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Junk case over P1.7B loan, Bacolod officials ask court

BY ADRIAN P. NEMES III

Several officials of the Bacolod City government are seeking the dismissal of the amended civil complaint over the P1.7 billion loan they contracted with the Development Bank of the Philippines to fund various projects.

City Legal Officer Joselito Bayatan, who serves as counsel for the city officials, said that this time, they will use as among the basis for their appeal for dismissal the rule on non-forum shopping, that he claimed, was violated by the complainants.

Regional Trial Court Branch 44 Judge Ana Celeste Bernad last month ordered the city officials to answer within 30 days the amended complaint of former vice mayor Jude Thaddeus Sayson, former councilor Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, and businessman Antonio Wong.

On January 18, 2019, the trio filed a civil case against Mayor Evelio Leonardia, Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran, councilors Cindy Rojas, Renecito Novero, Elmer Sy, Ana Marie Palermo, Dindo Ramos, Bartolome Orola, Lady Gles Gonzalez-Pallen, and Ayesha Joy Villaflor, and former councilors Caesar Distrito, Sonya Verdeflor, and Em Ang.

Also named respondents were Sangguniang Panlungsod Secretary Vicente Petierre III, City Treasurer Giovanni Balalilhe, City Budget Officer Maria Imelda Williams, City Accountant Corazon Cardel, and DBP Negros Occidental Lending Center head Bernardo Catillion Jr.

The civil case filed was for certiorari, prohibition, and annulment of contract with a prayer for a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and/or preliminary mandatory injunction.

They claimed that the resolutions and ordinances passed that led to the agreement between Bacolod City and DBP are invalid and ineffective and were not posted and published, in accordance with the provisions of the Local Government Code, particularly Section 59.

Bernad had earlier dismissed the complaint, saying that the complainants failed to establish “imminent or actual danger that would warrant the issuance of a TRO”.

The petitioners amended the complaint, refiled it, and at the same time elevated it before the Supreme Court using the same documents as evidence, Bayatan said.

He said the act was, indeed, a violation of the rule on non-forum shopping. Of the P1.7 billion loan, P300 million will be used for the construction of the Progreso Village relocation site, P350 million for the Bacolod City College site development, and the rest is for the construction of a MassKara Village, bridges, and roads in different areas in the city.*

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