City gets TRO from CA on release of P133M-A A +A
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
THE Court of Appeals (CA) granted a reprieve to the Cebu City Government by issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the release of a P133-million award to the Rallos heirs.
The TRO, which is effective for 60 days, enjoins the Regional Trial Court Branch 9, from “causing the release of any funds of the petitioner in satisfaction thereof.”
“Grave or irreparable injury may therefore be suffered, in our estimation at this stage of the proceedings by the petitioner, should a TRO be not forthcoming,” the three–page resolution Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando penned for the CA 18th Division read.
The City Government welcomed the appellate court’s resolution, which also stops the auction slated for today.
Lawyer Jade Ponce, City Hall consultant, attributed their legal victory to Mayor Michael Rama’s “unwavering” effort to defend public funds.
The TRO stopped today’s scheduled public auction of the 9.7-hectare lot at the South Road Properties (SRP), which is being eyed by the heirs belonging to the group of Lucina and Maurillo Rallos to satisfy the P133-million award.
No more auction
“Absolutely, there will be no more public auction,” Ponce told reporters. “This is a sort of relief while we are vigorously defending the city.”
Ponce said the appellate court will hear on May 9 their prayer for issuance of an injunctive relief.
“Based on the evidence that we have presented, we are confident that could reverse the whole thing. We are relying primarily on the convenio, which is a compromise agreement between the City and the Rallos ancestors,” said Ponce.
The compromise agreement, which was finalized on Sept. 22, 1940, states that the contested property should be used as public road, said Ponce. Ponce said the convenio was also incorporated in a decision issued in 1940.
“In essence, what we will be arguing in court, which is our main defense, is already part of court records. So that cannot be denied,” said Ponce.
Mayor Rama filed the petition last month asking the appellate court to nullify the lower court’s ruling directing them to pay the Rallos heirs the P133- million award.
Rama led City Hall lawyers in filing the petition for annulment of judgment with a prayer for a TRO, before the Court of Appeals (CA) against Judge James Stewart Ramon Himalaloan and Court Sheriff Eugene Fuentes.
City lawyers pointed out that payment to the heirs cannot push through unless there is a City Council resolution authorizing the release of funds to pay the claims, which should also be filed with and granted by the Commission on Audit.
The City Hall cited in their petition the alleged non-observance by the respondents of the Supreme Court Administrative Circular 10-2000.
The heirs of Lucina and Maurillo Rallos are demanding payment of P133 million from the City for using the family’s property as road right-of-way since 1963 in Barangay Sambag 2.
The City filed the petition several days after Himalaloan, acting presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 9, issued the order dated Feb. 27 requiring the two depository banks of City Hall to release their correct account numbers.
The order directed the Philippine Veterans Bank and Philippine Postal Savings Bank to release in five days the correct account numbers of City Hall.
In the petition, City Hall lawyers stressed the 1940 “convenio,” or contract, which the lawyer said contains facts that show the property in Barangay Sambag 2 was donated to Cebu City.
The City also cited a Commission on Audit (COA) letter dated Oct. 27, 2011, which mentioned Sec. 1, Rule 7 of the 2009 Revised Rules of Procedures stating that “a money judgment is considered as a wrong claim” which is within the original jurisdiction COA.
They also asked the court sheriff to put on hold the public auction of the SRP lot, which is designated Lot 1-D and Lot 1-G, owned by the Cebu City Government valued at P10 million.
The scheduled levy on Dec.13, 2011 and April 10, 2012 was put off.
In granting the TRO, Justice Hernando outlined three legal issues.
First, Hernando said there is “urgency” involved on the matter since the public auction was scheduled today.
Second, the appellate court pointed out that the petition may be rendered moot if the sale pushes through.
Also, Hernando said the City’s rights over the property need to be protected relative to the alleged concealment of the convenio.
The appellate court directed the City to put up a P1-million bond in 10 days. The CA also ordered both parties to file their comment in 10 days before the hearing on the injunctive relief on May 9.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 17, 2012.