MANILA— The Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City from allowing the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) to take possession of portion of the Social Security Service (SSS) property worth Php 1.4 billion located at the Financial Center area in Pasay City.
In its 16-page petition filed by SSS through the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGGC), the SSS sought the issuance of a status quo ante order/and or a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction to enjoin Judge Gina M. Bibat-Palamos, acting Presiding Judge of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 108 from implementing its orders issued on March 2, 2017 and April 24, 2017.
OGCC Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado, who represents the SSS, also asked the Court to dismiss the complaint for expropriation filed by the NGCP covering the subject SSS property.
In its March 2, 2017 order, the Pasay RTC granted NGCP’s urgent motion for the issuance of a writ of possession of the 60,872-square meter property of SSS in Pasay City valued at Php 1.46 billion pending resolution of its complaint for expropriation.
The Pasay RTC denied SSS’ motion for reconsideration in a resolution issued on April 24, 2017.
In its petition, the OGCC said as the statutory legal counsel of the SSS, it was tasked to protect its legal interests over the land.
“The property is intended for the use by the SSS in the furtherance of its mandate, which is the subject of an Expropriation Case instituted by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), a private corporation with the general power to expropriate private property,” the OGCC said.
It noted that the Pasay RTC, on the premise of a mere delegated power to expropriate, granted NGCP the right to enter and takeover the land it seeks to own “without evident circumspection.”
“The lack of authority on the part of NGCP to expropriate government property is too obvious that it cannot be overlooked. Even more, the consequence of such ignorance is far-reaching that the government is deprived of exercising full ownership over its own property to the direct prejudice of the more than 34 million pensioners that the SSS committedly serves,” the OGCC added.
The NGCP seeks to expropriate the SSS property to immediately construct a substation that will accommodate the increasing demand for electricity of the Greater Manila Area, which shall be known as the Pasay 230kV Substation Project.
The SSS said Judge Palamos acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the said orders.
It argued that the trial court wrongly applied in Section 6 of Republic Act 10752 (An Act of Facilitating the Acquisition of Right-of-Way Site or Location for National Government Infrastructure Projects) in issuing the writ of possession in favor of NGCP.
The trial court adopted NGCP’s arguments that Section 6 of R.A. 10752 provides that upon the filing of an expropriation complaint, the service of notice to the defendant and the deposit of 100 percent 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 Court.
The OGCC, however, raised the inapplicability of RA 10752 to this case owing to the private character of NGCP and the public character of SSS’ land to be expropriated.
It noted that Section 6 of RA 10752 specifically requires as condition precedent that whenever it is necessary to acquire real property for right-of-way site or location for any government infrastructure through expropriation, 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.
“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 OGCC added that “NGCP’s delegated authority to exercise the right of eminent domain does not automatically vest it with the power to acquire property already devoted to public use, as this requires a specific grant from the national legislature.”