By Rey E. Requejo | Dec. 25, 2014 at 12:01am
The Bases Conversion and Development Authority has suffered another major setback after a Pasay City regional trial court rejected its motion for reconsideration seeking to overturn its decision clearing Camp John Hay Development Corp. chairman Robert Sobrepeña of estafa case.
The Pasay court upheld its Sept. 3, 2014 decision that BCDA’s Arnel Casanova failed to establish probable cause in accusing Sobrepeña of making false representations that CJHDevCo was incapable of paying rentals for Camp John Hay.
“BCDA agreed to restructure the debt under the lease agreement. The accused (Sobrepeña) cannot be held liable for CJHDevCo’s failure to pay those rentals,” Judge Pedro Gutierrez said in his seven-page order dated December 19, 2014, copy of which was furnished the Department of Justice.
“The Department of Justice made a palpable error of selective prosecution when it filed a case against the accused without including all the members of the board of directors of CJHDevCo,” Gutierrez said. “This case was filed with the DoJ after a lapse of 14 years when the obligation was incurred in 1998. This violated the Bill of Rights under our Constitution for accused to have a speedy trial and due process of law,” Gutierrez added.
BCDA earlier argued that CJHDevCo deliberately chose not to perform its rental obligations despite the existence of retained earnings and other revenues.
BCDA however agreed to defer rental payments under two restructuring memoranda of agreements signed in August 1999 and July 2000.
In the “whereas” clause of the last MoA, it was expressly stated that CJHDevCo’s inability to undertake its development plans and realize its projected sales and revenues were caused by BCDA’s admitted breaches of the lease agreement, delays in fulfilling its obligations and the detrimental effects of the Asian financial crisis on the Philippine economy.
The Pasay court noted that BCDA acknowledged the problems encountered by CJHDevCo, partially caused by delays on the part of BCDA that led to the deferment of rental payments.
The court also noted that it was a joint committee comprised of officers of both CJHDevCo and BCDA that ruled to allow the deferment of payments.
Judge Gutierrez also underscored Sobrepeña’s transparency with BCDA.
“There is no evidence that accused Sobrepeña concealed the corporate records and financial statements of CJHDevCo to BCDA. … There is no evidence showing that accused Sobrepeña persuaded, if not insisted, BCDA to enter into the said contract … The very stipulations of the MOAs appears to be a product of negotiations, verification and careful, if not meticulous, evaluation … The July 14, 2000 MOA was even approved by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel and by the Office of the President,” the judge said.
“At the onset, we knew this was a harassment case,” said CJHDevCo Executive Vice President Al Yñiguez.
“The board was cleared of charges by the prosecutor in June so it was odd that a case was still filed against Mr. Sobrepeña. This decision only emphasizes that Mr. Sobrepeña and CJHDevCo have always been upfront and transparent in our dealings with BCDA,” Yñiguez said.