SC blocks NGCP takeover of P1.4-B SSS property in Pasay

MANILA-- The Supreme Court (SC) granted the petition filed by the Social Security System (SSS) seeking to stop the implementation of the orders issued by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) allowing the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to take possession of portion of the former's property worth PHP1.4 billion located at the Financial Center area in Pasay City.

In a three-page resolution signed by and promulgated by Division Clerk of Court Wilfredo Lapitan dated June 21, 2017, the SC Third Division granted a Status Quo Ante Order against the NGCP's takeover of the said property.

"The Court further resolves to Grant petitioner's prayer for the issuance of status quo ante order and/or writ of preliminary injunction and to Issue a Status Quo Ante Order effective immediately as of this date and continuing until further orders from this Court," the resolution reads.

Now, therefore, you, your agents, representatives and any person or persons actin upon your order or in your place or stead, are hereby enjoined from implementing the orders dated March 2, 2017 and April 24, 2017 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 108 Pasay City, the SC added.

Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC)Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado, who represents the SSS, welcomes the order of SC grated the issuance of status quo order ante order and / or writ of preliminary against respondents.

While this is not a final victory for SSS yet as the case will still have to be heard and decided upon by the Supreme Court, the order only goes to show the transcendental importance of the public interest involved, Jurado said in a statement.

It will be recalled that in its plea, the SSS asked the high court to issue a status quo ante order or a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction to prevent Pasay City RTC Branch 108 Judge Gina Bibat-Palamos from enforcing its March 2 and April 24, 2017 orders, saying it stands to suffer irreparable damage if the situation is not remedied through the grant of provisional relief.

In its petition, the OGCC said as the statutory legal counsel of the SSS, it is tasked to protect its legal interests over the land.

The property is intended for the use by the SSS in the furtherance of its mandate, which is the subject of an Expropriation Case instituted by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), a private corporation with the general power to expropriate private property, the OGCC said.

It noted that the Pasay RTC, on the premise of a mere delegated power to expropriate, granted NGCP the right to enter and takeover the land it seeks to own without evident circumspection.

The lack of authority on the part of NGCP to expropriate government property is too obvious that it cannot be overlooked. Even more, the consequence of such ignorance is far-reaching that the government is deprived of exercising full ownership over its own property to the direct prejudice of the more than 34 million pensioners that the SSS committedly serves, the OGCC added.

The NGCP is seeking to get the SSS property to immediately construct a substation that will accommodate the increasing demand for electricity of the Greater Manila Area, which shall be known as the Pasay 230kV Substation Project.

The SSS said the Judge Palamos acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the said orders.

It argued that the trial court wrongly applied in Section 6 of Republic Act 10752 (An Act of Facilitating the Acquisition of Right-of-Way Site or Location for National Government Infrastructure Projects) in issuing the writ of possession in favor of NGCP.

The trial court adopted NGCP's arguments that Section 6 of R.A. 10752 provides that upon the filing of an expropriation complaint, the service of notice to the defendant and the deposit of 100 percent of the relevant BIR zonal value of the land to be expropriated, the issuance of a writ of possession becomes ministerial on the part of the Court.

The OGCC, however, raised the inapplicability of RA 10752 to this case owing to the private character of NGCP and the public character of SSS' land to be expropriated.

It noted that Section 6 of RA 10752 specifically requires as condition precedent that whenever it is necessary to acquire real property for right-of-way site or location for any government infrastructure through expropriation, the appropriate implementing agency, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) or their deputized counsel, shall initiate the expropriation proceedings.

In this petition, NGCP condescendingly arrogated upon itself the authority to initiate expropriation proceedings without seeking the required authority of OSG or OGCC in compliance with RA 10752.

The OGCC added that NGCP's delegated authority to exercise the right of eminent domain does not automatically vest it with the power to acquire property already devoted to public use, as this requires a specific grant from the national legislature.

Source: Philippines News Agency