City hopeful on real property tax petition

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Friday, November 5, 2010

CITY Government officials on Thursday expressed confidence in the city's petition before the Court of Appeals (CA), which earlier issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the decision of Regional Trial Court (RTC) which nullified a city ordinance on real property tax.

Acting City Legal Officer Osmundo Villanueva said the CA on October 29 granted a TRO acting on the city's petition for certiorari for the reversal of the RTC Branch 14 decision, which earlier declared City Ordinance (CO) 040-07 "null and void for being contrary to law and confiscatory".

With the TRO, which is effective for 60 days, the decision of RTC Branch 14 Judge George Omelio dated September 20 is cannot be enforced or implemented.


This means the city will continue to collect real property tax according to the new Schedule of Fair Market Value (SFMV) approved under CO 040-07.

"There will be no delay in the delivery of the functions of the City Assessor's Office and the City Treasurer's Office in the audit and collection of real property tax due to the City Government," City Assessor's Office chief lawyer Cesar Dataya said.

Dataya said CO 040-07 is the basis for the conduct of a general revision regarding the real property tax value in the city.

"In the city, the first general revision took place in 1993 effective 1994 by virtue of Ordinance No. 592, series of 1992, and for 15 years the city never had a general revision which is inconsistent to the provisions of Section 219 of the Local Government Code to conduct a general revision every three years," he said.

"In implementing a general revision, inuna namin yung sa real property tax. Pagkatapos noon we started on the values of buildings. Hindi pa kami tapos but we expect to start in December and for implementation on January 2011."

"We are confident as we have been saying before. The arguments are all there for the higher court to see. We are also confident that the higher court would issue our prayer for a Writ of Preliminary Injunction, which would take effect so long as our petition is being heard," Dataya said.

The legal dispute started on December 21, 2009, when lawyer Danilo Basa filed a petition for declaratory relief before the RTC, questioning the validity of CO-040, praying that the same be declared null and void "for being unlawful, contrary to law, unfair, oppressive, unreasonable, excessive, and confiscatory".

On April 30, 2010, Omelio declared the ordinance null and void for being contrary to law.

Accordingly, on June 8, the City Government filed a motion for reconsideration but Omelio signed it on June 11.

On July 1, the City Government filed a Notice of Appeal, however, on September 20, 2010, Omelio "issued the controversial order, disapproving the petitioner's Notice of Appeal for being out of time," Villanueva said.

The city then filed a Petition for Certiorari before the Court of Appeals with Omelio as public respondent and Basa as private respondent.

Dataya also said they are not ruling out the possibility that Basa's case against the city is politically motivated.

"It appears in so many instances that the City Government has encountered a problem, perhaps some people are entitled to believe that there is political motivation," Dataya said. Basa is lawyer of Lakas-Kampi-CMD Davao.

"In so far as the motive of the petitioner concerned, we cannot go into his mind. But in so far as we are concerned, we are doing our best that the City Government would have enough funds. As to what his motivation is beyond that. But for us this is just a temporary legal problem," Dataya said.

Dataya explained the city did not implement an updated Schedule of Fair Market Value (SFMV) for 15 years, contrary to provisions of the Local Government Code that the provincial, city or municipal assessor shall undertake a general revision of real property assessments every three years.

A proposal for SFMV were prepared in 1996, which was supposed to take effect in 1997 and another in 1999, which was supposed to take effect in 2000, but both were differed by the City Council due to economic and social concerns brought about by the ill effects of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Dataya said. (Jade C. Zaldivar)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on November 05, 2010.

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