By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the Valenzuela City government to pay P6,000 instead of only P400 per square meter to a couple whose 1,203-square meter lot was expropriated by the city in 2010 for the construction of a public school building.
In a resolution, the SC’s third division affirmed the 2013 decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) which upheld the 2011 ruling of the regional trial court on the payment of just compensation at P6,000 per square meter – or a total of P7.2 million –to spouses Silvino Abacan and Remedios Lazaro Abacan.
The SC resolution that was made public last week denied the petition filed by the city government through then mayor Sherwin T. Gatchalian, now a senator.
Records showed that on Sept. 9, 2009, Valenzuela City offered to purchase the Abacan property in Barangay Dalandanan at P400 per square meter or a total of P481,200. The offer was rejected by the couple.
Thereafter, the Sangguniang Panglungsod passed an ordinance which authorized Gatchalian to initiate expropriation proceedings. The case was filed on Aug. 12, 2010 before the city’s regional trial court (RTC).
In their answer, the Abacan spouses told the RTC that the offer was below the zonal valuation set by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
The city government then issued to the couple a check for P72,180 representing 15 per cent of the total fair market value of the property.
On Sept. 30, 2010, the RTC issued a writ of possession in favor of Valenzuela City with a ruling that the city has the right to take the property for the construction of a school building.
The trial court then appointed three commissioners to determine just compensation. The commissioners set the just compensation at P7,500 per square-meter which was opposed by the city government.
Trial ensued. On Nov. 17, 2011, the RTC handed down a decision which ordered the city government to pay the Abacan spouses P7.2 million for their 1,203-square meter lot at P6,000 per square meter.
On the city government’s appeal, the CA affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The issue reached the SC.
In denying the petition filed by the city government, the SC cited the RTC’s decision as upheld by the CA.
The SC said the RTC did not rely solely on the BIR zonal valuation in determining the just compensation as the trial court evaluated thoroughly the commissioners’ report.
It pointed out that the CA in its decision stressed:
“The RTC likewise considered that the City Government of Valenzuela purchased a 3,000-square-meter property within the same vicinity as the subject property at a value of P5,000 per square-meter. Said transaction was done sometime in August 2001.
“It further considered that in 2003, the BIR has valued the properties in the same zone or area at P5,300 per square-meter.
“Verily, the RTC had carefully studied the expropriated property when it fixed the just compensation at P6,000 per square-meter.
“Inasmuch as the determination of just compensation is a judicial function, we see no plausible reason to disturb the RTC’s findings as to the valuation of the subject property.”
The SC ruled: “Wherefore, the Petition for Review on Certiorari is denied for lack of merit. The Court of Appeals August 30, 2013 Decision and February 7, 2014 Resolution in CA-G.R. CV No. 98581 are affirmed.”