By Ben Rosario
The Supreme Court is open to the idea of designating special courts that would resolve expropriation cases in connection with the implementation of vital infrastructure projects of the government, including those identified under the “Build, Build, Build” program of the Duterte administration.
State officials have blamed “right-of-way” issues raised and currently pending before various courts in the country as among the causes of the delay in President Duterte’s ambitious infrastructure program.
During a recent hearing on the issue, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said the High Court should submit to the Committee on Transportation a list of courts that were unable to resolve expropriation cases “in a timely manner.”
Barzaga noted that the swift completion of infrastructure projects would contribute to the government’s bid to improve the country’s economy. He pointed out that public works and road projects need to be finished immediately in order for the government to reap the fruits of economic progress.
Reacting to the concerns of lawmakers, SC Administrator Megan Musni said the High Tribunal was planning to designate certain courts that will focus on resolving right-of-way cases brought up in expropriation proceedings for infrastructure projects.
Musni also informed the House panel that the SC has already coordinated with the Office of the Solicitor General and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to discuss recommendations that would guarantee efficiency in the handling of these cases.
In the same hearing presided by Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento, representatives of the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) reported that the completion of LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension Project has been bogged down by expropriation cases filed against the state-run firm by property owners affected by right-of-way issues.
Nevertheless, LRTA Line 1 Project Manager Eleonor Palaypayon assured lawmakers that the new mass transit line will partially open by December 2021. Full completion is expected in December 2022.
It will be recalled that right-of-way problems brought before the courts have been among the reasons cited by government in the reported slow implementation of “build, build, build” projects.
This prompted Albay Rep. Joey Sarte-Salceda to file House Bill 5456 that will grant President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to address the problem.
HB 5456 grants Duterte the power to give the go-signal for the implementation of projects even before the courts could resolve cases brought before them.
Taking a similar stance in rejecting emergency powers to address the traffic crisis, Malacanang has declared it is not inclined to support the measure.