Tug-of-war over jai alai | Inquirer News

Tug-of-war over jai alai

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 09:31 AM August 11, 2011

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on Wednesday opposed the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Court of Appeals freezing the joint memorandum of the justice and interior departments stopping the operations of jai alai off-fronton betting stations.

Arguing the government’s case before the appellate court, Solicitor General Joel Cadiz said Section 5 of Republic Act 954 clearly prohibited “betting on any Basque pelota game” such as the jai alai operations of the Meridien Vista Gaming Corp.

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“To this day, RA 954 is still a good law. It has not been repealed or amended by the Congress,” Cadiz told the appellate court’s Special Sixth Division headed by Associate Justice Juan Enriquez Jr.

Since the court’s Third Division had already issued a TRO which temporary halted Meridien’s jai alai operations nationwide on June 23, Cadiz said a similar 60-day restraining order issued by Enriquez on July 22 “is in effect worthless.”

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He said the appellate court’s recent order covered only the joint directive issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and not the March 3 order of the Games on Amusement Board (GAB) ceasing jai alai operations.

Raymond Fortun, Meridien’s lawyer, questioned the implementation of the joint DOJ-DILG order which was based on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s legal opinion on jai alai operations.

According to Fortun, De Lima and Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo abused their discretion and “acted as judge, juror and executioner” when they ordered the arrest of Meridien personnel manning off-fronton betting stations.

“The ‘opinion’ of the justice secretary is a judicial interpretation. The best and proper action is to go up to a court to get a relief,” Fortun said.

He also noted that GAB did not question the legality of Meridien’s jai alai business inside the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, but merely asserted its regulatory power over the game.

Cadiz countered that Meridien had already sought a compromise deal with GAB and signified its intention to apply for the pertinent licenses and permits for its jai alai operations.

In its July 22 order, Enriquez said he issued the TRO “considering that the urgent implementation of the joint DOJ-DILG order… will cause imminent and irreparable injury and grave injustice” to Meridien.

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“Accordingly, respondents and all persons acting for them and on their behalf… are hereby enjoined from executing, enforcing and implementing… the assailed joint DOJ-DILG memorandum,” the two-page order said.

Enriquez gave both parties 20 days to file their respective memoranda after which the appellate would issue a ruling on Meridien’s petition for certiorari and prohibition.

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TAGS: Court of Appeals, jai alai off-fronton betting stations, Jai-alai, Meridien’s jai alai business, Office of the Solicitor General, temporary restraining order (TRO)
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