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As I See It

Why does ‘Bistek’ want NHA lot so much?

/ 12:39 AM July 15, 2015

This is a continuation of last Monday’s column. For those who tuned in late, here is a reprise:

Regina A. Samson, assistant secretary to Quezon City Mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista, wrote a letter to the editor commenting on this column of June 12, 2015, which stated that the mayor tried to mislead President Aquino by writing a letter to him last Dec. 8 containing erroneous facts. The mayor wanted the President to amend, contrary to law, Proclamation No. 1670, which gave usufructuary rights to Manila Seedling Bank Foundation (MSBF) to a 7-hectare lot on Quezon Avenue owned by the National Housing Authority (NHA) where the MSBF would grow seedlings for reforestation.

The MSBF has done just that, reforesting thousands of hectares of denuded forest land, besides providing home gardeners with seeds, seedlings, plants and flowers.

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When Bautista became mayor of Quezon City, he embarked on moves to grab the 7-hectare NHA lot. In his letter to the President, Bautista claimed that the lot now belongs to the Quezon City government via forfeiture because the NHA and MSBF did not pay real estate taxes, and he asked the President to amend Proclamation No. 1670 so that Quezon City Hall can take possession of the property. (Question: If the lot already belongs to the Bautista-controlled Quezon City government, why does he need the President to violate the law by amending Proclamation 1670?) Usufruct is a contract with the property owner, and not even presidents can alter contracts.

In her own letter to the Inquirer editors, Samson tried to refute the column by citing records of: 1) the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoking the certificate of registration of the MSBF; 2) the Quezon City Regional Trial Court pronouncing that the MSBF is without corporate personality on account of the revocation of its certificate of registration; and 3) a Supreme Court resolution that, in effect, affirmed the repeal by the Local Government Code of the MSBF’s tax exemption under the proclamation.

Last Monday’s column refuted these allegations one by one:

  • The SEC itself has given the MSBF until Dec. 31 to file a petition to lift the revocation, which the latter did last Feb. 4. This petition is now awaiting resolution by the SEC. Therefore, the revocation has not yet become final. Samson herself did not deny that the revocation order has not become final.
  • The RTC order which stated that the MSBF has no corporate personality is on appeal and has not become final either. Besides, the Quezon City government has all this time dealt with the MSBF as a corporation. Therefore, it is estopped from denying the foundation’s corporate personality.
  • The repeal of Presidential Decree No. 1197 by the Local Government Code is not an issue on the tax exemption of the NHA (and the MSBF as usufructuary) and they are not claiming tax exemption under the decree.

The truth is that the NHA is exempt from real estate taxes under the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 or Republic Act No. 7279, while the MSBF, as usufructuary of the NHA’s 7-hectare lot, is also tax-exempt under Article 597 of the Civil Code.

Besides, Mayor Bautista himself acknowledged during the opening of the 2013 horticulture show at the Quezon Memorial Circle that the MSBF lot “is not owned by the city government but belongs to the NHA.” Why is he now so hot in trying to grab the NHA property—to the point of trying to mislead President Aquino himself? Apparently, because he wants to give the property to Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan.

Now, why will he violate the law just to please Mitsubishi? Despite knowing that the property does not belong to the Quezon City government, why does he meddle so much with it? Why does he not let the NHA, the owner of the property, decide for itself what it wants to do with the property, especially when the usufruct to the MSBF expires a few years from now?

Why does Mitsubishi not negotiate with the NHA, the property owner? Has anyone from the Quezon City government promised to give the property to it on a silver platter? What did Mitsubishi promise that someone in return?

And why does Mitsubishi want the property so much that it would allow the Quezon City government to violate the law and trample on other people’s rights?

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Reportedly, it is planning to put up a communications tower on the site. Which should send the residents of surrounding areas and even commuters running to the courts to stop it. Why?

Because communications towers are known to emit radiation that is harmful to health, and is even known to cause cancer. All the surrounding residential areas, commuters passing Edsa, Quezon Avenue and other streets around and near Quezon City Circle, and even Mayor Bautista and all the people working, paying their taxes and fees, and transacting other business in City Hall will be at risk. Mayor Bautista, the leader of Quezon City, will be putting all his constituents in danger.

A communications tower should be put up in a site away from populated areas, not in a place like Quezon City.

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TAGS: Bistek, Herbert bautista, manila seedling bank foundation, Mitsubishi Electric Corp., National Housing Authority, NHA, Quezon City, quezon memorial circle, Regina A. Samson
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