Court of Appeals: Govt owns Mile Long

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THE Court of Appeals (CA) again favored the government in the Mile Long controversy by denying a motion for reconsideration filed by the Rufino-Prieto family that for years has claimed ownership of the Makati City property.

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The ruling, dated June 21, 2017, was penned by Associate Justice Jose Reyes of the CA’s former 5th Division.
President Rodrigo Duterte had accused the Rufino-Prieto clan that also owns the Philippine Daily Inquirer of tax evasion and non-payment of rent.

The family this week sold the Inquirer to business tycoon Ramon S. Ang.

In a six-page resolution, Reyes junked the motion for lack of merit and upheld the CA’s ruling on January 26, 2017 as it dismissed one of the two cases on the ground of lack of jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 59, to hear the petition before Judge Winlove Dumayas.

The CA gave credence to a plea of the government to dismiss the case handled by Dumayas after the latter issued a temporary restraining order on August 13, 2016 that halted a ruling of Metropolitan Trial Court, which ordered Sunvar Realty to vacate the premises and pay back rent amounting to P478,200,600 as of May 15, 2015 with monthly rent of P3,209,400 beginning June 15 up to and until defendant shall have vacated the premises of Mile Long.

It also ordered that another case involving Sunvar Realty Development Corp.’s property be remanded to the RTC of Makati, Branch 141, in the sala of Judge Maryann Corpus-Manalac that has the authority to hear and decide the main case.

The CA’s decision refuted online reports that Reyes ruled against the government and that there was forum shopping, forcing the court to dismiss the case.

The government and National Power Corp. (NPC) are the registered owners of Mile Long, which is made up of several parcels of land located between Pasong Tamo and Vito Cruz Extension in Makati City, with a total area of 125,607 square meters, more or less covered by four Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT).

On December 26, 1997, the government and the NPC leased the property to the Technology Resource Center Foundation Inc. (TRCFI) for 25 years beginning January 1, 1978 and ending on December 31, 2002, renewable for another 25 years upon mutual agreement of the parties.

Commencing on different dates, the TRCFI granted Sunvar the option to sub-lease all portions of the property.
During the period of its sub-lease, Sunvar introduced improvements consisting commercial buildings what are known today as Premier Cinema, Mile Long Arcade, Makati Creekside Building, Gallery Building and Sunvar Plaza.

On June 3, 2002, the NPC notified Philippine Development Alternative Foundation of its decision not to renew the contract of lease as the NPC’s assets will be privatized and the proposed renewal, which shall be P1.25 per square meter per annum, is grossly prejudicial to the interest of the government as the value of the property as of 1997 stood at P125,000 per square meter.

On February 22, 2008, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) advised Sunvar to completely vacate the property within 30 days or it would take legal action against it before the courts.

When Sunvar refused to vacate the property, the government and the NPC filed a complaint for unlawful detainer.
The two cases with Dumayas and Manalac were consolidated but they both resolved the same on merits prior to the consolidation.

Dumayas and Manalac had sided with Sunvar, prompting the OSG to seek redress before the appellate court.
Reyes reversed and set aside the ruling of the local court.

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