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Espinosa decries court delay; that Shell station in San Juan City 

Years before Manny Pacquiao became an international boxing champion, another Filipino boxer brought fame to the Philippines.   He is Luisito Espinosa, who won the World Boxing Council featherweight championship match held at Koronadal, South Cotabato on Dec. 6, 1997.  

Espinosa was entitled to a purse of US$130,349.00.   Sadly, that purse was never paid to him by the organizer of the bout.   After getting the run-around each time he tried to get the purse promised to him, Espinosa decided to litigate in the Regional Trial Court.

In 2009, while the case was pending in court, the promoter passed away, and he was substituted in the case by his estate.   His heirs are his widow, who was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and his three children.   Later that year, his widow retired from her judicial post.

The estate of the deceased organizer argued that there is no evidence to hold the estate liable for Espinosa’s purse.   Eventually, the trial court agreed, and dismissed Espinosa’s complaint.  

Thereafter, Espinosa brought his case to the Court of Appeals. In May 2015, the appellate court reversed the ruling of the trial court, and ordered the estate of the deceased organizer to pay Espinosa’s purse, plus legal interest.

The media lauded the ruling, saying that Espinosa was finally able to obtain justice after almost 20 years of waiting.   Espinosa is now almost 50 years old, and because he is way past his prime, he does odd jobs abroad to support his family.

A reconsideration was sought by the estate of the deceased promoter. It also demanded that the three justices who decided the case in favor of Espinosa inhibit themselves from the case because they appear to be biased towards the ex-boxer.    

Under the internal rules of the Court of Appeals, however, a losing party is not allowed to seek the inhibition of any justice after judgment is already rendered.   Despite this rule, the three justices who decided in favor of Espinosa inhibited themselves, as announced in a resolution released by the appellate court last December.  

Espinosa opposed the inhibition of the justices and insisted that the rule be followed. The ex-boxer also lamented that unless the three justices change their mind and remain on board, his case will be assigned to three new justices who must review the voluminous record of the case all over again—which will take time.  Espinosa also expressed reservations about his being up against a retired magistrate of the Supreme Court in a judicial bout.                 

From what is stated in his pleading, Espinosa may have to wait indefinitely for the justice that was almost his last year, but denied him again this year. He asks—when will his quest for justice end?

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Last year, this column discussed the Shell gasoline station located along the west-bound lane of Ortigas Avenue in Greenhills, San Juan City, Metropolitan Manila. A nearby village resident disclosed that the gasoline station was constructed without the requisite permits from the city government, and that the documents the Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation, being the owner of the station, submitted to the city authorities bear false information ranging from the location of the station to the name of the president of the petroleum corporation.   By the way, 2014 marked the centennial of the Shell brand in the Philippines.  

For example, while the documents submitted to the city government indicate that the gasoline station is located on an empty corner lot—the corner of Ortigas Avenue and Xavier Street—a medium-rise building already exists on that site.   In fact, the station was built on some nearby property along Ortigas Avenue, but it isn’t erected on a corner lot.   How this false information escaped the attention of the barangay officials of Greenhills is a big mystery, and something which should be brought to the attention of the Ombudsman. 

The construction of the gasoline station is finished, but it has no fire lane, and its entrance is rather narrow compared to other gasoline stations built on corner lots. How it was constructed without the required building permit is another enigma, and something the Ombudsman ought to know as well.  

As a result, the gasoline station remains closed today.   Thus put, Pilipinas Shell filed a suit before the Regional Trial Court in San Juan City to compel the city government to issue the requisite permit for the construction of its virtually completed station. Included in the suit was the village resident who protested the constuction of the station.

The court records show that the city government emphasized that Pilipinas Shell acted in bad faith by submitting false information, and that for this reason, it will not allow the operation of a gasoline station which the city considers a threat to public safety and welfare.  

For his part, the village resident opposed the suit on the ground that the documents submitted by Pilipinas Shell do not warrant the issuance of any permit for the construction of a gasoline station which, admittedly, is already constructed.  

On Dec. 21, 2015, the trial court ruled in favor of Pilipinas Shell and ordered the city government to act on the application of the petroleum company for the issuance of a development permit.   The village resident sought a reconsideration of the said ruling.

The directive of the trial court is for the city government to act on the application of Pilipinas Shell.   It does not require the city government to grant the permit sought.   Evidently, there is no impediment for the city government of San Juan to deny the application nonetheless, considering that the supporting documents submitted by Pilipinas Shell are spurious and tainted with false information.   So far, the village resident is contemplating filing anti-graft charges against those who allowed the controversial gasoline station to be built on a site other than what is stated in the application.

Topics: Victor Avecilla , Luisito Espinosa
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