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Brgy. San Roque vs. Heirs of Pastor Case Digest


An expropriation suit is incapable of pecuniary estimation. Accordingly, it falls within the jurisdiction of the regional trial courts, regardless of the value of the subject property.

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Facts:

Petitioner Brgy. San Roque, Talisay, Cebu filed before the MTC of Talisay, Cebu a complaint to expropriate a property of the respondents heirs of Francisco Pastor. The MTC dismissed the complaint on the ground of lack of jurisdiction. It reasoned that "eminent domain is an exercise of the power to take private property for public use after payment of just compensation. In an action for eminent domain, therefore, the principal cause of action is the exercise of such power or right. The fact that the action also involves real property is merely incidental. An action for eminent domain is therefore within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the RTC and not with this Court."

The RTC also dismissed the Complaint when filed before it, holding that the action for eminent domain or condemnation of real property is a real action affecting title to or possession of real property, hence, it is the assessed value of the property involved which determines the jurisdiction of the court. Section 3, paragraph (3), of Republic Act No. 7691, provides that all civil actions involving title to, or possession of, real property with an assessed value of less than P20,000.00 are within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the MTCs. The Tax Declaration shows that the assessed value of the land involved is only P1,740.00. Hence, it is the MTC which has jurisdiction.  

Petitioner thus appealed directly to the SC, raising a pure question of law.


Issue:

Which court, MTC or RTC, has jurisdiction over cases for eminent domain or expropriation where the assessed value of the subject property is below Twenty Thousand (P20,000.00) Pesos?


Held:

RTC.

Test to determine whether a suit is incapable of pecuniary estimation

An expropriation suit is incapable of pecuniary estimation. A review of the jurisprudence of this Court indicates that in determining whether an action is one the subject matter of which is not capable of pecuniary estimation, this Court has adopted the criterion of first ascertaining the nature of the principal action or remedy sought. 

If it is primarily for the recovery of a sum of money, the claim is considered capable of pecuniary estimation, and whether jurisdiction is in the municipal courts or in the courts of first instance would depend on the amount of the claim. 

However, where the basic issue is something other than the right to recover a sum of money, or where the money claim is purely incidental to, or a consequence of, the principal relief sought, like in suits to have the defendant perform his part of the contract (specific performance) and in actions for support, or for annulment of a judgment or to foreclose a mortgage, this Court has considered such actions as cases where the subject of the litigation may not be estimated in terms of money, and are cognizable exclusively by courts of first instance (now RTC). 


An expropriation suit is incapable of pecuniary estimation

An expropriation suit does not involve the recovery of a sum of money. Rather, it deals with the exercise by the government of its authority and right to take private property for public use. 

The primary consideration in an expropriation suit is whether the government or any of its instrumentalities has complied with the requisites for the taking of private property. Hence, the courts determine the authority of the government entity, the necessity of the expropriation, and the observance of due process. In the main, the subject of an expropriation suit is the government’s exercise of eminent domain, a matter that is incapable of pecuniary estimation.

True, the value of the property to be expropriated is estimated in monetary terms, for the court is duty-bound to determine the just compensation for it. This, however, is merely incidental to the expropriation suit. Indeed, that amount is determined only after the court is satisfied with the propriety of the expropriation.

To emphasize, the question in the present suit is whether the government may expropriate private property under the given set of circumstances. The government does not dispute respondents’ title to or possession of the same. Indeed, it is not a question of who has a better title or right, for the government does not even claim that it has a title to the property. It merely asserts its inherent sovereign power to "appropriate and control individual property for the public benefit, as the public necessity, convenience or welfare may demand." (Brgy. San Roque vs. Heirs of Pastor, G.R. No. 138896. June 20, 2000)

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