Tom case junked
Former Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

Tom case junked

Mary Ruth R. Malinao (The Freeman) - January 24, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  The Regional Trial Court has dismissed the petition for declaratory relief filed by former Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña against the City of Cebu and SM-Ayala Consortium over the sale of lots at the South Road Properties (SRP).

In an order dated January 13, 2021, the RTC also denied Osmeña’s application for temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction.

Osmeña filed the case on September 3, 2019 in his capacity as taxpayer, constituent, and former mayor.

The respondents in the suit were the City of Cebu represented by Mayor Edgardo Labella, the City Council, and the buyers of the SRP lots, the SM and Ayala group of companies. The case was docketed at RTC Branch 10 of Cebu City presided by Judge Soliver C. Peras.

The respondents all filed a motion to dismiss the petition.

According to the RTC, Osmeña has no legal standing to question the contract whether as taxpayer, constituent, or former mayor because there is no Constitutional issue to justify relaxation of the rules on legal standing and there is no disbursement of public funds involved in the contracts to justify suit as taxpayer.

“The court does not also believe there is glaring violation by the officials involved but the discussion on this matter is made on the issue of whether there is a cause of action,” Peras’ order reads.

The case is barred by pending litigation, which is the Romulo Torres petition still pending in the Court of Appeals. The RTC held that there is substantial identity between the two petitions since both were taxpayer suits, as well as substantial identity of subject matter, which revolved on the contracts of sale of the SRP lots.

The RTC also stated the declaratory relief is not the proper remedy because two elements are lacking in order for a declaratory relief petition to prosper.

The RTC said further that Osmeña has no cause of action because there was specific prior approval from the City Council for then Mayor Michael Rama to enter into the contracts.

In an opinion, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has said subsequent resolutions of the SP did not prohibit Rama from entering into contracts.

The questioned contracts cannot be void due to lack of authority or due to alleged irregular bidding since there is no law that nullifies the contract on those grounds. The contract cannot be declared void due to violation of Commission on Audit (COA) rules since COA has not even ruled on its validity and has the primary jurisdiction to rule on such an issue. The questioned contracts do not violate R.A. 9184 or the Procurement Act as the contracts did not involve procurement.

City Legal Officer Rey Gealon described the RTC decision as a victory for the city.

“Law has always been on our side. Thus, courts have consistently sustained our position that the ‘SRP sale’ was valid and legal,” Gealon said.

“Our win today is not only for the respondents impleaded in this case, but for all the good people of Cebu who yearns for progress and development. There is no stopping now the imminent prosperity of the South Road Properties which will readily translate into thousands of employment opportunities for the Cebuanos,” he added. — JMO (FREEMAN)

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