Cortes defends sale of P3.5-hectare property

THE sale of a 3.5-hectare government property for around P1.7 million in Mandaue City during the stint of former mayor now Rep. Jonas Cortes (Cebu, 6th district) was aboveboard.

According to the congressman’s official statement, the basis for the City Government’s issuance of a deed of sale to the Ouano Development & Management Corp. (Ecodemcor) in 2015 was the provision of the lease contract that was made in 1980 yet.

The price was based on the valuation of foreshore land under Department of Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR) Administrative Order (AO) 99-34, or Rules and Regulations Governing the Administration, Management and Development of Foreshore Areas, Marshy Lands and Other Lands Bordering Bodies of Water.

Atty. Joel Seno, the congressman’s staff member, said that when the company first leased the property, it was underwater. The company spent P75 million to reclaim it with the City not spending a single centavo, he said.

Seno cited the Local Government Code, which states that all expenses will be deducted from the purchase amount when a lessor buys a rented government property.

Aside from the P75 million spent on reclamation, Ecodemcor also donated P42,764,950 worth of roads to the city, he said.

On the promise to sell, dated March 28, 2001, the amount stated was P50 per square meter, which was based on the DENR AO 99-34.

“The amount of P1,791,050 is not the only consideration since Ecodemcor donated P42,764,950 worth of private road network, as additional consideration executed on the same day, which the City planned to acquire in connection with the implementation of its coastal road corridor to relieve the city center of the traffic congestion in the vicinity of Barangay Looc and will benefit thousands of Mandauehanon,” Seno said.

Cortes and other city officials will be charged with violating the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Law and will face administrative charges for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service because of the contract that the City Government entered with Ecodemcor in 2015 when Cortes was still mayor.

Seno said that a Bernard Cabatingan and Analin Maquilan will file the cases and taxpayers’ complaint before the Visayas Ombudsman this week.

“We really cannot say what’s in the complaint because we haven’t seen it, and the newspaper report did not say either,” he said in Cebuano.

Cabatingan and Maquilan are questioning the sale of the 3.5-hectare property in Barangay Looc for P50 per square meter.

City Assessor Richard Flores said that the appraised value of the property in 2015 was P4,580 per square meter, or a total of P164,609,780. Under the 2017 general revision schedule of the fair market value, the property was valued at P5,000 per square meter, or a total of P179,705,000.

But Seno reiterated that the sale price was based on DENR AO 99-34, which was approved by the City Council.

Cortes’s camp is questioning the timing of the filing of the cases.

“The first case with the same subject matter was filed with the Office of the Ombudsman last January 2018 prior to the barangay elections. Now that it is near the filing of the certificate of candidacy for the 2019 elections, they’re now publicizing the mere intent of filing another case with the same subject matter,” the congressman’s statement said.

Set to be charged along with Cortes is Mandaue City Association of Barangay Council president Ernie Manatad, who said he is ready to face any charges regarding the transaction.

“That’s part of the risk of being public officials because you were part of the team that time that authorized the city mayor to enter the transaction and we felt it was regular. There was nothing illegal, based on our assessment. We’ll face it (the charges),” he said.

He said politics is behind the filing of the cases since it’s right before the filing of the certificates of candidacy for next year’s elections.

Also to be charged are former vice mayor Glenn Bercede and former councilors Emmarie Ouano-Dizon, Jimmy Lumapas, Jose Jefferson Ceniza, Nenita Layese, Elstone Dabon, Benjamin Basiga, Diosdado Suico, Editha Cabahug, and Beethoven Andaya and Demetrio Cortes Jr., who are both dead. (Fe Marie D. Dumaboc, correspondent)

Source: Local News

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