CH’s attempt to sell lot next to hotel hits a snag

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Friday, April 4, 2014


REGIONAL Trial Court (RTC) Branch 9 Judge Alexander Acosta yesterday struck down the attempt of the Cebu City Government to dismiss outright the petition filed by a hotel,
which seeks to stop City Hall from selling the lot adjacent to its property.

Acosta denied the motion of City Legal Officer Gerone Castillo, who moved to dismiss the civil petition filed by Waterfront Cebu City Casino Hotel Inc. for allegedly failure of the plaintiff to exhaust administrative remedy.

Acosta also denied the City’s pleading, asking him to throw out the civil complaint for lack of jurisdiction.

The judge ordered to proceed with the hearing for Waterfront’s application of a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) on Monday.

Background

“We appreciate that the court agreed with our position,” Waterfront lawyer Edmund Villanueva told reporters after the hearing.

Waterfront filed a civil case for certiorari and prohibition to stop City Hall from selling the 2,357-square-meter lot in Barangay Lahug to Hotel of Asia Inc.

The property is located next to the entrance of the Waterfront in Barangay Lahug.

Waterfront also applied for a 20-day TRO so the sale will not push through.

Although Hotel of Asia already made a 50-percent down payment of the purchase price, the City Council has yet to pass a resolution authorizing Mayor Michael Rama to sign the contract.

Named defendants in the suit are Rama, the committee on awards represented by Attorney V Jose Daluz III, the City Council through its presiding officer Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and Hotel of Asia.

Hotel of Asia, in its winning bid, offered to buy the property for P83.7 million at P35,500 per square meter.

Not yet final

The resolution to authorize the mayor to sign the contract with Hotel of Asia has been deferred by the City Council twice and was referred to the committee on laws, ordinances, public accountability and good government for review.

At yesterday’s hearing, Castillo told Acosta the petition ought to be dismissed
outright for failure of the plaintiff to exhaust administrative legal remedies prior to the filing of suit.

“This petition should fail,” said Castillo. He said the hotel filed the civil suit although the City Legal Office and the council’s committee on laws have yet to render its report on the transaction.

Castillo said they will challenge the ruling.

“Without prejudice, we will challenge the ruling of the court and go to the Court of Appeals,” he said.

Although there was a notice of award in favor of Hotel of Asia, Castillo clarified the council has yet to authorize the mayor to sign the sale.

He said members of the committee on laws deferred to submit the resolution for approval by the council and referred it to the committee on laws and City Legal Office for comment and recommendation.

“Actually there is no transaction yet that was consummated because it still under review by these offices,” he said.

Allegations

Castillo said the City Legal Office has yet to render its opinion as well as the committee on laws, which has yet to make its recommendation.

But Villanueva said they’ve exhausted all administrative legal remedies, such as sending a letter to Rama and the council requesting for copies of documents relative to the transaction, but got no response from the City.

“We were denied access to public records. We invoked our Constitutional right to access public records, but was denied,” he said during hearing.

He said they will present in court the Commission on Audit (COA) resident auditor of the Cebu City Government when the trial resumes on Monday.

“We will seek information from her whether there was compliance by the Cebu City of the requirements of the COA rules for the disposal or sale of public properties,” he said.

Villanueva also later withdrew their motion to subpoena the mayor to appear in Monday’s hearing.

This, he said, after Castillo told the court that Rama has not yet signed the deed of sale or deed of conditional sale.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 05, 2014.

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