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Osmeña to go to court to void SRP lot sale, says Archival

By: Delta Dyrecka Letigio August 30,2019 - 05:04 PM

Tomas Osmeña (CDN file photo)

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña will be filing in court a petition for declaratory relief to void the sale of the 45-hectare South Road Properties (SRP) to Filinvest and the SM-Ayala Consortium in 2015.

This was revealed to the media by opposition Councilor Nestor Archival on Friday noon, August 30, 2019, following the decision of the Cebu Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 23 on Wednesday, August 28, to allow the withdrawal of the case initially filed by the Cebu City Legal Office last June, or barely a month before Osmeña stepped down from office, having lost in his reelection bid to former vice mayor and now Mayor Edgardo Labella.

The City Legal Office under Labella has withdrawn the case after a go-signal from the administration-led 15th City Council, as they argued that the petition “lacked merit.”

Archival and other Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) councilors opposed the withdrawal of the petition for declaratory relief, but were outnumbered 8-7 in favor of the administration councilors.

Archival said Osmeña will take into his own hands to request the court to void the sales because, according to the former mayor, the sale was illegal and was not approved by the Commission on Audit (COA).

The councilor said the COA has asked the city government during Osmeña’s term to settle first the legitimacy of the sale before the state audit agency can approve or disapprove it.

Cebu City opposition Councilor Nestor Archival said the sale of the 45-hectare property South Road Properties (SRP) was illegal. | Delta Dyrecka Letigio

For Archival, the sale could not have been legal because it ran contrary to Cebu City ordinance No. 2332, passed in 2012, which stipulates that the mayor can only sell portions of the SRP with the approval of the City Council, and with its mode of sale limited to only those that involved “unsolicited proposals.”

However, in 2015, the 13th City Council, which included Archival, passed a resolution amending the mode of sale from unsolicited proposal to include negotiated sales, the manner with which the 45-hectare property was sold for P16 billion to SM-Ayala Consortium and Filinvest.

“A resolution cannot amend an ordinance. Only an ordinance can amend an ordinance,” said Archival.

Yet, this was not how the Court of Appeals (CA) 18th Division saw the case because on May 21, 2019, the CA dismissed the appeal of a certain Romulo Torres, who filed a case to stop the Cebu City government from spending the P8.35 billion proceeds from the sale, or the 50 percent downpayment paid by the companies.

The CA said there is no conflict between City Ordinance 2332, passed in 2012, and Resolution No. 130418-2014, passed in 2015.

Administration Councilor Raymond Garcia said in previous statements that the court already resolved the case on the legitimacy of the sales allowing the city to use its proceeds.

But Archival said the new administration did not take into account the COA regulation that requires the commission’s prior approval before a negotiated sale can be concluded, which the administration of then mayor and now Vice Mayor Michael “Mike” Rama was not able to get.

This means, said Archival, that the sale remains illegal and if the city will continue with its plan to use the proceeds to fund the P2.5 billion supplemental budget proposed by Labella,  the City Council and the city’s executives may be answerable to the court.

“If the city continues to use the money, we will, all of us, can be persecuted in court because this (SRP sale) is clearly illegal,” said Archival.

He urged Labella to rebid the 45-hectare property in order to find a buyer willing to take the lots at a more competitive price.

Archival said that if the mayor wants the SRP to grow, he must be willing to wait for the right buyer. /elb



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TAGS: Councilor Nestor Archival, Former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña

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