[ Manila Bulletin Online ] December 30, 2008
By DEXTER A. SEE
BAGUIO CITY – The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the right of the city government to take over the Rillera building which is located in the city public market.
In a 10-page decision, Associate Justice Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa junked an appeal filed by the Hilltop Market Fish Vendors Association (HMFVA) which had alleged that its June 22, 1972 contract has not expired due to the failure of the city government to issue the required occupancy permit for the structure.
The CA ruling upheld a decision of the lower court which stated there was a perfected agreement between the vendors association and the city government. The agreement allows the vendors group to occupy the Rillera building for an annual rental of only R25,000.
Although a clause in the 1974 annual lease payment states that the lease commences upon issuance by the city engineer’s office of a certificate of full occupancy, the 15th Division of the CA declared that such certification did not determine the perfection of the contract between the group and the city government.
The decision cited the fact that HMFVA occupied the Rillera building and conducted business even without the certification clearly indicates that the parties contemplated that the contract of lease is a perfected agreement and its perfection is not subject to any condition.
The CA also ruled that as the city never raised any question when the group occupied the property for business purposes, HMFVA can no longer question the non-issuance of the certification by reason that it already benefited from the use of the structure for over 30 years.
Moreover, the CA cited the uncontroverted findings of the Baguio health department and the city engineer’s office declaring Rillera building unsanitary and unfit for occupancy due to the damage caused to the structure by the July 16, 1990 killer earthquake.
On March 7, 2005, the city mayor issued Administrative Order (AO) No. 30-2005 seeking government takeover of the property after City Hall received reports it was being used for illegal gambling and was unsanitary.
The order of the then city administration prompted the fish vendors group to file a petition for injunctive relief with Branch 3 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), alleging that the lease contract between the group and the city government never commenced for the failure of the latter to issue the required occupancy certificate, which is a major requirement before a structure that was issued a building permit could be occupied.
Despite repeated findings on the unsanitary situation in the structure and coupled with the report that it is unfit for occupancy due to its structural damage, hundreds of fish and meat vendors continue to use the building as a vending area for their merchandise, posing serious threat to the market-goers.