City tells Cuña: Return of P16-M


THE anomalous sale of a 30-hectare land in Barangays Awai and Bolo in San Jacinto to the Dagupan City government in 2002 during the term of then Mayor Benjamin Lim continues to hound those involved in the questionable transaction 16 years hence.

The Dagupan City government sent a final demand letter on Nov. 26 to Jose Mariano Cuña, the seller, demanding the return of P16.1 million with 12 percent legal interest per annum since April 11, 2002, paid by the city since the land and the title were never delivered to the city government.

City Legal Officer Geraldine N. Francisco sent the final demand letter to Cuña at his address  on A.B. Fernandez Avenue, Dagupan, City through his lawyer, Atty. Jason Mejia.

The Nov. 26 demand letter was a reiteration to the first demand letter sent dated Nov. 5 to Cuña asking him to reimburse the amount (with the stated  interest) “paid to you for the purchase of that property, covered by Tax Declaration No.13028 and 4514”.

The demand letter to Cuña reads partly: “Despite receiving the full amount of purchase price, you violated your warranty as seller, when the DARAB (Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board) nullified the sale. due to claims of legitimate tenants and your failure to deliver the property itself to the City”.

Enclosed in Francisco’s final demand letter was the 12-page order of DAR signed by Agrarian Reform Secretary John R. Castriciones  dated August 16, 2018 which denied  the petition for exemption of the land in question from the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). and also directed the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer  of San Jacinto and Agrarian Reform Program  Officer of Pangasinan to proceed with the acquisition and distribution of the subject property under CARP.

Cuña was given five days to reimburse the amount (with interest) from receipt of the final demand letter, otherwise the Dagupan City government “will seek redress from the Court”.

It will be recalled that the DAR ruling maintained that the City of Dagupan “did not acquire valid title to the subject landholding” as DAR also took note that the Deed of Absolute Sale dated 18 December 2001 in favor of Cuña was null and void as it violated agrarian reform laws.

The land bought by Dagupan City purposely as site of a sanitary landfill was originally a part of the Estate of Juan Fernandez administered by Estrella F. Sangalang.

On December 18, 2000, Sangalang sold the property to Cuña for P7,000,000, prompting the  nine tenants with whom Fernandez had entered into agricultural leasehold contracts earlier to file a petition for redemption on  March 15,2002, against Sangalang, Cuña, and the Land Bank of the Philippines with the Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board and the DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB), Region 1.

And when Cuña sold the land to the city of Dagupan on April 11, 2002 for P16 million three months later, the tenants amended their petition on August 26, 2002 to include the city of Dagupan in the agrarian case.

Despite being served with a copy of the petition, the City of Dagupan, under then Mayor  Lim, did not file its answer to the petition.

DARAB dismissed the action for redemption and directed the records of the case to be remanded to the DAR Provincial Office Operations Division for compulsory acquisition of the land.

In a bid to recover the land, the city government on September 25, 2007, during the term of Mayor Alipio Fernandez Jr,. filed a letter-request seeking the exemption of the subject landholding  from the coverage of CARP on the grounds that the land has a slope of 18 percent or more and that the same is mainly barren and idle land unsuitable for agriculture.

The petition and the motion for reconsideration were denied by DAR Region 1. (Leonardo Micua)

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