G. R. No. 137537 - January 28, 2000
SMI DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, Petitioner, v. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES represented by the DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH through the NATIONAL CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, Respondent.
In an eminent domain proceeding, a motion to dismiss filed under Rule 67 prior to the 1997 amendments partakes of the nature of an answer. Hence, its allegations of facts must be proven. On the other hand, under the 1997 Rules, upon the government's deposit of an amount equivalent to the assessed value of the property, a writ of possession shall be issued by the trial court without need of any hearing as to the amount to be deposited.
Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking to set aside the August 14, 1998 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals2 in CA-GR SP No. 44618; and its February 10, 1999 Resolution3 denying petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration.
In the assailed Decision, the CA ruled that the trial judge acted without or in excess of jurisdiction in ordering the dismissal of the Complaint for eminent domain in Civil Case No. Q-96-28894. It disposed in this wise:
The Court of Appeals summarized the undisputed facts as follows:
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
Citing Section 3, Rule 67 of the Rules of Court (prior the 1997 amendments), the Court of Appeals held that (1) petitioner's Motion to Dismiss filed with the trial court took the place of an answer, and (2) it was not an ordinary motion to dismiss within the contemplation of Rules 15 and 16. It also held that the grounds stated therein, with the exception of lack of cause of action, were not those enumerated in Rule 16. As the said Motion partook of the nature of a pleading, the trial judge thus acted in excess of jurisdiction in granting it without having received any evidence beforehand from either of the parties.
In any case, even if the said Motion to Dismiss were considered as such within the contemplation of Rule 16, the trial court would still be deemed to have acted in excess of its jurisdiction, since the only ground alleged, among those enumerated under Rule 16, was lack of cause of action. It was therefore outside public respondent's jurisdiction to grant the Motion on the basis of "uncontroverted and undisputed factual and legal allegations relating to the issue of necessity for the expropriation,"6 when the only issue that ought to have been resolved was whether or not the allegations of the Complaint had stated a cause of action.
Hence, this recourse.7
Petitioner submits, for the consideration of this Court, the following assignment of errors:
In addition, this Court will take up the solicitor general's request for a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction.
The Court's Ruling
The Petition has no merit.
Propriety of Certiorari
Petitioner claims that the Court of Appeals erred in allowing respondent's Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, arguing that the proper remedy was an ordinary appeal. It stresses that certiorari is available only when there is no appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
Under Section 1 of Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, "when any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered annulling or modifying the proceedings of such tribunal, board or officer, and granting such incidental reliefs as law and justice may require."9
True, certiorari may not be resorted to when appeal is available as a remedy. However, it is equally true that this Court has allowed the issuance of a writ of certiorari when appeal does not provide a speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. Indeed, in PNB v. Sayo,10 this Court has ruled that the "availability of an appeal does not foreclose recourse to the ordinary remedies of certiorari or prohibition where appeal is not adequate, or equally beneficial, speedy and sufficient." In Republic v. Sandiganbayan,11 this Court also held that "certiorari may be availed of where an appeal would be slow, inadequate and insufficient." The determination as to what exactly constitutes a plain, speedy and adequate remedy rests on judicial discretion and depends on the particular circumstances of each case.
In the case at bar, the Court of Appeals did not commit any reversible error in allowing the Petition for Certiorari filed by the government. The respondent was able to prove, to the CA's satisfaction, that appeal from the trial court Decision would not constitute a speedy and adequate remedy, thus necessitating the resort to the extraordinary remedy of certiorari under Rule 65. In its Petition before the CA, respondent cited the services which the hospital provided and its urgent need to expand to be able to continue providing quality tertiary heath care to the ever-increasing population of its indigent patients. In short, the public interest involved and the urgency to provide medical facilities were enough justifications for respondent's resort to certiorari.
Dismissal Without Prior Evidence, and Lack of Cause of Action
In granting petitioner's Motion to Dismiss, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) found "it difficult to understand why the [respondent] had to invade [petitioner's] property instead of looking into the possibility of increasing its floors."12 The RTC further stated that "as correctly pointed out by the [petitioner], the [respondent hospital's] so-called frontline services could be [done] by expanding vertically or increasing the floors of its building. The [trial] court is of the opinion that a vertical expansion of [respondent's] building would be more reasonable and practical. In this way, the [respondent] would be able to save time and money."13 The RTC upheld "the allegation of the defendant . . . that less than a kilometer away from the plaintiff's building lies the Quezon Institute (QI), which, despite its vast area, has not been put to its maximum use by the government."14
The CA correctly observed, however, that the trial judge should not have granted the Motion to Dismiss based on these grounds, without first receiving evidence from the parties. Obviously, the RTC's February 12, 1997 Resolution treated petitioner's Motion to Dismiss as one falling under Section 3 of Rule 67 of the Rules of Court, rather than as an ordinary one, since the grounds relied upon were not those enumerated in Section 1, Rule 1615 of the Rules of Court.16
Sec. 3, Rule 67 of the Rules of Court (prior the 1997 amendments) provides as follows:
Under the above rule, petitioner's Motion to Dismiss partakes of the nature of an answer to respondent's Complaint for eminent domain. Without proof as to their truthfulness and veracity, the allegations in the Motion cannot be deemed proven. Hence, the CA was correct in holding that the trial judge should not have decided it based solely on the unsubstantiated allegations therein.
Lack of Cause of Action
Although petitioner's Motion to Dismiss alleged lack of cause of action, the trial judge made no ruling on this ground. Hence, the CA committed no reversible error in not lengthily discussing such ground. Only the matters contained in the decision below and raised as issues may be reviewed on appeal.18
In any event, we hold that the Complaint stated a cause of action for eminent domain. The necessity for taking petitioner's property for public use upon payment of just compensation was alleged in the said Complaint. The allegation stressing that the property would be used to improve the delivery of health services satisfied the requirements of necessity and public use. Needless to state, respondent has the burden of proving the elements of eminent domain during the continuation of the proceedings in the trial court, and the petitioner the right to rebut such proof.
Citing Iron and Steel Authority v. Court of Appeals,19 petitioner insists that before eminent domain may be exercised by the state, there must be a showing of prior unsuccessful negotiation with the owner of the property to be expropriated.
This contention is not correct. As pointed out by the solicitor general, the current effective law on delegated authority to exercise the power of eminent domain is found in Section 12, Book III of the Revised Administrative Code, which provides:
The foregoing provision does not require prior unsuccessful negotiation as a condition precedent for the exercise of eminent domain. In Iron and Steel Authority v. Court of Appeals, the President chose to prescribe this condition as an additional requirement instead. In the instant case, however, no such voluntary restriction was imposed.
Issuance of Writ of Possession Justified
This Court deems meritorious the request of the solicitor general for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction.20 This request was filed on December 22, 1999; hence, the 1997 Rules apply.
In Robern Development Corporation v. Judge Quitain,21 the Court stated:
Sec. 2, Rule 67 of the 1997 Rules of Court, states:
Under the foregoing Section, the Republic is entitled to a writ of possession, once the provisional compensation mentioned therein is deposited. We refer again to Robern for authority:
In the present case, an amount equivalent to the assessed value of the land has already been deposited. This fact is not contested and is readily shown by a certification23 letter issued by the Philippine National Bank stating that the Department of Health-National Children's Hospital has already deposited P3,126,600 representing the assessed value of the property mentioned in Civil Case No. Q-96-28894.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby DENIED and the assailed Decision and Resolution AFFIRMED. Moreover, the Court grants the Republic's request for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction. The court of origin is hereby directed to issue a writ of possession to enable the Republic of the Philippines to provisionally enter and take possession of petitioner's property, which is the subject of the condemnation proceedings in Civil Case No. Q-96-28894. Costs against petitioner.
Melo, Vitug, Purisima and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.
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