Robinsons Land stays as defendant in ill-gotten wealth case: Sandiganbayan

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    ROBINSONS Land Corp. has found itself sucked into a 24-year-old lawsuit involving the alleged ill-gotten wealth of a brother of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos after buying 42 lots the government is trying to confiscate.

    In a 13-page resolution issued last November 17, the Sandiganbayan Third Division denied the property developer’s motion seeking a preliminary hearing on arguments offered in its answer to the government case and asking that it be dropped as a defendant for lack of a prior inquiry on its supposed involvement.

    The anti-graft court affirmed its previous ruling that including Robinsons Land in the case is necessary to protect its interest and right to due process.

    Civil Case No. 0167 was filed in 1996 against former Tacloban City mayor Alfredo “Bejo” Romualdez, his wife Agnes Romualdez, and corporate defendants Romson Realty Inc., R & S Transport Inc., Fidelity Management Inc., and Dio Island Resort Inc.

    The Philippine government sought forfeiture in its favor of alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Romualdez couple and the corporate defendants, including 42 parcels of land in the name of Romson Realty which were placed under government sequestration.

    Since the titles of the 42 properties had been annotated with a notification about the ongoing ownership dispute, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) thought there was enough obstacle to prevent the disposition of the said lots.

    However, the PCGG later found that Romson Realty was able to sell the 42 properties to Robinsons in 2006 by skirting the notices of lis pendens.

    First, the 42 titles were consolidated under a single one. This new consolidated title did not carry over the annotations about the pending court case involving the properties.

    The sale then pushed through without the government knowing.

    To protect its interest, the government impleaded Robinsons Land as a defendant in Civil Case no. 0167.

    Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang, ponente of the court ruling, pointed out that the property buyer’s inclusion as a respondent in the forfeiture case is not even required since it only acquired a stake when the case was already filed when it became the successor-in-interest of Romson Realty.

    The court said whichever way the court rules on the case against Romson will likewise apply to Robinsons Land.

    Associate Justices Bernelito R. Fernandez and Ronald B. Moreno concurred.