SSS to SC: Stop NGCP lot takeover

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 10 2017 06:43 PM

MANILA - The Social Security System (SSS) on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) from taking over its nearly 7-hectare lot in Pasay City’s commercial district.

The lot, totalling 60,872 square meters and worth P1.46-million, was the subject of expropriation proceedings before the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 108. Presiding Judge Gina Bibat-Palamos had issued a writ of possession in favor of NGCP, a ruling that the SSS wants reversed and nullified.

NGCP sought expropriation with the RTC on July 16, 2015 originally covering 42,218 square meters of the subject SSS property as the site of a 230-kV substation project. It later amended its complaint, placing the total land area for expropriation at 60,872 square meters.

The RTC issued the assailed writ of possession on March 2 and junked the SSS' motion for reconsideration on April 24.

In its 18-page petition, filed by SSS officers and Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado with the SC, the pension agency argued that the RTC acted with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the ruling “without legal bases.”

The petition alleged that Judge Palamos erroneously applied Section 6 of Republic Act (RA) No. 10752, also known as “The Right-of-Way Act,” which provides the guidelines for expropriation proceedings.

The SSS said Palamos merely relied on the portion of the guidelines, which provides that "upon the filing of an expropriation complaint, the service of notice to the defendant and the deposit of 100% of the relevant BIR zonal value of the land to be expropriated, the issuance of a writ of possession becomes ministerial on the part of the [trial court]. ” 

But it said the judge failed to apply the provision which states that, where the real property sought to be acquired is for right-of-way site or location for any government infrastructure, "the appropriate implementing agency, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), Office of the Government Corporate Counsel[OGCC] or their deputized counsel, shall initiate the expropriation proceedings.”

The SSS stressed that NGCP may not initiate the expropriation case and cannot be entitled to a writ of possession because it is a private corporation "seeking to acquire by compulsion a government property already devoted to public purpose."

"Clearly, therefore, private corporations were not conceived during the drafting of the law," it said.

"In this petition, NGCP condescendingly arrogated upon itself the authority to initiate expropriation proceedings without seeking the required authority of OSG or OGCC in compliance with RA 10752,” the petition read.

The SSS explained that RA 10752 was intended to facilitate government infrastructure projects on the premise that it is government itself which shall acquire the property.

The petition pointed out that the RTC should have resolved first NGCP’s authority to expropriate government property.

The SSS urged the SC to issue a status quo ante order (SQAO) and/or writ of preliminary mandatory injunction against the RTC’s orders, and dismiss NGCP’s complaint before the trial court.

In filing its case with the high court instead of the Court of Appeals (CA), the SSS explained that the petition involves purely legal questions, which only the SC can decide "with authority and finality."