Court dismisses mandamus case vs. city officials

BAGUIO CITY – The Regional Trial Court (RTC) dismissed the case for mandamus filed by a businesswoman against city officials for non-issuance of a zoning clearance and a building permit over her lot at Outlook Drive here which is covered by a spurious Certificate of Ancestral Land Title (CALT).

In a four-page decision issued Dec. 10, RTC Branch 3 Judge Emmanuel Rasing agreed with respondents Mayor Mauricio Domogan, city legal officer Melchor Carlos Rabanes and city planning and development coordinator Evelyn Cayat that the petitioner Imelda Tan Lao represented by attorney-in-fact Roger Angway “failed to state a cause of action and the relief prayed for are not justified by the allegations of the petition.”

“Before mandamus is issued, it is essential that the Petitioner should have a clear legal right to the thing demanded and it must be the imperative duty of respondent to perform the act. This is where the Petition fails,” the court said.

“Petitioner is asking the Court to order the issuance of a locational clearance. Her Petition, however, failed to state that she has complied with all the requirements for issuance of the clearance applied for. Such failure makes the Court unable to determine on the face of the Petition that Petitioner has all the requirements (and that) respondents neglected to perform their functions…”

“To stress the point, the Petition merely confined itself on the issue of how the pendency of some suits affecting O-CALT-130 will not affect her, she being an alleged buyer in good faith. Compliance with all the requirements… was never mentioned. Therefore, even a hypothetical admission of the truth of the allegations of the Petition will not justify the grant of the relief prayed for.”

Moreover the court said mandamus does not apply on the situation as the requisites for the clearance being sought by the petitioner “involve exercise of judgment” and is not a ministerial function.

In her petition filed last Aug. 20, Lao represented Angway asked the court to order the respondents to issue the clearance and permit applied for and to reimburse the litigation expenses.

She claimed owning the 2,972 square meter lot under TCT NO. 018-2012002678; and being denied issuance of the clearance or permit by Cayat citing the legal opinion from the city legal office penned by Attorney III Isagani Liporada that the requested clearance cannot be processed due to the pending cases involving the mother title.

She denied knowledge over the lot’s circumstances but averred that her purchase of the same was done in good faith and is justified under Republic Act No. 8371 of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, section 8 (B) and other issuances.

The city officials however said the city cannot issue the requested clearance and permit to the land as it is covered by a CALT that was issued anomalously apart from being “inalienable” and part of a “road easement of Outlook Drive” and therefore “incapable of appropriation by any private individual and beyond the commerce of men.”

In the comment submitted Sept. 14 to the court, the city executives said Lao’s transfer certificate of title (TCT) is a transfer from TCT 2010002820 registered in the name of Virginia Gao-an which is a derivative of Original CALT 130 registered in the name of the heirs of Josephine Abanag Molintas.

“OCT No. O-CALT-130 and its derivative titles are presently the subject of cancellation proceedings with the NCIP in NCIP OJ Case No. 007-2011 and with the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 208480,” the officials noted in the comment.

In the comment, the respondents said Lao “cannot be considered as an innocent purchaser for value” because as a “veteran businesswoman and long-time resident of Baguio as alleged by her,” she should have been aware of the status of O-CALT-130 which is of public knowledge since it covers lands already titled under the Torrens system, government reservations like the Wright Park and the Mansion Grounds and areas within the road-right of way and the subject of newspaper reports and public information campaigns.

“The property covered by her title forms part of the road easement of an area of Baguio which the seat and location of government reservations and popular tourist destinations namely the Wright Park and Mansion House. This fact alone should have put petitioner on her guard and inquiry.”

They said the annotation of cases in the previous titles of the lot should have also made her wary of its status. /A. Refuerzo


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