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The Power of Eminent Domain

By Joe Mancera

There had been so many issues about the exercise or imposition by the government of its power of imminent domain. Such issues had become so controversial because so many government projects were implemented by abusing such power, notably when local government units were involved in the implementation.
The most deplorable fact is that owners of private properties which were destroyed or had their lots expropriated were not paid just compensation, as provided by law notably by the Local Government Code of 1991. This law expressly provides for just compensation for private properties taken as part of government projects geared for public purpose.
We would like to recall, here in PeerScope that when Maasin was still in its early years as a city, there was this extension of the city’s streets where drainage canals were constructed and so many residential houses and private lots were forcibly taken to give way to the so-called expansion. Yet no legal process was undertaken by city officials before the implementation.
It is quite clear that the Local Government Code mandates that before private properties be taken for public purpose their owners must first be officially notified through letters in which the LGUs or government agencies concerned should offer compensation for the properties to be adversely affected. If the owners refuse, a compromise may be done regarding the price; if no compromise is arrived at, the appropriate court shall decide on the issue. But always the gist is just compensation. No properties should be taken unjustly, otherwise we are in a communist form of government.
We put emphasis here on just compensation because during Maasin City’s street expansion and construction of drainage canals, no owners of residential houses and lots were paid compensation. Therefore, as a lawyer friend of mine would say, the city government has not acquired jurisdiction over such drainage canals and private lots. And that it has no right to order private property owners to dismantle their eaves (awil) over those canals, supposedly for violating the National Building Code.
Owners of private properties, whether titled or not, should be paid just compensation when those were taken for public purpose. One recent shining example of this is the one in General Santos where hundreds of rice farmers were paid a total of P37million for their farms destroyed by concrete roads.
Now here in Maasin, how will LGU officials be penalized for not compensating private property owners?
Again LGU Maasin or the province is poised to implement more than P9 million worth of street solar lighting from Tuburan to Cambooc. Will property owners be justly compensated? They should be, whether LGU officials like it or not. They should start writing letters now to private property owners.
Government officials should always be reminded that all government projects are allocated sufficient funds. Where then had gone the funds for just compensation for Maasin’s drainage canals construction and street expansion?LGU officials could not simply say “Gamiton naman gud sa gobiyerno injong lugar.” (The government needs your property.)
It’s more probable the funds readied for just compensation were pocketed by corrupt officials.
“Section 19. Eminent Domain. – A local government unit may, through its chief executive and acting pursuant to an ordinance, exercise the power of eminent domain for public use, or purpose or welfare for the benefit of the poor and the landless, upon payment of just compensation, pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution and pertinent laws….”

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