Yes, Cebu City owns SRP lots

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Sunday, July 20, 2014


THE Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the Cebu City Government’s ownership and its right to sell lots in the 300-hectare South Road Properties (SRP).

The SC denied the petition for review on certiorari that then Tinago barangay councilor Joel Garganera had filed. A petition for certiorari argues that a lower court has incorrectly decided on a case.

Garganera, through his lawyer Noel Adlawan, had asked the High Court to review the Court of Appeals’ (CA) dismissal of an appeal that he had filed. Garganera wanted the CA to reverse a Regional Trial Court (RTC) ruling that affirmed the City’s ownership of the SRP. He is now barangay captain of Tinago.

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In a two-page decision dated June 2, SC Third Division Clerk of Court Wilfredo Lapitan said the petition for certiorari was denied because Garganera’s camp failed to show that the CA committed a “reversible error” in its April 26, 2011 decision.

“Even if the appeal was not procedurally flawed, the appellate court still did not err in dismissing it for lack of merit,” he said.

Cebu City’s ownership of the project was made “beyond questionable” by the issuance of Proclamation No. 843, pursuant to Republic Act 7916 or the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995.

Special Patent 3693 and Original Certificate of Title 3581 further reinforced this, the court ruled.

Proclamation 843, signed by then President Gloria Arroyo last May 26, 2005, declared the entire SRP as alienable and disposable land. It also authorized the issuance of a special patent to the City.

Garganera, in the original civil case he filed before the RTC last March 26, 2007, wanted PN 843 to be declared null and void because there was no congressional authority that allowed the President to transfer ownership of the SRP to the City.

The court, however, said that as established in Chavez vs. the National Housing Authority, the land involved in the case is patrimonial property that has been acquired by the City as an end-user agency.

“As such, the subject property is susceptible of disposition to and appropriation by private persons subject to RA 7916 and its implementing rules,” Lapitan said.

Sun.Star Cebu tried to call Garganera yesterday to get his comment on the SC’s decision, but he sent a text message instead.

“We haven’t read the decision yet. We will let our lawyers study and recommend the next move,” he said.

Garganera filed the case against the City during the time of former mayor Tomas Osmeña, who was then serving the second of three consecutive terms. Garganera is now an ally of Mayor Michael Rama.

Sought for comment about the matter, Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella welcomed the decision of the High Court. He said it erases any doubts on the City’s right to sell or dispose of the SRP lots, a view echoed by City Legal Office Chief Atty. Jerone Castillo.

“With the SC’s pronouncement, all doubts are cleared. The question of ownership is put to rest,” he said.

Castillo said among the investors who have expressed doubt about investing in the SRP because of the case was Ayala Land, whose officials reportedly feared that the SC would reverse the decision of the lower and appellate courts.

Following their favorable ruling, Castillo is inviting investors to secure a copy of the SC decision in order to remove their apprehensions about investing at the SRP.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 21, 2014.

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