The Commission on Audit has affirmed with finality its approval of the sale and lease by the Negros Occidental provincial government of its 7.7-hectare property in Bacolod City to AyalaLand Inc., and dismissed a motion for reconsideration filed by SM Prime Holdings Inc. for lack of merit.
A copy of the Aug. 14, 2013 decision of the COA affirming its Sept. 21, 2012 ruling, signed by COA Chairperson Ma. Gracia Pulido Tan and commissioners Heidi Mendoza and Rowena Guanzon, was released to the media by Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. yesterday.
Marañon said the COA decision with finality is an affirmation that the awarding of the sale and lease of the property to ALI by the provincial government was according to law.
SMPHI has a pending case before the Bacolod Regional Trial Court against Capitol officials, questioning its failure to win the award for the lease and purchase of the 7.7-hectare property.
Marañon said a copy of the latest COA decision will be furnished the court to bolster their position that the Capitol acted in accordance with the law. The COA decision will help the case of the Capitol, which is expected to be resolved soon, he said.
The case filed by SMPHI has delayed ALI in starting the development of the 7.7 hectare property last year.
In its Aug. 14, 2013 resolution, the COA said SMPHI filed its motion for reconsideration on Nov. 13, 2012 beyond the 30-day period provided by law, that ended on Nov. 3, 2012.
The Commission, however, opted to discuss the merits of the case in the interest of justice and fair play, its resolution said.
Contrary to the claim of SMPHI, the Commission believes its authority to decide on issues pending before the courts is amply supported by law and jurisprudence, its resolution also said.
“It is the duty of COA to perform its mandated functions pertaining to audit of government funds or property,” it said, citing Article IX-D of the 1987 Constitution.
Citing the Supreme Court, the Commission said “the court cannot arrogate unto itself the authority to resolve a controversy, the jurisdiction over which is initially lodged with an administrative body of special competence.”
“A long line of cases establish the basic rule that the courts will not interfere in matters which are addressed to the sound discretion of government agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities coming under the special technical knowledge and training of such agencies,” the COA further quoted the SC in “Concerned Officials of MWSS vs. Ombudsman, et. al.”, dated Jan. 25, 1995.
This clearly belies the contention of SMPHI that COA went beyond its power in adjudicating on issues pending before the courts, the resolution said.
The SC rulings clearly supports the action taken by the Commission, and SMPHI failed to present valid and categorical arguments sufficient to overturn the findings of the COA, the resolution added.*CPG