Eslaban v. De Onorio, G.R. No. 146062, June 28, 2001

Fact: Respondent is the owner of a lot in South Cotabato. Santiago Eslaban, Jr., Project Manager of the NIA, approved the construction of the main irrigation canal of the NIA on the said lot. Respondent’s husband agreed to the construction of the NIA canal provided that they be paid by the government for the area taken after the processing of documents by the Commission on Audit. a Right-of-Way agreement was executed between respondent and the NIA who paid respondent for the Right-of-Way damages. Respondent subsequently executed an Affidavit of Waiver of Rights and Fees whereby she waived any compensation for damages to crops and improvements which she suffered as a result of the construction of a right-of-way on her property. The same year, petitioner offered respondent the sum of P35,000.00 by way of amicable settlement. Respondent demanded payment for the taking of her property, but petitioner refused to pay. Accordingly, respondent filed on December 10, 1990 a complaint against petitioner before the RTC, praying that petitioner be ordered to pay as compensation for the portion of her property used in the construction of the canal constructed by the NIA, litigation expenses, and the costs. Petitioner, an Answer, in which he admitted that NIA constructed an irrigation canal over the property of the plaintiff and that NIA paid a certain landowner whose property had been taken for irrigation purposes. The trial court rendered a decision ordering National Irrigation Administration, to pay to plaintiff the sum of One Hundred Seven Thousand Five Hundred Seventeen Pesos and Sixty Centavos (P107,517.60) as just compensation for the questioned area of 24,660 square meters of land owned by plaintiff and taken by said defendant NIA which used it for its main canal plus costs.

On November 15, 1993, petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals which, on October 31, 2000, affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court. Hence this petition.

 

Issue: Whether the value of just compensation shall be determined from the time of the taking or from the time of the finality of the decision?

 

Held:   Yes, With respect to the compensation which the owner of the condemned property is entitled to receive, it is likewise settled that it is the market value which should be paid or “that sum of money which a person, desirous but not compelled to buy, and an owner, willing but not compelled to sell, would agree on as a price to be given and received therefor.”8 Further, just compensation means not only the correct amount to be paid to the owner of the land but also the payment of the land within a reasonable time from its taking. Without prompt payment, compensation cannot be considered “just” for then the property owner is made to suffer the consequence of being immediately deprived of his land while being made to wait for a decade or more before actually receiving the amount necessary to cope with his loss.9 Nevertheless, there are instances where the expropriating agency takes over the property prior to the expropriation suit, in which case just compensation shall be determined as of the time of taking, not as of the time of filing of the action of eminent domain.

 

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