CEBU City officials welcomed the court’s dismissal of the civil case filed by the Asian College of Technology International Education Foundation (ACTIEF) against Mayor Michael Rama for the non-payment of P136.92 million in scholars’ tuition.

“What we are doing is not something for ourselves. We are only protecting public funds,” said Mayor Michael Rama in an interview yesterday.

The mayor reiterated that the City has not yet paid its obligations to the school after the Office of the Ombudsman ruled that the school’s former owner, Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa (Cebu City, south district), committed conflict of interest, among others, with his involvement in the City’s scholarship program.

It is also because of this finding that Rama asked the scholars to transfer to other accredited schools.

The congressman has since filed an appeal to the anti-graft office’s findings.

In a separate interview yesterday, City Legal Office Chief Atty. Jerone Castillo said they are happy with the dismissal of the case as this means the Regional Trial Court (RTC) only upheld their position that ACTIEF failed to state in its certificate of non-forum shopping that no petition was filed in court over a similar issue.

Repercussions

“With all humility, we are thankful that our position was sustained by the court. We have been very clear in our position that you cannot violate the rules on forum shopping,” he said.

Castillo pointed out that the City had filed a petition for declaratory relief to determine if it is allowed by law to pay ACTIEF following the ombudsman’s findings.

With the dismissal of the ACTIEF case, Castillo said the school cannot stop the mayor from asking scholars at ACTIEF to transfer to other schools.

The school cannot also compel the City to pay ACTIEF yet, not until the declaratory relief is resolved.

RTC Branch 9 Judge Alexander Acosta dismissed the civil petition for mandamus filed by ACTIEF last month since the school failed to comply with the certification against forum shopping.

“In the instant petition, there is no iota of doubt that the rights and interest asserted to, to be declared, and clarified to by parties are the same with the petition for declaratory relief sought by respondent,” read Judge Acosta’s five-page order.

The judge also denied the school’s application for issuance of a preliminary injunction.

Castillo’s argument

In the petition, school lawyer Pelagio Lawrence Cuison said that Rama abused his office when the latter refused to perform his ministerial duty to renew the scholarship program and to pay ACTIEF P136,962,874.84 as tuition for 2013 to 2015.

But Castillo said the school violated Section 5 of the Rule 7 of the Rules of Court when it failed to state in its certification of non-forum shopping that a similar case was filed and is pending before Judge Ricky Jones Macabaya.

Cebu City was also not impleaded as an indispensible party and that ACT is also different from ACTIEF. 

Castillo argued that mandamus will not lie to enforce the performance of a private contract.

The judge gave weight to Castillo’s argument that the identity of rights asserted and relief being sought are the same in both cases.

“Taking all the foregoing into consideration, there is no need for this court to rule further on the other issues raised by the respondent,” Acosta said in his order.