BACOLOD City Mayor Evelio Leonardia said Thursday, January 25, the civil complaint filed against him and other city officials by his predecessor Monico Puentevella is a propaganda stunt.

Leonardia said City Ordinance (CO) 827, or an “Ordinance updating the schedule of market value of real value of real properties in Bacolod and other provisions relative to real property tax (RPT) administration,” is opposite to the one passed by the previous administration especially in terms of rates.

On January 23, Puentevella filed a civil complaint before the Regional Trial Court against Leonardia, City Council represented by Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran, City Assessor’s Office head Maphilindo Polvora, and City Treasurer Officer Giovanni Balalilhe.

The former mayor filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for temporary restraining order and/or issuance of writ of preliminary injunction.

Puentevella said the CO 827 is unconstitutional, and it should be reviewed, should be decreased and should be lowered by the City Government.

Leonardia countered such claim, saying the previous rates were so excessive because based on the approved ordinance, the former mayor lowered the tax rates of his properties while he increased the taxes of his business rivals, among others.

“This new RPT ordinance is more reasonable and more acceptable to the people, but of course we cannot please everybody,” he said.

Councilor Caesar Distrito, chairman of committee on finance, said the complaint failed to exhaust the administrative remedies as required by law, thus the complaint is doomed to fail.

"Under the Local Government Code, when you question the validity of the tax ordinance, you should go first to the Department of Justice. In this case, there’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies. In so many jurisprudence always the court declared this move as premature and this case will be dismissed," he said.

Councilor Dindo Ramos, who authored City Ordinance 827, said that while the previous RPT ordinance was declared null and void by the Department of Justice, such fate will not happen to the new ordinance.

“I know and I believe that there is compliance of the law, and this new RPT valuation is lowered compared to the previous RPT of the Puentevella administration,” he said.

“I welcome this complaint because they challenged the validity, regularity, and legality of the ordinance. I know that we will be vindicated from this false accusation,” Ramos added.

City Legal Officer Joselito Bayatan said that Bacolod wants to prove the petition to be wrong and they also want to prove that the new RPT rates are correct and pro-people.

He said that under the new RPT rates, the city has a total of 73.19 percent compliance from December 2017 to January 25, 2018.