ATO v. Gopuco, G.R. No. 158563, June 30, 2005

Fact: Respondent was the owner of a property located in the vicinity of the Lahug Airport in Cebu City. in 1949, the National Airport Corporation (NAC) informed the owners of the various lots surrounding the Lahug Airport, including the herein respondent, that the government was acquiring their lands for purposes of expansion. Some landowners were convinced to sell their properties on the assurance that they would be able to repurchase the same when these would no longer be used by the airport. Others, including Respondent. Subsequently, when the Mactan International Airport commenced operations, the Lahug Airport was ordered closed by then President Corazon C. Aquino in 1989. Respondent wrote the Bureau of Air Transportation, through the manager of the Lahug Airport, seeking the return of his lot and offering to return the money previously received by him as payment for the expropriation.  Respondent filed an amended complaint for recovery of ownership of the said lot against the Petitioners. RTC dismissed the complaint and directed the respondent to pay the MCIAA exemplary damages, litigation expenses and costs. Respondent appealed to the CA, which overturned the RTC decision, ordered petitioners to reconvey the property. The Motion for Reconsideration was denied in 2003,


hence this petition, which raises the following issues:


Issue: Whether  private land is expropriated for a particular public use, and that particular public use is abandoned, does its former owner acquire a cause of action for recovery of the property?


Held: No, When land has been acquired for public use in fee simple, unconditionally, either by the exercise of eminent domain or by purchase, the former owner retains no rights in the land, and the public use may be abandoned or the land may be devoted to a different use, without any impairment of the estate or title acquired, or any reversion to the former owner. but If the land is expropriated for a particular purpose, with the condition that when that purpose is ended or abandoned the property shall return to its former owner, then, of course, when the purpose is terminated or abandoned the former owner reacquires the property so expropriated.


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