Heirs of Mateo Pidacan and Romana Eigo, et al. v. ATO, et al.,
G.R. No. 162779, June 15, 2007
A property was converted into an airport by the Air Transport Office (ATO) depriving the owners of the beneficial use and enjoyment of the same as early as 1948 without an expropriation proceeding. It was contended that there was taking hence, just compensation should be reckoned from 1948. Is the contention correct? Why?
No. As a rule, the determination of just compensation in eminent domain cases is reckoned from the time of taking. (Gabatin v. LBO, 444 SCRA 176 (2004)). In this case, however, application of the said rule would lead to grave injustice. Note that the ATO had been using the property as airport since 1948 without having instituted the proper expropriation proceedings. To peg the value of the property at the time of taking in 1948, despite the exponential increase in its value considering the lapse of over half a century, would be iniquitous. ATO cannot conveniently invoke the right of eminent domain to take advantage of the ridiculously low value of the property at the time of taking that it arbitrarily chooses to the prejudice of the owners.
Justice and fairness dictate that the appropriate reckoning point for the valuation of the property is when the trial court made its order of expropriation in 2001. (Heirs of Mateo Pidacan & Romana Eigo, et al. v. ATO, et al., G.R. No. 162779, June 15, 2007).