Court junks SM petition

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014


THE Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 50 in Bacolod City denied for lack of merit the petition for certiorari filed by SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPHI) against Negros Occidental provincial officials for the sale and lease of Capitol property to rival Ayala Land Inc. (ALI)

The court decision, announced by Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. Monday, paves the way for ALI to start the P6-billion development of the 7.7-hectare property.

SMPHI filed a petition after ALI was declared the winning bidder in 2011 by the Committee on Awards and Disposal of Real Properties chaired by the governor.

The petition sought the annulment of any negotiated sale and lease by the provincial government of its property to ALI, and for SMPHI to be declared the winning bidder of the July 7, 2011 bidding.

In his 22-page decision dated January 23, 2014, judge Estefanio Libutan said he finds no evidence to prove that the respondents, including Marañon and other members of the Committee on Awards, gravely abused their discretion in arbitrary manner in declaring a failure of July 2011 second public bidding.

The judge, however, said the respondents’ acts, prior to during and after the July 7, 2011 bidding, including the negotiations with ALI, are all in accordance with the law.

He noted that the Committee on Awards simply followed the law, and existing Commission on Audit (COA) circulars in the disposal of real properties owned by local government units.

Libutan said the approval of the deed of conditional sale proves that there was no irregularity in the conduct of the bidding.

The SMPHI petition led ALI to initially hold in abeyance its projected P6-billion investment in the 7.7-hectare property until legal matters are resolved.

In the past months, ALI indicated renewed interest in developing the property, and the provincial government demolished all its three buildings on the North Capitol Road to prepare for the lease of the property to ALI.

Lawyer Mary Ann Lamis, of the Provincial Legal Office, said that ALI can now proceed with its project on the Capitol property.

For his part, Marañon said, “this is the beauty of democracy. The case was brought to the court and now that the court has already decided, at the end of the day we adhere to the court decision.”

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 04, 2014.

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