Eminent domain; Without prompt payment, compensation NOT just

While eminent domain lies as one of the inherent powers of the state, there is no requirement that it undertake a prolonged procedure, or that the payment of the private owner be protracted as far as practicable.

It is not controverted that this case started way back on 12 October 1995, when AFC and HPI voluntarily offered to sell the properties to the DAR. In view of the failure of the parties to agree on the valuation of the properties, the Complaint for Determination of Just Compensation was filed before the DARAB on 14 February 1997. Despite the lapse of more than three years from the filing of the complaint, the DARAB failed to render a decision on the valuation of the land. Meantime, the titles over the properties of AFC and HPI had already been cancelled and in their place a new certificate of title was issued in the name of the Republic of the Philippines, even as far back as 9 December 1996. A period of almost 10 years has lapsed. For this reason, there is no dispute that this case has truly languished for a long period of time, the delay being mainly attributable to both official inaction and indecision, particularly on the determination of the amount of just compensation, to the detriment of AFC and HPI, which to date, have yet to be fully compensated for the properties which are already in the hands of farmer-beneficiaries, who, due to the lapse of time, may have already converted or sold the land awarded to them.

Verily, these two cases could have been disposed with dispatch were it not for LBP’s counsel causing unnecessary delay. At the inception of this case, DARAB, an agency of the DAR which was commissioned by law to determine just compensation, sat on the cases for three years, which was the reason that AFC and HPI filed the cases before the RTC. We underscore the pronouncement of the RTC that "the delay by DARAB in the determination of just compensation could only mean the reluctance of the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Land Bank of the Philippines to pay the claim of just compensation by corporate landowners."
To allow the taking of landowners’ properties, and to leave them empty-handed while government withholds compensation is undoubtedly oppressive.

It is in light of the foregoing that this Court will now undertake the final resolution of the present controversy which, as already elucidated, is within the power of this Court to do.

The concept of just compensation embraces not only the correct determination of the amount to be paid to the owners of the land, but also the payment of the land within a reasonable time from its taking. Without prompt payment, compensation cannot be considered "just" inasmuch as the property owner is being made to suffer the consequences of being immediately deprived of his land while being made to wait for a decade or more before actually receiving the amount necessary to cope with his loss. Just compensation is defined as the full and fair equivalent of the property taken from its owner by the expropriator. It has been repeatedly stressed by this Court that the measure is not the taker’s gain but the owner’s loss. The word "just" is used to intensify the meaning of the word "compensation" to convey the idea that the equivalent to be rendered for the property to be taken shall be real, substantial, full, and ample. (G.R. No. 164195; December 19, 2007)