After 35 years, Prieto-Rufino family to vacate ‘Mile Long’

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The Prieto-Rufino family has agreed to vacate the government-owned “Mile Long” lots after the Court of Appeals granted the Executive department’s plea for the immediate seizure of the prime Makati City property.

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Sunvar Realty Development Corp., the Prieto-Rufino family’s property company, said it was “committed to abiding by the legal process” while the case was on appeal.

“Last Tuesday, August 15, at around 5:45 p.m., Sunvar and ‘all persons claiming rights under it’ was (sic) served at Mile Long with a ‘Notice to Vacate’ the premises within three days. The notice, issued by the RTC (Regional Trial Court) Makati 141, was made pursuant to a resolution promulgated by the Court of Appeals on August 14 directing, among others, RTC 141 to enforce the 2015 decision of the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Makati Branch 61 ordering Sunvar to vacate Mile Long and pay back rentals,” Sunvar said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday.

“While Sunvar has appealed the MeTC decision, it is committed to abiding by the legal process. In accordance with that commitment, Sunvar will comply and vacate Mile Long,” it added.

President Rodrigo Duterte had launched several tirades against the Prieto-Rufino family, owner of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which had been critical of his presidential campaign and later, his government’s war on drugs.

Duterte has vowed to seize Mile Long from the Prieto-Rufino family, which he said obtained the property during the Marcos administration at a disadvantage to the government. He also accused the family of non-payment of rentals and tax evasion.

On Monday, the Court of Appeal’s 5th Division headed by Associate Justice Jose Reyes issued the resolution ordering Sunvar to vacate the property.

The appeals court acted on the urgent motion for execution of Solicitor General Jose Calida after Sunvar failed to get a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court.

The Reyes division then issued a Writ of Execution Pending Appeal, and remanded the case to the RTC Branch 141 of Makati.

It ordered the sheriff to execute the June 10, 2015 decision of MeTC Branch 61 in Makati, which ordered Sunvar’s ejection and payment of millions in back rentals.

Sheriff Robert Bautista of the Makati RTC served the notice to vacate along with Calida on Tuesday.

‘Lease won’t expire until 2027’
Sunvar maintained that the Mile Long deal was a “legitimate commercial transaction.”

“Some 35 years ago, Sunvar leased undeve-loped land of the government upon the understanding, reflected in contracts annotated in the title of the land, that the lease period would expire in 2027. Sunvar paid P16.8 million as advance rentals, and expended millions more to build roads, buildings, and infrastructure to develop the property which is why it is so valuable now. Relying on the same contract and understanding, small business owners and taxpayers purchased condominium units in Mile Long that are now the source of their livelihood,” Sunvar explained through lawyer Alma Mallonga.

“Some 35 years ago, at a time of political and economic uncertainty, Sunvar entered into a legitimate commercial transaction. It has pursued legal remedies to resist ejectment firmly believing there is a binding contractual commitment on the part of the government to honor a lease that is set to expire only in 2027. Sunvar understands that the government has taken an opposite view,” it added.

“Sunvar continues to have faith in the law and legal process.”

JOMAR CANLAS

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