THE Cebu City Council decided last Wednesday (October 11, 2023) to request Mayor Michael Rama to "act" on the problem of commuters who've been denied passage through Beverly Hills in Barangay Lahug and consider expropriating a lot on which the subdivision's first guardhouse is located.
Councilor Pastor Alcover Jr., resolution sponsor, wanted to specify the amount of P10 million for the expropriation but was persuaded to drop the detail about funding and leave it to the mayor to take the steps for buying the land. Alcover was also reminded about the requirements of expropriation, including land survey, objection of the lot owner to the planned purchase, and an appropriation ordinance.
Not the first time the issue cropped up in the city's halls of power: Last May 12, 2014, Barangay Kalunasan residents complained to Mayor Rama that Beverly Hills homeowners barred them from passing subdivision roads, which also gave access to and from the rest of Barangay Lahug. Last March 15, 2023, Councilor Alcover also made a privilege speech on the Beverly Hills problem.
Here are the main takeaways from recent developments in the long-running controversy over the Beverly Hills road lots, including another privilege speech by Alcover last October 11:
 THE LOT TO BUY. Councilor Alcover, in his second speech on the issue, said that expropriating part of the lot, identified as Lot 1310-C, on which Guardhouse One is built will give the City control of the entrance to Beverly Hills and solve the problem of commuters, which he estimated at 3,000 people, being denied passage through the subdivision.
Alcover's theory assumes that ownership of the lot carries with it control of the entrance to Beverly Hills. But under Presidential Decree 957, the subdivision may no longer own the road lots and open spaces but it retains the right to regulate entry to and passage through the subdivision. Alcover was not asked as to how it works once the lot, on which Guardhouse One sits, is bought by the City.
 THE OTHER OPTION. Councilor Franklyn Ong, Association of Barangay Councils Federation representative in the Sanggunian, offered a solution that he said might end the problem permanently.
He suggested that the homeowners association buy the city-owned road lots inside the subdivision and the City use the money to build a road around the subdivision, thus providing passage to residents at the back and at the same time leaving the Beverly residents to themselves. "Let's talk again with them," Ong urges. City officials from both the legislative and executive departments have been conferring with Beverly Hills representatives on the controversy but a compromise has continued to be elusive.
Councilor Ong asked that the option and other similar options be studied to keep the problem from recurring at each change of administrations. Ong, BOPK candidate for vice mayor in 2022, is apparently not ruling out a new mayor and Sanggunian in 2025.
 THE MATTER OF OWNERSHIP. Councilor Alcover assured his colleagues that the City owns the road lots inside Beverly Hills. He said, "We have all the documents for all the road lots inside Beverly." The roads from Guardhouse One to Guardhouse Two, then towards the Taoist Temple. "Ato ang da(la)n. City roads," he said. Earlier, Alcover said the roads were donated to the City on March 17, 1976 with Eulogio Borres as the mayor.
Councilor Young affirmed Alcover's claim, saying he (Young) possesses a certified true copy of the donation of the lots "from Gate 1 up to Gate 2, the main road up to the top. Ato nang yuta."
A qualifier came from Minority Floor Leader Nestor Archival Sr., who said that in an executive session, he heard Beverly Hills reps say the association owns the title to the mentioned roads. Young said the deed of donation has not been converted into a title because the Wooldbrights have not surrendered the title to the City. Ong said he knew for a fact that Beverly Hills has been "maintaining" the roads, obviously without the help of the City. That conflicted with Alcover's statement last March that the City pays for maintenance and cleanup, including garbage collection.
Councilor Noel Wenceslao, chairman of the committee on budget and finance, said that if Beverly Hills owns the roads, it should be paying real property tax (RPT). Councilor Ong would want to know from the city assessor the fact of ownership and from the city treasurer whether Beverly has been paying RPTs.
It is obvious that the City Council as a collective body is not solidly certain on the question of ownership, not when it would still need confirmation from this and that office.
[RELATED: Seares: Issue of access to Beverly Hills roads raised anew at City Council, March 17, 2023]
 BAD FAITH? Some councilors allege or, more precisely, suspect bad faith on the part of Beverly Hills on two points: first, by excluding the Guardhouse One lot in the list of donated lots and using a city-owned lot on which Guardhouse Three stands; and second, by not turning over the title to the lots.
Councilor Alcover, asked to explain about a "win-win compromise" to the ban on all vehicles without Beverly Hills stickers, said they thought the association agreed in one of the meetings with City Hall that the barangay captain and council members could recommend the issuance of a sticker. When they submitted applications for sticker, they were refused, Alcover said, because they were not endorsed by Beverly residents.
 WHAT BEVERLY SEEMS TO WANT. Beverly Hills, to many councilors, appears bent on sticking to its new rule that for outsiders only vehicles with a sticker recommended by a resident member can be allowed to enter and pass through the subdivision. New rule, Alcover said, because in the past, commuters didn't have difficulty of entry and passage.
The association seems to want control over the "donated" road lots, which may explain why it points to the superiority of land title over tax declaration and the purported donation to the City having been made by the Woolbrights and not by the homeowners association. The last part may be frail argument though, given that the donation, Young said, preceded the birth of the homeowners group.
 PROCESS FOR BEVERLY'S RIGHTS. Some people are saying Beverly Hills is virtually fighting City Hall by enforcing regulations that didn't go through the requirements of the law, including public hearings and agreement with the City.
A fight nor not, the City has to improve the use of its resources. The City Council, or some individual councilors, must get the facts quickly and fully to inform their decisions. The office of the mayor has to coordinate with the legislature on moves affecting the city's resources and the enforcement of laws and ordinances aimed to benefit constituents. Talk about making Beverly Hills pay for realty taxes could remain a threat until it's done.
While the law allows the donation of subdivision of roads and open spaces inside private subdivisions, often the local government does not bother to see that the rules are enforced after the turnover of the road lots. Cebu City, for one, didn't see to it that the title was in the name of the City and the rules on the use of road lots within Beverly Hills were adopted in accordance with the law's rules and enforced.
[RELATED: Seares: Beverly Hills homeowners have right to regulate entry to their subdivision, August 9, 2023]
 WHAT THE RIGHTS REQUIRED. In the current dispute, Beverly Hills may find some comfort by the Supreme Court ruling in Kwong vs. Diamond Homeowners, which said the association "has the right to set goals for the promotion of safety and security, peace, comfort and general welfare of its residents." "While ownership of the public spaces is with the local government, enjoyment, possession and control are with the residents and the homeowners."
Yet Beverly Hills may also remember but that said "enjoyment, possession and control" can be had only through a legal process and its requirements, which in this case, Alcover said, Beverly Hills didn't undergo and comply.