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June 22, 2014

NPC vs. Ibrahim

Facts:

  • Ibrahim owns a parcel of land located in Lanao del Norte.
  • In 1978, NAPOCOR took possession of the sub-terrain area of the land and constructed underground tunnels on the said property. 
  • The tunnels were apparently being used by NAPOCOR in siphoning the water of Lake Lanao and in the operation of NAPOCOR’s Agus projects.
  • In 1991, Maruhom (one of the co-heirs of Ibrahim) requested Marawi City Water District for a permit to construct or install a motorized deep well on the parcel of land but it was rejected on the grounds that the construction would cause danger to lives and property by reason of the presence of the underground tunnels.
  • Maruhom demanded NAPOCOR to pay damages and to vacate the sub-terrain portion of the land.

Issue: WON Ibrahim is the rightful owner of the sub-terrain area of the land.
If yes, are they entitled to the payment of just compensation.

Held: YES. The sub-terrain portion of the property belongs to Ibrahim.

The Supreme Court cited Article 437 of the Civil Code which provides that: The owner of a parcel of land is the owner of its surface and of everything under it, and he can construct thereon any works or make any plantations and excavations which he may deem proper, without detriment to servitudes and subject to special laws and ordinances. xxx

Hence, the ownership of land extends to the surface as well as to the subsoil under it. Therefore, Ibrahim owns the property as well as the sub-terrain area of the land where the underground tunnels were constructed.

On the issue of just compensation, the Supreme Court also said that Ibrahim should be paid a just compensation.

Ibrahim could have dug upon their property and built motorized deep wells but was prevented from doing so by the authorities because of the construction of the tunnels underneath the surface of the land.

Ibrahim still had a legal interest in the sub-terrain portion insofar as they could have excavated the same for the construction of the deep wells.  It has been shown that the underground tunnels have deprived the plaintiffs of the lawful use of the land and considerably reduced its value. 

It was held that: If the government takes property without expropriation and devotes the property to public use, after many years, the property owner may demand payment of just compensation in the event restoration of possession is neither convenient nor feasible. This is in accordance with the principle that persons shall not be deprived of their property except by competent authority and for public use and always upon payment of just compensation.

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