BAGUIO CITY – The Supreme Court decision upholding the validity of the city government’s 1995 contract with the Uniwide Sales Realty and Resources Corporation (Uniwide) will not affect the tenure of legitimate vendors at the city market.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan stressed this last Wednesday to belie rumors that the decision would result to the vendors’ eviction from the trading center.
“In case you heard that rumor, do not believe it because it is not true,” the mayor told the vendors in his Ugnayang Panlungsod press briefing.
He explained that under the terms of the contract with Uniwide, a multi-story building will be put up and the first floor will house the legitimate vendors who will remain under the supervision of the city government and not of Uniwide.
The mayor assured the vendors that the development of the market will not happen outright as the city still needs to settle many issues before the development project can push through.
He said foremost, the city still has to wait for the finality of the court order to seal the decision.
After which, the city has to sit down with Uniwide to thresh out issues on whether or not it is still interested to pursue the project. This is expected to include the issue of whether the company still has the financial capability to undertake the project.
“Then there’s the issue of the project’s cost estimate and specifications which obviously need to be revised because the contract when approved in 1995 was for only P1.7 billion,” the mayor said.
He assured that all the amendments to the terms will pass through the city council for approval.
Moreover, the city has to tackle ground preparations before the project can take off including the relocation site for the vendors and other needs.
In a three-page notice dated Sept. 2, 2015 by Division Clerk of Court Edgar Aricheta, the high court quashed the petition for review of the Court of Appeals’ earlier decisions and affirmed the CA’s decision dated Dec. 28, 2012 maintaining the validity and constitutionality of Ordinance No. 38 series of 1995 which provides the guidelines for the market development along with the award of the project development to Uniwide and the amended Design, Build and Lease (DBL) agreement, the development scheme adopted for the project.
The court also upheld the CA’s Resolution dated March 19, 2014 denying for lack of merit the motion for reconsideration of the CA’s 2012 decision.
The court said the petitioners Baguio Marker Vendors Association Inc., Magdalaena Navarro and Elizabeth Dino failed to “show that the CA committed any reversible error in holding that (Ordinance No. 038-95) and the (DBL agreement) between the respondents City Government of Baguio and (Uniwide) are valid.
“As correctly ruled by the CA, aside from petitioners’ bare allegations, they have failed to show that Ordinance No. 038-95 is ultra vires and that irregularities attended the bidding process for the development of the Baguio City Public Market. As such, the presumption of regularity in the performance of the functions of the officials of the (City) should prevail;
“It is settled that factual findings of the trial court, when affirmed by the CA, are entitled to great weight and respect by the Court and are deemed final and conclusive when supported by evidence on record as in this case,” the court said.
The court further said that the CA was correct in ruling that the DBL agreement is in the nature of a Build-Lease-Transfer Scheme expressly authorized under Republic Act No. 6957 as amended by RA 7718, and thus no longer needs any approval from the President.”
Uniwide won the bid for the project costing P1.7 billion in 1995 but the development project was stalled after four cases were filed separately in 1996 against city officials and Uniwide by the Hilltop Open Market Vendors Credit and Services Corporation (HOMVECSCO) for declaratory judgement, preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order; the group of Sagayo and Gumnad et.al., the Baguio Market Vendors Association Inc. (BAMARVA) and the group of Calicdan, Dalida et. al., all for the annulment of Ordinance No. 38-1995, the award of contract and the DBL Agreement, with prayer for the issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and Damages.
In 2008 or 12 years later, the Regional Trial Court declared the validity of the Uniwide contract and dismissed the said cases and ordered the dissolution of the writs of preliminary injunction issued initially by the court and the cancellation of the injunction bonds and denied the claims for damages by the parties.
Under the lease agreement forged during the term of Domogan in 1995, Uniwide will build a multi-storey building in the area and operate its upper floors for 30 years. The first floor where the main market place and legitimate vendors will be housed will continue to be operated by the city government under the DBL scheme.
Meanwhile, Vice Mayor Edison Bilog proposed a resolution cancelling the DBL agreement in view of Uniwide’s dissolution by the Security and Exchange Commission.
“The (SEC) in an en banc decision dated 30 May 2013 ordered the dissolution of all the companies in the group namely: Uniwide Sales Inc., Uniwide Holdings, Inc., Naic Resources and Development Corporation, Uniwide Sales Realty and Resources Corporation, First Paragon Corporation and the Uniwide Sales Warehouse Club Inc. pursuant to section 6-1 of the SEC Rules of Procedure on Corporate Recovery due to financial hemorrhage since 1999, with sales and total revenues steadily declining resulting to huge annual losses in its operations from 2002 to 2009 consequently having been denied corporate rehabilitaton in 2010,” Bilog noted.
“Due to the dissolution of the corporation, the development of the Baguio City Public Market could no longer push through since (Uniwide) is no longer in existence and the proposed contract price of P1.729 billion could no longer suffice to shoulder the development considering that 20 years have already lapsed,” Bilog added/A Refuerzo