Ortigas firm loses bid to recover two properties from gov’t

Published March 14, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Sandiganbayan First Division has dismissed the complaint filed by the Ortigas & Company Limited Partnership (OCLP) that seeks to recover two of its properties from the government.

The Annulment/Declaration of Nullity of Documents, Deeds and Titles and Recovery of Possession with Preliminary Injunction was filed by OCLP on February 21, 1990 against the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), Asset Privatization Trust (APT), Anchor Estate Corporation (Anchor), and Mid-Pasig Land Development Corporation (Mid-Pasig).

The OCLP sought the reconveyance of its two previously owned parcels of land situated in Pasig City, covered by Transfer Certificates of Title No. 337158, with an area of 160,000 square meters, and No. 469702 with an area of 24,891 square meters, both registered in the name of Mid-Pasig.

According to the OCLP, its consent was vitiated and was only forced to sell the subject properties because of the intimidation and undue influence employed by the late President Ferdinand Marcos against the partnership.

But in its ruling, the anti-graft court said that after reviewing both their documentary and testimonial evidence, OCLP failed to establish its case.

The OCLP argued that the subject properties were forcibly taken from it through intimidation and undue influence of Marcos. More specifically, threats were made that the OCLP and its partners would be exposed to investigations which would endanger their future. Since the properties were unjustly deprived, the OCLP maintained that it has the right to recover them as a matter of law, justice, and equity.

The OCLP mainly anchored its case on the testimony of lawyer Ignacio Ortigas, who asserted that he was able to observe the demeanor of his uncle, Francisco Ortigas, when the latter confided to him about the supposed threat and intimidation of Marcos during the sale of the first property. Ignacio said that his uncle appeared frustrated and helpless, since his uncle’s eyes swelled when talking about the alleged threat.

However, the anti-graft court is not persuaded. “A witness can testify only on those facts which he knows of his personal knowledge, that is, which are derived from his own perception,” the court ruled. “Atty. Ignacio Ortigas admitted that he did not have any participation or involvement in the sale of the first property.”

He even admitted that when the general partners deliberated about the first sale, he was not present in any deliberation as he was not yet in the Board.

The court explained that there is intimidation when one of the contracting parties is compelled by a reasonable and well-grounded fear of an imminent and grave evil upon his person or property, or upon the person or property of his spouse, descendants or descendants, to give his consent.

But notably, not a single document that will corroborate the testimony of Atty. Ortigas about the alleged threat or intimidation was presented by OCLP. There was likewise no evidence presented concerning the minutes of any of the meetings held to discuss the sale of the subject properties.

In contrast, a letter written by F. Ortigas to former First Lady Imelda Marcos was presented to the court. In it, Ortigas wanted to discuss the sale and even said he would “be very happy to answer” any of her questions regarding it.

“If it were true that the subject properties were forcibly taken from OCLP by intimidating and unduly influencing it, through F. Ortigas, the latter would not have sent that kind of letter to the person or persons who forcibly took the said property from it. And of course, F. Ortigas would not have stated that he would be ‘very happy to answer’ any question that may be asked of him on the matter,” the court noted.

The 61-page decision was written by First Division Chairperson Efren De La Cruz, with the concurrences of Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Edgardo Caldona.