By Joel R. San Juan | Business Mirror | November 2, 2015

THE Court of Appeals (CA) has denied the bid of the government to regain control of portions of Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3, which was seized by the Makati City government for its failure to pay more than P1 billion worth of property taxes for the period covering 2000 to 2004.

In a 10-page decision penned by Associate Justice Zenaida Galapate-Laguilles, the CA’s Tenth Division dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the petition filed by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC) seeking the reversal of the ruling issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City on September
20, 2010.

The Makati RTC, in the said decision, junked the DOTC and MRTC’s complaint for the declaration of real-property tax assessment and warrant of levy issued by the Makati Cty government.

The CA held that under Republic Act (RA) 9282, or the law expanding the jurisdiction of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA), the latter is a coequal body of the CA which has jurisdiction over decisions, orders and resolutions of the RTC in local tax cases, which includes real property taxes.

The appellate court noted that the DOTC and MRTC filed the complaint against the Makati City government when RA 9282 was already in effect.

“In sum, this Court has no jurisdiction to review the decision rendered by the RTC Branch 66, Makati City…dismissing the complaint for declaration of nullity of real-property tax assessment and warrant of levy. Thus, the instant appeal must fail,” the CA explained.

Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Mariflor Puzalan Castillo and Florito Macalino.

Court records showed that in 2000, the Makati City government issued a tax declaration for real property in the name of MRTC over the railways of MRT 3 traversing the barangays of Guadalupe Nuevo, Guadalupe Viejo, Pinagkaisahan, Bel-Air, Urdaneta and Forbes Park, including four MRT 3 stations.

In 2001 the Makati City government issued a new additional tax declaration of real property over the railways of MRT 3 traversing the barangays of Dasmarinas, San Lorenzo, Magallanes and Bangkal.

For the said period, the Makati City government held that MRTC’s tax accountability has reached P222.5 million.

Subsequently, it issued second, third and fourth statements of real-tax accountability for the years 2000 to 2003 in the total amount of P705.15 million.

The Makati City government informed MRTC that it has been delinquent in the payment of real-estate tax for the period 2000 to 2004 in the total amount of P1,019,568,313.60.

As a consequence, the Makati City government issued a warrant of levy declaring the MRT 3 portions as tax delinquent.

On November 10, 2004, a public auction was conducted by the city government for the MRT 3 properties, but no one participated in the proceedings, thus, a certificate of sale was issued in its favor.

The Makati RTC initially issued a status quo order preventing the Makati City government from taking over the property until it decides on the merit of the complaint filed by the DOTC and MRTC.

However, on September 20, 2010, issued the assailed decision dismissing the complaint and affirming the power of the Makati City government to impose real property tax on MRT 3.

The trial court junked the contention of DOTC and MRTC that the Light Rail Transit System is owned by the government.