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CA permanently stops jai alai operations

The controversial Meridien Vista Gaming Corp.(MVGC) suffered a major blow in its legal battle in connection with its jai-alai off-fronton betting stations.

This was after the Court of Appeals has permanently stopped the Regional Trial Court of Aparri, Cagayan from implementing its order to enjoin the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) from stopping MVGC’s operations in Cagayan province.

MVGC was earlier reported to be owned by convict Charlie “Atong” Ang but the company is denying this.

In a 34-page valedictory decision penned by then Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, the CA’s Special Third Division on August 18, 2011 granted GAB’s petition questioning the orders of the court.

Reyes was appointed last Friday by President Benigno Aquino III as Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice.

In the CA ruling, the orders of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Appari, Cagayan issued on March 21 and 23, April 7, and May 2, 2011 were reversed and set aside by the appeals court.
Judge Conrado Manauis of Aparri RTC was one of the respondents in GAB’s petition before the CA.

“Wherefore in view of the foregoing, the instant petition is granted. The assailed orders issued by the RTC on March 21 and 23, April 7 and May 2, 2011 are Reversed and Set Aside. Accordingly, MVGC’s complaint for injunction filed with the RTC is dismissed,” the ruling stated.

The assailed orders in the lower court which were junked are the TRO against GAB issued on March 2, and was extended on March 23 restraining GAB’s cease and desist order against MVGC; the injunction order of the RTC on April 7 and the lower court’s junking the motion to dismiss filed by GAB.

Associate Justices Perlas-Bernabe and Samuel Gaerlan both gave their concurrences in the Reyes ponencia.

The division of the appellate court had issued earlier a 60-day temporary restraining order and directed Judge Oscar Zaldivar, presiding judge of the Cagayan RTC from conducting further proceedings in the case filed by the games board against Meridien.

“This court finds that GAB had amply demonstrated that the RTC gravely abused its discretion in issuing the assailed orders,”  the resolution averred.

The CA argued that “GAB has regulatory authority over the Jai Alai operations of MVGC, which admittedly had not yet secured any permit from the Board.

MVGC does not have in its favor a clear, unmistakable and substantial right to be protected wich is threatened by the CDO’s implemenation.

The decision stemmed from the petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General seeking to stop the lower court from implementing its orders preventing GAB from enforcing its cease and desist order issued on April 7, 2011.

The OSG argued that the lower court has no jurisdiction to hear the petition filed by Meridien because the assailed resolution of GAB was issued in the exercise of its quasi-judicial function.

Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz explained that “under Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court of Appeals has the exclusive appellate jurisdiction over awards, judgments, final orders or resolutions of any quasi-judicial agency in the exercise of its quasi-judicial functions.”

According to the OSG, GAB’s cease and desist order had already become final and executory.

It stated that it was due to the failure of MVGC to challenge the same before the CA by way of a petition for review within the 15-day required period.

It can be recalled that the Department of Justice and the Department of Interior and Local Government earlier ordered a crackdown on off-fronton jai alai betting stations being operated by Meridien outside the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority.

The DOJ-DILG joint memorandum directed all local government units to deny or cancel all applications for business permits filed by Meridien as well as those already issued to the firm cancelled.

The two agencies centered its order to Sections 5 and 7 of Republic Act No. 954 prohibiting certain activities in connection with horse races and jai alai and prescribed penalties for its violation.

However, in this case pending before another division of the CA, it issued a 60-day TRO against the DOJ-DILG joint memorandum.

August 21, 2011 - Posted by | Justice Issue, National

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