Cebu News

City sues court sheriff over Rallos lot issue

- Rene U. Borromeo ug Mylen Manto -

 CEBU, Philippines - For his refusal to comply with the Supreme Court policy that garnishment of public funds shall not be implemented without Commission on Audit's approval, the City of Cebu has filed an administrative case against Sheriff Eugenio Fuentes.

The City of Cebu represented by Mayor Michael Rama filed the case before the Supreme Court. Rama cited numerous violations committed by Fuentes pertaining to the implementation of the judgment debt of P133 million to the heirs of the late Rev. Fr. Vicente Rallos whose lot in Barangay Sambag 2 has been used as public road.

Rama said Fuentes violated Section 6 Canon IV of the Code of Conduct of Court Personnel, grave abuse of authority and violation of the Rules of Court specifically paragraph (a), Section 9 of Rule 39.

He said Fuentes has no authority to issue a notice to parties of sale of execution dated October 3, 2011 when he assumed as implementing sheriff on October 11, 2011.

"Under the Rules, before resorting to levy on the City's real properties, the sheriff shall first and foremost demand payment in cash or certified bank check," the complaint read.

Rama pointed that there was no demand made by Fuentes.

In the failure of such a remedy, Rama said Fuentes shall give the city an option of which properties to be levied.

Rama also emphasized that all money claims against the state shall be filed before the COA.

"Section 1, Rule VIII of the 2009 Revised Rules of Procedures of the COA provides that a money judgment is considered as a money claim which is within the original jurisdiction of the Commissioner Proper of the COA and which shall be filed directly with the Commission Secretary," the complaint read.

Rama added Fuentes continuously harasses the government banks despite there were no money claims filed before the COA and that no ordinance has been passed appropriating to satisfy the judgment debt when he made the garnishment.

Meanwhile, Cebu City South District Rep. Tomas Osmeña said Cebu City may lose billions of pesos in future revenue if Rama continues to refuse to pay the judgment debt.

In a press conference, Osmeña explained that the city may not receive this year the P845 million from the Filinvest Land Inc. for the city's share in their joint venture agreement and the installment payment of the 10.6 hectare of lots that FLI bought at the South Road Properties.

Osmeña said the city is expected to receive next month the P600 million out of its 10 per cent share from the sales of FLI-constructed condominiums within the 40-hectare lots subject to the joint-venture contract at the SRP.

Tristan Las Marias, FLI Executive Vice President for Visayas and Mindanao, sent a letter to Rama informing him that his company has decided to hold in abeyance the payment of their obligation for this year until the issue of their lots is settled.

The City Council presided by Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young has no objection that the city will pay its obligation to the Ralloses because its members are afraid that they will be cited with contempt of court.

But Rama said the Supreme Court had already issued a circular that while the court can order the garnishment of public funds or properties, but it cannot be implemented without the concurrence of the Commission on Audit.

Although the ruling of the court that the city must pay the Ralloses is considered final and executory, RTC Judge James Stewart Himalaloan clarified that the decision is unenforceable if there is a corresponding appropriation ordinance for the purpose.

The City Council has decided to hold an executive session on Apr. 18 and plans to invite Rama's consultant Jade Ponce to brief them on any updates about the Rallos case to guide them of what will be its move.  (FREEMAN)

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