MANILA, Philippines – The government’s top lawyer on Friday called Philippine Daily Inquirer owners “Philippine Daily Squatters” and warned the Prieto and Rufino families that he would force their real estate firm and its tenants out of a 2.9-hectare prime property in Makati City once he gets a favorable ruling from the court.
Solicitor General Jose Calida said that if Sunvar Realty Development Corp. and its tenants would continue occupying the government-owned property despite a court ruling that orders them to vacate the area, he would be ready to use force to throw them out of the place.
“Once the CA grants the motion, I will personally lead the ejectment of all tenants and Sunvar…They can choose: first, comply in accordance with the law; or peacefully vacate. If they want trouble, we will give them trouble…If they resist, we will use force to oust them out,” said Calida.
The solicitor general was referring to the urgent motion that his office filed before the Court of Appeals last June 1 asking the tribunal to execute the 2015 ruling of the Metropolitan Court of Makati-Branch 61 ordering Sunvar to vacate the property and pay the government millions of pesos in back rentals.
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How Sunvar took control of Makati property
The property, located between De la Rosa and Arnaiz streets and parallel to Amorsolo Street in Legazpi Village and owned by the National Power Corp. (Napocor), was leased to the Technology Resource Center Foundation Inc. (TRCFI) for 25 years or from January 1, 1978 to December 31, 2002.
In 1986, after the February EDSA uprising, the Philippine Development Alternatives Foundation (PDAF) took over TRCFI’s rights to the property and entered into a sublease agreement with Sunvar, the property arm of the Rufino and Prieto families.
Afterwards, Sunvar built structures on the property that it leased out to operators of Premier Cinema, Mile Long Arcade, Makati Creekside Building, The Gallery Building, and Sunvar Plaza.
In 2002, Napocor told PDAF and Sunvar that it would no longer renew the 25-year lease agreement over the property that would end the same year. However, Sunvar did not vacate the area.
Government’s legal actions vs Sunvar
In 2009, then Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera filed a case in court to compel Sunvar to leave the property. On June 10, 2015, the OSG won the case when the Metropolitan Trial Court of Makati-Branch 61 ordered the firm to vacate the the area and pay the government P478.2 million in back rentals plus a monthly rental of P3.2 million monthly until Sunvar leaves the property.
However, Napocor was unable to reclaim the property because Sunvar was able get an injunction from the Makati Regional Trial Court-Branch 59, which on May 7, 2016 set aside the 2015 ruling by the metropolitan trial court.
Makati RTC-Branch 59’s decision favoring Sunvar prompted the OSG to elevate the case before the CA.
On Jan. 26, 2017, the appellate court dismissed Sunvar’s plea to restrain the metropolitan trial court from executing its 2015 order and also said that Branch 59 of the Makati RTC had no jurisdiction to hear the case.
In June this year, the CA’s Fifth Division through a ruling penned by Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., affirmed its Jan. 26, 2017 ruling against Branch 59 of the Makati RTC and said that the court’s Branch 141, under the sala of Judge Maryann Corpus-Manalac, has jurisdiction over the case.
Reyes directed Manalac “to continue with the proceedings of the appeal and to resolve the same with reasonable dispatch”.
Earlier this month, the CA affirmed its earlier decision, denying the motion for partial reconsideration filed by Sunvar that sought the reversal of the appellate court’s January 26, 2017 ruling.
‘Philippine Daily Squatters’
On Friday, Calida said that despite the expiration of the lease, Sunvar had continued to occupy the Makati property.
“Since 2003 or for the last 14 years and 7 months, you have been squatting, illegally using and occupying the Mile-Long Property. Despite notices, Sunvar continued to remain in possession and collect millions of rentals from its tenants,” he said.
The solicitor general called the Prietos and the Rufinos “Philippine Daily Squatters” and assailed the families over their alleged hypocrisy in criticizing the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte through their newspaper.
“When you speak against the government of President Duterte, it’s like you are immaculately clean. You have used your newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer to shield your shenanigans,” Calida said.
“In truth, you guys are like the Kadamay squatters. You have been depriving the government of money that could have been used to fund projects for the poor,” he added, referring to the left-leaning urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap that took over housing units in Bulacan for policemen and soldiers.