Case Digest: Apo Fruits & Hijo Plantation v. Land Bank

G.R. No. 164195: April 5, 2011




The present case is a second motion for reconsideration filed by LBP. It prays for the holding of oral arguments. This motion prays as well for the holding of oral arguments. We likewise resolve the Office of the Solicitor Generals (OSG) Motion for Leave to Intervene and to Admit Motion for Reconsideration-in-Intervention dated February 15, 2011 in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines (Republic).

The third division of the SC affirmed the RTCs decision setting the just compensation to be paid and fixing the interest due on the balance of the compensation due at 12% per annum. On motion for reconsideration, the third division deleted the 12% interest due on the balance of the awarded just compensation.

Despite the entry of judgment, the present petitioners filed a second motion for reconsideration that prayed as well that the case be referred to the Court en banc. However, the Court en banc denied the petitioners second motion for reconsideration. Maintaining their belief in their demand to be granted 12% interest, the petitioners persisted in filing another motion for reconsideration.

By a vote of 8 for and 4 against the petitioners motion and awarded the 12% interests the petitioners prayed for, thus affirming the interests the RTC originally awarded. The Court subsequently denied the respondents motion for reconsideration, giving rise to the present 2nd motion for reconsideration.

LBP assailed the Courts resolution, emphasizing the need to respect the doctrine of immutability of final judgments, It maintains that the Court should have not granted the petitioners motion for reconsideration. Resolution because the ruling deleting the 12% interest had already attained finality when an Entry of Judgment was issued.

In his dissenting opinion, Mr. Justice Roberto Abad agrees with the LBPs assertion, positing that this case does not fall under any of the exceptions to the immutability doctrine since it only involves money and does not involve a matter of overriding public interest.

ISSUE: Whether or not the motion for reconsideration of respondent LBP may be granted

HELD: No. Motion Denied with Finality

POLITICAL LAW- Landowner's right to just compensation is a matter of public interest

We reject the basic premise of the LBP's and Mr. Justice Abads arguments for being flawed. The present case goes beyond the private interests involved; it involves a matter of public interest the proper application of a basic constitutionally-guaranteed right, namely, the right of a landowner to receive just compensation when the government exercises the power of eminent domain in its agrarian reform program.

Contrary to the LBPs and Mr. Justice Abads assertions, the outcome of this case is not confined to the fate of the two petitioners alone. This case involves the governments agrarian reform program whose success largely depends on the willingness of the participants, both the farmers-beneficiaries and the landowners, to cooperate with the government. Inevitably, if the government falters or is seen to be faltering through lack of good faith in implementing the needed reforms, including any hesitation in paying the landowners just compensation, this reform program and its objectives would suffer major setbacks. That the governments agrarian reform program and its success are matters of public interest, to our mind, cannot be disputed as the program seeks to remedy long existing and widespread social justice and economic problems.

The issues posed by this case are of transcendental importance. A constitutional limitation, guaranteed under no less than the all-important Bill of Rights, is at stake in this case: how can compensation in an eminent domain case be "just" when the payment for the compensation for property already taken has been unreasonably delayed? To claim, as the assailed Resolution does, that only private interest is involved in this case is to forget that an expropriation involves the government as a necessary actor.

More than the stability of our jurisprudence, the matter before us is of transcendental importance to the nation because of the subject matter involved agrarian reform, a societal objective of that the government has unceasingly sought to achieve in the past half century.

In the present case, it is undisputed that the government took the petitioners lands on December 9, 1996; the petitioners only received full payment of the just compensation due on May 9, 2008. This circumstance, by itself, already confirms the unconscionable delay in the payment of just compensation.

It should be considered as highlighted in our October 12, 2010 Resolution that the properties the government took were fully operating and earning plantations at the time of the taking. Thus, the landowners lost not only their properties, but the fruits of these properties. These were all lost in 1996, leaving the landowners without any replacement income from their properties, except for the possible interest for the trifling payment made at the time of the taking that, together with the subsequent payment, only amounted to a third of the total amount due. Thus, for twelve long years, the amount of P971,409,831.68 was withheld from the landowners.

DENIED WITH Absolute Finality