Batangas governor orders reacquisition of disputed Tagaytay property

Arnell Ozaeta, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 02 2017 06:44 PM

BATANGAS -- Governor Hermilando Mandanas has ordered his officials to immediately conduct an assessment and land surveying on the 101 hectares of land in Tagaytay City after the Supreme Court finally decided on its territorial jurisdiction.
 
In an interview, Atty. Cesar Castor, provincial legal officer of Batangas, said that Mandanas has implemented the reacquisition based on the Supreme Court consolidated decision, declaring the disputed property in Barangay Birinayan part of Batangas province.
 
In the SC’s decision, the conflict stemmed from the 101 hectares of land owned by Tagaytay-Taal Tourist Development Corporation (TTTDC) located at Barrio Birinayan, disputedly in Tagaytay City.
 
Based on the documents, TTTDC incurred real estate tax liabilities from 1976 to 1983 amounting to P3,307,799.
 
On November 28, 1983, for failure of TTTDC to settle its delinquent tax obligations, the city government of Tagaytay auctioned the property to the public.
 
A sale was executed and was correspondingly inscribed on the titles on November 20, 1984, in favor of Tagaytay City, who was the only bidder. 
 
After 5 years, the City of Tagaytay filed a petition for entry of new land title certificates to its favor at Branch 18 in Regional Trial Court of Cavite, which the court granted.
 
TTTDC, however, appealed to the Appellate Court, asking the public auction be nullified on the grounds that the properties were not within the jurisdiction and taxing authority of Tagaytay City. 
 
Tagaytay City averred that Barrio Birinayan, where the disputed property is located, was annexed to their charter upon its incorporation and by virtue of the provisions of Commonwealth Act 338 on June 31, 1938, noting that a portion of Talisay was given to Tagaytay City. 
 
TTTDC through its lawyer Estelito Mendoza, however, insisted that upon the passage of Republic Act No. 1418 on June 7, 1956, Barrio Birinayan was taken from the City of Tagaytay and was transferred to the Province of Batangas. 
 
In spite of the pending appeal, Melecio-Herrera and Fernando, acting as majority shareholders of TTTDC, purchased back the property from the City of Tagaytay for P3.55 million, representing the total amount of taxes and penalties.
 
But on October 21, 1994, the Regional Trial Court decided that the public auction and sale of the contested property is null and void, considering that Tagaytay had no right to collect real estate taxes on properties that are not within its territorial jurisdiction.
 
The case was appealed to the SC but was denied.
 
In a 19-page decision of the Supreme Court’s Third Division penned by Associate Justice Eduardo B. Nachura, the high court ordered the City of Tagaytay to pay Ameurfina Melencio-Hererra and Emilina Melencio-Fernando of P3.55 million plus interest of P500,000 and damages of P200,000.
 
"The SC decision only strengthens our position that the disputed area was indeed inside our jurisdiction," Castor said 
 
Castor said the SC’s decision became final and executory on June 28, 2011. On January 11, 2012, the decision was entered in the Book of Entries of Judgments and released on January 19, 2012.
 
"With that, Governor Mandanas ordered the provincial engineers and assessors to determine the mix and bounds between the boundaries of Tagaytay and Batangas and place markerss which would delineate the two places," Castor said.
 
Castor added that Mandanas also requested the Department of Budget and Management to take note of the decision of the SC in order for them to increase the share of Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) as determined by the area and population of the province. 
 
"Mandanas likewise informed the DILG on the SC decision so that Batangas would be the one exercising the collection of real property taxes on the returned area," Castor said.