Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In a long line of cases, we have constantly affirmed that:
x x x just compensation is to be ascertained as of the time of the taking, which usually coincides with the commencement of the expropriation proceedings. Where the institution of the action precedes entry into the property, the just compensation is to be ascertained as of the time of the filing of the complaint.38
When the taking of the property sought to be expropriated coincides with the commencement of the expropriation proceedings, or takes place subsequent to the filing of the complaint for eminent domain, the just compensation should be determined as of the date of the filing of the complaint.39 Even under Sec. 4, Rule 67 of the 1964 Rules of Procedure, under which the complaint for expropriation was filed, just compensation is to be determined "as of the date of the filing of the complaint." Here, there is no reason to depart from the general rule that the point of reference for assessing the value of the Subject Property is the time of the filing of the complaint for expropriation.40
Private respondent claims that the reckoning date should be in 2004 because of the "clear injustice to the private respondent who all these years has been deprived of the beneficial use of his properties."
We commiserate with the private respondent. The school was constructed and has been in operation since 1985. Petitioner and the residents of Iloilo City have long reaped the benefits of the property. However, non-payment of just compensation does not entitle the private landowners to recover possession of their expropriated lot.41
Concededly, Javellana also slept on his rights for over 18 years and did not bother to check with the PNB if a deposit was actually made by the petitioner. Evidently, from his inaction in failing to withdraw or even verify the amounts purportedly deposited, private respondent not only accepted the valuation made by the petitioner, but also was not interested enough to pursue the expropriation case until the end. As such, private respondent may not recover possession of the Subject Property, but is entitled to just compensation.42 It is high time that private respondent be paid what was due him after almost 30 years.
We stress, however, that the City of Iloilo should be held liable for damages for taking private respondent’s property without payment of just compensation. In Manila International Airport Authority v. Rodriguez,43 the Court held that a government agency’s prolonged occupation of private property without the benefit of expropriation proceedings undoubtedly entitled the landowner to damages:
Such pecuniary loss entitles him to adequate compensation in the form of actual or compensatory damages, which in this case should be the legal interest (6%) on the value of the land at the time of taking, from said point up to full payment by the MIAA. This is based on the principle that interest "runs as a matter of law and follows from the right of the landowner to be placed in as good position as money can accomplish, as of the date of the taking x x x.
x x x x
For more than twenty (20) years, the MIAA occupied the subject lot without the benefit of expropriation proceedings and without the MIAA exerting efforts to ascertain ownership of the lot and negotiating with any of the owners of the property. To our mind, these are wanton and irresponsible acts which should be suppressed and corrected. Hence, the award of exemplary damages and attorneys fees is in order. x x x.44


G.R. No. 168967               February 12, 2010
CITY OF ILOILO represented by HON. JERRY P. TRE√ĎAS, City Mayor, Petitioner,
vs.
HON. LOLITA CONTRERAS-BESANA, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 32, and ELPIDIO JAVELLANA, Respondents.

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