The external counsel of SM Prime Holdings said their company is confident that the court will eventually turn to their side in the contested bidding by the Negros Occidental provincial government for the lease of the province’s 7.7 hectare property after it was discovered that no “floor price” had been approved by the Commission on Audit.
Vicente Patrick Bayhon said that there was no such “floor price” supposedly approved by the COA Regional Office which the provincial government used as a basis to declare the re-bidding a failure.
He said the provincial government initially conducted a bidding for the property on June 24, 2011 participated only by Ayala Land.
This prompted the Bids and Awards Committee to declare a failure of bidding and did not open the sealed bid submitted by Ayala Land, Bayhon said. Existing laws require competitive bidding to allow equal opportunity to contracting parties who are eligible and qualified to participate in public bidding, he claimed.
On July 7, 2011, a rebidding was conducted participated by two companies, Ayala Land and SM Prime. SM Prime submitted the higher bid as against the offer of Ayala Land after the BAC’s opening of the sealed bids and the consummation of the entire process, Bayhon also said.
Following the certification made by the BAC that the proceedings were in order, SM Prime felt it would eventually be declared the winner, he said. To SM’s surprise, however, the provincial government declared a failure of bidding because both bids of SM Prime and Ayala Land supposedly fell below the “floor price” set by COA, he added.
Bayhon claimed that “In the first place, the floor price issue was never raised during the re-bidding proper. And now, it turns out that no such floor price had been approved by the COA.”.
Not wanting to waive its rights as winning bidder, SM Prime was constrained to file a case with the Regional Trial Court questioning the apparent pattern of unfairness exhibited by the provincial government which has since pursued negotiations with Ayala Land, he said.
Bayhon said Ayala Land offered an already higher price than SM’s winning bid after the questionable decision by the provincial government to declare as failure the July 7, 2011 re-bidding.
He said SM had already secured a temporary restraining order from the Court of Appeals prohibiting the province from awarding the property to Ayala Land. When the TRO was eventually dissolved, the provincial government had yet to consummate a contract with Ayala Land because of the pendency of the RTC case, he added.
“Clearly, the province’s declaration of the re-bidding as a failure and the non-recognition of SM Prime as the winner, appear to be attended by serious irregularities, Bayhon said. As such, the circumstances leading to the negotiated contract with Ayala Land warrant and justify a thorough and careful review by the court, as well as by COA,” he added.
Bayhon said COA is mandated to also look into the propriety of the events leading to the province’s negotiated contract with Ayala, considering that SM Prime had won the July 7, 2011 re-bidding.
Meanwhile, Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. had said he hopes the COA will finally come out with a decision on March 19 on the deed of sale and contract of lease of the 7.7-hectare Negros Occidental provincial government property with Ayala Land.
In a radio interview, COA spokesperson Gilbert Kintanar assured that the COA will deliberate on it on March 19 and denied that the matter was being delayed.
The COA needs to take a look at the legality and reasonableness of the price, and whatever the profit, as required by the law is followed as this involves a big amount of money, he said.*CGS