Edu Punay | Philstar Global | May 8, 2017

A Pasig City court has ordered the arrest of former Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president Arnel Casanova for publishing a "malicious notice" against the developer of Camp John Hay in Baguio City.

In a two-page warrant issued last week, Regional Trial Court Branch 67 Judge Maria Paz Reyes-Yson ordered the arrest of Casanova and other BCDA executives after finding probable cause in the libel case filed by Camp John Hay Development Corp. chairman Robert John Sobrepeña.

The judge issued the order, which was furnished to government prosecutors in the Department of Justice, to require the accused to face the court and stand trial for the criminal case.

In the complaint filed by the Pasig city prosecutor's office in 2013, Casanova and several BCDA executives were accused of conspiring to cause the publication of a notice in a national newspaper, "containing false, malicious and highly defamatory statements" against Sobrepeña, who also sought damages amounting to P100 million.

The advertisement published on April 10, 2012 accused Sobrepeña of involvement in "questionable business practices," particularly the "double sale" of an allegedly previously sold P20-million log cabin in Camp John Hay.

The log cabin was one parcel in a lot of five properties worth P180 million remitted to and accepted in 2008 by BCDA as rent payment in kind. The CJH DevCo chairman said a prospective buyer, Wilson Sy, backed out in 1999 and the unencumbered title to the log cabin remained in CJH DevCo's name. In an affidavit, Sy disclaimed ownership of the log cabin.

Casanova sought the dismissal of the case and filed a motion for judicial determination of probable cause, which was rejected by Judge Yson.

"This Court holds that there is probable cause to believe that accused movants… committed the offense charged and should be held for trial as they caused the publication of the subject notice in a newspaper seven years ago," read the ruling.

"While [the notice] could be said that it just contains information that are of public knowledge, it mentioned matters involving the business interests of the private complainant to the College Assurance Plan and the Metro Rail Transit Development Corporation that has neither relevance or relation to CJH DevCo that tends to injure the reputation or diminish the esteem, respect, good [reputation] or confidence of the private complainant," it stressed.

The court set the bail for Casanova and the other accused at P10,000 each.

President Duterte, shortly after assuming office in July last year, replaced Casanova with Vivencio Dizon, an economist and professor.

Puzzled by the endless litigation and years-long retention of a private law firm to litigate for and against both BCDA's and Casanova's lawsuits, Dizon ordered a legal audit of the state corporation.