CA rejects release of Piatco compensation from escrow

By Joel R. San Juan, BusinessMirror

Posted at Aug 01 2014 08:15 AM | Updated as of Aug 01 2014 04:15 PM

MANILA -- The Court of Appeals (CA) on Thursday declared that Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco) still cannot compel the government to release from the escrow account the $371.43 million, or more than P16 billion, in just compensation earlier awarded to it by a local court.

In a four-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Franchito Diamante, the CA’s Special Thirteenth Division contradicted Piatco’s claim in its manifestation submitted on March 28, 2014, in connection with its petition for certiorari and prohibition assailing the omnibus order issued by Branch 117 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Pasay City.

The said omnibus order was issued pursuant to the decision dated May 23, 2011, of the RTC in Pasay City ordering the government to pay Piatco just compensation in the amount of $175.787,245, less the proferred value (P3,002,125,000).

The court ordered that the amount be placed in escrow and imposed several conditions before it could be released to the petitioner.

In its manifestation, Piatco said the omnibus order and the ruling of the RTC in Pasay City had already been overturned pursuant to the amended decision dated August 22, 2013, rendered by the CA’s Third Division, modifying the May 23, 2011, decision of the RTC in Pasay City.

The modified decision fixed the just compensation for Piatco at $300,206,639 less the $59,438,604 paid in September, or the net sum of $240,786,035, with legal interest at 6 percent.

Thus, it ordered the government to pay Piatco $4371,426,688.24 in just compensation as of July 31, 2013.

Piatco contends that since the amended decision orders direct payment to Piatco and did not impose any condition for the release of the just compensation, the omnibus order has lost basis and has been rendered moot and academic.

The CA, however, did not agree with Piatco, saying the issues raised in Piatco’s petition filed before the appelate court are different from the issues resolved in the amended decision.

It noted that its present petition, assailing the issuance of the omnibus order, raises the issue of whether the RTC in Pasig City had acted with grave abuse of discretion in allowing the government to deposit the payment of just compensation in an escrow account, instead of directly remitting it to petitioner.

On the other hand, the issue raised in the amended decision was limited only to the determination of the amount of just compensation and did not touch on the issues with regard to the manner of payment.

“Contrary to petitioner’s contention, the amended decision has not yet overturned the omnibus order or rendered the same moot and academic...,” the CA declared.

“As aptly noted by the Pasay City RTC in the assailed omnibus order, the respondent Republic of the Philippines is still under no legal obligation to pay petition the adjudged amount of just compensation,” it added. The CA noted that the government’s obligation to pay the just compensation will only happen once the RTC’s decision has become final and executory.

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