Friday, October 3, 2014

RTC Junks Petition of Pacific Farms

ALAMINOS CITY --- The Regional Trial Court, Branch 55 here has dismissed the petition of Pacific Farms, Inc. which sought to stop the Provincial Assessor from collecting real estate property taxes imposed on the firm based on two ordinances adopted by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
            Presiding judge Elpidio N. Abella signed the court order which denied Pacific Farms’ Petition for Annulment of Provincial Ordinance No. 146-2010 and 151-2011 with prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction for lack of jurisdiction.
            The order was signed on June 30, 2014.
            The Pacific Farms, a commercial salt making corporation, went to court in question of the validity of the aforementioned ordinances alleging that the proper procedures for the passage of the ordinances were not followed and in effect asked the court that said ordinances be declared invalid and ineffective.
            The petitioner, represented by Johnny A. Khonghun, alleged that no notice was sent to them inviting them to the series of public hearings conducted; the proposed ordinance was not published in a newspaper of local circulation nor posted in at least four (4) conspicuous places within the territorial jurisdiction; the notice of public hearing was sent less than 10 days before the scheduled public hearing (it was sent only 9 days earlier); and that Ordinance 151-2011 is unjust and excessive for providing different values to lots with the same area.
            In the Demurrer to Evidence filed by the province through the provincial legal counsel, Baniqued answered the allegations one by one.
            To the first allegation, Provincial Legal Officer Geraldine Baniqued said the same cannot serve as valid ground to invalidate the assailed ordinance. The province said that what was being required by the Local Government Code is the conducting of a public hearing and not necessarily the issuance of personal invitations to the public hearing.
            Admitting that there was no invitation, the respondents claimed that it is both unreasonable and extremely difficult and impossible to individually invite stakeholders. It is for this reason that posting of the proposed legislative measures were made in public and in conspicuous places to inform the public of the pending legislation and give the public the opportunity to air their concerns.
            Moreover, Baniqued said the Local Government Code of 1991 (RA 7160) Section 187 does not require personal notice to taxpayers but the mandatory public hearing.
            Baniqued further bared that the questioned provincial ordinances were respectively published in the December26, 2010; January 1, 2011; June 12, 2011; and June 18, 2011 issues of the Ilocano Observer, alocal newspaper circulted within Pangasinan.
            As to the invalidity of the public hearing, Baniqued said that section 187 thereof, did not mention that notice should be no less than 10 days fro said hearing.
            On the allegation that Ordinance 151-2011 was unjust and excessive, the respondent noted that the petitioner’s interpretation on the principle of uniformity was not in consonance with Constitution.
            The provincial legal officer said it is worthy to state that the valuation that the Provincial Assessor’s Office is far lower than the valuation provided by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.  
            Baniqued said the subject ordinances refer to the revision of values.
            She said it is provided in the local government code that the valuation for real properties must be made every three years.
            She further explained that province has not effected any revision for approximately 10 years and that a revision was made only in 2010  after skipping supposed revisions for three times.

            After making justifications to all the issues, the trial court upheld the position of the province saying that the court is not vested with the jurisdiction to try the case so this means to say that the ordinances are valid and effective, Baniqued said as she hoped that issue will now be laid to rest noting that the province has complied to all the processes in the passage of the ordinances.


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