THE LAWYER'S POST
"x x x.
The public use requirement for a valid exercise of the power of eminent domain is a flexible and evolving concept influenced by changing conditions.
The taking to be valid must be for public use. There was a time where it was felt that a literal meaning should be attached to such a requirement. Whatever project is undertaken must be for the public to enjoy, as in the case of streets or parks. Otherwise, expropriation is not allowable. It is not anymore. As long as the purpose of the taking is public, then the power of eminent domain comes into play. x x x The constitution in at least two cases, to remove any doubt, determines what is public use. One is the expropriation of lands to be divided into small lots for resale at cost to individuals. The other is in the transfer, through the exercise of this power, of utilities and other enterprise to the government. It is accurate to state then that at present whatever may be beneficially employed for the general welfare satisfies the requirement of public use.
The term “public use” has acquired a more comprehensive coverage. To the literal import of the term signifying strict use or employment by the public has been added the broader notion of indirect public benefit or advantage. x x x
The restrictive view of public use may be appropriate for a nation which circumscribes the scope of government activities and public concerns and which possesses big and correctly located public lands that obviate the need to take private property for public purposes. Neither circumstance applies to the Philippines. We have never been a laissez-faire state. And the necessities which impel the exertion of sovereign power are all too often found in areas of scarce public land or limited government resources.
Specifically, urban renewal or development and the construction of low-cost housing are recognized as a public purpose, not only because of the expanded concept of public use but also because of specific provisions in the Constitution. x x x The 1987 Constitution [provides]:
The State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living and an improved quality of life for all. (Article II, Section 9)
The State shall, by law and for the common good, undertake, in cooperation with the private sector, a continuing program for urban land reform and housing which will make available at affordable cost decent housing and basic services to underprivileged and homeless citizens in urban centers and resettlement areas. x xx In the implementation of such program the State shall respect the rights of small property owners. (Article XIII, Section 9)
Housing is a basic human need. Shortage in housing is a matter of state concern since it directly and significantly affects public health, safety, the environment and in sum, the general welfare. The public character of housing measures does not change because units in housing projects cannot be occupied by all but only by those who satisfy prescribed qualifications. A beginning has to be made, for it is not possible to provide housing for all who need it, all at once.
Population growth, the migration to urban areas and the mushrooming of crowded makeshift dwellings is a worldwide development particularly in developing countries. So basic and urgent are housing problems that the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 1987 as the “International Year of Shelter for the Homeless” “to focus the attention of the international community on those problems.” The General Assembly is seriously concerned that, despite the efforts of Governments at the national and local levels and of international organizations, the driving conditions of the majority of the people in slums and squatter areas and rural settlements, especially in developing countries, continue to deteriorate in both relative and absolute terms.” [G.A. Res. 37/221, Yearbook of the United Nations 1982, Vol. 36, p. 1043-4]
x x x.
G.R. No. 169263, September 21, 2011, CITY OF MANILA, PETITIONER, VS. MELBA TAN TE, RESPONDENT.
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