Local News: Malacañang to Inquire from COA Status of Ayala Land Contract
Malacañang will inquire from the Commission on Audit (COA) the status of the contracts between the Negros Occidental provincial government and Ayala Land on the sale and lease of its 7.7-hectare prime property in Bacolod.
The purchase and lease contracts, which are being questioned in court by rival SM Prime Holdings, have been submitted to COA for approval in July last year.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, who was in Bacolod Wednesday, confirmed that Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. personally brought up the matter with the Palace.
"Governor Marañon is very passionate about the matter and I told him that we will ask COA about it," Lacierda said.
Laciera also disclosed having learned that COA chairperson Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan inhibited herself in the en banc deliberation on the Provincial Capitol - Ayala Land contracts after questions were raised on her impartiality on the issue.
Reports said that the law firm of Tan’s husband is providing legal services for the Sy family, who owns SM Prime Holdings.
Lacierda, however, said that the Palace cannot impose on COA because under the Constitution, the commission acts as an independent and distinct body, like the Commission on Elections and the Civil Service Commission.
Marañon lamented the nine-month delay of COA on its review of the contract, saying it has also delayed the projects of the Provincial Capitol whose budget will come from the proceeds of the sale and lease of the property.
The governor said the Provincial Capitol is de-prioritizing the Ayala Land project because it also affected its focus on other projects of the provincial government.
Ayala Land supported the stand of Marañon, saying it will also de-prioritize the P6-billion investment, and will focus on its other projects in Negros.
In a related development, COA executive staff and spokesman Gilbert Kintanar issued a memorandum dated March 22 stating that all requests from the media for interviews should be directed to the COA Public Information Office in Manila.
The media could not interview COA provincial and regional personnel, as the memorandum states that all media queries should be directed to COA director Rolando Macale and complaints may be sent to COA Citizens’ Desk. The COA head office is being criticized by various sectors for its alleged delay in resolving the controversy over the contract between the provincial government and Ayala Land on the sale and lease of the 7.7-hectare prime property.*