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BCDA chief prefers to be a bully cop

/ 12:10 AM March 18, 2015

President Aquino should fire his man at the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), Arnel Casanova.

The BCDA is an important part of the President’s public-private partnership (PPP) program which taps private investors to participate in government infrastructure projects. But since Casanova joined the BCDA, first as legal counsel then as its chief, he has used his office hours to think of ways to harass investors. He is quick to send armed goons to try to seize by force projects of investors who are in partnership with the government. In all these attempts, he has been stopped by the courts.

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He sent armed goons to the Poro Point Freeport Zone to seize it from the investors; the courts ordered him to get out and not bother the locators. At the Bonifacio Global City, he also sent armed goons to block the road to the newly-constructed mall SM Aura because it would compete with Ayala’s own mall, Market! Market! apparently his best friend forever. In the outskirts of Fort Bonifacio, he sent armed goons to demolish the homes of retired and active soldiers when the area is not even part of Fort Bonifacio, and hence not under his jurisdiction.

In Baguio, he sent armed goons several times to seize the 5-star hotel constructed in Camp John Hay by CJHDevCo, a key partner of the government in its PPP program.   Each time, they were thwarted by the hotel’s security guards and by the Baguio City court, which has issued a writ of injunction against the BCDA.

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Because of the constant harassment, CJHDevCo was forced to seek arbitration. The BCDA at first refused to take part in it, perhaps knowing the weakness of its position, but the Baguio court ordered it to submit to arbitration.

The arbitration committee ruled that both sides had violated their contract and therefore nullified it. The BCDA did not implement the provision requiring it to set up a one-stop center to eliminate red tape and hasten the issuance of permits to develop various projects in the camp. As a result, CJHDevCo fell behind its development schedule and therefore could not generate income with which to pay rent to the BCDA.

In the arbitration case, the BCDA sought the payment by CJHDevCo of P3.3 billion in back rentals. In its decision, the three-member arbitration committee said CJHDevCo does not owe the BCDA anything. In nullifying the contract, the committee put the two sides back to the precontract situation.

The BCDA was ordered to refund P1.42 billion in rentals paid by CJHDevCo and erased the P3.3 billion in back rentals it is claiming from the latter. But CJHDevCo was ordered to return Camp John Hay, including improvements—which means the two 5-star hotels it had built, The Manor and Forest Lodge—to the BCDA. The developer said it would abide by the ruling and return the whole camp to the BCDA as soon as it receives the P1.42-billion refund of the rent it had paid. On the other hand, the BCDA has filed a motion for reconsideration but again sent armed goons to seize the two hotels, apparently without any intention of obeying the order to refund the rentals paid, and in violation of the Baguio court’s injunction.

Recently, the BCDA has turned its harassing tactics on the sublessees and locators of the camp, claiming it was not privy to the contracts they had with CJHDevCo. It told the locators to vacate the camp and go after CJHDevCo. The latter, however, claims that the BCDA has copies of all these subcontracts, and that the locators are not part of the quarrel between the BCDA and CJHDevCo.

It seems President Aquino put the wrong man at the helm of the BCDA. Casanova is not an administrator but a bully. In fact, from all his actions, it appears that he wants to be a soldier or a policeman instead. So the President should take him out of the BCDA and send him to Mindanao to fight the rebels. War, fighting, guns, violence and strong-arm tactics seem to be his choices. P-Noy should make him happy by sending him to where he belongs.

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All’s well that ends well in Makati, at least in the next two months. The Court of Appeals has issued a 60-day temporary restraining order on the Department of Interior and Local Government’s implementation of the order of the Ombudsman to suspend Makati Mayor Junjun Binay. I wonder what the Binay camp will do when the TRO expires. (This column was written before the DILG insisted that the suspension order had been served, making the TRO moot and academic.—ED.)

Will Junjun go peacefully if he does not get a permanent injunction, or will he dredge up some other excuse to disobey the Ombudsman’s order?

Junjun claims it was not during his term when the overpriced Makati parking building was started, so he is not responsible for it. The building was started when his father, now Vice President Jojo Binay, was mayor of Makati, so Junjun is throwing the blame to his father.

VP Binay is included, along with 21 subordinates, in the graft cases filed by the Ombudsman, but he has not been suspended because he is no longer the mayor. The suspension order on Junjun is to prevent the tampering of evidence in Makati City Hall.

Regarding Junjun’s participation in the anomaly, the subsequent phases of the construction, also overpriced, were implemented during his term. How will he extricate himself from that?

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TAGS: arnel Casanova, BCDA, Bonifacio Global City, CJHDevco., Court of Appeals, Junjun Binay, Poro Point Freeport Zone, PPP, public private partnership program
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