Court junks Manila Seedling Bank pleaBy Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A judge has denied the petition filed by the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation Inc. (MSBFI) which seeks to stop the Quezon City government from taking over the seven-hectare lot on Edsa which served as its home for 35 years.
In an order released earlier this week, Judge Luis Zenon Maceren of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 218 threw out the petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO), saying the takeover was a “fait accompli” or a done deal.
He noted that the city government had already taken over the contested lot based on an admission made by the lawyers of both parties in court during a hearing on July 13.
In particular, the judge cited a Supreme Court ruling which said “that when the events sought to be prevented by injunction or prohibition [have] already happened, nothing more could be enjoined or prohibited.”
The foundation has challenged the action taken by the city government, saying only a court ejection order can drive it out of the property.
On July 10, the city government padlocked the property owned by the National Housing Authority (NHA) after the MSBFI failed to pay real property taxes amounting to P57.208 million from 2001 to 2011.
The foundation subsequently filed a petition for a TRO and preliminary injunction against Mayor Herbert Bautista, city public order and safety chief Elmo San Diego and other officials.
According to MSBFI, its basis for occupying the lot at the corner of Edsa and Quezon Avenue since 1977 was a presidential proclamation.
It also claimed that the same proclamation exempted the foundation from paying real property taxes to the city government.
Meanwhile, Bautista assured the foundation’s tenants who are renting stalls on the disputed property that they would be allowed to go on doing business with clients.
The mayor said he met on Monday with the stall owners led by Efren Chatto, vice chair of the World Flower Council, to allay their fears.
During the meeting, he told the 38 tenants and their 80 workers that they can resume doing business in the area as soon as they comply with the terms and conditions set by the city government.
In particular, the mayor asked the stall owners to submit alltheir lease and sublease contracts to determine the actual number of tenants who are legally occupying the property.
This will help the city government determine the total amount of rent paid to the foundation before the takeover, he added.
Bautista also said that a memorandum of understanding was being drafted to formalize the agreement between the tenants and the city government.
He further said that they were considering inviting NHA representatives in the succeeding dialogue with stall owners.
The seven-hectare lot was auctioned off in July last year following the foundation’s nonpayment of taxes.
Although the MSBFI was given a year to redeem the property, it failed to do so until the deadline lapsed earlier this month, paving the way for the city government’s takeover of the lot.
City officials earlier stressed that the P57.208 million real property tax liability of the MSBFI was upheld by the Supreme Court in a ruling it issued two years ago.
In 2009, Judge Bayani Vargas of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 219 declared null and void the first auction of the MSBFI property which was carried out in December 2005.
The case, however, went all the way to the Supreme Court which ruled in the city government’s favor in 2010 after it denied the petition for review filed by the foundation.
On Feb. 21, 2011, the high court’s decision became final and executory, paving the way for the holding of a second auction.
The MSBFI sells seedlings of rare flowers, plants, trees. It also offers balling and reforesting services.