Baguio businesswomen implicate Justice Martires in stalls mess

MANILA, Philippines – Two businesswomen from Baguio filed complaints of attempted robbery, grave coercion, malicious mischief, and trespassing against 10 individuals, including a "trustee" of Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Martires.

In the complaint recently filed before the Office of the City Prosecutor in Baguio, businesswomen Adelaida Aquino and Angelica Ibayan accused the individuals of seizing their merchandise without permission, as they are being evicted from the stall leased to them 5 years ago.

The businesswomen said that in 2013, Martires' "trustee" by the name of Engineer Jose Manangan offered to lease to them a stall in Maharlika owned by the justice. They rent the stall to this day, where they sell mobile phones, accessories, and other goods.

The businesswomen attached receipts of their rent fees over the years, deposited in an account owned by members of the Martires family.

Martires said he has amicably settled the issue with the Maharlika management, and that he is just being dragged into it to make the story "juicy."

"It becomes a juicy story if an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court is dragged into it, especially someone who has voted in favor of quo warranto," Martires said.

Issue

"Sometime May 2018, Manangan texted me (Angelica) informing that I can only use the stall until May 15, 2018. He presented no document from Justice Martires or any of his lawyers. Attorney Rocky Balisong and Mr Rufino Panangan then approached me (Adelaida). They told me that the justice is nearing retirement and he wants clearance from whatever liabilities he has with the government," the complaint said.

Balisong and Panangan are officials of the Human Settlements Development Corporation-Maharlika Livelihood Complex (HSDC-MLC), the government organ that manages Maharlika.

The complainants said that they demanded from Balisong a notice to vacate or any legal document for paper trail. Aquino added that she asked the amount of Martires' remaining obligations because "I am the current occupant of the stall and I might as well pay off so I can continue doing business."

According to the complaint, the situation escalated as the HSDC officials refused to give the complainants legal notices.

The complainants said that their stall locks were changed on June 16, and that they saw unidentified men carry a box from their stall. For that, they are suing the individuals for conspiracy to commit attempted robbery.

"I have nothing to do with the closure of the stall by Maharlika," Martires said, saying Aquino is not his sublessee. 

Martires' explanation

Martires said that he acquired the stall back in the 80s, and subleased it to Manangan after.

Martires said that during the early 90s, there was a legal dispute between the management and tenants over the increase of rental fee. 

According to Martires, tenants secured an injunction against the fee increase and, since then, they refused to pay the increased fee until the dispute is finally settled.

Martires said that is how the stall came to accumulate the obligations, that according to the complaint, stands at P3.8 million.

Martires said that in his talks with the HSDC management, both sides had agreed that the obligations can be passed on to the next tenant if the justice surrenders the stall to the management.

Martires, through Manangan, did as agreed.

Attached in the complaint is Manangan's later dated June 15, 2018, notifying the HSDC that "Justice Martires signified his intention to return" the stall to the management.

The complaint also indicates that the tense confrontations did not involve Manangan.

"The stall is now in the possession of managament, I am out of it, and Manangan is out of it," Martires said.

In a statement, the Alliance for Consumer and Protection of Environment (ACAPE) said the Office of the Ombudsman must look into the complaints. 

"If this is the case now with Justice Martires' trustees, what more if he holds the office of the Ombudsman? How can we trust the justice system if those who will run it are unable to protect ordinary citizens?" ACAPE said. 

Martires stressed that he is not involved in the dispute, and that his name was just dragged into it. He also said that the assets from the stall is declared in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN). – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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