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Power of Eminent Domain

6. People v. Fajardo
(G.R. No. L-12172; August 29, 1958)

Respondent, the mayor of Baao, Camarines Sur, enacted an ordinance passed on August 15, 1950
by the municipal council which provided that those who wish to construct or repair a building within the
municipality must first obtain a written permit from the mayor and pay the provided fees. Four years after
the enactment of the ordinance, respondent, who had left office as mayor, sought to obtain a permit to build
a house along the highway after his previous one was destroyed in a typhoon. The incumbent mayor denied
respondent the permit, saying that the construction would destroy the beauty of the surrounding area,
including the municipality’s public plaza. Aggrieved, respondent proceeded with the construction.

Respondent was convicted by the justice of the peace of violating the above ordinance and was
ordered by the Court of First Instance to pay fines and have the house demolished. Respondent assailed his
conviction and the constitutionality of the above ordinance. He states that the latter provides the mayor with
unchecked power to approve or deny an application for a permit since no requirements that will be the basis
for approval or denial are provided in the ordinance. The Solicitor General counters this claim by showing
that Section 3 of the ordinance provides that any building that obstructs the view of the public plaza or
occupies public property shall be demolished.

Whether or not the ordinance is constitutional.

No. The provided basis for demolition is unreasonable since this would serve to cause the
demolition of all buildings around the public plaza, regardless of the use of those buildings. This is
tantamount to confiscation of private property by the municipal government w/o just compensation to the
owners. This is because American jurisprudence has held that any law that greatly restricts the use of private
property by private individuals such that the property may not be used for any purpose is equivalent to the
State’s power of eminent domain, or the acquiring by the government of private land for a public purpose.
An exercise of this power can only be valid if the owners of the private property are properly compensated.
In this case, it was not shown that the municipal council consulted the owners and residents of the buildings
around the public plaza regarding the effects of the ordinance. Therefore, it is clear that these people were
not properly compensated for their private property.

The lower court upheld the validity of the ordinance citing section 2243 of the Revised
Administrative Code, which allowed the municipal council to designate fire limits in certain parts of the
municipality and regulate the kinds of buildings that can be built in these areas as well as the construction
and repair thereof. However, the municipal council of Baao has not shown through evidence that they have
performed either of these tasks. Thus, it cannot be said that the assailed ordinance was made with the above
section of the Revised Administrative Code in mind.

Therefore, given the above discussion, the ordinance is deemed to be null and void as an invalid
exercise of the powers of the municipal council and the conviction of the respondent is to be reversed.