Seedling bank foundation asks court to stop takeoverBy Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Manila Seedling Bank Foundation Inc. (MSBFI) has gone to court to stop the city government from taking over the foundation’s seven-hectare “home” for the past 35 years.
Through its legal counsel, lawyer DD Frejillana Jr., the group filed a petition for temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction after city hall officials last week padlocked the lot at the corner of Quezon Avenue and Edsa for the foundation’s nonpayment of more than P57 million in real property taxes.
Among those named respondents in the 17-page petition were Mayor Herbert Bautista and Department of Public Order and Safety chief Elmo San Diego.
Judge Luis Cenon Maceren of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 218 was expected to issue a ruling on the petition which was deemed submitted for resolution last Friday.
The MSBFI, which has been occupying the lot owned by the National Housing Authority since 1977, said that it is not supposed to pay the real property taxes under Presidential Proclamation No. 1679 which dates back to the same year.
The nonpayment of taxes, however, prompted the city government to auction off the property in July last year. It also gave the foundation a year to settle its dues in order to redeem the property, something the MSBFI failed to do, leading to the takeover.
The lot is part of the Quezon City Central Business District project being proposed by the city government.
Frejillana, representing MSBFI president Lucio Bertol, said the main issue at hand was whether city hall would take over the property without an ejectment order from the court.
This was countered by lawyer Carlo Calingasan who represented city hall who said in open court that the petition for a TRO had become moot and academic since the city government now has control of the property.
In an earlier interview, Bertol said the takeover has affected 80 workers and 36 store owners who make a living from selling seedlings of ornamental plants, flowering trees and other rare, exotic plant life.
As a foundation, Bertol said the MSBFI has been helping in protecting the environment by selling plants, balling and pruning trees, and reforesting areas.
Meanwhile, the city government said it was considering the possibility of moving the foundation’s former tenants to the Quezon Memorial Circle.
City administrator Dr. Victor Endriga said that some tenants had met with him to ask if they might be allowed to stay in the contested lot so that they could continue doing business with customers.
“We are looking for a possible place inside the Quezon Memorial Circle [that] they can move to after leaving the MSBFI property. But we are still conducting a census of the tenants so we are still entertaining the possibility,” Endriga told the Inquirer.
In a separate interview, Bertol confirmed that the tenants and their employees had sent a letter to Mayor Bautista, asking if they could be allowed to stay in the property for the meantime.
He said that the foundation has been meeting with its tenants following the takeover to update them of the developments, adding: “We want to appease them.”