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Bayad muna bago manghabla: CA affirms P’que court order for Okada to pay more docket fees for lawsuit to prosper

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The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed a Parañaque court’s order for gaming tycoon Kazuo Okada to pay additional docket fees before it would entertain his lawsuit against the sale of the land where Okada Manila complex stands.

In a recent 8-page resolution, the CA Special Former Special 3rd Division denied Okada’s appeal on its March 15, 2019 decision that sustained the November 21, 2017 order of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 158 Judge Noemi Balitaan.

Balitaan had ordered Okada to pay additional filing fees, ruling that his complaint involves both personal and real action. Since it is a real action, the proper amount of fees would be computed based on the P14.77-billion assessed value of the contested land.

Although Okada filed a complaint for damages, the CA noted that it “essentially aims to secure petitioner’s use and enjoyment of the subject property as its beneficial owner,” which meant the case involves a real action.

“Verily, the Court finds that the true nature of the action instituted by petitioner against private respondents is one for the enforcement of his equitable title over the subject real property as its beneficial owner. It is a real action necessarily involving real property,” read the resolution penned by Associate Justice Edwin Sorongon.

Hence, the docket fees should be based on the fair market value or the stated value of the subject property, as provided by Section 7(1), Rule 141 of the Rules of Court.

The CA stressed that the “court acquires jurisdiction over the case only upon the payment of the prescribed fees.”

The case was an offshoot of Okada’s 2017 removal as member of the boards of Okada Holdings Limited (OHL) and Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment, Inc. (TRLEI), the latter of which holds the gaming license for Okada Manila.

Okada accused TLREI directors and officers of ousting him so they could “despoil and pillage Okada Manila,” and sell off its properties to their nominees or cohorts.

As the brains behind Okada Manila, Okada argued he has the beneficial ownership over the property where the complex stands.

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