Govt regains Yulo ranch in Palawan

coron-ykr-byja-2The Supreme Court has affirmed the government’s control of the   40,000 hectare Yulo King Ranch property in Busuanga, Palawan, which is a subject of a P51-billion lawsuit pending before the Sandiganbayan.

In a 20-page decision, the SC’s Third Division through Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr. set aside the resolutions issued by the Sandiganbayan’s 5th Division on June 30, 2009 and April 8, 2010, which granted the motion for summary judgment by Philippine Agri-Business Center Corporation, a private faming firm, and declared the latter as the real owner of the Yulo property.

The Sandiganbayan ruling also directed the government to return possession of the said ranch to PABC.

In granting the petition of the government and the YKR Corporation, the high court held that the Sandiganbayan committed error in ruling that PABC was entitled to a summary judgment due to the failure of the petitioners to present “genuine issue of fact” that would dispute its claim of ownership over the subject property.

Relief by summary judgment is intended to expedite or promptly dispose of cases where the facts appear undisputed and certain from the pleadings, depositions, admissions and affidavits

The SC stressed that a “genuine issue of fact” is an issue “which requires the presentation of evidence as distinguished from a sham or false claim.”

It said that when the facts as pleaded appeared uncontested or undisputed, then there is no real or genuine issue or question as to the facts, and summary judgment is called for.

The SC emphasized that the party who moves for summary judgment has the burden of demonstrating clearly the absence of any genuine issue of fact.

But, in the examination of the records of the case, the SC found out that “there exists a genuine issue of fact” as raised by the petitioners YKR Corp. and the government.

“Considering that petitioners YKR Corporation and the remaining six out of the ten Yulo heirs were deprived of their day in court, the court a quo should have made its ruling as to the non-existence of genuine issues of fact by clearly stating its basis both in fact and in law and not on purely conjectural determinations . . .” the SC ruled.

In the case of the government, the Court pointed out that it tendered a specific denial of PABC’s claim of ownership over the property.

The SC noted that in its reply to PABC’s request for admission, the government stressed that “it cannot truthfully affirm or deny the request since the subject property forms part and parcel of the land specially declared by Presidential Proclamation No. 1387 (Reserving and Establishing As A Pasture Reserve A Certain Parcel Of Land Of The Public Domain Situated In The Island Of Busuanga, Province Of Palawan) and Presidential Decree No. 1297 (Centralizing The Importation Of Ruminants For Breeding And Slaughter And Beef) as reserved land intended for grazing purposes.”

“Without clear, positive and absolute evidence that respondent PABC has a better right than petitioner Republic, such ‘genuine issue of fact’ could not be resolved because we simply do not have the facts to rule on the issue,” the SC stressed.

Since the petitioners were deprived of a full trial, the Court remanded the case to the Sandiganbayan for further proceedings with dispatch.

The YKR property was sequestered by the government from the late businessman and known Marcos crony Luis Yulo in 1986 on the belief that it is part of the ill-gotten wealth.

Prior to its sequestration, YKR was the biggest ranch in Asia and was being developed as a model large-scale livestock production to benefit the local cattle industry.

Associate Justices Bienvenido Reyes, Francis Jardeleza and Estela Perlas- Bernabe concurred with the ruling.

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