MANILA—The Court of Appeals dismissed the petition filed by Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) seeking to stop the conversion of the historic Army and Navy Club in Manila into a boutique hotel and a casino gaming facility.
In a six-page resolution dated Feb. 28 but was released to media on Wednesday, penned by Associate Justice Ramon Ramon Garcia and was concurred by Associate Justices Leoncia Dimagiba and Jhosep Lopez, the CA’s Fifteenth Division dismissed VACC’s petition for certiorari and prohibition for violating the principle on hierarchy of courts.
This means the Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corp. will continue the conversion of the facility.
The CA explained the petitioner’s violation of the principle on hierarchy of courts that while it has concurrent jurisdiction with the Regional Trial Court in issuing the writ of certiorari, direct resort is allowed only when there are special extraordinary or compelling reasons that justify the same.
“Unfortunately, the present petition for certiorari is bereft of any compelling reason or circumstance to warrant an exception to the rule,” CA explained.
The appellate court also noted that the decision of the Manila City government to enter into an agreement with private entities for the development of the Army Navy Club and the approval of the development by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) cannot be considered a judicial, quasi-judicial or ministerial action that can be a subject of a petition for certiorari.
“The City of Manila’s execution of the lease contract with Oceanville Hotel and Spa does not fall within the ambit of judicial, quasi-judicial or ministerial function as the same is within its prerogative, powers and authority in the exercise of its executive function. On this court alone, certiorari and prohibition will not lie,” the CA ruled.
The group’s petition primarily seeks the nullification of the agreement among respondents 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 for the development of the Army Navy Club and to enjoin them from converting the said property into a boutique hotel and casino game facility, VACC’s proper remedy is to file a civil action for annulment of contract which falls under the jurisdiction of the trial courts.
”Neither certiorari nor prohibition is the remedy in the present case. Wherefore, the instant petition for certiorari is hereby dismissed. Accordingly, this case is considered closed and terminated,” the CA decision read.
Named respondents in the petition were the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, the city government of Manila, National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corporation and Vanderwood Management Corporation.
In 2014, the Manila city government entered into a 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 turning it into a boutique hotel, a plan which was also approved by the city government of Manila.
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”.