Who won in the Camp John Hay decision?
There is some confusion in the Feb. 11 decision of the arbitration court on the quarrel between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and its lessee, Camp John Hay Development Co. (CJHDevCo), over the development of the former American base in Baguio City. Who won and who lost? Both sides claim victory.
The arbitration court’s rulings are:
- That the BCDA was guilty of breach of contract because it did not honor its part of the contract to create a one-stop action center to eliminate red tape and hasten the development of the camp, and that the camp’s status of special economic zone was taken out. Congress later restored it.
- That contrary to the BCDA’s allegations, CJHDevCo does not owe it P3.3 billion in back rentals.
- That on the contrary, it was the BCDA that was ordered to return to CJHDevCo P1.2 billion that the latter had paid to the BCDA in lease rentals.
- That on the other hand, CJHDevCo was ordered to return to the BCDA the undeveloped portions of Camp John Hay (most of which are to be maintained as forest lands) but will retain the developed portions with the two hotels (which CJHDevCo continues to operate) and commercial establishments.
In the meantime, neither party can implement the awards without a writ of execution issued by the court.
The writ of preliminary injunction issued by the Baguio regional trial court ordering the BCDA not to forcibly enter Camp John Hay stands.
The rights and interests of all sublessees and sublocators in the camp will continue to be respected and protected. The BCDA consented to all subleases within the camp when it expressly gave to CJHDevCo, in the lease agreement, the right to sublease various areas in the camp. In fact, the lease contract between the BCDA and CJHDevCo obligates the latter to build structures precisely for subletting to third parties. The BCDA is also fully aware that these areas were sublet to third parties in good faith.
In fact, the BCDA has the contracts covering these properties and has never raised any objection to them.
But even with these orders, the BCDA’s bullying tactics under Arnel Casanova continue. Last Feb. 13, the BCDA, in defiance of court orders, attempted an armed takeover of the camp. Using SWAT police and under cover of darkness, while courts were not open for relief (which clearly indicates its bad faith), the BCDA attempted to take over the camp by force.
The incident required the intervention of Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan, to prevent what could have been an armed confrontation between the BCDA force and the hotel’s security guards.
Since Casanova arrived at the BCDA as legal counsel, the latter has become notorious for its bullying tactics. I remember the attempted forcible takeover of Poro Point from its lessee (I wrote about this in my column).
About two years ago, Casanova, aided by a security force armed with high-caliber weapons (a gun ban imposed by the Commission on Elections was then in force), arrived at the construction site of SM Aura Premier in Bonifacio Global City to stop the construction of a road in front of the mall which was to be inaugurated the next day. The BCDA claimed that it owned the right of way leading to the mall (which will compete with Ayala’s own mall, Market Market). Wearing a bulletproof vest, Casanova and his heavily armed guards stopped the road construction by blocking the entrance with concrete barriers and a truck. Why Casanova has a private army, especially during an election campaign period, is another mystery.
Casanova also tried to evict a group of retired military men in an area in Fort Bonifacio because, he said, his idea of development is more important than the right of citizens.
In 2012, Casanova tried to demolish the homes of retired and active military personnel residing in a portion of an area in Fort Bonifacio (South) in Taguig City that was not even under BCDA jurisdiction. The area in question is not part of the so-called Jusmag (Joint US Military Advisory Group) but part of the diplomatic and consular area.
It seems that Casanova also has a grudge against Robert Sobrepeña, head of CJHDevCo. During one of Sobrepeña’s trips abroad, Casanova said Sobrepeña was “trying to evade prosecution” and ordered immigration officers to force Sobrepeña to get off the plane although they could not show any hold-departure order against him.
Sobrepeña subsequently filed charges of illegal detention and grave coercion against the immigration agents.
Meanwhile, what has happened to the funds collected by the BCDA? Under the law, half of its lease revenues should go to the military’s modernization program.
Sen. Tito Sotto, in a resolution filed on May 2011, said that “despite its billions of pesos in earnings … the BCDA has not significantly contributed to the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” the primary beneficiary under Republic A ct No. 7227.
“Since its creation in 1992,” Sotto said, “the BCDA has generated P50.082 billion from the sale or lease of former military camps in Metro Manila, primarily Fort Bonifacio.”
Because the AFP continues to complain of lack of funds for its modernization program and the welfare of its uniformed personnel, Sotto continued, “it is important to assess the performance of the BCDA in addressing these concerns … and determine whether or not it has been effectively fulfilling its mandate.”
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