The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) views the filing of the libel complaint by Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevCo) against the BCDA Board of Directors as an act of harassment that is obviously intended to derail the BCDA’s efforts in holding CJHDevCo accountable for its acts and omissions. The BCDA also denounces the complaint as malicious and baseless, not to mention a mere smokescreen to cover up the real issue – that is, CJHDevCo’s failure and refusal to pay rentals to the Government for their use of Camp John Hay. The rentals, which already amount to P3 Billion, are supposed to be turned over to the National Government and the local government of Baguio City for use in development programs and projects for the benefit of the Filipino people.
The BCDA maintains that there was no malice or falsehood in the notice it published in April 2012. The BCDA only acted in the performance its duty to protect the public interest in Camp John Hay. Moreover, the notice was based on findings of facts, orders, and resolutions issued by various government agencies. Any question that CJHDevCo may have as to the veracity of these findings of facts and conclusions should be raised properly before the government agency that made them.
As regards the lease agreement between the BCDA and CJHDevCo, the term is not for a period of 50 years, as claimed by CJHDevCo. It is clear in Article II, Section 2 of the 1996 Lease Agreement that the term of the lease is only twenty-five years, renewable for another twenty-five years. Article II, Sec. 2 of the said agreement provides: “Unless sooner terminated for reasons specified in this Agreement, this Agreement shall have a term of twenty-five (25) years, renewable for another twenty-five (25) years under the same terms and conditions at the option of the LESSEE, effective upon the signing of this Agreement. Within ninety (90) days immediately prior to the expiration of the 25-year period, the LESSEE shall manifest its desire to renew the lease.”
The renewal is not a vested right but merely an option. The renewal is not automatic but subject to negotiations by the parties upon exercise of the option.
This contractual provision is based on Article XII, Section 3 of the Constitution, which provides: “…Private corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease, for a period not exceeding 25 years, renewable for not more than 25 years…”
Earlier, CJHDevCo filed a perjury complaint against BCDA President and CEO Arnel Casanova on the Estafa complaint that BCDA filed against the CJHDevCo for the double sale of Camp John Hay Log Home No. 9. BCDA legal counsel Demetrio Custodio, Jr. said that, “BCDA exercised due diligence and did not deliberately and willfully omit facts when it filed the estafa complaint against Robert John Sobrepeña and other responsible officers of CJHDevCo.”
Custodio said, “Based on all the pertinent documents available to BCDA at the time the Complaint was filed on March 9, 2012, there was ample factual and legal basis to support the estafa case against Sobrepena and his co-respondents.”
The lawyer emphasized that at the time of the dacion en pago—or payment in kind—to BCDA, the prior sale of the Voice of America (VOA) Log Home No. 9 to Wilson Sy was still existing. The Rejoinder Affidavits filed by Robert John Sobrepeña, Ferdinand Santos, and Ma. Georgina Alvarez with the Department of Justice showed that CJHDevCo returned the P20 Million purchase price paid by Sy only on May 18, 2012, which was the same day that Sy executed his affidavit in favor of Sobrepeña.
The filing of both the perjury and libel complaints, however, will not deter BCDA from performing its duty to uphold and protect the rights and interests of the Government and the Filipino people.