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CoA told to resolve hotel claims

THE SUPREME COURT (SC) has ordered the Commission on Audit (CoA) to resolve a hotel owner’s money claims against the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) in a consolidated resolution that also reinstated a regional trial court’s ruling determining the cost owed by PAGCOR amounting to over P102 million.

Affirming a 2006 ruling by a Regional Trial Court (RTC), the Supreme Court en banc ordered CoA to settle the money claims made by Silahis International Hotel, Inc. (SIHI), operator of the Grand Boulevard Hotel.

The 2006 RTC Decision sided with the hotel, ordering PAGCOR to pay its restoration dues as it entered into a Contract of Lease on the second and third floors of the hotel for its casino from 2000 to 2004.

After a series of court battles, the SC reinstated the lower court’s decision that entitled SIHI to claim restoration costs from PAGCOR and reversed a 2015 Court of Appeals (CA) decision that voided the RTC ruling on the grounds that a third party — Pacific Wide Holdings Corp. — had an intervening claim as the new owner of the hotel. 

In the 19-page decision penned by Justice Ma. Filomena D. Singh, the SC reversed the 2015 CA decision and determined that Pacific Wide was not an “indispensable party” to the case since the rulings were based on the Contract of Lease between PAGCOR and SIHI, which had expired years before Pacific Wide came into the picture.

As for CoA, the SC determined that “SIHI’s money claim against PAGCOR is now a liquidated claim over which the CoA has jurisdiction.”

While the SC remanded that money claim to CoA, it ruled that CoA’s action of rejecting the money claim determined by the RTC was not a “grave abuse of discretion.”

“The CoA properly denied SIHI’s money claim. SIHI’s claim was anchored on the 2006 RTC Decision, as modified by the 2012 CA Decision, which could not be executed precisely because the 2015 CA Decision nullified it,” it read.

In the end, the SC ruled that “SIHI’s contractual right to receive payment from PAGCOR does not affect Pacific Wide’s later ownership of the leased property.” — Chloe Mari A. Hufana

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