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‘BCDA to blame for John Hay mess’

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority has been pursuing policies that have been detrimental to the government and have resulted not only in financial losses, but have also eroded the economic gains of the Aquino administration, according to an official of the Camp John Hay Development Corp.

“More than the P5 billion in foregone revenues and other losses that the government has been incurring, BCDA stands to lose much more than cash with the arbitral and appellate rulings that made the state agency liable for its primary role in the Camp John Hay mess,” CJHDevCo executive vice president Alfredo Yñiguez III said in an interview.

“More costly than money is the government’s loss of face because of BCDA’s decisions, the disappearance of its legitimacy and credibility as an extended Public-Private Partnership Program money-maker and apparent immunity from congressional oversight,” he added.

Yñiguez stressed that it is BCDA president Arnel Casanova who should be solely to blame for mishandling the Camp John Hay issue, echoing the statement made by CJHDevCo chairman Robert John L. Sobrepeña that BCDA’s rejection of (3) unanswered letters in 2011 for a settlement agreement in 2011 shortchanged not only the government, but also the public as well as the private sector. He said BCDA’s rejection of the settlement agreement also deprived Baguio City of its 25-percent share in the rentals.

Sobrepeña said that had BCDA accepted the offer, CJHDevCo would have paid P500 million upfront, P3.3 billion over a 10-year period, and P150 million in rentals yearly until 2046.

Instead, Sobrepeña lamented, the BCDA, under Casanova, stubbornly refused the offers of Camp John Hay’s private developer, resulting in an arbitral decision by the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center Inc. ordering the state agency to refund CJHDevCo P1.42 billion in rent paid since 1996 and also declared that CJHDevCo is not liable for any alleged unpaid back rentals.

BCDA also lost before the Court of Appeals after the latter ruled against the forced eviction of more than 1,600 third party investors and the private developer from the 247-hectare former American recreational facility, a move, which the government agency said “jeopardized the public interest.”

Yñiguez also slammed Casanova for questioning a recent ruling of the Court of Appeals preventing the forced eviction of more than 1,600 third party investors and the private developer from the 247-hectare former American recreational facility.

“There is nothing irregular about the 30 July 2015decision of the Court of Appeals which ordered BCDA to respect and not to disturb the contracts of third parties occupying the leased premises. In fact, the CA decision merely affirms the arbitration award, which the BCDA has continuously been trying to illegally modify,” Yñiguez said.

The  CA’s Special Fifth Division, through Associate Justice Noel Tijam, granted the petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by the John Hay developer to stop Baguio City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 6 Judge Cecilia Corazon Dulay-Archog from implementing a writ of execution and notice to vacate against CJHDevCo and the third parties occupying the leased property.

“The instant petition for certiorari is granted. Accordingly, public respondents are ordered to cease and desist from enforcing the Writ of Execution dated April 14 and Notice to Vacate dated April 20 against petitioner CJHDevCo until it is fully paid of the amount of P1,421,096,052 as indicated in the Arbitral Award,” the CA said in its ruling.

Yñiguez said the CA ruling upheld the position of the property developer that all third parties are also vested rights holders who acted in “good faith” when they entered into contracts with CJHDevCo.

“This clearly shows that third party residents and locators possess rights, as contained in the Philippine Constitution’s Bill of Rights, and cannot simply be evicted by the BCDA,” he said. “The Court of Appeals directed the BCDA to respect and not to disturb the various contracts of third parties occupying the premises in Camp John Hay.”

Yñiguez stressed that what the CA found irregular, amounting to grave abuse of discretion, are the acts of RTC Judge Cecilia Dulay-Archog, the ex-officio sheriff of Baguio City Linda-Montes Loloy, and the sheriff of Baguio RTC-Branch 6 Bobby Galano in enforcing and implementing the ‘Writ of Execution’ and the ‘Notice to Vacate’ against the third parties.

“The Court of Appeals ruled it is so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty for RTC Baguio Court Branch 6 to include petitioner-intervenors (third parties) in the notice to vacate that resulted in the taking of property without due process of law,” he added.

“BCDA contends that, despite the arbitral determination and appellate judgment, it was the Camp John Hay developer that defrauded the state agency, prompting it to file nuisance cases of estafa and malversation that have been dismissed for lack of merit,” Yniguez noted.

 “Clearly, there will be a price to pay, and it’s going to be much, much more than the P1.42 billion that BCDA won’t or can’t pay,” he said.

Earlier, a lawmaker already warned BCDA that its mishandling of Camp John Hay has “deleterious” effect, especially on the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Modernization Program which gets 50 percent of BCDA’s lease revenues under existing laws.

In his privilege speech, Abakada partylist Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz said with the questionable actions taken by BCDA president, the government’s private-public partnership (PPP) program has “gone haywire resulting from the misguided, misplaced and high-handed management style of the current BCDA leadership.”

“From the time he assumed office in 2010, Mr. Casanova made it a point to make life harder for the Sobrepeña Group even to the point of sacrificing the development of Camp John Hay and the attendant consequences thereof is beyond question. His highly publicized efforts to grind the Sobrepeñas even came to a point where no less than Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan had to intervene at the last minute to ensure the opening of one of the core CJHDevCo projects, Forest Lodge hotel, at the appointed time,” Dela Cruz said.

“This and other transgressions of duly signed agreements have all been fully documented and publicized much like the highlighted disputes between Casanova and other stakeholders in other BCDA developments,” the lawmaker added.

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