DEPUTY Speaker and Pampanga Third District Representative Aurelio Gonzales Jr. was firm in saying that the issue over the ownership of the Paskuhan Village in the City of San Fernando is far from over.
On January 13, 2017, during the 17th Congress, the then Deputy Majority Leader Gonzales filed House Resolution 654 inquiring on the circumstances surrounding the sale of Paskuhan Village.
Committee Report 425 dated October 9, 2017 on HR 654 after the hearings disclosed its findings and conclusion, among others: "The sale of Paskuhan Village property between IEZA and Premier Central Inc. is void pursuant to Section 54 of RA No 9593 and for failure to comply with COA Circular 86-264 and COA Circular 89-296. Thus, the Deed of Sale executed by and between Tieza and Premier Central Incorporated involving Paskuhan Village may be assailed for being contrary to laws, rules and regulations."
It also included in its recommendations: "Filing of an appropriate legal action to nullify/rescind the sale of the Paskuhan Village, now Hilaga Property, by Tieza to Premier Central Incorporated, and defer to the final determination of competent court on the matter. This is to give due course to the right of the concerned LGU to manage and operate said facility as provided under Section 54 of RA 9593 and in consonance with the earlier recommendation of the Commission on Audit."
Through Gonzales's initiative, the Office of the Solicitor-General filed a case to nullify the Paskuhan Village sale stating among others that it is not within the commerce of man.
"This ownership issue will not rest here, we have started it and we will see it through. Paskuhan Village is part of the cultural legacy of Pampanga," Gonzales said.
This despite the signing of a Deed of Donation for the 5,000-square-meter land area on the said property between the City Government of San Fernando and Premier Central Inc. (PCI).
PCI has agreed to give a 5,000-square-meter portion of the Christmas-inspired village for the City Government here to develop.
"Whatever agreement they have now, all this is because we ran after the sale. But then again 5,000-square-meter is just alms compared to what was deprived from the people of San Fernando," Gonzales said.
Gonzales, who had been running after the Paskuhan property, which he said rightly belongs to the people of Pampanga, had long been after the restoration of full ownership after the alleged questionable sale to PCI.
"There is no 5,000-square-meter donation if we did not run after the sale. We voiced or opposition and ran after the sale through the courts when no other dared to do it. And why donate 5,000 square meters if the sale is above board?" Gonzales said.
Gonzales said the issue of the ownership is still pending before the court.
Gonzales filed an urgent motion before the Regional Trial Court Branch 42 for the reconsideration of the compromise agreement between the City Government of San Fernando and PCI.
The motion was filed on Friday, February 21, with prayer for leave of court to intervene and reconsideration of the compromise agreement with the local government and PCI.
Earlier in February, the City Government of San Fernando's City Information Office (CIO) had been announcing the supposed amicable settlement.
"Part of the agreement is the PCI's donation of 5,000 square meters of the Paskuhan Village plus a two-storey building and amphitheater, to be built free of cost for the city," the CIO press release said.
But Gonzales was far from impressed. Gonzales said that 5,000 square meters is only a small fraction of the 9.3-hectare property.
He added Paskuhan is for the people of Pampanga and represents a portion of the cultural identity of San Fernando and the province.
It could be remembered that Solicitor General Jose Calida said the sale of the property to the PCI, a subsidiary of SM Prime Holdings Corporation, by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) "is void pursuant to Section 54 of Republic Act 9593."
Paskuhan was sold for P939,656,848 or close to P1 billion. A deed of absolute sale covering the properties was executed between Tieza and PCI. It could be recalled that Gonzales filed an Urgent Motion for Leave to Intervene.
The said motion was set for hearing on January 20, 2020 which was not held by the court. The Deputy Speaker's lawyers were given a copy of a Judgment (Compromise Agreement) dated January 15, 2020, which approved a Joint Motion to Approve Compromise Agreement with Attached Compromise Agreement jointly filed by the OSG, City of San Fernando, Tieza, and PCI on January 10, 2020. The joint motion was set for hearing on January 20, 2020, 9:30 a.m.
The Deputy Speaker filed an Omnibus Motion for (1) Leave of Court to Intervene and (2) Reconsideration of Judgment (Compromise Agreement) dated January 15, 2020) on January 31, 2020. The Omnibus Motion was not acted upon as the court did not even hold a hearing on February 7, 2020, despite the Omnibus Motion being set for hearing in the court's Calendar of Hearing.
The Deputy Speaker filed an Urgent Motion to Set the Omnibus Motion dated January 31, 2020 for Hearing on February 21, 2020. The previous motions were not heard and acted upon by the court, and the hearing was reset to March 7, 2020.
On March 7, 2020, the Deputy Speaker's counsel was informed cancellation of hearing and handed a copy of a Certificate of Finality dated February 7, 2020, with the court certifying that the Judgment has become final and executory on January 15, 2020.
On June 25, 2020, as the quarantine was somehow eased in Metro Manila, the Deputy Speaker filed with the Court of Appeals a Petition for Certiorari (with Urgent Motion for Leave to Intervene and Prayer for the Issuance of a Status Quo Ante Order, Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction).
Impleaded as respondents in the Petition are the RTC Br. 42 of San Fernando, Pampanga as represented by its Presiding Judge, the OSG, the City of San Fernando, Tieza, and PCI.
"This is not yet over, not yet final for Paskuhan Village belongs to the people of Pampanga," Gonzales said.