2002 AWAI LAND DEAL
THE Dagupan City government filed a civil case before the Regional Trial Court against former Mayor Benjamin Lim and Jose Mariano Cuña on January 4, 2019 over the failure of the latter to deliver the land title to the 30 hectares of land in Barangay Awai San Jacinto in 2002 intended as the site for the city’s sanitary landfill.
Civil case No. 2019-0005-D was filed by Mayor Belen Fernandez representing the Dagupan City government, assisted by City Legal Officer Geraldine Francisco, for Breach of Warranty /Rescission and Damages.
Atty. Roberto Ocampo Sr., leader of Team 6, Audit Group E of Pangasinan II of the Commission on Audit, recommended the filing of a case against former Mayor Lim and Cuña in his letter to Mayor Belen Fernandez on February 27, 2018.
The city government decided to file the case after Cuña failed to return the P16.12 million paid to him for the Awai land, inclusive of interests after two demand letters from the city government.
The complaint cited failure of defendant Jose Mariano Cuña, as seller, to honor his obligation to fulfill an implied warranty to transfer ownership and deliver the property he sold.
The complaint also cited Cuña’s liability for his expressed warranty in the Deed of Sale he executed when he warranted the land was free from encumbrance when in fact, tenants have legal claims over the subject property.
Records showed Cuña sold the land to the Dagupan City government for P16.12 million, after buying the same from one Estrella Sangalang of San Jacinto on December 18, 2001 for P7 million or in a span of just four months.
When Cuña bought the land from Sangalang, the land was under the agricultural leasehold contract with nine tenants headed by one Domingo Rivera, who after learning of the sale filed a petition for redemption dated March 15, 2002 against Sangalang, Cuña, and the Land Bank of the Philippines before the Regional Agrarian Adjudicator of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB).
It was later amended to include the city government of Dagupan
in their petition.
Consequently, Dagupan City failed to physically possess the subject property.
At the same time, the city government said defendant Lim, in executing the subject Deed, “exhibited manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence as the facts revealed he conspired with defendant Cuña and was, therefore in bad faith when, as mayor of the city of Dagupan, he did not cause the conduct of any due diligence on the status of the subject property before purchasing the same.”
The city government claimed Lim knew the manner of Cuña’s acquisition and that the property was not a barren or idle land as he claimed. Further, Lim would have been informed that the tenants have filed an adverse claim over the property against Sangalang and defendant Cuña.
And, Lim, despite having signed the Deed of Sale with Cuña, wittingly or unwittingly failed to have the said Deed confirmed or ratified by the Sangguniang Panlungsod, making the Deed without legal effect.
In his letter, Atty. Ocampo advised Mayor Fernandez that the previous city administration may be criminally liable under Section 3(c) and (g) of Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. (Leonardo Micua)
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