Ayala slaps SM with P40-M damages

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014


PROPERTY giant Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) filed a counterclaim against rival SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPHI), seeking P40.5 million in moral and exemplary damages in a protracted court battle involving the sale and lease of the 7.7-hectare property of the Province of Negros Occidental.

ALI, the winning bidder for the Capitol land in Bacolod City, was named respondent by SM Prime in the civil case for the declaration of nullity of its deed of conditional sale and contract of lease with the Provincial Government filed before the Regional Trial Court Branch 48.

The petition, which also includes provincial officials and department heads as respondents, was filed by SMPHI last May 21 even after the dismissal of several claims and cases filed it filed against the Capitol on the ALI property deal.

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A copy of the 34-page answer with compulsory counterclaim of the ALI, which prayed that the SMPHI complaint be dismissed for utter lack of merit, was obtained by the media yesterday.

Ayala Land asked the court that SM Prime be ordered to pay the amount of P20 million for moral damages; P20 million for exemplary damages; and P500,000 for attorney’s fees, litigation expenses and appearance fees.

“SMPHI must be liable for the damages suffered by defendant ALI whose business name and reputation has been whimsically, arbitrarily and wantonly dragged into the controversy through the false claims of SMPHI and has therefore cast a slur on the good name of ALI,” Ayala Land said.

ALI asked the court to “be allowed to seek a preliminary hearing on its special and affirmative defenses as a ground for dismissal of the suit,” adding that they “suffered damages for which the plaintiff must be held liable because of its baseless and malicious filing of the case.”

In its answer, ALI also said that the protracted controversy stirred up by SMPHI since four years ago against public officials and government entities resulted in the delayed development of their project.

ALI further said that the “plaintiff’s baseless and unwarranted filing of the instant action, notwithstanding the rulings of Commission on Audit, RTC and Court of Appeals, has injured the name of ALI, as well as cast doubts on the integrity and credibility of public service regularly rendered by defendants public officers.”

“At the same time (the action) wasted the valuable resources of the court and the judiciary at large, which should have been devoted to urgent, actual and real controversies of public interest,” it added.

On the part of the Provincial Government, the defendants are Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr. in his official capacity as governor and chairman of the Committee on Awards and Disposal of Real Properties as well as to its members, including Third District Board Member Patrick Lacson, Assistant Provincial Legal Officer Mary Ann Manayon-Lamis, Provincial Treasurer Nilda Generoso, Provincial General Services Officer Lucille Pines, Provincial Assessor Merlita Caelian, Provincial Administrator Enrique Pinongan, Provincial Engineer Ernie Mapa, the members of the Provincial Board.

In their answer submitted last July 24, the Capitol officials also filed a counterclaim against SMPHI which sought P50 million in moral and exemplary damages.

Prior to the petition filed by SMPHI last May, the Land Registration Authority had denied SM Prime’s appeal on March 27 over its adverse claim on the 39 lots owned by the Province of Negros Occidental covered by the deed of sale and contract of lease.

RTC Branch 59 Judge Estefanio Libutan Jr. had also dismissed for lack of merit the certiorari filed by SMPHI against the provincial government on their assertion that they won the first bidding held for the sale and lease of the said Capitol property. (Nanette L. Guadalquiver)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 13, 2014.

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