By Alex Magno | Updated April 9, 2015 - 12:00am
Since he barricaded the SM Aura and tried to intimidate its owners with a battalion of security guards, we realized BCDA chair Arnel Casanova is an odd man prone to doing odd things.
For all the odd things he has done, creating anxiety among investors such as when he subjected the SCTEX to a Swiss challenge late in the game, Casanova very likely caused more opportunity costs for government than whatever meager things he imagines were gained.
From the beginning of his tenure, Casanova waged war against the Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevCo), charging the private partner for full rent despite BCDA’s utter failure to deliver its part of the bargain. That private war against a company that entered into a long-term contract with government in good faith seemed, from the start, intended to scuttle the contract and award the same to a corporate rival.
After many bizarre suits filed against the private partner, BCDA was eventually forced to accept arbitration. The arbitration produced what is likely a lose-lose proposition. The contract to develop Camp John Hay, stalled for years by BCDA’s own failures, was abrogated. BCDA was, however, required to return to CJHDevCo all paid rentals amounting to P1.4 billion because the government agency failed to fulfill its contractual obligations.
Until BCDA returns the P1.4 billion, it cannot get back the facility. In the process, the City of Baguio loses all the money it was supposed to receive under the terms of the contested contract.
The arbitration process rejected the P3.3 billion Casanova says the private partner owes his agency. The BCDA is likewise required to honor the third party contracts entered into in good faith with CJHDevCo, which had a 50-year development contract with government. Those third-party contracts involve long-term leases to facilities and land within the development zone.
Government gets nothing out of Casanova’s mischief. It recovers ownership of an undeveloped facility — but only if it pays the spurned private partner P1.4 billion. Meanwhile, a once promising tourism-oriented project sits in limbo.
Lately, it appears Casanova has been trying very hard to undermine the court ruling upholding third party contracts. Private businessmen sought protection from the Baguio city government in the face of threats issued by Casanova and his men. Casanova, it turns out, has been forcing holders of third-party contracts to sign deeds of assignment returning the properties they hold in lease back to the BCDA.
Casanova has been forcing these small leaseholders to give up their rights, return the parcels they bought in good faith and agree to testify against CJHDevCo for unspecified cases BCDA intend to file in the future. The coercive tactics used by the BCDA chair outraged the leaseholders and they trooped to the office of Baguio’s mayor to complain.
How can they defend themselves against the bullying of a public official who has repeatedly demonstrated a capacity to resort to underhanded methods?