Neal H. Cruz | Inquirer | May 8, 2015 

It is scary what is happening at Camp John Hay. Third parties who subleased for 50 years home lots, log cabins and hotel rooms from the developer, Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevCo), are being evicted by the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) under Arnel Casanova. If the courts allow this, all buyers in good faith in the Philippines will be in danger of eventual eviction by unscrupulous parties.

CJHDevCo won the bidding and was awarded a contract to develop for tourism the former American rest-and-recreation area. The BCDA, however, delayed and refused to issue permits to the developer, thus delaying and hampering its development timetable, so that it could not pay its rent on time.

In 2008, CJHDevCo entered into a compromise restructuring agreement with the BCDA for the latter to have a one-stop action center to hasten the issuance of permits. The BCDA, however, did not put up the center. When the conflict was decided by an arbitration tribunal, it ruled that both parties violated the contract and therefore the document was voided. The tribunal ordered CJHDevCo to return the camp to the BCDA after the latter refunds the

P1.4-billion rent that the developer paid to it. At the same time, the tribunal declared that CJHDevCo does not owe the BCDA the P3 billion that it wants to collect from the developer. Third parties who subleased home lots for 25 years, renewable for 25 years, or for a total of 50 years, were not a party to the case and were not mentioned at all in the decision.

But Casanova has now turned on the third parties and is trying to evict them. These are investors who were enticed by the government’s Philippine Retirement Association to invest in Camp John Hay. They are a mixture of Filipino investors, overseas Filipino workers and foreign retirees who are direct descendants of American soldiers who fought alongside Filipinos against the Japanese during World War II. They thought they could retire in peace and contentment in Baguio City. What is happening is the opposite: They are being harassed, bullied, threatened with eviction by the BCDA, whose duty, ironically, is to encourage people to invest in former US military bases.

The BCDA has sent the letters to the third parties stating that they would be evicted if they do not sign a deed of assignment which includes:

An admission that they have no right to stay there and to transfer their ownership rights to the BCDA through a power of attorney.

An admission that they have no right to sue the BCDA for its part in what happened.

An agreement to future unspecified terms.

An agreement that the interpretation of the assignment agreement or any dispute will be heard only by a court in Taguig City, not in Baguio.

An agreement to sign in advance any affidavit, contents unknown, against CJHDevCo and testify against it in any court or agency.

Yet the lot owners have deeds of sale stating that they are owners of the properties for 50 years. Some of them have invested as much as P25 million on improvements.

As an option against eviction, the BCDA wants the lot owners to buy their homes, which they already own, at market value plus premium, after assigning their rights to it.

As anybody can see, this deed of assignment not only is most unfair and illegal but could also get the lawyer who wrote it disbarred.

Some BCDA officials are reportedly also using the name of President Aquino to threaten investors. They are said to have told an investor that they work for Mr. Aquino and that if the investor did not sign the deed of assignment, “you can get into trouble.”

The investors have written President Aquino and Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan asking for help. They asked the mayor why the BCDA is claiming ownership of Camp John Hay when the 16th of the 19 conditions that the BCDA recognized way back in 1994 provides that the land and improvements will be transferred at the end of the lease (which the BCDA now says is at an end because of the arbitration award).

Mayor Domogan has replied that third-party subleases in Camp John Hay are valid and that the BCDA must respect them. He also said: “You are perfectly right in not signing the Deed of Assignment that BCDA is asking you to sign. I fully subscribe to what has been published in local newspapers stating the five key reasons BCDA and JHMC must respect and honor all third party subleases.”

The mayor also said that the city is readying its “proper action to implement the 19 conditions contained in City Council Resolution No. 362, series of 1994, which had been approved by the BCDA.”

In their letter to President Aquino, the investors asked him to meet in Malacañang representatives of the 1,600 investors and homeowners at his “earliest convenience in the interest of justice and fairness.”

They added: “We are innocent investors who responded to the call of the government to invest in the PPP (public-private partnership) project in Baguio and dealt in all good faith with the BCDA’s appointed developer.”