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Court junks petition vs P18B Kawit project

Court junks petition vs P18B Kawit project

Odessa O. Leyson (The Freeman) – May 7, 2019 – 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña and the proponents of the multi-billion peso Kawit development project scored another legal victory after the Regional Trial Court dismissed the petition filed by eight opposition councilors seeking to stop the project.

On the ground of forum shopping, RTC Judge Soliver Peras junked the petition for the declaration of nullity and issuance of 72-hour temporary restraining order and/ or Writ of Preliminary Injunction against the project.

Peras said the petition filed by Councilors Jose Daluz III, Jocelyn Pesquera, Raymond Alvin Garcia, Pastor Alcover Jr., Joel Garganera, Renato Osmeña Jr., Eduardo Rama Jr., and former councilor Erik Miguel Espina was already a subject of another petition pending before the court.

“In light of the foregoing considerations, the Court is of the considered view to ex mero motu dismiss this case on the grounds of litis pendentia and forum shopping,” a portion of the decision reads.

The complainants, who are members of Barug-PDP Laban, asked the court to stop Osmeña and the officials of Universal Hotels and Resorts Inc. (UHRI) from entering into an agreement for the P18-billion project on Kawit Island at the South Road Properties.

They questioned the validity and legality of the authority granted by the City Council to Osmeña to sign the agreement with UHRI. Aside from Osmeña, also named respondents in the complaint were Councilors David Tumulak, Margarita Osmeña, Sisinio Andales, Eugenio Gabuya Jr., Alvin Arcilla, Mary Ann de los Santos, Jerry Guardo, Joy Augustus Young, and Franklyn Ong. UHRI officials were also among the defendants.

The respondents moved for the outright dismissal of the petition during the October 4, 2018 hearing on the grounds that there is a pending case on the same matter in another court. According to the respondents, the petition filed by the opposition councilors violated the principle against forum shopping.

They also argued that the petition is already moot and academic because the authority was already given and that the agreement had already been signed.

The court found merit on the defenses of the respondents citing Section 1, Rule 9 of Rules of Court which states that whenever “…there is another action pending between the same parties for the same cause, or that the action is barred by a prior judgment or by statute of limitations, the court shall dismiss the claim.”

The court ruled that the same petitioners appeared on the case before RTC 10 and RTC 23 wherein they shared the same identity of interest, barring the respondents to enter the JVA for the project in Kawit Island.

“To reiterate, litis pendentia as a principle is a sanction of public policy against multiplicity of suits. The principle upon which a ‘plea of another action pending’ is sustained is that the latter action is deemed unnecessary and vexatious,” reads a portion of the decision. (FREEMAN)


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