• BCDA finds CA decision over Camp John Hay highly irregular

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    STATE-OWNED Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) said on Friday said it found the decision of the Court of Appeals’ (CA) Former Special Fifth Division highly irregular and in grave abuse of discretion.

    It vowed to contest the decision as part of its rights under the judicial process and its mandate to protect the interest of government and the public.

    “We are studying our legal options on whether to file a motion for reconsideration or go straight to the Supreme Court. But if there is one thing we are sure of, we will contest the patently erroneous decision of the CA,” BCDA head for legal services lawyer Peter Paul Andrew T. Flores said.

    Flores noted it is highly irregular for a court to modify the final award of an arbitral tribunal.

    The final award has been confirmed by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Baguio, based on BCDA’s and CJH Development Corporation’s (CJHDevCo) respective petitions. “The Final Award became executory after all the parties accepted the judicial confirmation by the RTC,” he said.

    The 67-page decision as ordered by Associate Justice Noel G. Tijam and concurred by Associate Justice Myra V. Garcia-Fernandez and Associate Justice Victoria Isabel A. Paredes led to a modified and different interpretation of the Final Award, the BCDA claimed.

    Flores alleged through the BCDA petition before the CA and the resulting decision, CJHDevCo has circumvented the law by doing what under the special rules is proscribed or prohibited from doing.

    “CJHDevCo, through its petition before the CA, in effect modified and amended the Final Award and Judicial Confirmation,” Flores said.

    The suit filed by CJHDevCo before the CA, supposedly in behalf of its sublessees, was self-serving and made to perpetuate its operations despite the ruling evicting it from Camp John Hay as CJHDevCo, its affiliates and officials held interest in about 20 percent of all sublessees involved, the BCDA also claimed.

    The intervenors are mostly affiliates such as the College Assurance Plan, subsidiaries such as the CJH Golf Club, and various associates. The CA is very much aware that the intervenors are the same parties related to CJHDevCo and were never innocent sublessees.

    Flores pointed out that CJHDevCo was a sublessor in bad faith. “Knowing that their lease with BCDA was only for 25 years, subject to renewal for another 25 years and not an automatic 50 years. CJHDevCo nonetheless gave a 50-year straight lease to its sublessees,” Flores said.

    The CA’s decision and interpretation of the arbitral award has also obstructed and delayed its very implementation, according to BCDA.

    Flores noted the final award of the arbitral tribunal was very clear. It ordered “CJHDevCo to VACATE the Leased Premises and promptly deliver the Leased Property, inclusive of all new constructions and permanent improvements introduced during the term of the Lease as reckoned from the execution of the Original Lease Agreement to Respondent [BCDA] in good and tenantable condition in all respects, reasonable wear and tear excepted.”

    The final award also ordered BCDA “to return to Claimant [CJHDevCo] the total amount of rentals Claimant has paid in the total amount of P1.42 billion.

    He said consistent with the final award directing rescission and mutual restitution, CJHDevCo once having been refunded by BCDA all the lease payments it paid to BCDA and being released from obligation for the unpaid lease payments due BCDA to the tune of P3.4 billion, CJHDevCo has the reciprocal obligation to refund its sublessees all that were paid so that the sublessees may themselves be restored.

    “Otherwise, CJHDevCo will have been unjustly enriched as the sublessees would have been deprived of both their sublease and their lease payments,” Flores noted.

    The decision of the CA’s Former Special Fifth Division is grossly disadvantageous to government as it absolves CJHDevCo from the responsibility of refunding its sublessees and imposes upon the government the obligation to honor sublease contracts until 2046 without compensation, he added.

    The Baguio RTC issued a writ of execution that ordered the Baguio Sheriff to implement the award. But before the Baguio Sheriff could implement the “Notice to Vacate” CJHDevCo secured a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the CA that has since expired. “With the issuance of the CA’s Former Fifth Division of the decision, the implementation of the final award will be delayed,” according to BCDA.

    BCDA President and CEO Arnel Paciano D. Casanova said the Sobrepeña-led CJHDevCo is using the courts to delay the government in developing government property and infrastructure for the sake of the public.

    By misleading the Court of Appeals to issue a highly irregular decision, Sobrepeña has denied the people in Camp John Hay and Baguio City better services and facilities, the BCDA head claimed.

    He said this is not a new tactic of Sobrepeña. “The Sobrepeña group has also evaded liabilities in the College Assurance Plan (CAP) denying thousands of children the right to education by doing the same squid tactics through misinterpretation and corporate-layering,” Casanova said.

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