National Power Corporation, petitioner, vs. Purefoods Corporation, Solid Development Corporation, Jose Ortega, Jr., Silvestre Bautista, Alfredo Cabande, Heirs of Victor Trinidad, and Moldex Realty Incorporated, respondents.
Facts: Petitioner is a government-owned and controlled corporation created by virtue of RA 6395, empowered to acquire property incident to or necessary, convenient or proper to carry out the purposes for which it was created, enter private property in the lawful performance of its business purposes provided that the owners of such private property shall be indemnified for any damage that may be caused thereby, and exercise the right of eminent domain. To construct and maintain its Northwestern Luzon Project, NAPOCOR had to acquire an easement of right-of-way over certain parcels of land. NAPOCOR filed a civil action for eminent domain of which respondent herein were the vendors and vendees of the affected parcels of land. NAPOCOR contends that only an easement of right-of-way for the construction of the transmission line project is being claimed, thus, only an easement fee equivalent to 10% of the fair market value of the properties should be paid to the affected property owners. NAPOCOR cites Section 3A, R.A. 6395, as amended and the implementing regulation of R.A. No. 8974 in support of this argument.
Issue: Whether or not only an easement fee of 10% of the market value of the expropriated properties should be paid to the affected owners affecting just compensation for an easement of right-of-way.
Ruling: While Section 3(a) of R.A. No. 6395, as amended, and the implementing rule of R.A. No. 8974 indeed state that only 10% of the market value of the property is due to the owner of the property subject to an easement of right-of-way, said rule is not binding on the Court. Well-settled is the rule that the determination of “just compensation” in eminent domain cases is a judicial function. The court reiterated its ruling in Export Processing Zone Authority v. Dulay, that any valuation for just compensation laid down in the statutes may serve only as guiding principle or one of the factors in determining just compensation but it may not substitute the court’s own judgment as to what amount should be awarded and how to arrive at such amount. The executive department or the legislature may make the initial determinations but when a party claims a violation of the guarantee in the Bill of Rights that private property may not be taken for public use without just compensation, no statute, decree, or executive order can mandate that its own determination shall prevail over the court’s findings. Much less can the courts be precluded from looking into the “just-ness” of the decreed compensation. Hence, herein petition is denied.