In response to Resolution No. 60 (s. 2020) of the Central Visayas Regional Development Council (RDC) requesting the designation of special courts in Region 7 to exclusively handle expropriation cases, the Supreme Court designated nine Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) in Central Visayas as “Special Expropriation Courts for Public Roads”.
The Supreme Court issued Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 04-2021 on March 25, 2021 “Designation of Additional Special Courts to Specifically Hear, Try and Decide Expropriation Cases Involving National Government Infrastructure Projects”. Eleven RTCs were designated, nine of which are in Central Visayas particularly in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, Dumaguete and Tagbilaran.
RDC Resolution No. 60 (s. 2020) was actually a reiteration of the RDC’s plea to the Supreme Court in 2019. The RDC considered this measure as the solution to the perennial problem of road-right-of-way (RROW) acquisition which was cited by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as the foremost reason for the delay in the implementation of various infrastructure projects of the agency in the region.
On August 11, 2020, the Supreme Court initially designated eleven RTCs as special expropriation courts for public roads through MC No. 08-2020. These RTCs are tasked to hear, try and decide expropriation cases involving national government infrastructure projects in their respective territorial jurisdictions. However, all of these courts are located in cities in Cavite and Metro Manila only. MC No. 04-2021 increased the coverage of the special expropriation courts to include nine cities in Central Visayas and two in Calamba. Last May 26, 2021, RDC officials led by Chair Kenneth Cobonpue met virtually with the presiding judges of the newly-designated special expropriation courts to discuss how to expedite the expropriation proceedings of the cases already filed and soon to be filed in their respective territorial jurisdictions. The meeting was also attended by the DPWH regional director and staff of its Legal Division.