A STATE audit official in Central Visayas does not want to testify in the ongoing legal battle between a five-star hotel and the Cebu City Government, defying a judge’s order for her to take the witness stand.

Alicia Malquisto, Commission on Audit (COA) 7 chief, filed a motion to quash the subpoena issued by Judge Alexander Acosta on May 13, arguing that the order is “unreasonable and oppressive.”

Malquisto reasoned she could not testify in the civil petition since the sale of Lot 917 was not yet submitted by the City Government for post-audit or approval by her office.

Malquisto believes her testimony in court would “encroach on matters falling within the original jurisdiction” of the COA Commission Proper.

Acosta, the Regional Trial Court Branch 9 presiding judge, is hearing the civil case for certiorari and prohibition filed by the Waterfront Cebu City Casino Hotel Inc. against the City Government.

Petition

The petition aims to stop the Cebu City Government from selling the lot adjacent to the hotel’s premises.

Acosta had denied the motion for reconsideration the City Hall filed that sought to dismiss the petition, saying the pleading lacked basis that would warrant a re-examination or reversal of the order.

The City lawyers earlier argued the hotel lawyers failed to exhaust legal remedies prior to the filing of the suit.

They also argued that the judge should have dismissed the petition for failure to acquire jurisdiction over the case.

Judge Acosta denied the City’s pleading, saying he has jurisdiction over the case and that City lawyers prematurely filed the motion.

Acosta also subpoenaed Malquisto for her testimony, but the latter argued that the subpoena should be recalled, pursuant to Section 4, Rule 21 of the Rules of Court.

Hotel lawyer Edmund Villanueva asked Acosta to deny Malquisto’s pleading, describing the auditor’s argument as “futile and misplaced.”

Three days

“The purported unreasonableness or oppressiveness of the subpoena is not a ground for the quashal of a subpoena,” said Villanueva in the pleading.

Acosta gave Malquisto three days to explain in writing why she could not comply with the subpoena for her testimony.

In April, Acosta also denied Waterfront’s application for a 20-day temporary restraining order after he was not convinced that “there is an extreme urgency that grave injustice and irreparable injury will arise unless it is issued immediately.”

The hotel named as defendants in the suit Mayor Michael Rama, the committee on awards represented by lawyer 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.

While it made a 50-percent down payment of the purchase price, the City Council has yet to pass a resolution authorizing the mayor to sign the contract. (GMD)