The Court of Appeals has granted the plea of the Executive department for the immediate eviction of the Prieto-Rufino family from the “Mile Long” property.
The Prieto-Rufino family, which announced last month the sale of its Philippine Daily Inquirer to San Miguel Corp. President Ramon Ang, was also ordered to pay back rentals of P1.6 billion, exclusive of legal interest.
The court’s 5th Division, headed by Associate Justice Jose Reyes, issued the resolution ordering the family’s Sunvar Realty Development Corp. to vacate the prime government-owned Makati property on August 14.
President Rodrigo Duterte had launched several tirades against the owners of the 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 at a disadvantage to the Philippine government. He also accused the family of non-payment of rentals and tax evasion.
In the resolution, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times, Reyes’ division ordered the sheriff of Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 141 under Judge Mary Ann Mañalac to see to it that Sunvar was ejected from 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.
Moreover, the appeals court said “the records of the case are remanded to the Regional Trial Court, Branch 141 of Makati City and the Sheriff thereof directed to execute the June 10, 2015 Decision of the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Makati, Branch 61.”
The decision to be executed is the ruling of the Makati City MeTC Branch 61 on June 2015 for Sunvar to vacate the Mile Long property in Makati City, and pay government back rentals amounting to P1.66 billion, exclusive of legal interest.
“As it stands, the MeTC Decision subsists giving the Government, as plaintiff, every right to move for its execution, which in this case would have readily prospered if not for the unfortunate circumstance that the records have been transmitted to this Court,” the resolution stated.
The appeals court took into consideration the continued refusal of the Prieto-Rufino family to vacate the property and the deprivation for the government of possession despite rulings by the MeTC and the Supreme Court.
“To turn a blind eye to the plight of the Government at this point, in the face of its clear and urgent right to relief, would render grave injustice,” the ruling stated.
The MeTC had ordered Sunvar to vacate the premises and pay back rentals amounting to P478,200,600 as of May 15, 2015 and monthly rental of P3,209,400 beginning June 15, 2015 up to and until it vacates the premises.
The petitioners, the national government and National Power Corp. (Napocor), are the registered owners of several parcels of land between Pasong Tamo and Vito Cruz Extension in Makati City, with a total area of 125,607 square meters and covered by four transfer certificates of title.
During the Marcos administration, the government and Napocor leased the properties to the Technology Resource Center Foundation, Inc. (TRCFI) for a period of 25 years beginning January 1, 1978 and ending on December 31, 2002, renewable for another 25 years upon mutual agreement of the parties.
On different dates, TRCFI granted Sunvar the option to sublease all portions of the property.
During the period of its sublease, Sunvar introduced improvements consisting of commercial buildings, known today as Premier Cinema, Mile Long Arcade, Makati Creekside Building, Gallery Building and Sunvar Plaza.
On June 3, 2002, Napocor notified the Philippine Development Alternatives Foundation, TRCFI’s successor, of its decision not to renew the contract of lease.
Napocor said its assets would be privatized, and the proposed renewal rate of P1.25 per square meter per annum was grossly prejudicial to the interest of the government as the value of the lands as of 1997 stood at P125,000 per square meter.
On February 22, 2008, the Solicitor General told Sunvar to vacate the property within 30 days or face legal action.
When Sunvar refused to vacate the property, government and Napocor filed a complaint for unlawful detainer.