Eminent domain, the power which the Municipality of Bunawan exercised in the instant case, is a fundamental State power that is inseparable from sovereignty. It is government’s right to appropriate, in the nature of a compulsory sale to the State, private property for public use or purpose. Inherently possessed by the national legislature, the power of eminent domain may be validly delegated to local governments, other public entities and public utilities. For the taking of private property by the government to be valid, the taking must be for public use and there must be just compensation.
The Municipality of Bunawan’s power to exercise the right of eminent domain is not disputed as it is expressly provided for in Batas Pambansa Blg. 337, the Local Government Code in force at the time expropriation proceedings were initiated. Section 9 of said law states:
“Section 9. Eminent Domain. — A local government unit may, through its head and acting pursuant to a resolution of its sanggunian, exercise the right of eminent domain and institute condemnation proceedings for public use or purpose.”
What petitioners question is the lack of authority of the municipality to exercise this right since the Sangguniang Panlalawigan disapproved Resolution No. 43-89.
Section 153 of B.P. Blg. 337 provides:
“Sec. 153. Sangguniang Panlalawigan Review. — (1) Within thirty days after receiving copies of approved ordinances, resolutions and executive orders promulgated by the municipal mayor, the sangguniang panlalawigan shall examine the documents or transmit them to the provincial attorney, or if there be none, to the provincial fiscal, who shall examine them promptly and inform the sangguniang panlalawigan in writing of any defect or impropriety which he may discover therein and make such comments or recommendations as shall appear to him proper.
(2) If the sangguniang panlalawigan shall find that any municipal ordinance, resolution or executive order is beyond the power conferred upon the sangguniang bayan or the mayor, it shall declare such ordinance, resolution or executive order invalid in whole or in part, entering its actions upon the minutes and advising the proper municipal authorities thereof. The effect of such an action shall be to annul the ordinance, resolution or executive order in question in whole or in part. The action of the sangguniang panlalawigan shall be final.
xxx xxx xxx.” (Emphasis supplied.)
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s disapproval of Municipal Resolution No. 43-89 is an infirm action which does not render said resolution null and void. The law, as expressed in Section 153 of B.P. Blg. 337, grants the Sangguniang Panlalawigan the power to declare a municipal resolution invalid on the sole ground that it is beyond the power of the Sangguniang Bayan or the Mayor to issue. Although pertaining to a similar provision of law but different factual milieu then obtaining, the Court’s pronouncements in Velazco v. Blas, where we cited significant early jurisprudence, are applicable to the case at bar.
“The only ground upon which a provincial board may declare any municipal resolution, ordinance, or order invalid is when such resolution, ordinance, or order is ‘beyond the powers conferred upon the council or president making the same.’ Absolutely no other ground is recognized by the law. A strictly legal question is before the provincial board in its consideration of a municipal resolution, ordinance, or order. The provincial (board’s) disapproval of any resolution, ordinance, or order must be premised specifically upon the fact that such resolution, ordinance, or order is outside the scope of the legal powers conferred by law. If a provincial board passes these limits, it usurps the legislative functions of the municipal council or president. Such has been the consistent course of executive authority.”
Thus, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan was without the authority to disapprove Municipal Resolution No. 43-89 for the Municipality of Bunawan clearly has the power to exercise the right of eminent domain and its Sangguniang Bayan the capacity to promulgate said resolution, pursuant to the earlier-quoted Section 9 of B.P. Blg. 337. Perforce, it follows that Resolution No. 43-89 is valid and binding and could be used as lawful authority to petition for the condemnation of petitioners’ property.
As regards the accusation of political oppression, it is alleged that Percival Moday incurred the ire of then Mayor Anuncio C. Bustillo when he refused to support the latter’s candidacy for mayor in previous elections. Petitioners claim that then incumbent Mayor C. Bustillo used the expropriation to retaliate by expropriating their land even if there were other properties belonging to the municipality and available for the purpose. Specifically, they allege that the municipality owns a vacant seven-hectare property adjacent to petitioners’ land, evidenced by a sketch plan.
The limitations on the power of eminent domain are that the use must be public, compensation must be made and due process of law must be observed. The Supreme Court, taking cognizance of such issues as the adequacy of compensation, necessity of the taking and the public use character or the purpose of the taking, has ruled that the necessity of exercising eminent domain must be genuine and of a public character. Government may not capriciously choose what private property should be taken.
After a careful study of the records of the case, however, we find no evidentiary support for petitioners’ allegations. The uncertified photocopy of the sketch plan does not conclusively prove that the municipality does own vacant land adjacent to petitioners’ property suited to the purpose of the expropriation. In the questioned decision, respondent appellate court similarly held that the pleadings and documents on record have not pointed out any of respondent municipality’s “other available properties available for the same purpose. ” The accusations of political reprisal are likewise unsupported by competent evidence. Consequently, the Court holds that petitioners’ demand that the former municipal mayor be personally liable for damages is without basis.