Unconstitutional, says lawmaker on Filinvest, Cebu City govt land deal

By CHRISTIAN WAKEFIELD, Reporter with BRIGETTE D. HILONGO, Intern

HOUSE Deputy Speaker Rep. Pablo Garcia urged the local officials of the city government of Cebu to rescind its joint venture agreement with the privately-owned Filinvest Land, Inc. (FLI) as it violates the Philippine Constitution and the public land law.

The city government of Cebu and Filinvest had earlier signed an agreement in regard to the sale of lands in the controversial South Road Properties (SRP).

Garcia, a constitutionalist, said the sale of 10.6 hectares at the South Road Properties to Filinvest has clearly violated Section 3, Article 12 of the Philippine Constitution which bans private corporations from acquiring any portion or part of the land that is of public domain.

The same law provides “alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to agricultural lands. Private corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease.”

Thus, Garcia stressed, the land acquisition by Filinvest is null and void from the beginning.

“The Cebu City government cannot sell even 100 square meters of SRP lot in violation of the Constitution and the Commonwealth Act,” said Garcia.

“I only hope that the city of Cebu should now realize that by entering into that venture agreement . . . they are (violating) more importantly the Constitution . . . . You can get away with law, but not with Constitution,” he added.

The SRP was an undertaking of the national government but its ownership was transferred to the Cebu City government under the administration of President Gloria Arroyo. The transfer of ownership however does not give the city government the authority to sell portion of the reclaimed property.

Not only a violation of the Philippine Constitution, Garcia said the joint venture agreement entered into by Cebu City and Filinvest violated Section 60 of the Commonwealth Act 141, or the Public Land Law, which provides: “Lands so granted, donated, or transferred to a province, municipality, or branch or subdivision of the Government shall not be alienated, encumbered, or otherwise disposed of in a manner affects its title, except when authorized by Congress.”

Garcia stressed the congressional authority cannot overrule the constitutional ban in the sale of lands of the public domain thus he urged the city government and Filinvest to think of ways on how to get out of from the “questionable” land deal.

“I only hope that the city, particularly the officials, should now realize that by entering into a joint venture agreement and violating not only CA 141 but more seriously, violating the constitution, they should now rethink and review their positions and for FLI to now study and strategize how to disengage from the join venture agreement,” said Garcia.

The Cebu City government has entered into a joint venture agreement with FLI, which purchases 10.6 hectares of the SRP.

Garcia said the joint venture agreement is “null and void” since the beginning, citing the Supreme Court decision that nullifies the Philippine Estate Authority – Amari Land joint venture agreement.

“I hope city council will try to review SC decision on the PEA Amari deal that there is now way they can proceed with JVA because it is not only against the law but of the Constitution,” said Garcia.

On the one hand, Cebu third district Rep. Pablo John Garcia is set to deliver a privilege speech that he says would prove through documents that the SRP deal is illegal and that city officials could face a case of plunder because of undertaking the joint venture agreement with a public corporation.

“(We are) . . . protecting the SRP from corporate greed,” he said.

The Cebu City government has not answered the questions raised by the Cebu provincial government regarding the questionable SRP deal.

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