Court rules in favor of Camiguin governor in hotel closure case
CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The Regional Trial Court Branch 28 in Mambajao, Camiguin, on January 17, lifted the writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) issued in favor of the Bahay Bakasyunan sa Camiguin (BBC), a hotel that was ordered closed by Camiguin Governor Jurdin Jesus "JJ" Romualdo.
In his ruling, RTC Judge Designate Bonifacio Macabaya ruled that the WPI issued in this case will cause irreparable injury to the environment and will pose a threat to the health and well-being of the people who live and work near the BBC's open dumpsite.
"By issuing the writ of prohibitory injunction, the Court granted BBC license to commit continuing and repeated violations of the Revised Ecological Solid Waste Management Ordinance of the municipality of Mambajao, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 (Republic Act No. 9003), and the Sanitation Code Presidental Decree No. 856," Macabaya said.
Romualdo had ordered the hotel's closure in May 2019, when he was still mayor of Camiguin's capital Mambajao, where the hotel is located. But the hotel was able to secure a temporary restraining order (TRO) and then a writ of preliminary injunction against the closure.
Romualdo said BBC was shut down for violating environmental laws. BBC owner Marie Suzette Chan Good, meanwhile, in her petition alleged that Romualdo acted without or in excess of his jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.
But Macabaya, in his ruling, said Romualdo has the power to issue such order. (READ: Camiguin governor, wife face complaints over hotel closure)
"Closure order is a valid exercise of a power to issue licenses and permits and suspend and revoke the same for any violation of the conditions upon which said licenses and permits had been issued, pursuant to law and ordinance, granted to the municipal mayor under Section 444 of the Local Govermment Code," Macabaya said in his ruling.
Good also alleged that the "closure order was swiftly issued by the respondent Mayor Romualdo contrary to the Municipal Health Office's recommendation of suspension of permits only."
She said the order was issued "whimsically, capriciously, arbitrarily and in wanton violation of the constitutional right to due process" as she was not given the opportuniy to rebut the Municipal Health Office's findings.
But Macabaya said the BBC was not denied due process as it was duly served with a notice of violation. The BBC responded in writing to the said notice, admitting to at least some of the violations observed by sanitation inspectors.
"The essence of due process is simply to be heard, or as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain one's side, or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of," Macabaya said, citing Ledesma vs Court of Appeals.
Macabaya also said that Romualdo did not act with grave abuse of discretion when he issued the closure order.
"The respondent (Romualdo) issued the closure order on the basis of the findings of sanitation inspectors from the Municipal Health Office of Mambajao that BBC was in violation of the Revised Ecological Waste Management Ordinance of the Municipality of Mambajao, Republic Act No. 9003, and the Sanitation Code of the Philippines. The respondent's act of issuing the closure order cannot be considered capricious, whirmsical, arbitrary or despotic," Macabaya said.
The judge added: "The Court finds that the respondent (Romualdo) acted within the scope of his authority granted by law as the municipal mayor of Mambajao when he issued the closure order; that the issuance of the closure order by the respondent (Romualdo) was not áttended by grave abuse of discretion; and that the BBC was not denied due process."
Macabaya said Romualdo may suspend or revoke licenses and permits "when the conditions upon which said licenses or pemits had been issued, pursuant to law or ordinance, had been violated."
Romualdo, who is now governor of Camiguin, said that since the revocation of the license of BBC in May 8, 2019, and the subsequent TRO and WPI filed by Good, the BBC has been operating continuously albeit without license as there was a WPI.
"We waited for the court to issue its verdict, we allowed BBC to operate continuously because they have a WPI," Romualdo said.
Romualdo said that since the WPI has been lifted and all allegations issued against him by Good have been proven false, the closure of BBC will move forward.
In a previous interview, Romualdo said that they will reinstate the BBC's license "if they will follow the law." – Rappler.com