MCIAA needs audit nod to pay 'back rent'

THE Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) will take all measures to ensure that its property rights are upheld and that no claim will find satisfaction unless it is pursuant to the clear mandate of the law.

MCIAA General Manager Steve Dicdican made the statement when asked to comment on the execution proceedings pursued by Richard Unchuan against the airport authority.

Unchuan filed a civil suit against MCIAA in March 2004. As a result, the Supreme Court (SC) has ordered with finality MCIAA to pay P482 million in rentals for the use of Unchuan's properties at Mactan airport.

Dicdican said that while they are committed to the rule of law, they have to defend ownership of the MCIAA property.

Motion denied

The previous MCIAA Boards battled the case until it was adversely decided by the High Tribunal last June 1, 2016. They even filed a motion seeking its reconsideration.

The incumbent MCIAA Board, however, received a SC decision denying the motion. It's now assessing it vis-a-vis proper procedures on the execution of government funds and properties.

In a press statement, Dicdican said that like any public official, it is the sworn duty of the MCIAA Board to protect property and see to it that government funds are safeguarded.

“Any levy of MCIAA properties and garnishment of its funds must follow and observe the rule in executing government funds and properties,” he said.

"Safeguarding public interest"

Dicdican said that MCIAA's position is that, as a governmental instrumentality performing essential governmental functions, execution will not lie without its consent.

He said that MCIAA funds have already been allocated for building a parallel runway.

Any claim against MCIAA must first be filed with the Commission on Audit under Presidential Decree 1445, so, any execution at this juncture is premature.

According to the general manager, MCIAA is confident that its position is anchored in law and jurisprudence.

“MCIAA will relentlessly pursue all legal avenues for the purpose of safeguarding the public interest of the riding population and the national interest of maintaining viable international aviation gateway, which will ultimately be affected by this decision,” Dicdican said.

Accumulating interest

But further delays in complying with the SC's order may be "grossly disadvantageous" to the government.

Alan Siu, collaborating counsel for landowner Unchuan, said the MCIAA rental obligations and accrued legal interest will continue to accumulate considering that the airport is mandated to pay Unchuan P2.9 million per month.

In its 2016 decision, the SC ordered the MCIAA to pay Unchuan P482 million as rent for his properties from the filing of the complaint until its final payment.

"Mactan-Cebu International Airport is ordered to pay P20 per square meter per month as the rental for use of the property reckoned from the time of filing of the complaint until its final payment for the same,” the SC ruled.

Instead of directing MCIAA to vacate the properties, the court ordered it to initiate expropriation proceedings over the lots, covering 149,930 square meters.

Since the SC's decision is already final and executory, Regional Trial Court Branch 6 Judge Ester Veloso granted the petitioner's motion for execution of the ruling.


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