LGUs in the Philippines

Suntrust files perjury complaints vs barangay officials in Santa Ana, Manila

James Patrick Cruz

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Suntrust files perjury complaints vs barangay officials in Santa Ana, Manila

CONSTRUCTION. Suntrust Ascentia builds a condominium in Santa Ana Heritage Zone.

Patrick Cruz/Rappler

Suntrust accuses Barangay Chairman Richard Lopez and other village officials of lying before a Manila court about the company's 36-story condominium project

MANILA, Philippines – Suntrust Properties filed perjury and false testimony complaints against top village officials in Santa Ana, Manila, as tension heats up between the developer and residents because of disturbances allegedly caused by a 36-story condominium project.

In a document obtained by Rappler on Wednesday, September 20, Suntrust Assistant Vice President Manolito Elmann lodged a formal complaint before the Manila City prosecutor’s office on September 13. This complaint includes three counts of perjury and three counts of false testimony against Barangay 885, Zone 97 Chairman Richard Lopez. 

A separate complaint for perjury and false testimony was filed on September 14 against barangay councilors Josephine Go, Carmelo Endaya, Nicanor Rivera, Belen Amatorio, Floredeliza David, and Sangguniang Kabataan Chairman James Earl Lopez.

Suntrust accused the respondents of lying before a Manila court. The developer also questioned the affidavit of counterfeit which states that the barangay officials did not sign the barangay clearance allowing Suntrust Ascentia to construct a 36-story condominium in Sta. Ana Heritage Zone.

In March, the said barangay officials and the Santa Ana Heritage Tourism Association filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition before the Manila Regional Trial Court against Suntrust, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, the Office of the Building Official of Manila (OBO), and the Manila local government unit.

During the hearing on April 25 before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 3, Go, Amatorio, Rivera, Endaya, and David denied their signatures on the barangay clearance.

Meanwhile, Lopez questioned the existence of the barangay clearance and barangay resolution.

Suntrust, however, pointed out that during the hearing, Lopez admitted twice to signing the barangay clearance and later confirmed that the signature on the barangay resolution was indeed his own.

The Manila Trial Court dismissed the petition for certiorari and prohibition on July 10. The court said that Suntrust has already secured permits from the concerned agencies and offices.

The court, however, did not rule on the authenticity of the barangay clearance, which barangay officials claimed to be forged.

The court said the National Bureau of Investigation should be asked to examine the disputed documents. The court left this task to the party who felt aggrieved, whether it was the petitioners who allege the forgery or the public and private respondents who allege perjury.

Elmann, on the other hand, said in his complaint-affidavit that he witnessed Lopez, Go, Endaya, Rivera, and the late barangay councilor Marlon Rivera signing the barangay clearance dated April 1, 2019.

Suntrust also said that the resolution bearing the dry seal of Barangay 885 and handwritten signatures of barangay officials disproved of the said testimonies.

On January 12, Suntrust said that Lopez personally signed and certified Suntrust’s duplicate copy of the barangay clearance and barangay resolution as a true copy.

In a Rappler report on March 28, Lopez admitted that his signature was in the document, although he said that he didn’t know how it got there. Meanwhile, Amatorio said they never issued the contested documents.

Suntrust files perjury complaints vs barangay officials in Santa Ana, Manila

Suntrust said that Lopez’s statement has caused damage to Suntrust’s reputation.

“[Suntrust] continues to incur damages from its lost sales, delayed construction, and besmirched reputation which for decades it worked hard to sustain,” the complaint-affidavit reads.

Lying under oath is punishable by at least six years of imprisonment. The offender will also face a fine of up to P1 million and a lifetime ban from holding any government position, whether appointive or elective, in any government agency or entity.

Some residents of Santa Ana, Manila has been complaining about the noises and tremors caused by the construction of Suntrust Ascentia. They also raised concern over the damage to the centuries-old painting inside the church’s camarin.

In Sta. Ana, Manila, centuries-old paintings under threat as Suntrust condo construction continues

In Sta. Ana, Manila, centuries-old paintings under threat as Suntrust condo construction continues

– Rappler.com

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James Patrick Cruz

Patrick Cruz is a researcher and writer for Rappler’s governance cluster. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, he covered local governments focusing on Metro Manila.