Leonardia: Junked tax code favored mayor's businesses

BACOLOD City Representative Evelio Leonardia hailed Monday the decision of a local court dismissing a case that sought to uphold the city's new real property tax ordinance.

Leonardia said that while he was not a party in the case, he agreed that the proposed new tax ordinance unfairly favored businesses and properties owned by suspended mayor Monico Puentevella.

"We feel it is unconstitutional, illegal, immoral, excessive and discriminatory," the lawmaker said.

Earlier, the Department of Justice (DOJ) nullified City Ordinance 08-14-700 or the New Real Property Tax (RPT) Ordinance on the grounds of procedural lapses.

The ordinance sought to update the schedule of fair market values of real estate properties in Bacolod City, which would affect taxes collected from these properties.

The City Government, represented by Puentevella, filed a petition with the court seeking to overturn the DOJ's decision.

On January 7, Bacolod Regional Trial Court Branch 44 Judge Katherine Go dismissed the City's petition after the City Government later told the court that it was no longer interested in pursuing the petition.

“Although I am not a party to it, there was a distinction in the case we filed on the RPT,” Leonardia said.

Leonardia doubted that the new tax ordinance had any legal basis, pointing out that the ordinance valued some properties up to 1,600 percent of their previous rates.

“It lacks thorough study,” the lawmaker said.

He also pointed out that the ordinance also seemed to favor properties owned by Puentevella, giving these lower values and thus lower tax rates.

He cited the ordinance's valuations along Lacson Street: from Burgos Street to North Drive, the valuation is P25,000 per square meter, but from North Drive to O Residences, land was valued at P20,000. Land values from Robinson's Place beyond was at P35,000 per square meter.

Leonardia also pointed out that the valuation of lawn lots in a memorial park owned by the mayor’s family is only P8,000, while those of their competitor was valued at P23,000.

“Why is the land valuation where the businesses of the mayor are located lower while the others are higher?” Leonardia asked.

“[The new tax rates] are immoral and discriminatory. Our people should be with us in fighting the substance of this ordinance,” he said.

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