Cebu City Hall won a round in its legal dispute with the Rallos heirs, a rare victory in the long-drawn case.
The Court of Appeals 18th Division issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on a writ of execution of a lower court ordering the city’s payment of P133 million to the Rallos heirs for a lot expropriated in 1963.
An auction was supposed to be held last week for a 9.7-hectare city-owned lot in the South Road Properties but was reset when no bidders came forward.
The last-minute save was a welcome break for Mayor Michael Rama, who has been digging in his heels to prevent paying the amount even as he called the auction, a “hasty” and illegal move.
Cebu City Hall is required to post a P1 million bond to secure the TRO in 10 days.
In his April 13 order, Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando said he found more than adequate grounds to grant the TRO pending a hearing on the city’s petition for annulment of judgment.
He said if the SRP lot auction pushes through today, it would render the court proceedings moot and deprive the city of its property.
A hearing is set on May 9 on the main petition.
The judge considered a 1940 “convenio” discovered by City Hall to bolster its case, a compromise agreement where the Rallos predecessors donated their lot in Sambag II to the city for a road.
Mayor Rama’s legal consultant Jade Ponce said the convenio is their strongest evidence and they are confident of proving its validity.
“This convenio is not a mere private document. It is also incorporated in a decision dated Oct. 17, 1940—a decision of the court 71 years ago . . . what we are presenting as our main defense is actually already a part of court record,” he said.
The earlier writ of execution was issued by Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Ramon Himalaloan and covers all means used by Court Sheriff Eugenio Fuentes to demand payment from the city.
This includes the notice of garnishment issued to Cebu City’s depository banks and the auction of a 9.7-hectare lot in SRP that was suspended anew yesterday.
If the ruling is reversed, Ponce said he will see to it that the P56 million plus paid as interest to the Ralloses by the city would be returned.
The payment was supposedly made during the terms of former Cebu City mayors Alvin Garcia and Tomas Osmeña.
In a phone interview, a Rallos family member said the CA decision would be the first and final round that the city would win as a temporary victory.
He said he sees the TRO as an advantage.
“That would even be nice. The interest would remain, it will grow bigger,” he said.
He said the convenio would not be considered a valid document because of the absence of signatures of the involved parties.
“Kung wala’y pirma, wa na’y bili (Without signatures, it would have no legality)” he said. /Patricia Andrea Pateña, Correspondent