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Is Beng willing to sue Malacañang?

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(BY: ATTY. VICENTE R. SOLIS) There is one thing certain and unambiguous in RA 9054 or the expanded ARMM law, which is expressed in Sec. 1 of Art. XVIII (“Transitory Provisions”). It mandatorily requires the national government to purchase those lands and buildings in Cabatangan which are “owned, controlled, administered, or in the possession of the Regional Government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, including those formerly owned, held, administered, or controlled by the defunct autonomous governments in Regions IX and XII.”

Thereafter, the national government is likewise mandatorily required to sell these same properties to the city government of Zamboanga, or such portions as the city may opt to purchase.

Under the same provision, the national government is given six (6) months from the holding of the plebiscite authorized under RA 9054 (August 14, 2001) to complete the entire transaction, i.e., the purchase of the properties from ARMM and their sale to the city government. That period expired on February 14, 2002, with no single square meter of land passing from ARMM to the national government and from the latter to the city.

Notwithstanding its default, now running over twelve (12) years and counting, the national government is still bound and obliged to implement the law affecting the Cabatangan properties. This is the reason why Rep. Lilia Macrohon-Nuño of the 2nd district is now spearheading a vigorous campaign to convince the national government to make up for lost time and implement the clear mandate of Sec. 1, Art. XVIII of RA 9054 before it is overtaken and, may I add, complicated by the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law sometime next year. 

I completely support the efforts undertaken by Rep. Nuño towards this direction. However, just in case her efforts do not produce timely and positive results, mandamus proceedings should be filed in court by the city against the national government, citing the latter’s long and continuing failure to implement a mandatory provision of law and asking for a writ of mandamus to obtain and secure its implementation. If and when that time comes, is Mayor Beng Climaco-Salazar ready and willing to go to court, in representation of the city as petitioner, against Malacañang’s Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., among others, as respondents?  I have no reason to doubt her readiness to face off the President’s alter egos to protect the interests of the city. Do you?

While on the subject of Cabatangan, here are a few things which might interest you:

- On December 29, 2003, or three days before her untimely death (for reasons which puzzle me to this day), then Mayor Maria Clara L. Lobregat made her last appeal to Malacañang for the implementation of the law affecting the Cabatangan properties. She requested me, as her counsel, to prepare the communication addressed to then Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, which was co-signed by her son, then Representative Celso L. Lobregat. Surely, Celso remembers this as we were together at Medical Center Manila during the last days of his mother.

- Two years earlier, on December 18, 2001, Mrs. Lobregat led a multi-sectoral delegation to Malacañang and presented to then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo a petition signed by over 100,000 residents of Zamboanga City, appealing for the same implementation.

- Two separate cases were filed in court questioning the validity of Sec. 1, Art. XVIII of the expanded ARMM law. The first was filed on October 23, 2002 in the Supreme Court by then Basilan Representative and House Deputy Speaker Gerry Salapuddin. It was dismissed by the high court on November 12, 2002.  The second judicial challenge was presented before the Regional Trial Court in Cotabato City on March 11, 2003 by Atty. Jose Lorena, then chief counsel of the ARMM’s regional government. The city government of Zamboanga, through its legal office, filed for intervention. I am, however, unaware of the present status of the case. Incidentally, Joe is now undersecretary at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process or OPAPP.

- Two separate orders from two branches of the Regional Trial Court in Zamboanga City altered the name of the registered owner (“Republic of the Philippines”) appearing on the titles covering certain of the Cabatangan properties. The first was issued on January 8, 1990, which directed the insertion of the name, “Autonomous Government, Region IX”, following “Republic of the Philippines”. The second was on February 18, 2002, which authorized the entry of the substituted name, “Government of the ARMM, represented by its Regional Governor”, as registered owner.

More next week. (PO Box 333, Zamboanga City. solislaw@outlook.ph)




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