IT APPEARS that lawyer Romulo Torres and outgoing Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña can either drop the case altogether or pursue legal remedies in their fight to invalidate the sale of the 45.2-hectare lot in the South Road Properties to a consortium developer.
The venture will be undertaken by three giants, namely, Filinvest Land Inc., SM Prime Holdings Inc. and Ayala Land-Cebu Holdings Inc. In 2015, the consortium already paid half of P16 billion.
But the land had been idled after Torres, in his capacity as taxpayer of Barangay Basak San Nicolas, Cebu City, filed a petition for declaratory relief and injunction, which froze the supposed proceeds of the SRP lot sale.
But now that the Court of Appeals (CA) had spoken—affirming the Regional trial court’s Branch (RTC) 9’s decision that nothing in the sale was disadvantageous to the government—the City might be able to proceed with whatever it thinks is wise use of the initial P8.35 billion and the balance.
In a 14-page decision, the CA said Torres’s contention that the City would drown in debt if the project would be implemented was merely a general statement and was not enough to constitute a legal right or interest for the lawyer to file a case.
The administration of then mayor Michael Rama sold the lot to the consortium through a public bidding.
It turns out that the protectionist ordinance that required approval of any sale, disposal or transfer of any SRP lot from the City Council was passed two years after the resolution authorizing Rama to dispose of the 45.2-hectare lot was filed. The CA affirms that there is no conflict between City Ordinance 2332, passed in 2012, and Resolution 130418-2014.
The CA said, “All things considered, the Court finds no grave error in the Trial Court’s dismissal of the petitioner-appellant’s action for declaratory relief. Apparently, the elements of such action are wanting in this case necessitating its dismissal.”
With the consortium’s victory at the CA, says Cebu City Councilor Raymond Garcia, it can now proceed with the development.
The incoming administration of Vice Mayor and now mayor-elect Labella can also collect the remaining balance from the consortium to complete the lot purchase, said Garcia.
Labella will have to deal with a new City Council that is mostly composed of Osmeña allies. This will be a good test to the fresh leadership.