MANILA—The Court of Appeals (CA) on Thursday granted the motion filed by the city government of Taguig seeking to dismiss Makati City’s rightful ownership claim of the Bonifacio Global City (BGC).
In a 18-page resolution promulgated on March 8 penned by Associate Justice Edwin Sorongon and was concurred by Justices Ramon Cruz and Renato Franciso, the CA’s Special Former Sixth Division granted Taguig City’s motion to dismiss citing Makati’s violation of the forum shopping rule (or pursuing simultaneous remedies in two different courts) and accordingly dismissed the latter’s appeal of the earlier decision of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court (RTC) which originally ruled in favor of Taguig.
The CA took notice of the Supreme Court’s decision on June 15, 2016 which found Makati guilty of “willful and deliberate forum shopping.”
“However, the Supreme Court has not spoken. Ineluctably, we must adhere. The issue of whether Makati committed willful and deliberate forum shopping in these cases has been finally laid to rest no less than by the Supreme Court,” the CA said in a ruling.
“With this Supreme Court ruling and, in the absence of any justification on the part of Makati it cannot but draw the conclusion that Makati’s simultaneous availment of the aforementioned reliefs is not a by-product of mere thoughtlessness or negligence but willful and deliberate act of forum shopping” which “has sowed conflicts between the courts,” the appellate court said.
“In this light, and in the absence of any justification on the part of Makati, this Court cannot but draw the conclusion that Makati’s simultaneous availment of the aforementioned reliefs was not a by-product of mere thoughtfulness or negligence but a willful and deliberate act of forum shopping, “ it added.
The CA noted that it s the second time that the SC has found Makati to have violated the rule on forum shopping.
“In deleterious effects, without a doubt, had set in. The necessary legal consequences of dismissal of his case must perforce follow,” the CA added.
The dispute between Taguig and Makati over BGC started in 1993 when Taguig filed a case against Makati before the Pasig City RTC contending “that the areas comprising the Enlisted Men’s Barangays, or EMBOs, as well as the area referred to as Inner Fort in Fort Bonifacio, were within its territory and jurisdiction.” The RTC ruled in favor of Taguig in July 2011.
In a ruling issued last year, the SC Second Division granted Taguig’s petition and cited the Makati City government in contempt for forum shopping in its legal tug-of-war with the former over jurisdiction on Fort Bonifacio.
It agreed with petitioner that the Makati government committed forum shopping when it simultaneously pursued legal remedies before the Pasig City RTC and the CA seeking same relief.
In July 2013, the CA’s Sixth Division issued granted the appeal of Makati City government assailing the July 8, 2011 order of the Pasig RTC.
The appellate court then ordered the Taguig City government to cease and desist from exercising jurisdiction over several areas within Fort Bonifacio which were earlier declared part of its territory.
These areas include the so-called military barangays, comprising of Cembo, South Cembo, East Rembo, West Rembo, Comembo, Pembo and Pitogo as well as the Inner Fort Barangays (Barangay Post Proper Northside and Barangay Post Proper Southside).
The CA also declared as constitutional Presidential Proclamation No. 2475 issued by the late President Marcos on January 7, 1986, disregarding the claim of Taguig over Fort Bonifacio by stating that the same falls under the jurisdiction of Makati City.
Also declared as valid Proclamation No. 518, modifying Proclamation No. 2475 wherein it is stated that the said tracts of land are situated in Makati although they are parts of Fort Bonifacio.
In a statement, Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano hailed the CA decision as a victory for Taguigeños. She also thanked God, the CA and all those who have worked on the Taguig case from the beginning up to this day.
As she welcomed the ruling, she extends her hand of friendship to Makati and its people. “Taguig desires to work with its neighbors. We have common challenges with massive urbanization. People need our services in planning, infrastructure, health and education programs, as well as anti-crime and anti-drug campaigns. We can only solve these problems if we work together,” the lady mayor added.Cayetano also assured her constituents that the P625-million scholarship program, the 24/7 super health centers, door-to-door programs like doctor-on-call, home care, and free maintenance medicines, and all social services are now more secure and will be continued and improved.
She reaffirmed her commitment to the business sector especially those based in the BGC that Taguig will remain having the lowest taxes, continue to be red-tape free and business-friendly. “We continue to think big and work to be the most investment-friendly city,” Cayetano noted.
In a statement, Makati City Legal Officer lawyer Michael Arthur Camiña clarified that the legal battle on the matter is not yet over.
“The Court of Appeals did not rule that Taguig is the rightful owner of BGC. That point needs to be emphasized. Based on the merits, the Court has ruled that Makati, not Taguig, is the rightful owner of BGC,” Camiña said.
“The case was dismissed on a technical ground of forum shopping committed by the previous lawyers of Makati. But the order of dismissal by the CA is in conflict with the Decision of the Supreme Court that merely ordered the previous lawyers of Makati to pay a fine and not to dismiss the case. Makati will exhaust all legal remedies to protect its territorial jurisdiction,” he added.