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[ Cebu City ] Vice mayor cautions city on P13M tab

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


CEBU CITY -- Vice Mayor Michael Rama cautioned city councilors and department heads on the P13.5-million payment for a lot owned by businessman Roque Ting in the South Road Properties (SRP).

Like the Balili property that the Province of Cebu bought, previous records showed that a portion of Ting’s 4,222-square-meter lot is underwater, the vice mayor said.

During the hearing on the proposed P200.4-million sixth supplemental budget (SB) Tuesday afternoon, Rama said he was surprised why the payment for the Ting property was included when the case is still pending in court.

The City Council also has not approved a compromise agreement yet.

“There is so much talk about this Balili property being underwater, basin unya mubalik na nato [this might come back to haunt us]... I’m quite aghast why Roque Ting was included in the budget na nagsige tag storya ug property na underwater, basin maigo na sad ta ana,” Rama told city officials during the hearing.

The Regional Trial Court (RTC) already ruled in the late 1990s that the city is liable to pay Ting P38 million for his titled lot in SRP. City Hall filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied, and elevated the case to the Court of Appeals (CA).

Ting is reportedly willing to accept P13.5 million as compromise payment -- which is acceptable to the mayor and other city officials -- to keep the debt from ballooning to some P60 million if it reaches the Supreme Court.

The City Attorney’s Office, the City Planning and Development Office and the City Treasurer’s Office have previously recommended the payment to Ting, which they reiterated Tuesday.

High and dry

But Rama said with previous claims that a portion of Ting’s property is submerged, the city should find out the cost of the portion that is dry land and pay for that area only.

He believes the city can win in court if only the City Attorney’s Office would do its job better.

“My argument is simple; it’s well documented and recorded that part of it is underwater. So let’s find out how much is not underwater and mao ra na atong bayran. Na surprise lang ko ba. Had there been a communication sent to us [from the executive]?... I just want to protect the money of the City Government, the last thing I want is for us to give in,” said Rama.

The hearing ended without any cut in the budget, but officials agreed to change the P41.5-million allocation for the Ting and Ortega properties into a lump sum appropriation for lot purchases, on Rama’s advice.

The SB 6 also includes at least P30 million in aid to the barangays, P21.7 million for the City Treasurer’s Office, mostly for systems improvement, and P6.1 million for supplies, equipment and medicines for the City Health Department.

The budget was included in the agenda for Wednesday’s council session but City Councilor Jose Daluz III said he will not move for its approval yet.

Avoid fees

Daluz, chairman of the council committee on budget and finance, said they still have to discuss the item on the Ting and Ortega properties.

He said that instead of specifying the name of Ting and Ortega as recipients of the lot payments, they will change it into a lump sum appropriation intended for all lot purchases.

They yielded to the advice of Rama, who said it would also avoid raising the hopes of the lot owners that they would be paid soon.

The SB 6 also includes P28 million for payment to Ciriaco Ortega, owner of an expropriated property in Barangay Hipodromo.

“But there is already a court ruling that we are liable to pay Ting some P38 million, which will incur 12 percent for every year of delay. I think it’s a good move on our part if we pay him P13.5 million now. Our lawyers have already advised us to pay to avoid penalties,” said Daluz.

He said the city already learned from the Palicte case where the city paid P14 million in interests on top of the P16-million lot payment, and from the Rallos cases, where they paid P30 million for penalties.

Unnatural

In 1997, Ting sued the Cebu City Government for demolishing his warehouses and encroaching on his property when it undertook the South Reclamation Project.

The City Council learned in March 2006 that the other half of the 4,222 square meter property of Ting is now water because the Metro Cebu Development Project, which implemented the SRP, allegedly excavated soil on the property to create a canal to emphasize the boundary between the cities of Talisay and Cebu.

Former city councilor Jocelyn Pesquera presented to her colleagues that time that the portion of the SRP that Ting is claiming is underwater.

Former councilor Gabriel Leyson, who was the first director of the MCDP when the SRP began, explained during that session that the swampy area used to be land but water went there after the contractor began putting filling materials in the water.

Daluz also told the council that time that records showed the “body of water on the 2,000-square meter property was not made by natural causes but because the soil there was dredged.” (LCR of Sun.Star Cebu)

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