MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) has halted the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) from granting the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) possession of a close to 7-hectare lot owned by the Social Security System (SSS) in the city's commercial district.
The SC, through its Third Division, issued a status quo ante order (SQAO) stopping Pasay City RTC Branch 108 and its presiding judge, Gina Bibat-Palamos, from implementing orders dated March 2, 2017 and April 24, 2017, which pertain to the issuance of a writ of possession in favor of NGCP.
The order will take effect until lifted by the high court.
The SSS, through Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado, had filed a petition to stop NGCP's takeover of the property, valued at P1.46-billion.
The lot, totaling 60,872 square meters and priced at P24,000 per square meter, was the subject of expropriation proceedings before the subject trial court.
NGCP filed its complaint for expropriation on July 16, 2015, originally covering 42,218 square meters of the subject SSS property, for the construction of a substation, which shall be known as the "Pasay 230kV Substation Project."
It later amended its complaint, placing the total land area for expropriation at 60,872 square meters.
The SSS argued the RTC acted with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the orders "without legal bases" for "erroneously" applying Section 6 of Republic Act (RA) No. 10752, also known as "The Right-of-Way Act," which provides the guidelines for expropriation proceedings.
SSS explained NGCP may not initiate the expropriation case because it is a private corporation seeking to acquire, through the court, government property intended for public use.
The state-owned firm also argued RA No. 10752 was intended to facilitate government infrastructure projects on the premise that government itself shall acquire the property.
SSS said Palamos merely relied on the portion of the guidelines which provides "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 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."