject property.
The petitioner bewailed the “utter and complete disregard” of the tax declarations which reclassified the subject property from ‘riceland’ to ‘residential land’ at the instance of respondents spouses Gosiaco in determining the fair and just compensation.
“Case law, however, provides that the fair market value of an expropriated property does not merely equate to its market value as may be specified in the property’s tax declaration.
Rather, just compensation should be valued using several factors to arrive at the fair and full equivalent of the loss suffered by the owner,” the SC said.
“In any event, the issue pertaining to the correct amount of just compensation for the expropriated parcel of land is a factual question and is not cognizable as a rule by the Court under a Rule 45 petition, since the same should be generally limited to the review of legal issues,” it added.
The SC pointed out that the resolution of factual issues is the function of the lower courts, whose findings on these matters are received with respect.
“As such, the factual findings of the trial court, as affirmed by the CA, are binding and conclusive on this Court and will generally not be reviewed on appeal absent any of the exceptions laid down by jurisprudence, as in this case,” the high court said.
“Finally, it bears to clarify that the legal interest on the remaining balance of just compensation should be reckoned from the time of taking or on 20 November 2013 and not from the filing of the Complaint on 12 September 2013,” it said.
“Jurisprudence provides that delay begins only upon the taking of the property not from the filing of the complaint because it is from the date of the taking that the fact of deprivation of property can be established. To this extent, the questioned CA decision and resolution are modified,” the SC ruled.
“Wherefore, the instant petition is denied. The Decision dated 04 February 2021 and Resolution dated 29 November 2021 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 110024 are affirmed with modification.
“Petitioner is ordered to pay the balance of just compensation in the amount of P19,868,640, with legal interest at the rate of 6% per annum reckoned from the date of the taking of the property on 20 November 2013 until finality of this Resolution. The total amount of the foregoing shall earn interest at the rate of six percent ( 6%) per annum from finality of this Resolution until full payment. So ordered,” the high court said.