‘Jimenez is barking at the wrong dog’ PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 08 April 2011 15:29

“(Councilor Jawo) Jimenez is barking at the wrong dog (sic).”
Thus City Legal Officer Norberto Patriarca described Councilor Cesar Jimenez Jr. when he filed a case with the Department of Justice against Mayor Celso Lobregat and other city officials over the passage of an ordinance establishing the Plaza del Pilar complex.

Lawyer Patriarca made the comment in jest during a press conference yesterday morning where Mayor Celso Lobregat announced that the DOJ has dismissed Jimenez’ complaint on the grounds that the assailed Ordinance No. 2010-158 is not a tax ordinance or a revenue measure.

In her three-page resolution dated March 23, 2011, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima declared that the DOJ is devoid of authority to act on Jimenez’s complaint docketed as MTO-OSJ Case No. 03-2010. “The foregoing considered, we find no reason to pass upon the other issues raised,” she said.

“In short, Jimenez was barking at the wrong tree,” Councilor Jimmy Cabato said, but Atty. Patriarca retorted in this wise, “He was barking at the wrong dog (sic).”

To recall, Jimenez in October last year hugged the headlines of the local newspapers when he filed with the DOJ a case, contending that the Ordinance “is unconstitutional or illegal for being unjust, oppressive, confiscatory, whimsical, arbitrary and contrary to the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the provisions of RA No. 7160 and the provisions of the 2010 Internal Rules of Procedures of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, therefore, null and void ab initio and of no force and effect. He, therefore, declared that the ordinance be declared as such.”

Named respondents to the case were Mayor Lobregat, Vice Mayor Cesar Iturralde, Councilor Rudy Lim in his capacity as chairman of the Committee on Ordinance and Resolutions and the Sangguniang Panlungsod members who voted in favor of the ordinance.

On Nov. 5, 2010, the respondents thru the city legal officer filed with the Department their manifestation, comment/opposition with motion to dismiss, claiming among other things that the complainant’s verification and certification of non-forum shopping is incurably defective and contrary to the Notarial Law, hence, void; that the complainant does not have locus standi to challenge the Ordinance; that the Ordinance is not a tax ordinance as its primary policy and objective is to promote tourism in the city through the development of parks, gardens and tourist recreational sites.

Secretary De Lima declared “it is indubitable that the assailed Ordinance 2010-158 is not a tax ordinance or a revenue measure but an ordinance intended, not only to preserve and develop the area and promote tourism, employment and economic activities, but also to ensure that the areas/spaces are made available for lese or rent at reasonable rates” as stipulated in Sec. 2 of the edict.

Apart from the title of the ordinance, Sec. De Lima stressed that a reading of the provisions thereof will readily and categorically show that, indeed the purpose of the Ordinance is to develop that the area and offer the same for lease or rent. Thus, whatever revenue that Zamboanga City may raise pursuant to said Ordinance is merely incidental to the enforcement thereof which clearly is regulatory in nature.

As this developed, Mayor Lobregat told the news conference that he and all other respondents to the case are seriously studying the move to file counter-charges against Jimenez for moral damages.
“We will teach him a lesson. We are tired of being whipping boys,” the mayor said of Jimenez, claiming that the latter is fond of filing unfounded charges against him and the city government.
For his part, Vice Mayor Iturralde said he felt vindicated by the DOJ’s decision.

Other members of the City Council were also considering of filing counter-charges against Jimenez, claiming that the case had given them sleepless nights and destroyed their reputation. — Vic Larato