(File photo)

The city government is set to take over the operation of the two public markets, slaughterhouse, and public transport terminal from erstwhile private operator Areza-Cruz Realty Development Company, Inc. (ACRDCI).

Acting assistant city legal officer Atty. Anna Fatima Chavez said Friday they are waiting for the “entry of finality of judgment” of the Supreme Court (SC) that will nullify its present management contract with the city government.

The so-called “entry of finality” is normally issued by the SC within 15 days if the plaintiff is not able to make a further appeal.

“Pero kasi ang decision nila final na iyon so, ‘yong last step is ‘yong entry of judgment. Sabi [ng SC], there are no reversible errors na dapat nila i-consider, which will be sufficient to overturn the earlier ruling.  Bale ang entry of finality of judgement, ‘yon ang nagpapatunay na final na final na talaga ‘yong decision ng Supreme Court,” said Chavez.

Chavez said the city government is expecting to receive the document before the end of August.

Chavez also said the notice of affirmation from the SC dated June 3 and received by the City Legal Office (CLO) on July 30, denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Areza-Cruz.

ACRDCI is the private company managing the facilities under a March 2013 signed agreement with the administration of former mayor Edward Hagedorn.

City transport terminal file photo

Areza-Cruz vs city government

In an earlier interview with Atty. Arnel Pedrosa, the city administrator and legal counsel, he said the dispute between the city government and Areza-Cruz started in 2014 when Mayor Lucilo Bayron decided to take over the management of the facilities.

Areza-Cruz claimed the move violated their lease contract with the past administration.

Pedrosa said Areza-Cruz filed in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) an injunction against the city government, which comprised of two cases, namely Case No. 50-78 for the market and slaughterhouse, and Case No. 50-84 for the public transport terminal.

Pedrosa said the RTC’s decision favored the city government for the public transport terminal, while the realty development corporation won the case for the management of the public markets and slaughterhouse.

However, the decision for the public markets and the slaughterhouse was overturned when they appealed for reconsideration in the Court of Appeals (COA) that sided with the city government.

Pedro said the appellate court declared the Areza-Cruz’ lease contract with the city government “void from the beginning”, wherein mutual restitution must be agreed by both parties in order to terminate it.

He said Areza-Cruz lifted its appeal to the SC whose ruling also sided with the city government.

He added the SC also pointed out that a recent ruling of the Commission on Audit (COA) was found “substantive”, noting that it made the right decision without any reversible error.

While this prior resolution siding with city government was received by CLO April 29 this year, the Areza-Cruz also managed to submit their motion for reconsideration within the same month, said Pedrosa.

Rejoicing public

Malyn Villeza, a former vendor at the new public market, told Palawan News last week that the SC decision is what they have been waiting for since the dispute started.

“Naging maligaya ako sa naging resulta ng Supreme Court base dito sa aming natanggap na copy ng Second Division na mababawi na ang ating pamilihang bayan, old and new markets, terminal, and slaughterhouse,” said Villeza.

Villeza said it was in February 2014 when she and their association president Janet Lacumbo, and one Arobi Neor, wrote the city government to inform that Areza-Cruz committed illegality when it built additional structures for rentals inside the new market’s premises.

She said they filed a petition to seek the city government’s immediate action as the activity was without its consent.

She reiterated the new stalls had  affected the legitimate vendors and their customers.

Villeza said she stood by the city government until the end, even though it took her to make a lot of sacrifices and suffer inconveniences, and even cost her the loss of their family’s main source of income.

“Tinitingnan ko ang future na mai-manage ng city government ang pamilihang bayan natin ng maayos, malinis, presentable, at makatao. Lalo na ang papasok na administrator ng palengke, sikapin sana nila na hindi nila maabuso ‘yong karapatan ng mga manininda. Sana hindi na dumating ulit na maisa-pribado ito. Hindi na sana muling maging excuse na hindi kumikita ang pamilihang bayan para isa-pribado ito,” said Villeza.

Transitory team

Chavez said the city government has a lot of plans aimed at improving the state of the facilities.

“I think it took just around two years na umabot na siya ng Supreme Court. Mabilis siya. Maganda kasi makakapag-decide na tayo finally, kumbaga hindi na tayo tali doon sa mga magiging desisyon ng mga private individuals kasi nga it will be in the hands of the city government,” said Chavez.

While she has no knowledge yet of the next steps of the city government, Chavez said she believes that the City Mayor’s Office (CMO) and City Administrator’s Office (CAO) are going to set up a transitory team to manage the taking over of the facilities.

She said this transitory team might lead the planning, arrangements, and implementation.

“It’s a big step for us lalo na sa mga market vendors natin kasi sa wakas mai-improve na tin ‘yong state ng public markets natin which is ‘yong dati pa naman nating pangarap na maisaayos siya. This is the chance kasi we will already have the opportunity na dahil sa atin na ‘yong possession, we can decide na as to how we would manage or operate the public market,” said Chavez.