Forced sale

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A contract of sale is probably one of the most common contracts that people execute almost daily. Article 1458 of the Civil Code defines this contract in this manner: “By contract of sale, one of the contracting parties obligates himself to transfer the ownership of and deliver a determinate thing, and the other to pay thereof a price certain in money or its equivalent…” The wordings of the article might sound so complicated to some but it simply describes transactions as common as buying a candy from a vendor. It is a form of contract where consent is an essential requisite, meaning no one can be forced to sell or buy. But there is an instance where the consent of the owner of the thing is not needed. This is actually one of the inherent powers of our state- eminent domain or expropriation.

Expropriation

The power of eminent domain or to expropriate private property is inherent in the state and need not be bestowed by any law. The Constitution, however imposes a limit on this power of the state in Section 9 of Article III, Bill of Rights: “Private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation.” This power basically means- The government can take private property for public use as long as the owner is justly compensated. If the government takes private property without compensating the owner, the latter can file the appropriate case for violation of his constitutional right as stated above.

Local Government Expropriation

Local governments do not have the inherent power of eminent domain just like the national government since it is only Congress which has the right to exercise this power. But, just like other powers, Congress through the Local Government Code of 1991 (R.A. 7160) delegated the power of eminent domain to local governments particularly in Section 19. In this provision, the law laid down the basic procedure and requirements for local governments to expropriate private property. In the case of Spouses Yusay vs. CA (G.R. 156884, 06 April 2011) the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Mandaluyong City passed a resolution authorising the mayor to “take the necessary legal steps for the expropriation” of the land of the Yusays. The spouses opposed this and claimed that the resolution would deprive them of their only property, there was no due process, and it was not for public use. In denying the claim of the spouse, the Supreme Court clarified the LGU’s power of eminent domain. The SC said: “The following essential requisites must concur before an LGU can exercise the power of eminent domain: 1. An ordinance is enacted by the local legislative council authorizing the local chief executive, in behalf of the LGU, to exercise the power of eminent domain or pursue expropriation proceedings over a particular private property; 2. The power of eminent domain is exercised for public use, purpose or welfare, or for the benefit of the poor and the landless; 3. There is payment of just compensation, as required under Section 9 Article III of the Constitution and other pertinent laws; 4. A valid and definite offer has been previously made to the owner of the property sought to be expropriated, but said offer was not accepted.” In this case, the Court said that the spouses cannot prevent or stop the expropriation because no expropriation proceedings has been initiated yet. Their judicial remedy of prohibition is premature. The action of expropriation is said to have been initiated only upon the filling of a verified complaint in the proper court. The Highest Tribunal said: “Only when the landowners are not given their just compensation for the taking of their property or when there has been no agreement on the amount of just compensation may the remedy of prohibition become available.”

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