SC orders Cebu City gov’t to pay P57M to bizman

By Jose Santino S. Bunachita |October 10,2016 - 10:33 PM

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THE Supreme Court has ordered the Cebu City government to pay P57 million as compensation to a businessman who claimed that his property was affected by the South Road Properties (SRP) project.

The amount is almost equal to what Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said in 2009 that the city would have to pay when it decided not to pursue an out-of-court settlement with businessman Roque Ting.

Back then, Osmeña was able to strike a deal with Ting for the city to pay him P13.5 million as compensation for his lot, which Ting claimed was affected by the SRP project without his consent.

“Because of the stubbornness of Mike Rama and Atty. Joy Pesquera, they dragged this on in court claiming that the city doesn’t have to pay. As it dragged on, there’s a provision on interests. We lost all the way to the Supreme Court,” Osmeña told reporters in a press conference yesterday morning.

In 2009, when Osmeña was on his last term as mayor, he negotiated with Ting for the settlement, saying it’s better to pay Ting the compromise of P13.5 million; otherwise the city would end up paying P60 million if they lose the case filed by Ting, which was still pending before the Court of Appeals (CA) then.

In 2008, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) ordered the city to pay Ting P37.7 million as compensation for his lot affected by the SRP. The city appealed the decision with the CA.
The city ended losing the appeal including its subsequent petition to the SC.

Since the original RTC decision ordered the inclusion of a yearly interest rate of six percent, the amount that the city was ordered to pay has now ballooned to P57.1 million.

Garnishment

Just recently, the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) informed Osmeña in a letter dated August 23 that they have been given a Notice of Garnishment by RTC Branch 21 in the amount of P57,119,287.50.

“Should you have already appropriated funds for the subject case, please furnish us a certification to the effect, accompanied by your Council Resolution,” said LBP Cebu Plaza Independencia Branch Manager Vivian Bisnar in her letter to the mayor.

This means that the city cannot use the P57.1 million amount it deposited with LBP because it is being held by order of the court.

Osmeña said the city has no choice but to pay Ting the P57.1 million.

But in order to do this, he said he needs the approval of the city council in order to appropriate funds for the payment.

“We’ll have to pay. If not, they’ll garnish it.” he said.

“We need council approval. People are suffering because of this. I will put it there. Maybe for next year’s budget. But I just want you to be aware. This is the kind of administration of Mike Rama,” he added.

Payment

City Legal Officer Joseph Bernaldez agreed that the most logical step for the city is to pay the compensation, otherwise the amount could increase because of the interests mandated by the court.

“We have been trying to save the case. But ultimately, it’s the court that will decide. In every litigation, there must be an end,” Bernaldez said.

Last August, the RTC issued a Writ of Execution based on the SC decision as well as the subsequent notice of garnishment they gave to LBP.

Sought for comment, Pesquera, who also returned as city councilor this year, said if Osmeña has anybody to blame, it should be the city’s legal team.

“Tomas should be blaming his legal team for their failure to protect the interest of the city. As far as I’m concerned and I strongly believe that the city government should not pay Roque Ting. It is worst than the Balili case,” she said.

For his part, former city mayor Michael Rama echoed the arguments of Pesquera, saying the property being claimed by Ting is part of the sea.
Rama said he is leaving the case to his ally Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella.

Labella, presiding officer of the city council, said, “I still have to go over the documents. But if it is already a statutory obligation because there’s a decision, we will consider that. But it needs thorough study.”

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