Gov’t lot in Eastwood Center sold for less than half its fair value

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    THE Commission on Audit has affirmed the decision of its National Government Sector (NGS)-Cluster 8 declaring that the Appraisal Committee of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources–National Capital Region sold a government property in Eastwood Center, Quezon City in 2008 for less than half its fair value of P55.707 million.

    In a decision dated October 30, 2019 but released only last Nov. 14, the COA Commission Proper denied the petition for review of DENR-NCR Appraisal Committee chairman Arturo Fabriquela seeking the lifting of the notice of charge that declared the P24.484 million selling price to be an under-appraisal loss for the government.

    COA chairman Michael G. Aguinaldo and Commissioners Jose A. Fabia and Roland C. Pondoc unanimously upheld the NGS-Cluster 8 ruling which determined that there was an under-collection of P31.223 million from the transaction.

    “The appraisal made by DENR-NCR failed to consider the exact location of the subject property and its highest and best use or potential, which is for commercial purposes. In this aspect, the DENR’s valuation of the subject property …favored the buyer and caused loss to the government in the amount of P31,222,875,” the COA said.

    At the outset, the commission said that Fabriquela’s petition for review may already be denied outright on the ground that it was filed after the lapse 180 days or the maximum allowed period for appeal.

    “A careful scrutiny of the records shows that the prescribed period had already lapsed when the petitioner filed his appeal. Appeal is not a right, but a mere statutory privilege, and must be exercised strictly in accordance with the provisions set by law,” the court said.

    Regardless if the appeal is given due course however, the COA said it would still uphold the finding of its Senior Technical Audit Specialist that the fair market value of the property was P55.707 million.

    “Even if the petition is decided on the merits, it would still be denied. Clearly, the selling price of P24,484,125 is disadvantageous to the government,” the COA said.