MALASIQUI—The Court of Appeals (CA), reversing a decision by a lower court, has ruled to stop the Malasiqui municipal government and the Magic Group of Companies from executing a contract for the lease of a 1,100 square meter prime property located at the center of town.
“All parties in this case and all persons concerned are hereby enjoined from acting pursuant to the said ordinance, resolution and contract, and from implementing and executing the same,” the CA said in its 21-page decision signed by Associate Justice Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente, chairperson of the CA’s eighth division, and concurred by Associate Justices Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla and Agnes Reyes-Carpio dated December 12.
The decision declares Municipal Ordinance No. 005-2003 and Municipal Resolution No. 002-2009 invalid and contrary to law.
Consequently, the contract of lease executed pursuant to the resolution and the ordinance is also declared null and void.
The decision grants the appeal filed by citizen Mario Armas versus Malasiqui Mayor Armando Domantay Sr., Vice Mayor Mariano Espinoza, Councilors Noel Geslanie, Pedro Opguar, Roberto Sanchez, Alfredo Palaganas, Joey Soriano, Ildefonso Veloria, Sonny Domantay, Canuto Mendoza and Harfe Padilla, and Dagupan Mayor Benjamin Lim representing his family-owned Magic Group.
The case also involves another Malasiqui resident, Osmundo Lambino, who earlier filed a motion to act as intervenor-appellant in support of Armas.
On Jan. 28, 2009, a contract of lease was executed between the municipality of Malasiqui represented by Domantay as lessor and the Magic Group of Companies represented by its chief finance officer, Celia Lim, wife of Benjamin Lim as lessee, for the lease of a 1,100 square-meter vacant lot adjacent to the Municipal Hall located at the Poblacion.
Lim is a re-electionist for mayor of Dagupan while wife Celia is a candidate for the 4th congressional district.
The term of the lease is 40 years and the rental is P300,000 annually.
About five years prior to the contract signing, during the Sangguniang Bayan’s (SB) regular session on Feb. 12, 2004, five out of 10 council members, passed and approved Municipal Ordinance No. 005-2003 entitled “An Ordinance Withdrawing from Public Use to Private Use (Commercial) the area of One Thousand Eight Hundred Square Meters from Ten Thousand Seven Hundred Forty Three Square Meters Lot With Tax Declaration No. 315 Located At Poblacion, Owned by the Municipality of Malasiqui, Pangasinan”.
The ordinance declares that the plan of constructing a mall in the area is in accordance with the zoning ordinance and that the right to lease, construct, operate and maintain the mall shall be effective for 25 years with an option to renew the contract at a lease rental rate of P35.00 per square meter per month to be paid to the municipality of Malasiqui.
The mall operator is also required to construct the following buildings: Sangguniang Bayan Session Hall, Rural Health Unit I, Municipal Trial Court and Post/Telegraph Offices.
On January 16, 2009, the SB approved Resolution No. 002-2009 authorizing Mayor Armando Domantay Sr. to negotiate and enter into a contract with the Magic Group of Companies for the lease of the property.
But contrary to the ordinance, the signed contract had a longer lease period of 40 years and a lower rental fee of P22.72 per square meter per month.
On March 10, 2009, Armas filed a petition for injunction with prayer for issuance of preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order against Domantay et al before the Regional Trial Court of San Carlos City.
Armas asserted in his petition, logged as Civil Case No. SCC-3209, that prior to the drafting of Municipal Ordinance No. 005-2003, no public hearing was conducted; that the ordinance is not valid considering that it did not meet the required number of majority votes provided by law; and that the ordinance was to the great disadvantage and detriment of the people of Malasiqui considering that the lessee/contractor shall pay only P35 per square meter monthly to the municipality.
On August 21, 2009, Lambino filed a motion to intervene and to admit complaint in intervention claiming that he has a legal interest being a native and resident of Malasiqui and the case involves matters of public interest.
On Nov. 17, 2009, Domantay et al filed a motion to dismiss.
The San Carlos RTC Branch 57 dismissed the petition and the complaint in intervention.
Lambino then brought the case before the CA, which reversed the RTC decision.–Eva Visperas