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Robinsons now a respondent in Bejo Romualdez forfeiture suit

MANILA — The Sandiganbayan has allowed the government to implead Robinsons Land Corp. as an additional respondent in its forfeiture suit against former Tacloban City Mayor Alfredo Romualdez.

In a 10-page resolution, the court’s Third Division admitted the amended supplemental petition filed by government lawyers after Robinsons purchased 42 properties covered by the forfeiture suit in 2006.

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Government lawyers said sequestered firm Romson Realty, Inc., a corporate defendant in the suit, consolidated the 42 properties under a single title without the approval of either the Presidential Commission on Good Government or the Sandiganbayan.

The consolidated title was not annotated with a notice of lis pendens, or a notification that the property is subject to an ownership dispute.

On Oct. 14, government lawyers sought the inclusion of Robinsons in the case first filed in 1996 in order to settle the issues in just one trial and avoid going through another round of court proceedings.

The court agreed that Robinsons should be impleaded as a respondent because it could lose ownership should it fail to show that the properties were transferred lawfully, as provided by Republic Act No. 1379.

“Hence, this Court finds that impleading Robinsons as respondent will protect its right to due process, as well as avoid multiplicity of suits,” read the resolution penned by Justice Sarah Jane T. Fernandez, with the concurrence of Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez.

The court rejected the Romualdez camp’s contention that the government’s plea to effectively nullify Robinsons’ title is a matter that should be brought separately before a Regional Trial Court.

It explained that under the forfeiture law, a title cannot prevent the court from enforcing the right of the State to the disputed property. SFM

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