NAGA CITY – Several government offices inside the city hall complex here could be evicted after the Supreme Court ruled that the land where they hold office should belong to the heirs of Macario Mariano.
The high court ruled in favor of Mariano's heirs on the question as to who has the ‘better right to possess’ a 5-hectare portion of land on J. Miranda Avenue here.
In a 32-page decision penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam, the High Court junked the Court of Appeals' amended decision dated July 20, 2011 favoring the local government.
The Supreme Court instead reinstated the decision of the Naga City Regional Trial Court Branch 26 dated June 20, 2005 that ruled in favor of the family.
The city government has since 2003 asserted that the parcel of land in question was donated by Mariano. But the supposed donor's heirs insisted otherwise, citing the RTC decision.
“The purported Deed of Donation submitted by the City cannot be considered a public document,” according to the Supreme Court.
It added that while the document contained an acknowledgement before a notary public, “the same is manifestly defective as it was made neither by the alleged donors (Macario Mariano and Jose Gimenez) and their respective spouses, or by the donee (the City, through then Mayor Monico Imperial), but only by Eusebio M. Lopez, Faustino Dolor, Soledad Lirio Dolor and Lopez, Jr., as the Subdivision’s President, Vice President, Secretary and General Manager respectively.”
“The City has, for more than 50 years since the donation supposedly took place on August 16, 1954, failed to secure title over the subject property in its name,” the high court said in its decision.
The ruling modified the amount that the city of Naga should pay to the petitioners.
Naga City Mayor John Bongat said that the high court decision would cause irreparable damage on the city.
“We pay a whopping P255 million in rentals since 2003, or to the tune of P1.25 million monthly rent until fully paid, exclusive of the sale value of the property, which the City may opt to pay should it decide not to leave its premises and instead buy the same,” Bongat said.
“We have actually drafted already the 30-year sustainable development plan for the city subject to final approval of the Sangguniang Panglungsod. Ngayon, doon nakareserba ang magiging kasalukuyan at hinaharap na pera ng bayan (Now that's where the current and future budget of the city is reserved),” he added.
In a press conference, Bongat appealed to the Mariano heirs for a dialogue.
However, Maria Catalina Sofia Mariano, who now serves as spokesperson for the Mariano heirs, maintained the family's position.
“It’s too late. May desisyon na ang korte. Nag-reach out na ang pamilya namin kay Mayor Jesse Robredo at Mayor John Bongat dati. Pero nauwi lang ulit sa korte kaya nakabase na lang kami sa Supreme Court decision,” she said in a statement.
(The court has decided. Our family reached out to Mayor Jesse Robredo and Mayor John Bongat before. But the case ended up in court, so now we are relying on the Supreme Court decision.)
Aside from the city hall, the subject land has been home to several other government offices for decades now.
These include the National Bureau of Investigation Naga Office, Bureau of Fire Protection-Naga, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Extension Office, the City and Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, the Naga Regional Trial Court, Radyo Pilipinas (formerly Radyo ng Bayan), the Camarines Sur 3rd district Congressional Office, and the Museo ni Jesse Robredo, a P9-million facility inaugurated in 2017 and funded by the National Historical Commission in memory of the late mayor and interior secretary.
Offices of private groups can also be found inside the City Hall premises including that of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Naga and the Camarines Sur Dental Association.
After filing a motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court en banc last Friday, the local government of Naga maintained that officials would defend City hall.