Case Digest: NPC vs. Tuazon & Tuazon

G.R. No. 193023: June 20, 2011




The respondents are co-owners of a 136,736-square-meter coconut landin Barangay Sta. Cruz, Tarangnan,Samar. The land has been declared for tax purposes in the name of the respondents predecessor-in-interest, the late Mr. Pascual Tuazon. Sometime in 1996, NAPOCOR installed transmission lines on a portion of the land for its 350 KVLeyte-LuzonHVDC Power TL Project.In the process, several improvements on the land were destroyed. Instead of initiating expropriation proceedings, however, NAPOCOR entered into a mere right-of-way agreement with Mr. Tuazon for the total amount ofTWENTY SIX THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED SEVENTY EIGHT and 21/100 PESOS(P26,978.21). The amount represents payments for "damaged improvements" (P23,970.00), "easement and tower occupancy fees" (P1,808.21), and "additional damaged improvements" (P1,200.00).

In 2002, the respondents filed a complaint against NAPOCOR for just compensation and damages, claiming that no expropriation proceedings were made and that they only allowed NAPOCOR entry into the land after being told that the fair market value would be paid. They also stated that lots similarly located in Catbalogan,Samar, likewise utilized by NAPOCOR for the similar projects, were paid just compensation in sums ranging fromP2,000.00 toP2,200.00 per square meter, pursuant to the determination made by different branches of the RTC inSamar.

Instead of filing an answer, NAPOCOR filed a motion to dismiss based on the full satisfaction of the respondents claims.

ISSUE: Whether by installing transmission lines, NAPOCOR expropriated the respondents land and is thus liable to pay just compensation.

HELD: Yes.

CIVIL LAW: Expropriation, Easement

Petitioner posits thatits liability is limited to the payment of an easement fee for the land traversed by its transmission lines.

True, an easement of a right of way transmits no rights except the easement itself, and respondent retains full ownership of the property. The acquisition of such easement is, nevertheless, notgratis. As correctly observed by the CA,considering the nature and the effect of the installation power lines, the limitations on the use of the land for an indefinite period would deprive respondent of normal use of the property. For this reason, the latter is entitled to payment of a just compensation, which must be neither more nor less than the monetary equivalent of the land.

In sum, we categorically hold that private land taken for the installation of transmission lines is to be paid the full market value of the land as just compensation.