Daluz’s petition on budget junked

REGIONAL Trial Court Judge Marivic Trabajo-Daray yesterday dismissed the petition filed by former Cebu City councilor Jose Daluz III over the proposed P2.8-billion first supplemental budget in 2015.

Daray, of the RTC Branch 17, junked the petition after the lawyers of Daluz did not attend yesterday’s hearing.

Floro Casas, lawyer of Daluz, said they will file a motion for reconsideration.

“We strongly believe that the case must be decided on the merits and not just on technicality, especially when the Ombudsman already found basis to proceed with the administrative and criminal aspects of the case,” said Casas in a text message.

Daray set the pretrial of Daluz’s petition for application for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction petition yesterday morning.

But Daluz’s lawyers, Casas, Mikel Rama and Jasper Pelayo, filed a “very urgent” motion for resetting of the hearing at 4:25 p.m. last Thursday.

Daluz’s pleading states that Casas was attending “an equally important emergency business trip” in Manila.

The petitioner’s lawyers asked Daray to move the hearing from April 1 to May 13. None of Daluz’s lawyers attended yesterday’s court hearing.

The judge ruled in open court yesterday that the reasons given by Daluz’s counsels were shallow.

In December last year, Daluz filed the petition for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against 10 Cebu City councilors.

The respondents are Councilors Lea Japson, Mary Ann delos Santos, Sisinio Andales, Alvin Arcilla, Roberto Cabarrubias, Nida Cabrera, Alvin Dizon, Eugenio Gabuya Jr., Margarita Osmeña and Acting Vice Mayor Nestor Archival.

Blocked

The councilors, who are allied with the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan, blocked the minority group’s attempts to tackle the proposed P2.8-billion first supplemental budget, citing a case filed by lawyer Romulo Torres.

The minority bloc is allied with Team Rama.

Torres asked the court to stop the Cebu City Government from spending proceeds of the sale of 45.2 hectares in the South Road Properties (SRP).

The executive branch of the City Government has identified the P8.3-billion down payment for the SRP lots as the source of funds for the first supplemental budget.

The executive branch, headed by Mayor Michael Rama, proposed that P2.4 billion from the supplemental budget be used to pay off this year the balance of the loan the City took out in 1995 to develop the SRP.

In his petition, Daluz said the respondent councilors ought to act on the supplemental budget and “not just sit on it without justifiable ground.”

Sec. 99, Rule 27 of the Local Government Code provides the power, duties and functions of the City Council, including the enactment and approval of ordinances and resolutions and appropriations of funds for “the general welfare of the city and its inhabitants.”

Allowed

Daluz said that City Ordinance 2332 allows the sale, transfer or conveyance of the SRP lots through public bidding. He asked the court to order the respondent councilors to “promptly act, deliberate and vote” on the first supplemental budget.

In their joint comment, the councilors asked Daray to struck down Daluz’s application for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction for being “baseless and speculative.”

The councilors said the passage of the P6.4-billion 2016 annual budget in January rendered the petition moot.

Thus, any decision to compel the councilors to act on supplemental budget 1 would be impractical and unenforceable.

In the pretrial brief, the councilors also said they are willing to enter into “alternative modes” to settle the case with the Daluz.

CEBU City Mayor Michael is not happy with the decision.

He said the case should be acted based on its merits and not because of a technicality.

“It should have not been an outright dismissal. I cannot understand why it was an outright dismissal. The judge, knowing the importance of the case, should have been circumspect also,” he said in a news conference yesterday.

Atty. Amando Virgil Ligutan, in a press conference at City Hall yesterday, said that if the lead counsel is not available, there are still two other lawyers who are handling the case. They are Mikel Rama, the mayor’s son, and Atty. Jasper Pelagio.

“I am appalled by the move. It is something that is disenchanting. If I were the judge, I would have extended (the schedule),” he said.

The mayor said he wants the case to continue but it will be up to the lawyers whether or not they will file a motion for reconsideration.

Daluz, in a separate interview, said he will not file a motion for reconsideration since it is already 2016.

“It has no life to stand on kay 2015 pa man to. It has become moot and academic,” he said.

“The case was more on a political statement on our part, not a legal one, that the council should already act on the SB 1 then so we can already pay our loan (for the South Road Properties),” he added.

Daluz lamented that it took the court some time to have the case acted upon, considering that his case is only a question of law on whether or not a mandamus should be issued to the majority block. Told about this, Casas said he will talk to Daluz once he gets back from Manila.

For him, he wants the case to proceed more so that the Office of the Ombudsman has already given due course to the another complaint filed against the 10 councilors over their inaction to the SB 1.

The said complaint, which was filed by Evelyn Montes, a resident of Barangay Apas, has already been docketed as criminal and administrative cases.

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