The University of the Philippines (UP) on Thursday stopped the sale in an auction of a portion of its nearly 200-hectare property after the Quezon City government agreed to postpone the proceedings until a court has issued a ruling on the matter.
Earlier, the city government decided to auction off a 10,000-square-meter lot on the UP Diliman campus after its former lessee, who had somehow managed to have the land’s classification changed to residential, failed to pay almost P5 million in real estate taxes.
This prompted UP lawyers to file several petitions to stop the sale of the lot in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 97. In particular, they asked Judge Bernelito Fernandez to issue a temporary restraining order and grant their petition for a preliminary injunction to prevent the City Treasurer’s Office from pushing through with the auction, which was scheduled Thursday.
Fernandez, meanwhile, noted that the petitions could now be considered moot and academic after lawyer Bonifacio Granada, representing the city treasurer, told the court that the auction had been called off until the court rules on the matter.
In its 11-page petition for prohibition, UP said that it leased from November 1989 to November 1994 the 10,000-sqm lot to Emma Ramos who was supposed to use it for a garden where she would grow orchids and other flowers that she would then sell.
Ramos, however, failed to pay the rent and was subsequently ordered to vacate the property in August 1996 by Judge Lita Tolentino Genilo of the Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 39.
Despite the court order, she refused to move out and even built a house over the garden without the consent and knowledge of UP officials.
In March 2006, UP demanded that Ramos and a woman named Stefania Sanchez demolish the houses built on the property and leave.
To the surprise of UP officials, they saw an announcement in a publication on Nov. 19 this year of the Quezon City treasurer’s intention to sell the property at a public auction, saying the owner “UP (Emma Ramos lessee)” had failed to pay real estate taxes totaling P4,935,900 from 1990 to 2012.
According to the university, it was not given a copy of the tax declaration covering the disputed property, the tax assessment and warrant of levy. It added that it also never received a statement of delinquency dated June 7 this year because the letter was returned to the sender as the address merely read Diliman, Quezon City.
It added that an Oct. 15 final notice of delinquency was allegedly issued by the city treasurer but there was no proof to show that it had been mailed or received by the university. Notices of levy were also sent to the city assessor and the register of deeds requesting the annotation of levy on the title and tax declaration covering the disputed property.
“Respondent (Quezon City treasurer) should be restrained from the sale and related proceedings concerning the subject property as the sale will be certainly conducted in grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction,” the state university said, arguing that UP, being a national university and a government institution of higher learning, was exempted from paying realty taxes.
It further stressed that prudence dictated that the city treasurer should have verified the location, the registered owner and the real delinquent taxpayer with the Quezon City office of the Register of Deeds.
Lawyers of the state university also pointed out that “the incidental use of the property did not detract from the actual purpose in keeping with the mission and mandate of UP as a public institution of higher learning.”
They said that should the city treasurer proceed with the auction, “UP personnel, students, as well as those performing vital functions in support of [the university’s] educational purpose will eventually be deprived of continuous and peaceful use of the subject property.”
Judge Fernandez, meanwhile, scheduled the next hearing on the petition for prohibition in March next year.
Originally posted at 06:48 | Thursday, December 06, 2012