Cebu News

City to file motion for reconsideration

- Rene U. Borromeo ug Mylen Manto -

CEBU, Philippines - Mayor Michael Rama and the city lawyers said they are willing to be cited for contempt of court for their refusal to heed the court order for them to pay the P133 million as remaining cost of the 4,654-meter lot owned by Rev. Fr. Vicente Rallos that has been used as public road in Barangay Sambag II.

The city lawyers are set to ask Regional Trial Court Branch 9 Judge James Stewart Himalaloan today to reconsider his decision, through the court sheriff, directing the city’s depository banks to issue a certification as to the correct account numbers of the city’s accounts with them.

Rama and the team of city lawyers tasked to handle the case met yesterday and decided to a file motion for reconsideration asking Himalaloan to reverse his decision.

Rama asked the Commission on Audit yesterday to intervene in the case because it involves a huge amount of public funds and they believe it is no longer necessary for the city to pay the Rallos heirs.

City lawyer Jade Ponce said they are also planning to seek the help of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsels to help the city protect its rights because based on the newly-discovered evidence the city should not be compelled to pay for the lot.

Rama reiterated that a document, called a “convenio” or agreement, signed by the Ralloses in 1940, shows the family would construct a road within their property for public purpose and it will be donated to Cebu City government. If the city won’t accept the donation, the road will be continued to be managed by the Ralloses for public use.

In a letter to COA-7 Regional Director Delfin Aguilar yesterday, Rama said “there are powerful forces hell-bent on forcing the Cebu City government to release the huge sum of people’s money. To do nothing is to allow this scandalous claim against public funds to reap its unjust rewards.”

Rama said the Rallos case is only the “tip of the proverbial iceberg. If this nefarious case is allowed to bear fruit, it will become a precedent and will be the key to open the floodgates to enter dubious claimants against the city’s funds, not because of the merits of their claims but because they will realize that it is easy to dupe the government.”

Rama wants COA to write to Himalaloan and court sheriff Eugenio Fuentes directing them to comply with the Supreme Court Administrative Circular 10-2000 and for them to bring the records of the case to COA for the latter’s determination.

Ponce explained that the Supreme Court had directed the lower courts that in cases that involve the garnishment of public funds it should be referred first to COA for further action, but he was surprised why Himalaloan ignored this.

Ponce also said because of the standing SC administrative circular they will not pay the judgment debt. He added they will be violating the law if they will pay it.

“To make it briefly, whenever public property or the government is the aggrieved party of the decision, the court or the sheriff cannot directly execute and garnish its properties and to put into public auction because of the circular,” he said.

Rama said at present only a small portion of the 4,654-meter lot owned by the Ralloses is being used as a road because two-thirds of it has already been occupied by the urban poor.

The mayor had already advised the managers of the city’s depository banks to ignore the court’s demand letters directing them to deposit the P133 million to the court.

According to Ponce if Himalaloan will deny their motion for reconsideration, the city might compelled to elevate the matter before the appellate court.

The Supreme Court has already ruled with finality on the decision of the RTC that ordered the city to pay the heirs of Rallos the amount of P9,500 per square meter.

The just compensation of the lot was only P44,213,000, but it earned 12 percent per annum that was computed 40 days from July 24, 2001, the date when the RTC issued the order of just compensation and continued because the city failed to completely settle the amount even if it already paid P56,196,369.

The P34.9 million amount was the first court-declared just compensation of the lot at P7,500 per square meter, but the court amended its previous order and raised the amount of just compensation at P9,500 per square meter or P44.2 million for the whole lot.

The city lawyers earlier fought the case before the Court of Appeals, but their appeal was rejected that prompted them to elevate the matter before the Supreme Court. —/BRP (FREEMAN)

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