Village sues Cebu City lawyers

Cebu City map.
Cebu City map.

A HOMEOWNERS association based in Barangay Banilad, Cebu City, has lodged a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas against Cebu City Legal Officer Carlo Vincent Gimena and 11 other lawyers for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

In a complaint dated May 6, 2024, Doña Rita Village Association of Cebu Inc. (DRVACI) represented by their president Albert Tan, requested the Ombudsman to investigate the legal opinions issued by Gimena and the other lawyers that the association believes were “highly discreditable, improper, and irregular.”

Other respondents include lawyers Shana Alexandra Perez, Manuel Degollacion, Ramon Mikhail Duyongco, Arthcris Cuadra, Jave Mike Aton, Luigine Christi Chan, Glace Ongcoyo-Ravanes, Feliciano Alinson, Bernard Inocentes Garcia, Eleodoro Diaz and Lyndon Bernardo Basan.

Construction

The legal opinions issued by the City Legal Office (CLO) dated Jan. 22, Feb.19, and March 25, 2024, stemmed from an issue between DRVACI and Miradel Development Corporation, also known as Miradel, that wants to construct a commercial arcade on lots located within the subdivision.

On Sept. 22, 2022, Miradel proposed to the Board of Directors of Doña Rita Village to construct a commercial arcade on Miradel-owned lots; however, the homeowner’s association opposed the proposed project, citing that Miradel-owned lots located inside the village were classified as residential.

Despite the DRVACI opposition, Miradel, began construction after securing a building permit on June 27, 2023. The DRVACI submitted a position paper to the Office of the Building Official (OBO) opposing the construction; but the letter was endorsed to the CLO on Nov. 17, 2023.

The DRVACI questioned the CLO-issued legal opinions favoring Miradel.

The CLO opined that the homeowners’ association’s consent was not necessary as Miradel lots were already re-classified as commercial in 1996 by virtue of Ordinance No. 1656 or the Cebu City Zoning Ordinance.

In its recommendation, the CLO added that the Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR) of the Homeowners’ Magna Carta in 2011 and 2019 requiring consent before re-classification cannot invalidate the Zoning Ordinance.

Complaint

In its complaint before the anti-graft office, the DRVACI said the respondents “blatantly twisted legal provisions” that only support their “erroneous” conclusion, which shows “manifest partiality and evident bad faith.”

It added that Doña Rita Village was registered as a residential subdivision by virtue of Presidential Decree 957, a national law and also registered as such with the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), now the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, in April 1994.

The DRVACI filed a motion for reconsideration on Jan. 22, 2024; however, the CLO maintained its position that Homeowners’ consent is only required for reclassification after 2010.

After the DRVACI filed a second motion for reconsideration, the CLO again maintained its original position.

The complainant argued that under PD 957 or Presidential Decree No. 957 or The Subdivision and Condominium Buyers’ Protective Decree of 1976, approved subdivision plans cannot be altered without the homeowners association’s consent.

The DRVACI also pointed out that a local ordinance cannot amend a national law.

The CLO’s legal opinion was used as the basis of the OBO and City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) in lifting the suspension of Miradel’s building permit.

The DRVACI claimed there were irregularities when OBO and the CPDO issued the building permit and locational clearance as it was admitted in an Executive Session on Oct. 18, 2023, that both did not conduct ocular inspections and only relied on the documents submitted.

In a text message on Tuesday, May 14, Gimena told SunStar Cebu that he has yet to receive an official copy of the complaint; however, he said the CLO opinion was based on applicable and relevant laws, rules, ordinances, and jurisprudence.

“We are ready to defend said opinions. We did not violate any laws in rendering said opinions,” Gimena said. / EHP

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