CA affirms RTC ruling on validity of baguio market dev’t contract

By: 
Aileen Refuerzo
Posted: 18-Jan-2013 / 1 year 13 weeks ago

            BAGUIO CITY – The Court of Appeals upheld a 2008 Regional Trial Court (RTC) decision affirming the validity of the city government’s contract with the Uniwide Sales Realty and Resources Corporation (Uniwide) for the development of the city public market.

           Mayor Mauricio Domogan on Wednesday said the CA decision may not be the end of the 16-year old court battle as the petitioners can still elevate the case to the Supreme Court.
            “But still the point is that the contract was still sustained in the decision that was so detailed it answered the charges of the petitioners point by point,” Domogan said.
            In a 57-page decision dated December 28, 2013 and penned by Associate Justice Ramon Cruz, the court dismissed the appeal filed by the Hilltop Open Market Vendors Credit and Services Corporation (HOMVECSCO) as petitioners-appellants; Peter Sagayo, Pablito Gumnad et.al. as plaintiffs-appellants; , the Baguio Market Vendors Association Inc.(BAMARVA) and the group of Lilia Calicdan, Manuel Dalida et. al. as intervenors-appellants for the reversal of the ruling issued by RTC Branch 59 Judge Iluminada Cabato on June 28, 2008.
            The said decision upheld the validity and constitutionality of Ordinance No. 38 series of 1995 which provides the guidelines for the market development, of the award of the project development to Uniwide as well as the amended Design, Build and Lease (DBL) agreement, the development scheme adopted for the project. 
            “Then and now, the rule is that the factual findings of the trial courts are entitled to great weight and accorded highest respect especially when amply supported by testimonial and documentary evidence and will not be disturbed on appeal unless there is a showing of abuse and arbitrariness or it had overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some fact or circumstance of weight and substance that would have affected the result of the case,” the appellate court noted.
            “We have pored over the records and found that the factual findings of the RTC are borne out of the record and based in the evidence presented by the parties.  We therefore find no reason to deviate from its conclusions.”
            In the decision, the court disputed the claims of the appellants that the RTC erred in the following: ruling that the slaughterhouse area was not part of the premises leased to Uniwide; finding that Ordinance No. 038-95 is valid; failing to hold that no detailed plans and specifications for the development of the public market were submitted; ruling that the amended Design-Build-Lease agreement is valid; and upholding the validity of the public biddings and the award to Uniwide.
Save for the argument that the appellants have no legal standing and are not the real parties-in-interest in the case, the court said the declarations were not substantiated and established.
The court agreed with the RTC that the slaughterhouse area is not part of the leased premises and will be used solely as temporary relocation site for the vendors to be displaced by the development as this was stipulated in the agreement between the city and the Uniwide.
The court also agreed that Ordinance No. 38 series of 1995 is “valid because consultation with the local development council is not required..., the subject ordinance is not ultra vires and the period of lease does not violate” provisions of the Local Government Code.
“Appellants failed to point out the constitutional provisions allegedly violated by the respondent-appellees.  What they have are bare and unsubstantiated allegation that Ordinance No. 38-95 us ultra vires,” the court said.
The court also said that the claim that no detailed plans and specifications for the project were submitted was belied by the evidence presented.
It also said that the DBL scheme is valid although it is not one of the contractual arrangements under the Build-Operate-Transfer law and was not confirmed by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and that the public bidding conducted is legal as also proven by documentary evidences.        
            Uniwide won the bid for the project costing P1.7 billion in 1995 but the development project was stalled after four cases were filed separately in 1996 against city officials and Uniwide by the HOMVECSCO for declaratory judgement, preliminary injuction and temporary restraining order; the group of Sagayo and Gumnad et.al., the BAMARVA and the group of Calicdan, Dalida et. al., all for the annulment of Ordinance No. 38-1995, the award of contract and the DBL Agreement, with prayer for the issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and Damages.
            After the RTC rendered its decision, the plaintiffs sought for reconsideration but this was also denied by the RTC for lack of merit.
            Under the lease agreement forged during the term of Domogan in 1995, Uniwide will build a multi-storey building in the area and operate its upper floors for 30 years.  The first floor where the main market place and legitimate vendors will be housed will continue to be operated by the city government under the DBL scheme.
The project was conceived to develop the city market, the city’s supposed show window but which until now is in a dilapidated state

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