Petitioner has the irrefutable right to exercise its power of eminent domain. It being a local government unit, the basis for its exercise is granted under Section 19 of Rep. Act No. 7160, to wit:
Sec. 19. Eminent Domain. - 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 laws: Provided, however, That the power of eminent domain may not be exercised unless a valid and definite offer has been previously made to the owner, and such offer was not accepted: Provided, further, That the local government unit may immediately take possession of the property upon the filing of the expropriation proceedings and upon making a deposit with the proper court of at least fifteen percent (15%) of the fair market value of the property based on the current tax declaration of the property to be expropriated: Provided, finally, That the amount to be paid for the expropriated property shall be determined by the proper court, based on the fair market value at the time of the taking of the property.
The requisites for authorizing immediate entry are as follows:
(1) the filing of a complaint for expropriation sufficient in form and substance; and
(2) the deposit of the amount equivalent to fifteen percent (15%) of the fair market value of the property to be expropriated based on its current tax declaration.31 Upon compliance with these requirements, the issuance of a writ of possession becomes ministerial.32
In the case at bar, petitioner avers that the Amended Complaint it filed complies with both requisites, thus entitling it to a writ of possession as a matter of right and the issuance thereof becoming ministerial on the part of the lower court even without any hearing. On the other hand, private respondents allege that the Amended Complaint is not sufficient in form and substance since it failed to allege compliance with the mandatory requirements for the exercise of the power of eminent domain for purposes of socialized housing.
Section 1 of Rule 67 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure reads:
Section 1. The complaint. – The right of eminent domain shall be exercised by the filing of a verified complaint which shall state with certainty the right and purpose of expropriation, describe the real or personal property sought to be expropriated, and join as defendants all persons owning or claiming to own, or occupying, any part hereof or interest therein, showing, so far as practicable, the separate interest of each defendant. If the title to any property sought to be expropriated appears to be in the Republic of the Philippines, although occupied by private individuals, or if the title is otherwise obscure or doubtful so that the plaintiff cannot with accuracy or certainty specify who are the real owners, averment to that effect shall be made in the complaint.
In City of Manila v. Serrano,36 this Court ruled that "hearing is still to be held to determine whether or not petitioner indeed complied with the requirements provided in Rep. Act No. 7279. x x x The determination of this question must await the hearing on the complaint for expropriation, particularly the hearing for the condemnation of the properties sought to be expropriated." From the foregoing, it is clear that an evidentiary hearing must be conducted if compliance with the requirements for socialized housing has been made. This hearing, however, is not a hearing to determine if a writ of possession is to be issued, but whether there was compliance with the requirements for socialized housing.
For a writ of possession to issue, only two requirements are required:
1)the sufficiency in form and substance of the complaint and
2)the required provisional deposit.
In fact, no hearing is required for the issuance of a writ of possession. The sufficiency in form and substance of the complaint for expropriation can be determined by the mere examination of the allegations of the complaint. In this case, the sufficiency of the Amended Complaint was further confirmed by public respondent when he set the case for pre-trial and hearing.
THE CITY OF ILOILO, Represented by HON. JERRY P. TREÑAS, City Mayor, petitioner,
HON. JUDGE EMILIO LEGASPI, Presiding Judge, RTC, Iloilo City, Branch 22, and HEIRS OF MANUELA YUSAY, Represented by SYLVIA YUSAY DEL ROSARIO and ENRIQUE YUSAY, JR., respondents.