Court of Appeals junks Torres motion to stop City from using P8.35B lot sale proceeds

THE Court of Appeals (CA) has denied the Motion for Reconsideration filed by lawyer Romulo Torres on the earlier decision of the court that allows the Cebu City Government to spend the P8.35 billion proceeds from the sale of lots at the South Road Properties (SRP).

“This is another victory for the City of Cebu and the administration of Mayor Edgar Labella,” said City Attorney Rey Gealon.

The CA in a decision promulgated on Oct. 8, 2019 maintained its ruling that: there is no actual controversy; that petitioner-appellant had no cause of action and; that the interests of the conflicting parties in this case are not adverse because petitioner-appellant, as the party seeking the relief, had no legal interest in this case.

The Court said Torres’ arguments in the motion are a mere rehash of the matters raised in his appeal that was junked by the court. “Clearly no justifiable ground is present to revise or amend our decision,” the CA said in its decision.

Associate Justice Dorothy Montejo-Gonzaga penned the decision with the concurrence of Associate Justices Edgardo delos Santos and Marilyn Lagura-Yap.

The arguments raised by Torres’ petition were similar to those in the petition filed by former mayor Tomas Osmeña for declaratory relief with prayer for a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction against the sale of the lots to the developers on Sept. 2, 2019.

Among the respondents are the City of Cebu, the City Council, SM Prime Holdings Inc., Ayala Land Inc. and Filinvest Land Inc.

Osmeña filed the petition to stop the city officials from using the proceeds of the sale, emphasizing that the SRP lot sale was “illegal.”

But the City Council already used P2.5 billion of the SRP proceeds in its second supplemental budget for 2019.

Osmeña’s petition was heard on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, and Gealon is confident that it will be dismissed as it has the same arguments as the Torres case.

“The City is optimistic that the declaratory relief case filed by the former mayor, which was heard (Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019), will suffer the same fate, as those allegations and arguments propounded were a mere rehash in the Romulo Torres case that did not stand a chance under the microscope of judicial scrutiny,” Gealon added.

On Nov. 18, 2015, the Cebu Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 9 had dismissed the Petition for Declaratory Relief and Injunction filed by Torres, who questioned the sale of a 45-hectare lot at the SRP.

Torres elevated the case to the CA, and the CA on April 30, 2019 promulgated a decision that affirmed the decision of Branch 9 of the Regional Trial Court that there is no conflict between City Ordinance 2332, passed in 2012, and Resolution 130418-2014.

City Ordinance 2332 seeks to protect the SRP and its stakeholders from unlawful and unauthorized transactions.

Section 2 of Ordinance 2332 only provides that interested parties, investors of stakeholders may submit unsolicited proposals for study and evaluation.

Section 3 of the ordinance, the judge said, states that the SRP lots can be sold, disposed of or transferred through public bidding, negotiated sale or other modes of sale, disposal, transfer or conveyance—provided that it has prior approval from the council.

Two years after the passage of the ordinance, Resolution 130418-2014 had been approved, authorizing the disposal of 45.2 hectares through public bidding.

Then mayor Michael Rama sold the 45.2 hectares of the 300-hectare SRP to the three developers through a public bidding. From the sale, the City received 50 percent of the purchase price of the lots.

But the development of the property and the use of the proceeds were put on hold pending the Torres petition. (JJL, MVG)


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