Pablo P. Garcia, the private lawyer savior of the Cebu provincial lots

CEBUPEDIA - Clarence Paul Oaminal - The Freeman

Governor Rene G. Espina was able to save the lots donated by the Cebu Provincial Board while he was on official business in Manila on February 4, 1964. The Vice Governor, Priscillano Almendras, who acted as Governor enacted a resolution donating 210 province-owned lots all located in Cebu City. The beneficiary was the City of Cebu, it was accepted by then Mayor Sergio "Serging" Chiong Veloso Osmeña Jr.

Governor Rene Espina, a bar topnotch with the help of Pablo P. Garcia, also a bar topnotch, filed a case seeking to have the donation declared illegal and void.

Governor Espina and Pablo P. Garcia, a private lawyer then were successful in preventing the donation and eventual selling of the province-owned lots to a third party.

The issue that was raised in the legal squabble was the matter of representation of a municipality (as the municipalities allied with Governor Espina assisted by Garcia filed the case against the Province and the City of Cebu) by a private attorney. The Province of Cebu argued that collaboration of a private law firm with the fiscal and the municipality was not allowed.

The Province of Cebu also questioned Pablo P. Garcia's claim for compensation on the grounds that the employment of the latter for the Province of Cebu by then Governor Rene Espina was unauthorized and violative of the Revised Administrative Code and that the claim for attorney's fees is beyond the purview of the Rules of Court.

When the case finally reached the Supreme Court, this was how it resolved the issue: "However, the circumstances obtaining in the case at bar are such that rule cannot be applied. The Provincial Board would never have given such authorization. The lower court had this to say:

"...Obviously, it is unthinkable for the Provincial Board to adopt a resolution authorizing the Governor to employ Atty. Garcia to act as counsel for the Province of Cebu, for the purpose of filing and prosecuting a case against the members to the same Provincial Board. According to the claimant, Atty. Garcia, how can Governor Espina be expected to secure authority from the Provincial Board to employ claimant as counsel for the Province of Cebu when the very officials from whom authority is to be sought are the same officials to be sued. It is simply impossible that the Vice Governor and the members of the Provincial Board would pass a resolution authorizing Governor Espina to hire a lawyer to file a suit against themselves."

The Supreme Court through Justice Gutierrez Jr. who wrote the decision dated January 29, 1987 said:

"Respondents counsel's representation of the Province of Cebu became necessary because of the Provincial Board's failure or refusal to direct the bringing of the action to recover the properties it had donated to the City of Cebu. The Board more effectively disqualified the Provincial Fiscal from representing the Province of Cebu when it directed the Fiscal to appear for its members in the civil case filed by Atty. Garcia and others..."

The trial court's ruling cited by the Supreme Court was clear:

"...Thus because of his effort in the filing of this case and in securing the issuance of the injunction preventing the City of Cebu and Sergio Osmeña Jr. from selling or disposing the lots to third parties, on the part of the members of the Provincial Board from extending the date of the automatic reversion beyond August 15, 1965, on the part of the Register of Deeds - from effecting the transfer of title of any of the donated lots to any vendee or transferee, the disposition of these lots by the City of Cebu to third parties was frustrated and thus: saved these lots from their eventual recovery by the Province of Cebu."


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