Central market vendors to withdraw suit against city

By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

The vendors’ union at Iloilo City’s Central Market is poised to retract its lawsuit against the city administration, although the case lingers until official withdrawal documents are filed.

Atty. Joseph Edward Areño of the City Legal Office confirmed on April 11 that Rex Donasco, former head of ASTRAVEN-ICPMI, communicated the group’s intent to withdraw in a March 26 letter to Mayor Jerry Treñas, due to changes in union leadership.

Donasco’s letter clarifies his disengagement from the case: “I no longer attend to the case that was filed and I am dropping this case so that it will be ultimately dismissed.”

His resignation from ASTRAVEN-ICPMI’s presidency also extends to all officials under his erstwhile governance.

Expressing remorse over initiating the lawsuit, which aimed to invalidate the 25-year lease contract of the Central Market with SM Prime Holdings, Donasco sought reconciliation, valuing past camaraderie with the mayor and lamenting the lawsuit’s strain on their relationship.

“May I be given your most humanitarian and benevolent consideration to accept my most heartfelt apology for being on the wrong side of the tracks when this Iloilo Central Market issue had come up and had affected seriously our friendship,” the letter read.

“Until now I really treasure the times when I was one of your loyal supporters and remember the moments of going to your office and being welcomed anytime that I wish to see or visit you. I deeply regret my decision of filing a case against you,” he added.

Areño, however, clarified that the suit remains active in the Iloilo City Regional Trial Court Branch 39 under Judge Victorino Maniba until a formal motion to withdraw is lodged.

He also noted that a separate, court-consolidated case about the nearby Terminal Market maintains the case’s active status.

“We will advise them to file the necessary motion in court because the case would continue [without it]. This letter is a welcome development. […] We are still waiting for the formal submission of a motion to withdraw,” Areño commented.

The ASTRAVEN-ICPMI had filed the suit in 2022, including a request for a temporary restraining order that Judge Maniba denied. The city government, through the CLO, responded by seeking dismissal on the grounds of Donasco’s lack of legal standing, as he was not an actual stall occupant.