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SC orders payment to contractor for IPU summit job in 2005

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By Rey Panaligan

After almost 14 years, a businessman whose company did landscaping and beautification projects along certain roads in Metro Manila for the 112th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) summit held in Manila in 2005 has yet to be paid for the job done.

In a decision, the Supreme Court (SC) directed the Commission on Audit (COA) “to determine and ascertain with dispatch, on a quantum meruit (as much as deserved) basis” the total compensation due and allow payment to Mario M. Geronimo, owner of Kabukiran Garden.

A copy of the decision was not immediately available.

But a summary of the decision released by the SC’s public information office (PIO) stated that ‘in 2005, Geronimo was commissioned by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for several landscaping projects in the areas of Ayala Boulevard, Padre Burgos Street, Roxas Boulevard, Osmeña Highway, and other median strips or center islands of main thoroughfares within Metro Manila for the IPU Summit.”

“Geronimo met with DPWH officials who, through mere verbal request and without any written contract purportedly due to time constraints, requested Geronimo to initiate and complete the projects at the earliest time possible with the assurance that he would be paid in full upon the completion of the projects,” the summary stated.

The PIO, quoting from the records of the case, also stated:

“When DPWH failed to eventually pay him despite several demands, he (Geronimo) filed his claim before the COA. But despite the COA’s recognition that DPWH’s liability in favor of Geronimo exists, and even after concluding for the applicability of the principle of quantum meruit, the COA, on Nov. 10, 2014, still denied Geronimo’s claim for want of supporting documents that would substantiate the projects accomplishment and the reasonableness of the cost thereof.

“Geronimo filed a motion for reconsideration of the COA ruling which however was denied in the COA resolution dated Dec. 23, 2015.”

Geronimo filed a petition with the SC.

In a decision written by Associate Justice Jose C. Reyes Jr., the SC reversed COA’s resolution which denied Geronimo’s money claims.

Quoting from the decision, the PIO said:

“The Court held that the principle of quantum meruit was applicable in the case at bar. It stressed that while ordinarily a written contract along with a written certification showing availability of funds for the project are among the conditions necessary for the execution of government projects, ‘the absence of these documents would not necessarily preclude the contractor from receiving payment for the services he or she has rendered for the government.

“Citing Dr. Eslao v. COA quoting the unpublished case of Royal Trust Construction v. COA, the Court ruled that recovery on the basis of quantum meruit should be allowed despite the invalidity or absence of a written contract between the contractor and the government where denial of the contractor’s claim would result in the government unjustly enriching itself. The Court noted that Eslao and Royal Trust have been reiterated in later rulings.

“The Court found that the liability of DPWH was sufficiently established based on the factual findings of the COA. It noted the COA’s observation that the letters from the DPWH officials, as well as its allegations in its pleadings, tend to establish that Geronimo is entitled to his claim. The Court added that DPWH neither appealed nor sought the reconsideration of the COA’s factual findings.

“Furthermore, the Court held that the COA gravely abused its discretion when it denied Geronimo’s claim despite his obvious and recognized entitlement thereto.”

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