MANILA –The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition before the Court of Appeals to stop the conversion of the former Army and Navy Club facility in Manila into a hotel and casino gaming facility.
In a 36-page petition dated Feb. 13, the VACC asked the appellate court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the continuing construction activities at the said facility and issue an injunction to stop its conversion.
In their petition, aside from requesting the appellate court to issue a TRO, it also prays that a preliminary injunction be issued against the respondents, prohibiting them from converting the Army and Navy Club facility, which is located at the South Boulevard corner Manila Bay, into a boutique hotel and casino gaming facility.
VACC also requests that the CA declares the development plan of Oceanville that was approved by the city government of Manila and the NHCP as null and void for being unconstitutional. It also hopes that the court would make the injunction permanent.
The anti-crime watchdog group argued that since the Army and Navy Club facility is a national historical landmark, it should be preserved, conserved and protected from any destruction, demolition and damages.
Named respondents in the petition were the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, the city government of Manila, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corporation and Vanderwood Management Corporation.
In asking the appellate court’s intervention in the issue, the VACC said the construction of a casino gaming facility in the Army and Navy Club which was declared a national historical landmark in 1991 violated not only the Constitution but also Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 which mandates the protection, preservation, conservation and promotion of the country’s cultural heritage, is properties and histories.
The group also said that the construction of the casino will extend to the Manila Elk Club, which now houses the Museo Pambata, is also deplorable to the country’s sense of morality and obligation to children not to be exposed to gambling.
“Thus, petitioner is prompted to go to this Honorable Court, to prevent the further desecration of a national historical landmark , to defend the nation’s heritage , and to protect the rights and welfare of the Filipino children,’ the petition signed by the group’s founding chairman and president Dante Jimenez said.
“Since the property is a national historical landmark, which under RA 10066, should be preserved, conserved and protected from any destruction, demolition, mutilation, damages or any form of alteration, petitioner implores the certiorari and prohibitory powers of this Honorable court to perpetually enjoin respondents from destroying and altering the Army and Navy Club facility for the purpose of converting the same into boutique hotel and a casino gaming facility, which effectively alters the 29th century old original structure,’ it added.
The petitioner faulted the city government of Manila and NHCP for allowing the establishment, construction and operation of the PAGCOR casino within the property.
It will be recalled that in 2014, the city government entered into lease contract with Oceanville for 25 years. The contract also allows Oceanville to sublease any part of the Army and Navy Club.
The NHCP then approved Oceanville’s redevelopment plan to renovate and restore the facility for the purpose of using the facility as a boutique hotel whose plan was also approved by the city government.
Ocenaville then entered into memorandum of agreement with Vanderwood for the sublease of a portion of the facility for 20 years or from November 2014 to November 2034.
Vanderwood then started construction of a casino gaming facility which it then subleased to PAGCOR for a period of 15 years.
It added that the city government is also mandated to ensure and protect the preservation and enrichment of culture adding that the facility is a visible and tangible representation of the Philippine culture and tradition.
Last year, the VACC filed a PHP234-million plunder case against former PAGCOR chairman Celestino Naguiat, PAGCOR Director Jose Tanjuatco, Directors Enriquito Nuguid, Eugene Manalastas, lawyer Jorge Sarmiento, Bids and Awards Committee member Milagros Pauline Visqui, Ramon Jose Jones, Romeo Cruz, Annalyn Zogimann, lawyer Kathlene Delantar, Manuel Sy, former government corporate counsel Raoul Creencia and Jose Christopher Manalo IV, former chairman of PAGCOR’s technical working group for the award of the lease of space for a gaming facility in the Army and Navy Club to Vanderwood despite the latter’s non-submission of certain documents and non-compliance with some conditions indicated under the technical requirements of the bid.
The Army and Navy Club was founded in the year 1898 and was considered to be the first American social club in the Philippines. In year 1911, it was moved to its new location in the southeastern portion of the landfill that had extended the Luneta seaward, opposite the Manila Hotel. It was constructed based on the structural plan of architect Daniel Burnham.
During World War II, the club was occupied by the Japanese in 1942 and was heavily damaged. It was liberated by the Filipino soldiers and American troops in 1945.
On April 26, 1991, the National Historical Institute (NHI) declared the 12,705.30 square meter club as a national historical landmark because it is considered as a “living monument of Filipino-American friendship and cooperation”.