Judge lets go of Rallos case-A A +A
Friday, November 18, 2011
THE judge who signed the writ that takes from City Hall P133 million to pay the Rallos heirs no longer wants anything to do with the case.
In a two-paragraph order released yesterday, Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge James Stewart Himalaloan inhibited himself from the case, saying the Cebu City Government is among the handful of local government units in the country “providing assistance” to the judiciary.
“This is enough just and valid grounds for the sitting judge to inhibit himself,” he said, adding that his “exercise of judicial discretion may be questioned on the matter.”
The order of inhibition was issued hours before the Cebu City Government submitted a motion for reconsideration against Himalaloan’s previous ruling, which denied the city’s plea to have the writ quashed.
The writ led to the garnishment of P133 million of City Government funds in various depository banks.
The court had ruled that the City Government needs to pay the heirs of Fr. Vicente Rallos for the family’s property in Barangay Sambag 1 and Sambag 2, which is being used as a road.
Atty. Jade Ponce, spokesperson for the City Government in the Rallos case, said Himalaloan’s inhibition will most likely cause the City’s motion for reconsideration
to be raffled off to another court.
But he said neither the inhibition nor filing of the motion for reconsideration will affect the Dec. 13 scheduled public auction of a parcel of land within the South Road Properties (SRP) that court sheriff Eugene Fuentes was eyeing to satisfy the P133-million award to the Ralloses.
Ponce stressed, though, that the public auction cannot proceed because the court order has to follow Commission on Audit (COA) regulations.
“We take exception to the (sheriff’s) statement … that in levying SRP properties, he is merely following the ‘mandates of the court’,” Ponce said in a statement e-mailed to the media.
Himalaloan’s Oct. 26 order even quoted a COA circular, he added.
“What does the circular provide? All money claims against the government must first be filed with the Commission on Audit,” Ponce pointed out.
“As an employee of the judiciary, I urge Sheriff Fuentes to put himself abreast as regards Supreme Court Circular 10-2000, as well as the COA 2000-2001 dated July 31, 2001. Selective reading of a court order also does not speak well of an officer of the court,” Ponce said.
He said a temporary restraining order is not necessary to “correct a patently wrongful levy of properties.”
“Sheriff Fuentes should withdraw immediately the notice of levy and cancel the auction sale,” he said.
City Hall lawyers are looking toward the appellate court for remedy.
City Hall petitioned the Court of Appeals (CA) to annul a 1998 RTC ruling that declared Lucena Rallos as administrator to the estate of R. Vicente Rallos.
The ruling became basis for the properties in Sambag 1 and Sambag 2 to be titled in the name of the heirs who are claiming payment from City Hall.
According to the City’s petition, Lucena “misrepresented” facts when she allegedly omitted to mention that the same properties had been donated by Vicente Rallos to the City of Cebu.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 18, 2011.