Upon the approval of Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) on 19 January 2021, released the Guidelines for the Special Expropriation Courts for Public Roads (OCA Circular No. 12-2021) pursuant to Memorandum Circular No. 08-2020. The Guidelines apply exclusively to the expropriation of properties affected by national government infrastructure projects as defined by Section 3 of Republic Act No. 10752 or the “Right-of-Way Act,” and shall be adopted by the Special Expropriation Courts for Public Roads and Regional Trial Court (RTCs) with pending expropriation cases.
The issuance of the Guidelines followed the designation of 11 special RTCs in the cities of Imus, Trece Martires, Dasmariñas, Tagaytay, Caloocan, and Manila to specifically hear, try, and decide expropriation cases involving national government infrastructure projects. The designation of the “Special Expropriation Courts for Public Roads” was made through Memorandum Circular No. 08-2020 dated 11 August 2020 signed by Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta and the other two most senior justices of the Supreme Court.
“With the designation of special courts to specifically handle expropriation cases as well as the issuance of the said Guidelines which provide for deadlines in court proceedings, it is expected that the expropriation cases filed before our courts will be resolved faster and swifter. Thus, delays in the completion of the national government’s infrastructure projects will be negated,” said Chief Justice Peralta.
As per the Guidelines, all newly-filed expropriation cases pursuant to the Right-of-Way Act shall be raffled or assigned to the duly designated Special Expropriation Court for Public Roads in their respective territorial jurisdictions. According to the Guidelines, expropriation cases shall strictly comply with the 2019 Proposed Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure where trial shall be terminated within one hundred eighty days from the initial presentation of evidence. Judgment shall be rendered within ninety (90) days from submission for decision unless otherwise provided by law or the Court. Moreover, the provisions of the Rules of Court shall continue to apply in a suppletory character.
Under the Guidelines, as far as practicable, all Special Expropriation Courts for Public Roads, as well as other RTCs with pending expropriation cases, shall devote at least one (1) day a week to hear expropriation cases.
The Circulars were issued after Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark A. Villar sought the assistance of the Office of the Chief Justice and the OCA for its on-going priority big-ticket projects. The DPWH is expected to file an estimated 902 expropriation cases before the RTCs in relation to these projects.
Memorandum Circular No. 08-2020 may be viewed at https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/12716/.
OCA Circular No. 12-2021 may be viewed at https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/16731/.