Court issues 17-day TRO, prevents Osmeña from closing SM Seaside

SM Seaside City Cebu and 16 of its tenants may now heave a sigh of relief –- at least until Jan. 7, 2018.

Judge Estela Alma Singco of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 12 issued a 17-day temporary restraining order stopping Mayor Tomas Osmeña from closing the establishment.

“The court believes that there is a need to maintain the status quo until all other issues in the complaint shall have been duly heard and determined without necessarily implying that petitioners are entitled to the prayer for injunction,” read Singco’s three-page order dated Dec. 20.

The court order enjoined Osmeña and his subordinates, from “performing acts that may lead to the closure, actual or constructive, direct or indirect, or act leading to preventive, disturbing, or molesting the business operations of SM Seaside, SM-affiliated stores, cinemas and all tenants.” Singco had also issued a 72-hour TRO, which ended last Dec. 21.

SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPHI), the parent company of SM Group’s shopping malls, and its subsidiaries filed the petition against Osmeña before the RTC.

The petitioners asked the court to issue a TRO and a writ of certiorari to set aside Osmeña’s letter that prevented the renewal of business permits of 16 SM Seaside tenants for allegedly failing to submit their 2016 business permit applications.

SMPHI’s latest petition came after RTC Branch 9 Judge Alexander Acosta dismissed the petition of the mall, which sought to compel the City Government to renew its business permits and that of its tenants.

In the latest petition, SMPHI argued that Osmeña “acted with grave abuse of discretion” by disregarding the Cebu City’s Citizen Charter when he allowed the submission of joint inspection report in lieu of the 2016 business permits.

The petitioner said the mayor acted with grave abuse of discretion by violating the mall’s right to due process.

During the hearing on Dec. 20, the City’s lawyers argued that the petition ought to be dismissed because it violated the non-forum-shopping rule.

They argued that the case involves the same issues, parties, causes of action, and relief sought. In fact, they said that Judge Acosta dismissed a similar petition against the City Government.

In the order, Judge Singco said that the respondents did not violate the non-forum-shopping rule. Singco also said the elements for issuing a TRO were present: the petitioners have rights to be protected, and there is an “urgent and paramount” need for the writ to prevent serious damage.

“The matter is of extreme urgency taking into consideration that the act sought to be enjoined can be enforced anytime in view of the denial of their application for business permits for 2017.” the order read. The judge ordered SMPH to post a bond of P1 million. Summary hearings of the case will be on Jan. 3, 4 and 5, 2018.
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