SC: Makati City gov't guilty of forum shopping in Taguig land dispute

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) found the Makati City government guilty of forum shopping after it simultaneously pursued legal remedies before two different courts in connection with its land dispute with Taguig City.

The SC's Second Division granted the petition filed by Taguig City, which sought to have appropriate sanctions meted against Makati for forum shopping.

The case stems from the two cities' territorial dispute over Bonifacio Global City (BGC). In July 2011, the Pasig City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 153  ruled in favor of Taguig. Makati then filed a motion for reconsideration with the RTC, while also filing a petition for annulment of judgment with the Court of Appeals (CA).

After the RTC denied Makati's motion for reconsideration, Makati filed an appeal with the CA. The appellate court later ruled that the petition for annulment of judgment has become moot. (READ: Fort Bonifacio belongs to Makati – CA)

Taguig then filed a petition for review of certiorari with the SC, accusing Makati of abusing the legal process.

In its 27-page decision, the High Court ruled that Makati's actions which sought the same remedy – the reversal of the RTC's decision – gave rise to conflicting decisions "not only between different courts but even within the Court of Appeals itself."

"Respondent City of Makati is declared to have engaged in forum shopping in simultaneously pursuing a petition for annulment of judgment before the Court of Appeals and a motion for reconsideration before Branch 153 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig, and later, an appeal before the Court of Appeals," the SC said.

"We find respondent City of Makati, through its counsels, Atty. Pio Kenneth Dasal, Atty. Glenda Isabel Biason, and Atty. Gwyn Gareth Mariano guilty of direct contempt, and fine Atty. Pio Kenneth Dasal, Atty. Glenda Isabel Biason, and Atty. Gwyn Gareth Mariano P2,000 each,” it added.

SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen penned the decision, with Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza concurring.

In a statement on Tuesday, August 2, Makati City's legal officer Don Camiña said the city has not yet received a copy of the SC decision, but added that it will "immediately study" its options upon receipt of the ruling.

Camiña said that the city is "confident in its rightful claim, without any resort to technicalities."

"Based on the merits of the case, Makati's claim has been upheld by the Court of Appeals and the ruling has been appealed by the city of Taguig. The courts must rule on this case based on facts and the law and not on technicalities. It is only after a ruling on the merits can the issue be resolved in a manner that is acceptable and truly," Camiña added. –