Seedling bank chief slams QC gov’t takeoverBy Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The head of the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation Inc. assailed the takeover of its seven-hectare compound by the Quezon City government which claimed that the foundation owed P57 million in taxes.
MSBFI president Lucio Bertol complained that City Hall’s move was practically killing the businesses of the 36 tenants who employ at least 80 workers, as customers buying seeds and saplings had been barred from entering the compound.
“There are so many policemen and they even padlocked our gates. Employees are allowed inside but customers are not. It’s like martial law,” the official told the Inquirer.
He also noted that the disputed property will be part of the proposed central business district in Quezon City, a plan that had gained momentum under Mayor Herbert Bautista. “It looks like they are in a hurry (to seize control of it),” Bertol said.
The foundation’s lawyers are now working on its next legal steps to prevent the city government from permanently taking over the property, which Bertol said was leased from the National Housing Authority.
On Tuesday, City Hall wrote a letter to MSBFI asking it to vacate the area after the one-year redemption period for auctioned properties had lapsed.
Last year, the city treasurers’ office auctioned off the compound at the corner of Quezon Avenue and Edsa, citing the MSBFI’s failure to settle P57.208 million in real property tax from 2000 and 2011.
But the foundation’s lawyer, DD Frejillana Jr., earlier maintained that the MSBFI should not be held liable for the unpaid taxes under the Civil Code.
Bertol echoed this view, stressing that the MSBFI had been diligently paying its employees’ income taxes and the 12-percent value-added tax.
He said the foundation was exempt from real property taxes under Proclamation Number 1670, which allowed MSBFI to occupy the disputed lot since 1977 and gave it “structural rights” as a lessee of NHA property.
“The city government should have gone through the process. There should be a court order. (The ejection order) should not be through a mere letter like that,” Bertol said.
Bertol said the MSBFI had been helping the government and the private sector in protecting the environment by propagating various plant species, balling and pruning trees, and reforesting areas in many parts of Luzon.
The foundation also gathers and showcases the best flowers from Palawan and Baguio, and accommodates students in educational trips free of charge, he added.