May Anne Cacdac | Sun Star Baguio | August 1, 2015
BACK off. This was essentially the message of the Court of Appeals ordering Regional Trial Court Branch 6 under Judge Cecilia Corazon Dulay-Archog, Ex-Officio Sheriff of Baguio lawyer Linda Montes-Loloy, Sheriff of RTC 6 Bobby Galano and the Bases Conversion Development Authority to “permanently cease and desist from enforcing and implementing the April 14, 2015 Writ of Execution and April 20, 2015 Notice to Vacate” issued against Camp John Hay Development Corporation and third parties occupying the former American military base.
“Due process dictates that a court decision can only bind a party to the litigation and not against innocent third parties. The Final Award did not make any categorical or unequivocal statement that the Final Award should be enforced against the third parties. It merely settled the dispute between CJHDevCo and BCDA. It cannot be deemed to include, even by implication, third parties who were not parties to the arbitration and over which the arbitral tribunal had no jurisdiction. It is therefore grave abuse of discretion on the part of Public Responded Judge to adjudicate the rights of the third parties in a summary proceeding of confirmation of an arbitral award, and in issuing a Writ of Execution and Notice to Vacate without a trial on the respective rights of the third parties,” the 67-page decision of the CA stated.
In a press statement, CJHDevCo led by its chairman Robert John Sobrepeña lauded the decision as a “day of victory.”
“Today the rule of law prevailed. So be rest assured you are safe in your homes until 2046,” he said.
Among the third party investors who will remain within the camp are CJH Golf Club, Inc., CAP Trade and Cultural Center, Inc., several buyers of country homes, condominium units in Manor, The Suites/Forest Lodge, log homes and forest estates “until their respective rights and interests are determined under compulsory arbitration or by the regular courts.”
The CA also ruled CJHDevCo may stay within the camp until BCDA pays the P1.4 billion it owes to the developer.
“However, pending filing of the claim with the COA and the payment thereof to CJHDevCo, the latter cannot be forced to vacate the leased property, consistent with the principle of mutual restitution. Clearly, rescission under Art. 1191, which serves as the bedrock for the arbitral award, is predicated upon the reciprocity of the obligations of the parties. They are to be performed simultaneously such that the performance of one is conditioned upon the simultaneous fulfillment of the other,” the Appellate court ruled.
Apart from ordering CJHDevCo to vacate and cease operations in its leased premises upon the payment of the P1.4 billion, the CA also ordered the developer to endorse all contracts entered into with third parties to BCDA and furnish BCDA with “an inventory of all constructions, buildings and other improvements on the leased premises, including amounts received from the third party occupants in the leased premises from the start of the lease agreement up to the finality of this judgment.”
Meanwhile, BCDA was ordered to “respect and not to disturb the various contracts of the third parties occupying the leased premises” and “to assist in the processing of the claim of petitions CJH Development Corporation filed with the Commission on Audit, who must act within 60 days pursuant to existing laws.”
Both CJHDevCo and BCDA were ordered to conduct a joint audit of the inventory to be submitted by the developer.
BCDA insisted on an escrow account as “payment” to CJHDevCo. In May, Sobrepeña declared this as “unacceptable” and went on to the Court of Appeals after receiving reports from third party investors that they are being evicted.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 02, 2015.