The Supreme Court has ruled that zonal valuation of land set by the Bureau of Internal Revenue should not be the only basis for determining the just compensation in the government’s expropriation of privately-owned landholdings.
In a decision released on March 2, the SC stressed that it is only one of the indices of the fair market value of a real estate, citing existing rulings of the high court.
With this ruling, the SC upheld the Court of Appeals ruling that sustained the trial court’s decision that spouses Roger and Angelita Mirandilla should be paid P3.75 million instead of only P575,000 for their 250 square-meter land in Valenzuela City.
The Valenzuela City regional trial court handed down its decision on June 26, 2014 in favor of the Mirandilla couple.
“The determination of just compensation is a judicial function because what is sought to be determined is a full, just, and fair value due to the owner…, with an equally important consideration that the payment of the same entails the expenditure of public funds, and this can only be attained by reception of evidence consisting of reliable and actual data, and the circumspect evaluation thereof,” the SC ruled.
The SC denied the petition filed by the government through the Department of Public Works and Highways, which was represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), seeking to overturn the RTC ruling.
The DPWH sought the expropriation of the Mirandilla property for the construction of the C-5 Northern Link Road Project from Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City to Luzon Expressway in Valenzuela City.
The agency offered the Mirandilla couple P2,300 per square-meter for their property or a total of P575,000 for the 250 square-meter lot based on BIR’s zonal valuation. When the couple rejected the offer, the DPWH filed an expropriation case on December 7, 2007.
The RTC took cognizance of the case and ordered DPWH to deposit to the court the P575,000 offer. It issued a writ of possession in favor of DPWH and created a board of commissioners to determine just compensation.
On March 6, 2014, the board recommended just compensation of P15,000 per square-meter. Among other considerations, the board took note of the increase in the market value when Valenzuela became a city, availability of utilities like water and electricity, and proximity to commercial establishments and to a previously expropriated property which the DPWH paid P15,000 per square-meter.
The RTC approved the recommendation and directed DPWH to pay P15,000 per square-meter for the Mirandilla property as just compensation.
The trial court noted that the purpose of the expropriation had already been completed and that the property had already been utilized by the motoring public.
It also said that the government had paid P15,000 per square-meter to a property which is 131.4 meters away from the Mirandilla lot and the SC had approved the payment.
The DPWH filed an appeal before the appellate court, arguing that the just compensation fixed by the trial court was excessive and contrary to evidence, laws, and jurisprudence.
The CA did not agree except on the payment of interest on the balance of the balance of P3.175 million (after deducting the P575,000 deposited with the court) at 12 per cent yearly from Dec. 7, 2007 to July 1, 2013 and six per cent interest thereafter until fully paid.
This prompted the DPWH to elevate the case to the SC, challenging the CA’s decision handed down on Feb. 28, 2017.
The OSG claimed the CA-approved just compensation was excessive. It pointed out that the zonal valuation set by the BIR should prevail.
However, the SC resolved that “an evaluation of the case and the issues presented leads this Court to the conclusion that it is unnecessary to deviate from the findings of fact of the RTC and the CA.”
It cited the relevant standards provided for in Republic Act No 8974 on right-of-way acquisition of private land for the government’s infrastructure projects.
Among these standards are the current selling price of similar lands in the vicinity, value declared by the owners, price of land based on ocular findings and on evidence presented, and facts and events as to enable the affected property owners to have sufficient funds to acquire a similarly situated land to rehabilitate themselves as early as possible.
“A review of the RTC’ s June 26, 2014 Decision would show that it carefully examined and applied these standards in arriving at the amount of Pl5,000.00 per square meter as just compensation, and that the valuation in other properties was just one of the many factors that it took into consideration,” the SC said.
“The CA, in turn, found the ruling of the RTC on the award of just compensation appropriate, and recognized the latter’s exercise of discretion to be absent of any abuse,” it said.