THE Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 48 has reset to April 17 the hearing for the nullification of the deed of conditional sale and contract of lease between the Province of Negros Occidental and Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) involving the 7.7-hectare Capitol property filed by SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPHI).

Assistant Provincial Legal Officer Mary Ann Lamis said the court has required the two parties, SM Prime and the province, to comment on the issues raised and held in abeyance the presentation of the oral arguments by the provincial officials.

Lamis said that all the evidence, including the counter claims filed by the province against SM Prime, now rest because the court will have to resolve first the main case.

Respondents include Lamis herself as well as Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., in his official capacity as governor and chairman of the Committee on Awards and Disposal of Real Properties; Third District Board Member Patrick Lacson; Provincial Treasurer Nilda Generoso; Provincial Bids and Awards Committee head Lucille Pines; Provincial Assessor’s Office head Merlita Caelian; Provincial Administrator Enrique Pinongan; Provincial Engineer Ernie Mapa; the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board), and Ayala Land Inc.

SMPHI, according to court records, claimed that the provincial government, through the governor and the committee, fraudulently circumvented the law on disposition and lease of the local government-owned real estate by executing the deed of conditional sale and contract of lease in favor of ALI for the 7.7 hectare land property.

Further, SMPHI claimed that it has submitted unsolicited proposal to the governor to lease the province-owned properties and use it as the site for the construction of a world- class business and technology park. SMPHI estimated the cost of the development at no less than P2 billion.

The province has filed for a P50-million counter claims against SMPHI, which asked the court to rule in their favor and declare the deed of conditional sale and contract of lease between the province and ALI null and void.