PRIVATE claimants to a 77-hectare property in Quezon City criticized two former chiefs justice who allegedly “flip-flopped” on their rulings over the dispute, stressing that the tribunal should reopen the case and “rectify” such error.
The heirs of Jorge Chin and Renato Mallari, through their counsel, Melanio Mauricio, said former chiefs justice Reynato Puno and Hilario Davide Jr. have to explain their sudden turnaround from two previous decisions of the SC First Division that upheld their ownership of the property, a portion of which is where the Ayala Techno Park along Commonwealth Avenue now sits.
“The truth must come out. There is a need for the public to know the truth why two former chiefs justices, who originally conformed unqualifiedly and unconditionally to the Court’s own, well-reasoned, decision written by Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago, upholding the ownership of the two businessmen, suddenly made a turnaround on the matter of the ownership of the 77-hectare land,” Mauricio told The Manila Times.
Asked if Puno and Davide could be summoned to an investigation, if any, by Congress, the lawyer replied: “Yes, I think so. They are no longer sitting justices.”
Mauricio noted that former Quezon City Rep. Dante Liban had previously sought an “investigation and survey of the extent of UP’s land ownership.”
Puno, in an earlier interview told The Times, he stood by the ruling he penned in 2003 which reversed two unanimous decisions of the same division which he chaired.
“The decision speaks for itself,” said the former SC chief.
Davide, on the other hand, could not be reached for comment.
On Monday, The Times reported that the heirs of the two claimants have accused UP of illegally taking control of the property by invoking the “unconstitutional” SC division ruling.
They filed a petition last month for substantial justice in a bid to recover their property, assailing the November 11, 2003 decision of the High Court’s First Division that rescinded their titles over the land.
Chin and Mallari said they were the victims of a grave injustice and extrinsic fraud because they have owned the property since the 1970s.
They are appealing to the SC under Ma. Lourdes Sereno to reopen the case under the doctrine of “substantial justice” and cited jurisprudence well settled in past SC decisions that emphasized that procedural justice and legal technicalities should not get in the way of the courts affording “substantial justice” to litigants.
The petitioners said Puno’s ponencia, concurred in by Davide and Associate Justice Alicia Martinez, was unconstitutional and thus must be overturned by the tribunal, whether as a division or sitting en banc.
Meanwhile, Mauricio argued that UP’s claim of ownership disregards the overwhelming proof, established by the Court of Appeals and by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources that the land belongs to two businessmen and not to the UP.
Court records show that the appellate court, on orders of the SC itself, researched and studied the ownership history of the land and came up with its findings saying that the businessmen, Chin and Mallari, owned the land.
In at least two decisions, the high tribunal, speaking through then Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago and with the full and unqualified concurrence of then Chief Justice Davide Jr., and of former Associate Justices Puno, Santiago Kapunan and Bernardo Pardo, confirmed Chin’s and Mallari’s ownership of the land.