TWELVE executives and officers of Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevCo) won 50 of 52 cases of malversation of public funds filed by Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) President Arnel Casanova against them.
CJHDevCo is the developer of the former rest and recreation facility for American servicemen and CJH Hotel.
The Justice department junked for lack of evidence the complaints of Casanova against CJHDevCo directors William Russell Sob-repeña, lawyer Enrique Sobrepeña Jr., Rafael Perez de Tagle Jr., Ambassador. Raul Goco, lawyer Silvestre Bello 3rd, Noel Cariño, Bobby Cafe, Dennis Ignacio and officers Gulshan Bedi and lawyer Manuel Ubarra Jr. and CJH Hotel officers Ramon Cabrera and Heinrich Maulbecker.
The case was filed after the officers allegedly withheld income based on a leaseback agreement that BCDA has with CJHDevCo for 26 hotel rooms at CJHDevCo-run hotels The Manor and The Suites (now renamed Forest Lodge). Casanova demanded an immediate turnover of the subject hotel rooms from CJHDevCo.
In a resolution promulgated by Prosecution lawyer Omar Cris Casimiro and approved by Senior State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon, the DOJ did not find merit in the allegation.
It instead affirmed the legality of the Leaseback Agreement signed by BCDA in favor of the developer, which forbade a turnover of the BCDA-owned hotel rooms back to BCDA until after the lapse of the 15-year lease period.
The ruling cited the provision in the Leaseback Agreement, which says that “there shall be no pre-termination of the Leaseback Agreement by either party during the initial fifteen-year period of the Leaseback Agreement.
“Since the existence of valid Leaseback Agreement was admitted by both parties, its provisions should be properly observed. The same is likewise true as regards the charge of Failure to Make Delivery of Public Property punishable under Article 221 of the Revised Penal Code.
Although BCDA already demanded the immediate turnover of the 26 subject hotel room units, CJHDevCo’s refusal to do so was justified pursuant to Section 6 of the Leaseback Agreement,” the ruling read.
With regard to BCDA’s rental income in The CJH Suites Hotel, the DOJ said that “the inquiry of the undersigned is limited to evidence submitted by the parties and the careful examination of the same would reveal that CJHDevCo was indeed suffering from a loss in the operations of the said hotel. Thus, there is no malversation in the said rental income.”
Ironically, it was the refusal of BCDA itself to issue permits to the CJH Suites that caused it to suffer losses. So, the DOJ prosecutor noted that the refusal seems calibrated to allow BCDA to file charges against CJHDevCo and its officers.
A senior CJHDevCo official felt vindicated by the development.
“Mr. Casanova seems to be on a mission to file case after case against CJHDevCo and its officers instead of working together with us and the Baguio government in developing Camp John Hay as one of the best tourism attractions in the country. But we have full faith and confidence in the due process clause as guaranteed in the Constitution, and we continue to remain on the side of truth and justice,” the official said.
On the other hand, a CJHDevCo official filed perjury charges against a BCDA senior officer and BCDA private lawyers in connection with the motions they made in court in May for cancellation of bail and judge’s inhibition in the malversation case.
CJHDevCo Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Alfredo Yñiguez 3rd lodged the case against BCDA corporate secretary Peter Paul Andrew Flores.
Private lawyers Demetrio Custodio Jr., Eloysa Sicam and Mary Kimberlie See of the Ongkiko Manhit Custodio & Acorda law office who advised Flores and prepared the twin motions were also named respondents in the complaint.
Flores swore that Judge Mia Joy Oallares-Cawed of the Baguio regional trial court had granted bail to Yniguez.
It was mentioned in the affidavits submitted with the motions that it was done without an “undertaking” or a statement under oath pledging compliance with bail conditions.
One Edcel Colcol was blamed by the respondents for the legal blunder as he was supposed to be verifying the undertaking and other documents.