Cebu News

Court orders Balili heirs: Return P37.8M

Mylen P. Manto and Michael Vencynth H. Braga - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The Regional Trial Court has ordered the estate of Luis Balili, Amparo Balili and lawyer Romeo Balili to return to the Province of Cebu P37.81 million representing the amount paid for the submerged and mangroves areas of their property in the City of Naga that the former administration purchased.

In a 16-page decision, Branch 14 Judge Raphael Yrastroza Sr. said it would be injustice to allow the Balilis to let the provincial government pay the amount for portions of the property that were underwater and a mangrove area. The said areas, the court said, are public land and could not even be titled.

“It is only simple justice, therefore, that the defendants should return what plaintiffs claimed; otherwise, it would be an injustice to allow defendants to be unjustly enriching themselves at the expense of the plaintiff (Cebu Province) for the value of the submerged area of 80,124 square meters on Lot SP-07-01-000048, and the mangrove area of 14,402 square meters on Lot SP-07-01000062, a total of 94,562 square meters, at P400 per square meter,” read the decision.

The Province of Cebu and former governor now third district Representative Gwendolyn Garcia filed a civil case for specific performance and reduction or refund of the purchase price of parcels of land before the court against the Balilis due to the submerged and mangrove areas of the property in Tinaan, City of Naga.

Garcia and the Capitol said they were under the presumption that the paid property was all dry land.

They argued that had they known about the submerged and mangroves areas, they could have bargained for a lower amount or paid only the dry land area.

In their defense, the Balilis said they had no “direct participation in the negotiation” with the provincial government, claiming it was real estate broker Lumen Durano who fixed the price of the ten parcels of land.

They said their attention was not even called after a vicinity inspection showed that portions were submerged and mangrove areas.

“After the execution of the Memorandum of Agreement for the sale of the parcels of land, certified copies of the titles were submitted to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Cebu for purposes of verification and vicinity inspection. After plaintiffs’ vicinity inspection of the property, defendants’ attention were not called regarding the alleged defects on portions of Lot No. SP-07-01-000048, which plaintiffs alleged to be submerged by sea water and of the portions of Lot No. SP-07-01-000068, which plaintiffs alleged to be mangrove areas,” the Balilis said.

Yrastorza, though, ruled in favor of Garcia and the province.

“In the case at bar, defendants who received the benefits are not entitled to it and there is no legal right to receive it considering that the areas supposedly sold to plaintiffs are inalienable and indisposable part of Public Domain hence, not subject to the commerce of man,” stated the decision.

In 2011, RTC Judge Ester Veloso ordered the defendants not to touch P37.8 million of the P98.9 million Cebu province paid to the heirs of Luis Balili, who owns the property.

While she issued an order of partition of the P98.9 million, she also ordered that P37,810,400 should be secured as it is the subject of the case that was pending that time before Yrastorza’s sala.

In an interview with the media yesterday, however, lawyer Romeo Balili said there is no more money.

“There’s no more money. The money was distributed to all the heirs. There is no more centavo left there,” he said.

He also said he was not surprised at all with the decision. He, however, refused to cite a reason why he said so.

“Don’t ask me why. In fact, we expected it that way,” he said, adding that his camp had already drafted their motion for reconsideration even before the RTC rendered its decision.

Lawyer  Balili said the motion they would file tomorrow, March 13, would argue that the province did an erroneous resurvey, which identified the submerged and mangrove areas of the sold property.

He said the resurvey should be based on the original document issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, something that the province allegedly failed to do.

“In my cross-examination of the (Capitol) surveyor, I asked him ‘did you get the original survey?’ He said he did not,” he told reporters, saying the original survey reflected the original shape of the property.

“Ang gibasehan nila is technical description. Ang technical interpretation is just an interpretation of the original survey,” laywer Balili said.

Meanwhile, Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III told reporters yesterday that the Provincial Legal Office has yet to inform him about the court decision.

He said, though, that the verdict proved that the controversial property the province bought was indeed submerged.

He also said the court decision has no effect on the criminal case pending before the Sandiganbayan against Garcia over the alleged anomalous purchase of the Balili property.

“Magpadayon gihapon ang criminal case, because the criminal case is independent of the civil case. It (decision) will not automatically cause the dismissal of the criminal case,” the governor said. — /RHM (FREEMAN)











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