THE new civil case filed by SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPHI) against the 7.7-hectare properties deal of the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental and Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) will not affect the development of the four-hectare area comprising the lease part of the agreement.

Assistant Provincial Legal Officer Mary Ann Lamis said on Wednesday the case may delay the implementation of the conditional sale contract, but not the lease contract.

Ayala Land purchased 3.6587 hectares and leased 4.0481 hectares.

"We already have perfected the contracts and besides, there is no injunction or temporary restraining order against the province or ALI pertaining to the implementation of the contract," Lamis said.

She added that the province already won in the level of the Commission on Audit (COA) and has secured favorable COA decision that is final and executory.

"This is the biggest decision we have pertaining to the said contracts," Lamis said.

She added: “We are confident that we can proceed with the transaction because COA is the administrative agency tasked with the implementation of audit rules and in the performance of the audit function.”

Last May 21, SMPHI through its legal counsel Edgar Ryan San Juan filed a civil case for the declaration of nullity of the deed of conditional sale and contract of lease between the Province of Negros Occidental and ALI before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Bacolod City. The case is now with RTC Branch 48.

Lamis said that reading from the latest complaint of SM Prime, their allegations are the same, adding that it emanates from the same transaction which is the Capitol-ALI land deal pertaining to July 7, 2011 failed bidding undertaken by the province on the 7.7-hectare properties.

"It's only when there is a TRO that the province or Ayala can be prevented from doing the transaction," she added.

Lamis refused to comment on legal questions like if SM is doing a forum shopping since it already filed cases before other forums.

"I will leave that to the court to decide. We are in the process of preparing our responsive pleading,” she said.

Lamis added that the province respects the decision of SM Prime to file the case despite the favorable decisions secured by the province in most of the other cases.

She said that although the Court of Appeals issued a TRO on the implementation of the agreement before, it was later lifted.

Meanwhile, Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said he was included in the case because the Provincial Board is also respondent to the petition filed by SM Prime.

He was not yet vice governor when the ALI contract was ratified by the Provincial Board.

Lacson said they were already informed that the governor will represent all of them in the case.