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

Fact: Respondent was the owner of Cadastral Lot. The CAA filed a complaint with the CFI of Cebu for the expropriation of the respondent’s and its neighboring realties. The CFI promulgated a Decision expropriating the lots which no appeal was thus the judgment became final and executory. Subsequently, when the Mactan International Airport commenced operations, the Lahug Airport was ordered closed. Respondent wrote the Bureau of Air Transportation seeking the return of his lot and offering to return the money previously received by him as payment for the expropriation. This letter was ignored, thus filed an amended complaint for recovery of ownership with the The trial court rendered a Decision dismissing the complaint and directing the herein respondent to pay the MCIAA exemplary damages, litigation expenses and costs.Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals, which overturned the RTC decision, ordered the herein petitioners to reconvey the Lot to the respondent. The Motion for Reconsideration was denied, hence this petition.

Issue: whether the court of appeals erred in holding that respondent has the right to reclaim ownership over the subject expropriated lot

Held: Yes, 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.

Eminent domain is generally described as “the highest and most exact idea of property remaining in the government” that may be acquired for some public purpose through a method in the nature of a forced purchase by the State. Also often referred to as expropriation and, with less frequency, as condemnation, it is, like police power and taxation, an inherent power of sovereignty and need not be clothed with any constitutional gear to exist; instead, provisions in our Constitution on the subject are meant more to regulate, rather than to grant, the exercise of the power. It is a right to take or reassert dominion over property within the state for public use or to meet a public exigency and is said to be an essential part of governance even in its most primitive form and thus inseparable from sovereignty. In fact, “all separate interests of individuals in property are held of the government under this tacit agreement or implied reservation. Notwithstanding the grant to individuals, the eminent domain, the highest and most exact idea of property, remains in the government, or in the aggregate body of people in their sovereign capacity; and they have the right to resume the possession of the property whenever the public interest so requires it.”

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