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Rich get richer: Makati gains while Taguig loses Fort Boni in court decision

August 5, 2013 5:52pm

Residents of Bonifacio Global City can forget they live in a poor country. BGC

(Updated 4:59 p.m., 6 Aug. 2013) Already the wealthiest city in the Philippines, Makati just got even richer.

The Court of Appeals has declared portions of Fort Bonifacio, including the upscale locale of Bonifacio Global City, as being part of Makati City and not Taguig City.

At stake in the decision were huge local tax revenues and the prestige that emanates from one of the trendiest places in the country.

Residents of The Fort's luxury condos, including the ill-fated Serendra complex, can now call themselves residents of Makati and no longer of the less chic Taguig, unless of course the decision is overturned by the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano said they will appeal the CA decision.

"The CA decision, with due respect, is erroneous. We will flight to make sure that the disputed land remains with Taguig," Cayetano said in a statement. "We are confident that we will ultimately win this fight."

For its part, Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation (FBDC), the main developer of the 240-hectare Bonifacio Global City, said the CA decision seemed more directed to the local government of Taguig and Makati and not the locators.
 
"We still have to thoroughly review the decision. It appears the decision is directed to the cities of Makati and Taguig, and not to the locators of Bonifacio Global City. We will fully comply with and support a final decision on this matter," Manny A. Blas II, FBDC's Head of Commercial Operations, said in an e-mail.

BCDA president Arnel Casanova said in a text message that they have yet to get a copy of the decision and, until then, cannot comment on the matter.
 
In a separate text message, SM Investments Corp. vice president and chief investor relations officer Cora Quidote said the CA decision does not affect SM Aura because it's not part of the contested areas.

Court case

In a decision, the CA's Sixth Division overturned the July 2011 ruling of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court that invalidated Presidential Proclamation Nos. 2475 and 518 that originally placed the disputed 729.15 hectares of land under the jurisdiction of Makati City.

"We believe... that contrary to the findings of the lower court as between pieces of evidence presented, Taguig was not able to prove this greater weight of evidence to merit a favorable decision," the CA said in a 37-page decision.

The disputed areas consist of Enlisted Men's Barrios (EMBO) barangays and Inner Fort barangays (which include Barangay Post Proper Northside and Barangay Post Proper Southside).  

The CA noted that a census in the area in 1970 by the National Census and Statistics Office indicated that it was under the jurisdiction of Makati.

"[R]esidents there were voting in the national and local elections as Makati voters. Hence, Presidential Proclamation Nos. 2475 and 518 did not 'alter' boundaries but instead confirmed that said area is under the jurisdiction of Makati," the CA said.

"It appears that both proclamations are even more likely impartial since they were promulgated prior to the institution of the instant case," the appellate court added.

The CA noted that the Original Certificate of Title (OCT) 291 covered the parcels of land sold by its original owner Dolores Pascual Casal to the US government in 1902. The property was later converted into a military camp under the jurisdiction of Taguig, Pasay, and Parañaque.

The CA, however, noted that the disputed areas were not covered neither by OCT 291 nor by any of its derivative titles.

"Nowhere in said derivative titles and decree was the disputed area, Parcel 4, Psu-2031, mentioned," the court said.

"The descriptions... on the derivative titles coincide with the evidence presented by Makati and its claim that Fort William McKinley lies outside the tract of land claimed by Taguig to be situated in Taguig, Pasay and Parañaque," the CA added.

Taguig had earlier insisted that the disputed areas could not have belonged to Makati because they were not identified as having been created under Section 3 of Republic Act No. 3590 or the "Revised Barrio Charter."

The CA, however, said the area needed not be cited because they were already in existence prior to RA 3590.

The CA also said the evidence presented by the Taguig government and cited by the trial court judge in his decision were neither identified, presented, nor authenticated in court.

"[P]ublic documents need to be identified by the government official or authority who prepared them because they are not conclusive  evidence with respect to the truthfulness of the statements made therein by the interested parties," the CA said.

The CA ordered Taguig "to immediately cease and desist from exercising jurisdiction within the disputed area and return the same to Makati."

The court also ordered Taguig "to pay the cost of suit."

Taguig lost much more than a court case. Real estate in Bonifacio Global City is among the priciest in the country. A current ad in Sulit.com lists one corner vacant lot there of 1,790 square meters at P596,000,000.

That address, along with the taxes paid on the property, now belong to Makati, already ranked number one in the country in per capita income. – with Amanda Fernandez and Danessa Rivera/KBK/HS/RSJ, GMA News




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