Court to Bermejo: Return Cars to City

Mitsubishi Pajero - Roxas CityROXAS City — A court here has ordered former Mayor Vicente Bermejo to return to the city government the three cars — two Mitsubishi Pajeros and Isuzu Elf Manlift truck — that he was “unlawfully detaining.”

Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 16 Judge Delano Villarruz has found the complaint of Mayor Angel Alan Celino against Bermejo sufficient in form and substance.

Pursuant to Rule 60 of the Rules of Court, the court ordered the “issuance of a writ of replevin for the said vehicles upon approval by the Court of plaintiff’s bond in the amount of P3,901,600 or double the total cost of the said vehicles — P1,950,800.”

Late last year, the city government has filed a replevin case against Bermejo for continuously detaining three city-owned vehicles.

Celino filed the case following a resolution dated October 4, 2011 passed by the Sangguniang Panlungsod, giving him an authority to file criminal or civil cases against Bermejo relative to the latter’s “unlawful detention” of the vehicles.

In its order dated January 3, 2012, the court said the complaint showed that the city government is the absolute and lawful owner of the vehicles being “wrongly detained by defendant Bermejo bereft of any just or lawful cause whatsoever.”

The court said neither were the vehicles taken from the plaintiff for a tax assessment or as a fine pursuant to law, nor were they seized under an execution or as a fine pursuant to law.

On August 8, 2007, Bermejo, then mayor-elect of Roxas City, purchased the three cars and registered them with the Land Transportation Office under the name of the city government.

Bermejo lost his reelection bid in last year. He left the city government, and — “without justifiable cause and contrary to law … took custody, detained and deprived the city government of the rightful use [of the vehicles].”

He allegedly delivered the vehicles — which he bought for P1,950,800 — to the provincial government.

Claiming that the city government owns the vehicles, Celino sent a demand letter to Bermejo to return the cars.

However, Bermejo failed to turn over the cars, prompting the city government to file in court a case of replevin against the former mayor, according to City Legal Officer Joseph Ador Ramos.

Replevin refers to a legal remedy for a person to recover goods unlawfully withheld from his or her possession, by means of a special form of legal process in which a court may require a defendant to return specific goods to the plaintiff at the outset of the action.

This is different from the criminal case that the city government filed against Bermejo before the Office of the Ombudsman two years ago, also relative to the said vehicles.

The provincial government is also claiming ownership of the two Pajeros (plate numbers SHT-850 and SHT-860) and the Manlift truck (plate number SHW-437).

Bermejo cannot be reached for comment as of press time.

Source: Felipe Celino/PN

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