MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Solicitor General Jose Calida on Friday, July 28, demanded Sunvar Realty Development Corporation to vacate the 2.9-hectare "Mile Long" property in Makati City.
In a press conference, Calida said Sunvar has continued to occupy the property despite the expiration of their lease agreement on December 31, 2002. Sunvar settled in the said property in 1982.
The Solicitor General also said Sunvar owes the government over P1.656 billion in rental fees, exclusive of legal interest.
"For the last 14 years and 7 months, you have been squatting, illegally using, and occupying the Mile Long Property. Despite notices, Sunvar continued to remain in possession and collect millions of rentals from its tenants," the Solicitor General said in a statement.
Sunvar is owned by the Rufino and Prieto families, which ran the Philippine Daily Inquirer for over two decades before announcing the sale of their majority shares to businessman Ramon Ang earlier in July. The decision to sell came amid President Rodrigo Duterte's renewed tirade against the newspaper and the Prietos' businesses.
"When you speak against the government of President Duterte, it’s like you are immaculately clean. You have used your newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer to shield your shenanigans,” Calida said.
Calida even likened Sunvar to the Kadamay urban poor group that "took over" government housing projects in Bulacan in April. "You have been depriving the government of money that could have been used to fund projects for the poor," he told Sunvar.
"Parang binababoy na nila (Sunvar) ang gobyerno eh (Sunvar seems to be mocking the government)," the Solicitor General said. "We will not allow that."
Calida on Sunvar and its continued occupation of Mile Long property: Parang binababoy na nila ang gobyerno e. We will not allow that. pic.twitter.com/a5c7F9oX8g — Michael Bueza (@mikebueza) July 28, 2017
If Sunvar won't pay the rentals it owes, Calida said the government will go after the properties of the Rufinos and the Prietos.
Delays in proceedings
Calida also said the Office of the Solicitor General filed on June 1 a Very Urgent Ex Parte Motion for Execution before the Court of Appeals (CA) to take back the Mile Long property.
In 2009, the government filed a complaint for Unlawful Detainer or ejectment case before Makati Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) Branch 61 for Sunvar's illegal use of the property, but Calida said Sunvar delayed the proceedings.
He also said Sunvar "never questioned the factual issues of the case" and filed "baseless motions" that reached the Supreme Court.
In June 2015, MeTC Judge Barbara Aleli Briones ruled in favor of the government, ordering Sunvar to vacate the Mile Long property and pay back rentals.
Based on MeTC's decision, Sunvar has to pay the government a monthly rental of P3.2 million if they don't vacate the property.
But Calida said Wednesday that Sunvar "did not even file a supersedeas bond and deposit the accruing rentals every month as required by the Rules of Court to stay the execution pending appeal.”
In 2015, Sunvar filed an appeal before Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 141 and a separate petition for injunction before Makati RTC Branch 59. Both were consolidated in December 2015 under Branch 59 Judge Winlove Dumayas, who issued a temporary restraining order in favor of Sunvar.
But on January 26, 2017, the CA ruled that Branch 59 has no jurisdiction over Sunvar's petition for injunction, and remanded the case back to Branch 141 under Judge Maryann Corpus-Manalac. The CA affirmed this decision on July 19.
Sunvar is currently leasing the Mile Long property to Premier Cinema, Mile Long Arcade, Makati Creekside Building, The Gallery Building, and Sunvar Plaza, while the rest are open and being used as parking space.
In a statement sent to Rappler, Sunvar camp explained that the National Power Corporation (Napocor) and the government leased the undeveloped Mile Long Property to the Technology Resource Center Foundation Inc. (TRCFI).
Sunvar expressed interest to sub-lease 3,000 square meters from TRCFI, but the foundation insisted that the realty corporation lease the entire 22,924-square-meter Mile Long Property. "Sunvar agreed in August 1980 to the all-or-nothing long-term sub-lease agreement with TRCFI," the statement explained.
It added that Sunvar paid the full advance to cover the entire lease period – "an initial period of nearly 25 years, renewable for another 25 years at Sunvar's exclusive option."
In April 2002, 8 months before the 25-year lease expired, Sunvar notified Napocor and the government that it would avail itself of the lease extension. "Sunvar likewise tendered payment of rentals for the extended period," the statement said.
However, Sunvar noted that Napocor and the Philippine Development Alternatives Foundation (PDAF, which assumed the functions of TRCFI when the latter was dissolved) informed Sunvar of the non-renewal of the lease. – Rappler.com
Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.