Court junks VACC plea over historic Manila building

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The Court of Appeals (CA) has junked a petition filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) that seeks to halt the conversion of the historic Army and Navy Club in Manila into a hotel and a casino gaming outlet, now known as the Rizal Park Hotel, owned by businessman Simon Paz.

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In a two-page resolution dated September 7, 2017 but released just recently, the CA’s former 15th Division, dismissed VACC’s motion for reconsideration and stood pat on junking the petition for certiorari and prohibition on issues of technicality for violating the principle on hierarchy of courts.

“Petitioner has not shown any cogent or compelling reason to warrant a reversal or even a modification of the aforesaid resolution. Hence, the dismissal of the petition for certiorari and prohibition must be sustained,” it ruled.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Ramon Ramon Garcia and was concurred in by Associate Justices Leoncia Dimagiba and Jhosep Lopez.

The court ruled that the VACC should have filed first the case with the Regional Trial Court, which has jurisdiction over the case.

The group had sought to stop Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corp. from building the Rizal Park Hotel.

Respondents in the petition were the city government of Manila, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corp. and Vanderwood Management Corporation.

The City of Manila has allowed Oceanville to lease the property for 25 years.

Under the lease contract, Oceanville may sub-lease any part of the property.

Oceanville later on sub-leased a part of the Army and Navy Club for 20 years, commencing on November 3, 2014 up to November 12, 2034, to Vanderwood, which constructs the gaming facility, and sub-leased 6,500 square meters of the property to Pagcor.

The CA said the ruling of the Manila city government to enter into an agreement with a private corporation is not 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,” according to the court.
The Army and Navy Club was founded in 1898 and declared to be the first American social club in the Philippines.

By 1911, it was moved to its new location in the southeastern portion of a landfill that had extended the Luneta (now Rizal Park) seaward, opposite the Manila Hotel.

The club was built based on a structural plan of architect Daniel Burnham.

When World War II broke out, it was occupied by the Japanese in 1942 and was destroyed by the war.
The club was later liberated by Filipino and American troops in 1945.

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