Osmeñaâs camp willing to take SRP case to SC
Former Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

Osmeña’s camp willing to take SRP case to SC

Caecent No-ot Magsumbol (The Freeman) - January 25, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  The court battle is not over for the camp of former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña even as the Regional Trial Court has dismissed his petition for declaratory relief in connection with the city’s sale of lots at the South Road Properties to the SM-Ayala consortium.

“We are just beginning. We are just warming up,” Osmeña’s lawyer, Amando Virgil Ligutan, told The FREEMAN yesterday.

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.

But Ligutan said that their camp is willing to take the case all the way to the Highest Court if need be.

“We will file a motion for reconsideration, and we will fight this out up to the Supreme Court,” he said.

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.

To this, Ligutan said it is not correct to say that Osmeña has “no standing” to question the alleged anomalous contract.

“A former mayor who has been fighting for SRP all his life has no standing to question the anomalous contract?  Who has standing then? Virtually zero. This is not correct,” the lawyer said.

Aside from that, Ligutan said that the former mayor signed checks for the payment of the SRP loan, which means it is wrong to say there was no disbursement of public funds that can pass the case as a taxpayer’s suit.

“So it does not make sense to say there is no disbursement of public funds in this case,” Ligutan said.

While City Legal Officer Rey Gealon said the RTC decision is a victory for the city, Ligutan said only the Supreme Court has the final say, emphasizing that Osmeña is not giving up on the case.

“The Tomas Osmeña that I know does not give up, not for the Cebu City residents he has been fighting for all his life,” Ligutan said.

At present, the case is barred pending litigation of a petition by Romulo Torres before 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.

Rama, for his part, expressed elation over the RTC ruling, saying everything they “did before was done via public bidding and with transparency.”

Rama, who is the acting mayor now as Mayor Edgardo Labella is still on leave, said it is well within Osmeña’s right to file a motion for reconsideration. Nonetheless, Rama said he is confident the truth will remain on their side. — JMD (FREEMAN)

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