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Cebu News

Encroachment on province’s lot: dpwh refuses to pay capitol

Gregg M. Rubio - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Central Office would not pay just compensation to the Cebu Provincial Government for encroaching on the Capitol lot on Osmeña Boulevard in Cebu City.

Because of this, Governor Gwen Garcia, warned that such a stance just dragged the DPWH into an embarrassing situation.

In a June 13, 2023 memorandum to DPWH-7 Regional Director Ernesto Gregorio Jr., Undersecretary for Legal Service Ann Sharlyne G. Lapuz cited at least two cases, Salas vs. Jarencio (City of Manila case) and Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bataan vs. Garcia (Province of Bataan case) as basis in their refusal to pay.

Lapuz said that  in those cases, "unless the local government units can prove that they acquired the property through its private capacity, the said property is held in trust for the State for the benefit of its inhabitant".

“However, upon review of available documents, no such proof or evidence was submitted by the Provincial Government of Cebu to show that the subject properties were acquired using its private or corporate capacity," she said.

"As such said presumption remains and unless otherwise proven, claim for payment of just compensation by the Provincial Government of Cebu has no legal and factual basis,” she added.

This angered Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, who said the cases Lapuz cited are inapplicable to the Capitol's case.

“If you would come up with a position as regards the Province of Cebu kindly do your homework, kindly study as industriously as you can the way you studied when you were still a law student, before even insisting on coming up with this position," the governor said.

"This dangerous position of yours (Lapuz's) and yet ridiculous position of yours, which for the sake of argument would hold water, had dangerous implications for all local government units,” she added.

Atty. Rory Jon Sepulveda, Capitol legal consultant, also said that in the cases Lapuz mentioned, Congress exercised its legislative power, which is a "sovereign act".

He said that in those cases, Congress either disposed of or converted the properties into alienable and disposable land, while in the case of Cebu Province, there is no such sovereign act.

“It is a mere governmental function of a department making a road without exercising due diligence that the road belongs to the province in its private capacity,” Sepulveda said.

He said that granting that there is such a sovereign act in the appropriation of the Provincial Government's properties, there is an exemption for those acquired using the owner's own funds in its private or corporate capacity.

To recall, the first seat of the Provincial Government of Cebu was situated along MJ Cuenco Ave. right across Plaza Independencia.

The Capitol was later on transferred in its present location at the corner of Osmeña Blvd. and Escario St., on what was known before as Hacienda Osmeña, which was later developed into Cebu Heights Subdivision by Cebu Heights Co. Inc.

The Province of Cebu acquired a big portion of the hacienda as site for the Capitol building, which was built in the 1930s.

“(Lapuz's) your position is sadly misplaced and we are now making our formal demand (for DPWH) to pay just compensation for these properties that were encroached by the national road,” Sepulveda said.

Atty. Benjamin Cabrido, another Capitol lawyer, said that when they presented the claim for just compensation to DPWH, they provided the Transfer Certificate of Titles.

“The position of the DPWH Undersecretary is very dangerous to the local government units because this might be construed as not paying to the local government units,” he said.

Cabrido added that had Lapuz only went over the titles line by line, there is entry which states that this property is registered in accordance with the provision of Land Registration Act in the name of the previous owner, the Cebu Heights, Inc.

The governor also said that during the groundbreaking of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit last February, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. pronounced that lot owners affected by the project must be justly compensated.

“This opinion (of Lapuz) runs contrary to the position of the President himself,” Garcia said.

She hoped that DPWH Secretary Manuel Bonoan will see the legality of the position of the Cebu Provincial Government. –/RHM (CEBU NEWS)

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