Malilong: Business-friendly, but not at the city’s expense, says Labella

The other side

I THOUGHT Filinvest intended to rescind or had in fact already rescinded its purchase from the city of 19.2 hectares of land at the South Road Properties in 2015. So why are they going to court to compel the City Government to accept payment of the balance of the purchase price?

“Filinvest Land Inc. has rescinded its purchase of 19.2-hectare property at a reclaimed economic zone in Cebu City, saying the local government has failed to fulfill its obligations under the sale contract,” SunStar Cebu reported in its Feb. 21, 2017 issue.

Filinvest did not deny the story. On the contrary, it issued a press statement announcing that city officials and company representatives had been tasked “to work out the details and processes to consummate the rescission.”

I can see Filinvest claiming that the rescission was never consummated because first, there is no document evidencing it other than the company’s and Osmeña’s press statements (under the law, any contract that creates or terminates real rights over immovable property must appear in a public document); and second, their down payment was not returned by the city.

Note that of the two buyers of SRP lots in 2015, only Filinvest decided to cancel its purchase. The other–the consortium of SM and Ayala–stood pat despite tremendous pressure from Osmeña who questioned both sales (made by then Mayor Michael Rama) because they were allegedly disadvantageous to the City Government.

So determined was Osmeña, who beat Rama in their 2016 rematch, to nullify the sales that he not only refused to touch the down payments made by the buyers, he also instructed the city treasurer not to accept any further payments from them.

Faced with Osmeña’s intransigence if not outright belligerence, SM-Ayala went to court to deposit their installment payments through a legal process called consignation. Understandably, Filinvest did not since they had already struck an agreement with Osmeña to cancel their purchase.

After he took over from Osmeña, Mayor Edgar Labella announced that he was going to honor the purchase by the consortium without mentioning Filinvest. He probably thought that the sale to the latter was already a thing of the past.

But not so, Filinvest now says. Early last month, less than two weeks after Labella assumed office, the company sent to City Hall a check purportedly in payment of the balance of the purchase price. Instead of paying to the city treasurer, the Filinvest emissary handed the check to an employee in the mayor’s office.

After he was informed about it, Labella quickly ordered that the payment be returned. “They have not paid a single centavo since they announced the rescission, why the sudden change of heart,” the mayor asked.

I spoke to the mayor at his office yesterday and he was adamant that he will not allow Filinvest to change its mind yet again. “I promised to make the city business-friendly and I intend to keep that promise,” Labella said, “but I have to protect the interest of the city.”

Let the court battle begin.


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