Mayor sues court sheriff for 'haste' in Rallos case
Mayor Michael Rama filed a case on Wednesday before the Supreme Court (SC) against a Regional Trial Court (RTC) sheriff for being hasty in enforcing a court order for Cebu City to pay P133 million to the Rallos heirs.
The mayor said sheriff Eugene E. Fuentes Jr. did not bother to ask the Cebu city government if it wanted to exercise an option given by RTC Judge James E. Himalaloan to settle money claims of the Rallos family.
The judge ordered Cebu City to pay at least P133 million to the Rallos family or choose among its its real properties to be levied and compensate for the money judgment.
Instead of consulting the Cebu city government first, the sheriff went ahead and scheduled a public auction of 9.7 hectares of the South Road Properties (SRP).
Rama said that doing this without submitting it for approval with the Commision on Audit, Fuentes violated SC Administrative Circular No. 10-2000 that states that "all money claims against the government must first be filed with the Commission on Audit (COA)."
It is then up to COA to determine and approve if the proposed levy is proper.
Rama's legal counsel, Jade Ponce, told Cebu Daily News that "every employee in the judiciary should know that what Fuentes did was a violation of the law especially him as sheriff."
Fuentes was also accused of violating the court personnel's Code of Conduct that "requires employees to enforce rules and implement orders of the court within limits of their authority."
Rama said the writ of execution of RTC judge Himalaloan simply gave the sheriff the duty to collect the city's immediate payment but not the power to choose among Cebu City's properties and make it available to auction for levy.
"We want to seek justice for the people of Cebu City because in the first place, it is their money and not from the pocket of Mayor Rama," said Ponce.
In 1963, a property of the Rallos family in Sambag II was expropriated for a road.
The Ralloses filed a civil case demanding compensation for the land.
When the court ruled in favor of Rallos, the Cebu city government refused to comply with the money judgment and continued with its legal battle.
For this, former mayor and now Rep. Tomas Osmeña blamed Rama's "hardheadedness" for the trouble.
Osmeña said the mayor's attitude is "bad for business" and will surely affect the sales of the SRP lots.
"Who would want to buy a property that has a pending lot case?" Osmeña asked.
Worst, Osmeña said that the city may get sued by Filinvest Land Inc. for violation of the provisions in the contract to sell.
"The city government violated the contract. We provided a warranty that there will be no lien on the contract. Is a lis pendens not a lien? When there is lis pendens, the title (of the property) is clouded. How will you sell a property when there is lis pendens?" Osmeña said.
Rama warned that the city would collect interest on FLI for delayed payment of P245.2 million due this year, which was supposed to be paid before March 11.
Osmeña who negotiated for the sale of SRP lots to FLI said he could not recall any provision in the contract to sell that allows the imposition of interest for delayed payments.
He said he could not also blame FLI for withholding the payment.
"In the first place, business is going strong. Why will Filinvest not pay? But if they decided not to pay because they feel that the contract was violated, that is their right," said Osmeña.
Osmeña projected that as soon as the FLI and SM Prime Holdings developments are completed, the value of the SRP lots would increase to up to P40, 000 per square meter.
But this will not be realized if Rama does not pay the Rallos claims. /Doris Bongcac and UP Intern Peter L. Romanillos