MCIAA’s property battle ‘far from over’

By Victor Anthony V. Silva |October 04,2017 - 10:34 PM

Lawyer Steve Y. Dicdican, Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) general manager, speaking in a press conference on October 4, 2017, says MCIAA will ask the Supreme Court to reopen the case involving its property dispute with claimant Richard Unchuan.
CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA

THE Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) is not backing down from its legal battle involving portions of two lots in Lapu-Lapu City, even as the Supreme Court (SC) already ordered the body to begin expropriation proceedings for the property.

Lawyer Steve Dicdican, MCIAA general manager, said the authority was not under obligation to pay up at the moment and that he was determined to win the fight even when he felt like they were being pushed against a wall.

“Compliance is not on the table. If we don’t fight this now, the airport will become bankrupt,” he said in a press conference on Wednesday at the MCIAA office in Lapu-Lapu City.

Last Sep. 18, the Office of the President issued a letter addressed to Dicdican telling the MCIAA to act on the SC ruling.

The SC in its decision said that Richard Unchuan is the true and legal owner of the portions of Lots 4810-A and B, spanning close to 150,000 square meters and are located in Barangay Buaya.

Both lots are open spaces, most of which are within the 797-hectare airport complex but a portion is publicly used for the Mactan circumferential road, said Dicdican.

Dicdican said they are set to file a motion to re-open the case and a motion to submit the case to the SC en banc, although they were already past the prescriptive period.

Moreover, he said they will also file a case before the trial court on the MCIAA’s claims as co-owner of the lots.

“The Supreme Court said MCIAA is a co-owner of the property and yet it requires MCIAA to purchase the property through the filing of expropriation proceedings at presumably current market prices,” Dicdican said.

He also asked why they were being forced to buy the entire property when a part of it is used for the circumferential road.

If current market values were to be observed, the property would cost around P2.5 billion, something which the MCIAA is not keen on spending, especially for pieces of lots they believe they already own.

Unchuan earlier contested ownership of the lots that were bought by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), the MCIAA’s predecessor, from Atanacio Godinez, the supposed attorney-in-fact of all registered owners and heirs of the lots.

Aside from recognizing Unchuan as the true and legal owner of the lots, the Supreme Court also ordered the MCIAA to pay rental for the use of the property at P20 per square meter from the time of the filing of the complaint until the final payment.

Unchuan filed in 2004 the complaint for partial declaration of nullity of the deed of absolute sale with Plea for Partition Damages and Attorney’s Fees before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) against the MCIAA.

Unchuan claim he was the legal owner of Lots No. 4810-A and B, with land areas of 177,176 square meters and 2,740 sq.m., respectively. Unchuan claimed he bought the two lots from the surviving heirs of the registered owners through several deeds of absolute sale dated Dec. 7, 1998.

But Dicdican said, “the government already bought the lots he is claiming and this fact is even admitted and affirmed by written sworn accounts of landowners.”

He said the persons from whom Unchuan allegedly bought the property also alleged that the claimant never paid for the lots.

Dicdican wished to allay the fears of airport stakeholders that they will be held in contempt for not complying with the writ of execution and the demands of the sheriff, who he said has been “going after airport stakeholders and humiliating and disrupting airport operations.”

“In categorical terms, I am telling you that the court and the sheriff are wrong,” he said.

However, he also warned airport stakeholders who decide to heed illegal maneuvers to execute an unjust decision and hand over any money owed to MCIAA over to the sheriff that he will hold them in default.

He said he will also exercise every right and legal remedy, including but not limited to rescinding their contracts, excluding them from the airport, or not renewing their contracts.

Dicdican said the MCIAA could pay Unchuan, since the authority has around P6 billion in available funds and annual revenues of P1 billion. But this case is not the only one MCIAA is facing and giving in could set a precedent for other cases, possibly rendering the MCIAA bankrupt two to three cases down the road.

Projects worth P200 billion in MCIAA’s 50-year expansion plan could be delayed or even outright canceled if they do not emerge successful in this current legal battle, Dicdican said.

“We have to protect and preserve airport properties, particularly against illegal claimants,” said Dicdican.

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