Emil Jurado | April 29, 2015
BASES Conversion Development Authority president Ariel Paciano Casanova has finally crossed the line, bent on kicking out Bob Sobrepeña’s Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDEVco) from the 246-hectare former American base, for which it has acted as developer for the past 18 years.
Over the weekend, Casanova published a wholesale ejectment notice for the Zamoras, PLDT, International Container Terminal Services Inc. of Ricky Razon, Araneta-owned LBC, Aboitiz-owned Union Bank, Coca-Cola, the Lorenzos, and other A-list names, including that of Fil-Estate executives, Noel Cariño, Ferdinand Santos, Enrique Sobrepeña, Order of Utopia Founder Rafael Evangelista Jr. and of course, Casanova’s obsession, Robert John Sobrepeña and many other VIPs like Ronnie Concepcion to vacate their leased cottages, country homes and cabins, golf estate lots and Manor Hotel penthouse and Forest Lodge Units.
According to the Harvard-educated lawyer, CJHDevco illegally sublet to the investors cabins, condo units and golf shares for 50 straight years when the BCDA actual sub-leases were good for only 25 years. As such, Casanova ordered all locators, unit owners, golf share owners and sub-lessees to file cases in court against CJHDevco for refund. But first, all investors must execute deeds of assignments to BCDA.
The BCDA president believes that since the final arbitration award, affirmed by the Baguio Regional Trial Court, terminated the 1996 lease agreement between BCDA and CJHDevco for mutual breach of contract, the investors also lost their right as investors.
Casanova may have graduated from Harvard, but, as a lawyer myself, I believe that third parties like investors at Camp John Hay, who were not a party to the arbitration case between BCDA and CJHDevco, enjoy certain rights because they acted in good faith.
In fact, when the Baguio RTC affirmed the Arbitration Tribunal award, it specifically stated (page 4, paragraph 3) that “as to the list of sub-lesses and/or vested right holders, they will be governed by the law on obligations and contracts.”
And what does the Philippine Civil Code state in Article 1385? It provides that “An order for mutual restitution cannot include properties currently in the possession of third persons who act in good faith.”
If Casanova cannot understand this provision of law, I would have doubts about his Harvard education.
Casanova claims that BCDA was not aware of the 50-year sub-lease contract with some 1,361 locators, investors and shareholders who bought in good faith. He should read the Original Lease Agreement between the BCDA and CJHDevco “to develop the lessees’ property and sublet it to third persons.”
In fact, BCDA’s Camp John Hay Master Development Plan, Part 1, Introduction 1.0, Section 1.0, Paragraph 2 states that “the concept is to attract foreign and local investors to locate in a highly developed economic zone that operates on an efficient, no-red tape mode. In an economic environment where government fosters least intervention, recognize the indispensable role of private investors, and provide investments incentives.”
A section of the Original Lease Agreement between CJHDevco and BCDA clearly provides “Section 2. Term—Unless terminated for reasons specified in this Agreement, this agreement shall have a term of twenty five (25) years, RENEWABLE FOR ANOTHER TWENTY FIVE (25) YEARS UNDER THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS AT THE OPTION OF THE LESSEES, effective upon the signing of this agreement – (caps mine).” Thus if BCDA and Casanova are unaware of this agreement, they admit criminal negligence and incompetence which make them guilty of graft and corruption. Casanova seems to forget that one time, the BCDA even had four of their directors sitting at the CJHDevco board.
All things considered, why is Casanova resorting to this harassment tactic on investors? The reason, I believe, is that BCDA cannot pay CJHDevco the P1.421 billion ordered by the Baguio RTC in affirming the Arbitration Tribunal award.
If BCDA cannot pay, CJHDevco can lay liens in BCDA properties at CJH before it can vacate the camp.
It’s actually a ploy on the part of BCDA for investors to claim refund from CJHDevco thinking that the investors are that stupid.
Even now, I am told that investors are preparing to sue Casanova and BCDA for trying to eject them. My gulay, if squatters cannot be evicted without a court order, how can Casanova eject possessors of properties in good faith? A notice is not a court order. That’s deprivation of property under the Constitution which can make Casanova liable for damages.
What is truly sad about this is that Camp John Hay, where you can still smell the pine trees, has ceased to be a tourist destination with characters like Casanova. It’s bad enough that the Baguio City government lost its 25 percent share of rentals that CJHDevco pays to BCDA. No wonder President Aquino’s much-vaunted Private-Public Partnership Program (PPP) is losing steam – because of government lackeys like the BCDA president.