Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Exemplary damages and attorney’s fees should be awarded to the landowner if the government takes possession of the property for a prolonged period of time without properly initiating expropriation proceedings.
The Local Government Code of 1991 may have mandated shared duties over environmental issues but the latter’s role regarding pollution seems limited. The Barangay Chairman may “[e]nforce laws and regulations relating to pollution control and protection of the environment.” Municipalities, cities, and provinces may “impose appropriate penalties for “activities which result in pollution.”
There is an unorthodox Supreme Court decision involving the zoning of lands where the Court seems to have arrogated the power to determine what would benefit the general welfare of the inhabitants of Manila. The case stemmed from a series of zoning ordinances dealing with the presence of oil depots. In 2001, the Sangguniang enacted Ordinance No. 8027 to mandate their removal of oil depots. In 2009, the Sanggunian, with a different party in control, enacted Ordinance No. 8187 in favor of the retention of the oil depots. In 2012, again with a change in the council’s membership, the sanggunian enacted Ordinance No. 8283 to give the oil depots until the end of January 2016 within which to transfer to another site. Former Mayor Lim vetoed the last ordinance.
There the Court said:
The fact remains, however, that notwithstanding that the conditions with respect to the operations of the oil depots existing prior to the enactment of Ordinance No. 8027 do not substantially differ to this day, as would later be discussed, the position of the Sangguniang Panlungsod on the matter has thrice changed, largely depending on the new composition of the council and/or political affiliations. The foregoing, thus, shows that its determination of the “general welfare” of the city does not after all gear towards the protection of the people in its true sense and meaning, but is, one way or another, dependent on the personal preference of the members who sit in the council as to which particular sector among its constituents it wishes to favor.
Now that the City of Manila, through the mayor and the city councilors, has changed its view on the matter, favoring the city’s economic-related benefits, through the continued stay of the oil terminals, over the protection of the very lives and safety of its constituents, it is imperative for this Court to make a final determination on the basis of the facts on the table as to which specific right of the inhabitants of Manila should prevail. For, in this present controversy, history reveals that there is truly no such thing as “the will of Manila” insofar as the general welfare of the people is concerned. 
Relying primarily in an earlier ruling favoring Ordinance No. 8027,  the Court held that
The same best interest of the public guides the present decision. The Pandacan oil depot remains a terrorist target even if the contents have been lessened. In the absence of any convincing reason to persuade this Court that the life, security and safety of the inhabitants of Manila are no longer put at risk by the presence of the oil depots, we hold that Ordinance No. 8187 in relation to the Pandacan Terminals is invalid and unconstitutional.
The Court struck the law down as unconstitutional because it contradicted the views of the sanggunian members who wanted to relocate the oil depot. The Court required supporters of the retention of the depot to show that the lives of the residents of Manila were safe even with the presence of the depot. This is a policy, not a legal argument. One cannot even determine what provision of law the Ordinance No. 8187 violated.  The decision sets a dangerous precedent and will encourage litigants to elevate disagreements regarding “public welfare” to the Supreme Court which apparently may substitute its own discretion for the elected representatives of loal governments.
The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) was given broad administrative powers over the Subic Special Economic Zone (SSEZ). These powers include the power to approve or disapprove projects within its territorial jurisdiction. The Local Government Code grants concerned sanggunians the power to approve and disapprove the same projects. To resolve this conflict the Supreme Court examined Section 12 of Republic Act No. 7227 or the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992:
SECTION 12. Subic Special Economic Zone. — Subject to the concurrence by resolution of the sangguniang panlungsod of the City of Olongapo and thesangguniang bayan of the Municipalities of Subic, Morong and Hermosa, there is hereby created a Special Economic and Free-port Zone consisting of the City of Olongapo and the Municipality of Subic, Province of Zambales, the lands occupied by the Subic Naval Base and its contiguous extensions as embraced, covered, and defined by the 1947 Military Bases Agreement between the Philippines and the United States of America as amended, and within the territorial jurisdiction of the Municipalities of Morong and Hermosa, Province of Bataan, hereinafter referred to as the Subic Special Economic Zone whose metes and bounds shall be delineated in a proclamation to be issued by the President of the Philippines. Within thirty (30) days after the approval of this Act, each local government unit shall submit its resolution of concurrence to join the Subic Special Economic Zone to the office of the President. Thereafter, the President of the Philippines shall issue a proclamation defining the metes and bounds of the Zone as provided herein.
The abovementioned zone shall be subject to the following policies:
(a) Within the framework and subject to the mandate and limitations of the Constitution and the pertinent provisions of the Local Government Code, the Subic Special Economic Zone shall be developed into a self-sustaining, industrial, commercial, financial and investment center to generate employment opportunities in and around the zone and to attract and promote productive foreign investments...
(i) Except as herein provided, the local government units comprising the Subic Special Economic Zone shall retain their basic autonomy and identity. The cities shall be governed by their respective charters and the municipalities shall operate and function in accordance with Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as The Local Government Code of 1991.
According to the Court, the phrase “[e]xcept as herein provided” means that local governments do not retain their basic autonomy and identity when it comes to matters specified by the law as falling under the powers, functions and prerogatives of the SBMA. The Court concluded that the power to approve or disapprove projects within the SSEZ is one such power over which the SBMA’s authority prevails over the local governments’ autonomy. Hence, there is no need for the SBMA to secure the approval of the concerned sanggunians prior to the implementation of the subject project.
The fair market value of expropriated property does not merely equate to its market value as may be specified in the land’s tax declaration. In expropriation proceedings, just compensation is defined as the full and fair equivalent of the property taken from its owner by the expropriator. If just compensation in expropriations were to be determined merely from tax declarations, then the constitution of a board of commissioners that should determine the expropriated property's fair market value would not have been necessary.