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This Casanova is not a lover but a bully

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the harassment of SM Development Corp. (SMDC) and its contractor by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) led by its president, Arnel Casanova.

Here are the facts. A video grab showed Casanova, accompanied by security personnel armed with high-caliber weapons (the Commission on Elections’ gun ban was still in force then), arriving at the construction site of the SM Aura Premier in the Global City in Taguig to stop the road construction in front of the mall, which was to be inaugurated the next day.

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The contractor has an order to proceed with the road construction from the Taguig city government, which owns the land leased by SM. BCDA claims that it owns the road right of way leading to the building.  The video grab showed that the BCDA guards were able to stop the road construction by putting concrete barriers at the entrance to the road, guarded by heavily armed men. Until now, the road remains closed to those who want to go not only to the SM Aura mall but also to other establishments in the area, causing terrible traffic.

That column triggered a flurry of phone calls, text messages, and e-mails asking me to look further into BCDA’s bullying behavior. I did, and found out that BCDA has a penchant for bullying, using force and strong-arm tactics against those who should be its partners in developing the former military bases.

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Apparently, the SM incident is not the first time that BCDA used vigilante behavior. There was the violent attempt to take over the Poro Point seaport in San Fernando, La Union, in 2006. Poro Point Industrial Corp. (PPIC), a subsidiary of Bulk Handlers Inc., won the contract to develop and manage the seaport in 1999, but in what appeared to be an attempt to have the contract cancelled and turned over to a “favored partner,” BCDA pressed its takeover attempt in spite of PPIC’s valid contract and a temporary restraining order (TRO) against BCDA. Casanova was the legal officer of BCDA at the time.

Last year, there was also a forcible takeover of Camp John Hay in Baguio. Casanova, newly appointed by President Aquino as president of BCDA, used 300 private security guards to take over the Baguio landmark, forcing Camp John Hay Development Corp. to seek a TRO against BCDA. The courts have since ordered BCDA to honor the arbitration proceedings required by the contract.

Also in 2012, BCDA under Casanova attempted to forcibly demolish the homes of retired and active military personnel residing in a portion of the Diplomatic and Consular Area in Bonifacio South, Taguig. The problem was that the homes were not even under BCDA’s jurisdiction. The portions to be demolished were not part of the so-called Jusmag (Joint US Military Advisory Group) but part of the Diplomatic and Consular Area and was not part of the eviction order.

The bullying of the SM contractor was just the latest of BCDA’s Gestapo tactics. It it true that Casanova was even wearing a bulletproof vest at that time?

Casanova claims to be educated at Harvard University. His postgraduate course was sponsored by the Asia Society, an Ayala-backed foundation. SM Aura in Taguig brings competition to Ayala’s Serendra and High Street. Ayala has also started to invest heavily in Camp John Hay, having acquired 12 hectares of CJH property and infusing P6 billion for its development.

I am making no conclusions but those are the facts. Draw your own conclusion.

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Albert Velasco, former president of the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) Employees Union, is confined at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) suffering from end-stage kidney failure aggravated by an earlier heart-bypass operation. He needs dialysis three times a week or a kidney transplant—both very expensive procedures—or he will die. He does not have the money for either of those procedures at present. And he may meet that untimely death unless the Supreme Court resolves the appealed decision of the Court of Appeals ordering the GSIS to reinstate him and pay his back salaries for the past nine years.

The GSIS management had ordered Velasco’s dismissal for alleged insubordination and for leading the protests against decisions of GSIS management.

Velasco went to court and won his case against the GSIS. The lower court ordered his reinstatement. The GSIS appealed to the Court of Appeals, which also ordered his reinstatement and the payment of his back salaries. The GSIS went to the Supreme Court.

The case has been pending in the high court’s First Division for the last three years. Two motions for early resolution has been filed by Velasco’s lawyer but were merely “noted” by the high court.

Meanwhile, the young lawyer is desperately fighting for his life, bitter and despondent that he has the money for his medical needs but cannot get hold of it because the Supreme Court is taking its sweet time to decide on his case.

This can be not just a case of justice delayed but also a crime of slow murder for preventing a sick man from getting his money to save his life.

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Reminder to all former Daily Express staffers: Attend the DE reunion and merienda starting at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, at Annabel’s Restaurant on Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City.

Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista will induct the officers of the new association and foundation.

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TAGS: arnel Casanova, BCDA, bullying, camp john hay, column, neal h. cruz, poro point seaport, SMDC
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