CA grants BCDA petition; reverses Baguio RTC decision, lifts injunction

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BAGUIO CITY – The Court of Appeals’ special 11th division granted the petition for review filed by the  State-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority, reversing and setting aside the April 27, 2012 decision of branch 6 of the Baguio City Regional Trial Court.

The CA decision lifted the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the Baguio RTC to the Camp John Hay Development Corp. led by Robert John Sobrepena in relation to the developers over P3 billion obligation to the BCDA representing unpaid lease rentals over the operation of the 247-hectare John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ).

The CA decision was penned by Associate Justice Victoria A. Paredes, with Associate Justices Isaias P. Dicdican and Agnes Reyes-Carpio concurring with the decision.

CJH Development Corp. has not been paying lease rentals to the BCDA since 1998 for a 247-hectare property inside the John Hay Special Economic Zone and its arrears have ballooned to P3.4 billion, 25 percent of which is for the local government of Baguio pursuant to a 1996 memorandum of agreement entered into by BCDA and the private developer, formerly Fil-Estate Penta Capital Consortium.

Meanwhile, the BCDA filed an urgent manifestation with Branch 6 of the Baguio City Regional Trial Court earlier this week, calling its attention to the invalid P736.328-million bond posted by CJH Development Corp. led by Robert John Sobrepena.

The posting of bonds is required in most huge transactions with government to ensure that the company fulfils its obligations with concerned government agencies and host local governments.

Sobrepena’s CJH Development Corp. secured the bond from First Integrated Bonding and Insurance Corp. which is not accredited by the Insurance Commission or the Supreme Court and is not authorized to transact business with any court in the country.

Based on records from the Securities and Exchange Commission, First Integrated Bonding and Insurance Corp. is 10-percent owned by Janet Lim Napoles who is heavily associated with the so-called pork barrel scam. As of the end of 2013, the company’s assets amounted to only P307.555 million, less than half of the amount of the bond required.

Alfredo Yñguez, CJHDevCO executive vice president, said the corporation already appealed the CA ruling as it is reportedly part of the BCDA’s ploy to enforce their long-time decision to “takeover the operation of the special economic zone from them and award the same to another interested real estate developer.”

“They could not just unilaterally takeover the special economic zone because they still have to secure a writ of execution from the CA if the decision has become final and executor. What I know is that we will still have to undergo several hearings,” Yñiguez stressed.

He explained the earlier bonding company, Liberty Insurance Corporation, which posted the CJHDevCo bond, was the one duly accredited by the Baguio RTC and SC at the time of its issuance in late 2011.

The CJHDevCo official added the company is owned by the Cojuangcos, who are related to President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, before it was transferred to First Insurance Bonding Corporation some two years ago.

“We were not aware that the minority shareholder of First Insurance Bonding Corporation was the controversial Janet Lim-Napoles and we have nothing to do about the pork barrel scam,” he asserted. For his part, lawyer Arnel Paciano Casanova, BCDA president and chief executive officer, welcomed the CA ruling reversing and dissolving the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the lower court, citing that it is partial victory on their part and they will continue to contest every legal move of the private developer to delay the implementation of their earlier notice of termination.

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