City loses first round in Waterfront suit

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Sunday, April 6, 2014


THE City of Cebu lost round one of its legal battle with Waterfront Hotel over the sale of a 2.357 square meter property adjacent to the hotel when the Cebu Regional Trial Court denied its motion to dismiss Waterfront’s suit.

However, the rejection of the city’s motion can hardly qualify as a setback since what we are witnessing are just the preliminary skirmishes.

What the court was, in effect, saying in rejecting the city’s bid was that it wanted to listen further to both sides in the conflict.

The city attorney said he would “challenge the ruling” before the Court of Appeals. That would be interesting. Let’s see if the appellate court will restrain the trial court from hearing the petition to restrain the city from selling the lot.

If that happens, that means that we have to wait longer before we will learn whether the sale to Hotel of Asia followed government standard procedures. The sale has not been consummated yet, the city is quick to point out, but the claim is true only in the sense that no deed of sale has been signed yet.

In fact, the seller has already received 50 percent of the purchase price from the buyer, who, I presume, is willing and able to pay the balance once the documentation is complete.

Until Waterfront protested, the sale was practically a done deal with BOPK Councilor Gerry Carillo sponsoring the resolution authorizing Team Rama Mayor Mike Rama to sign the deed of conveyance. It was a rare show of solidarity and cooperation between the opposition council and Rama which Waterfront aborted.

I met Gerry at the Quimonda building on the same morning that the Waterfront suit was heard last Friday. He was there for another case but he gave his take on the Waterfront controversy while we were both waiting for our rides. The invitation to bid for the lot was published long ago, Gerry claimed, but the bidding failed more than once.

This, to me, is very crucial. Did the city decide to sell the lot to Hotel of Asia because the bidding failed or because the latter won the bid? If a bidding was held, were the rules of procedure observed? Only the city knows the answer to these questions but has so far not shared them with the public.

If the rules were strictly observed and Hotel of Asia emerged the winning bidder, the sale should follow as a matter of course, regardless of whether or not there are parties willing to pay a much higher price.

On the other hand, if the rules were violated or ignored, not only should the transaction be abrogated and the buyer’s money returned by the city, the persons who committed or abetted the breach should be punished.

It’s as simple as that.

***

The missing trees in Serging Osmena Blvd. may no longer be found but it least we know now who was responsible for their disappearance. Video footages showed that equipment owned and presumably operated by WT Construction was used to cut and/or haul the trees.

The construction company is asking for a chance to air its side, according to City Administrator Lucille Mercado. By all means, WT Construction should be heard. That is part of due process.

But unless the videos have been tampered (why has the city refused to share the footages with media?), it is quite obvious that the contractor and/or its men had a hand in the trees’ disappearance, whether by intent, honest mistake or negligence.

I don’t believe in jailing anyone for cutting a tree so as penalty, let’s require the offender, whoever he is, to plant and grow 1,000 trees in a designated forest reserve for every missing tree in S. Osmena Blvd.

What do you think?

***

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 06, 2014.

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