Former Vice Mayor Jose Virgilio Tolentino of Batangas City has asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to look into the legality of Ordinance 20 s. 2013—“An Act Providing for a City Code on Appraisal and Assessment of Real Properties in the City of Batangas.”

Mayor Eduardo Dimacuha of Batangas City signed the ordinance on December 9, 2013. The provincial board received a copy the following day.

In the six-page complaint, Tolentino said the schedule of the new market values will reveal that they are excessive, inequitable and confiscatory as the increase went from 200 percent to as high as 1,400 percent. He also said the approach used in determining the values remained questionable.

Tolentino further cited the disregard of procedural requirements provided for by law as well as the absence of public hearings, notices and publication.

Among those supporting Tolentino’s appeal are Archbishop Ramon Arguelles and former DOJ Secretary Hernando Perez, both natives of Batangas.

Posting a comment on the Reject RPT20 movement Facebook page, Arguelles said “Include me among those who reject RPT20. It is oppressive and unfair to Batangueños!!”

He added, “the reason given for the increase is praiseworthy. But is it the real reason? And why so abrupt and so drastic?”

Among the reasons cited by the local officials for the RPT increase is the building of 100 classrooms in preparation for the implementation of the Education Department’s K-to-12 program. They also said the fund that will be collected from the additional tax will be used for the renovation of the public market, roads and drainage. The city will also construct seawalls, develop economic zones and increase the number of beneficiaries for the healthcare and scholarship program.

Meanwhile, in an open letter to the provincial board, Perez said he was objecting to the approval of the ordinance as a citizen and a taxpayer of the city.

He said the increase in the real property tax was imposed without appropriate tax mapping and was instead done at random and indiscriminately with neither rhyme nor reason to guide the tax fathers of the city

The former DOJ chief also questioned an earlier decision of the city condoning the more than P9 billion arrears in the payment of real property taxes of Kepco Ilijan Corp.

In 2012, criminal charges were filed with the Ombudsman against then Batangas City Mayor Vilma Dimacuha, wife of the incumbent, and eight city councilors for collecting only P925 million or less than 10 percent of the P10 billion total amount due by virtue of a compromise agreement.

“After condoning more than P9 billion, the Sangguniang Pang–lungsod and its Mayor Dimacuha and Mayor’s Executive Assistant Reginald Dimacuha are estopped from attempting to collect from the property owners of Batangas City the real property tax that was waived/condoned in favor of Kielco,” Perez said.

He added that the area where Mayor Dimacuha and his family have properties are taxed in the new ordinance much less than other comparable neighboring areas, leading to unjust and unequal protection of the law.