Court gives BCDA 3 days to file position paper

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BAGUIO CITY  – The city’s Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 6 ordered the State-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to file within three days its position paper on the omnibus motion of the Sobrepeña-owned Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevCo) petitioning the local court to exempt their sub-lessees from eviction within the 247-hectare John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ).

Judge Cecilia Corazon Dulay Archog has given the BCDA until Monday to file its comprehensive position paper on the developer’s petition before she will rule on the merits of the omnibus motion filed by the developer.

Archog informed both parties in the case that the 30-day grace period given to them to comply with their respective obligations under the writ of execution and the judicial confirmation of the arbitral decision will still be in effect unless any of the parties will be able to secure a temporary restraining order (TRO).

The (CJHDevCo) petition, which was filed a week after the court sheriff issued eviction notices to homeowners, tenants and locators of the John Hay Special Economic Zone sought that the court to direct the sheriff to refraim from pursuing the eviction of the third parties considering that they were never part of the arbitration proceedings, thus, they should not be covered by the ruling on the turnover of the facilities by the developer to BCDA.

Lawyer Gilbert Reyes, CJHDevCo legal counsel, said the omnibus motion also questioned an escrow account opened in the name of RTC Branch 6 by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), where it deposited the amount with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) in the name of the local court instead of the CJHDevCo as mandated by the arbitration decision.

It can be recalled that Judge Archog ordered the BCDA to pay to CJHDevCo the amount of P1.42 billion in accumulated lease rentals it paid to the government over the past 18 years and in turn CJHDevCo will turn over to BCDA the John Hay facilities in tenantable condition when she issued the judicial confirmation on the arbitration decision released by the Makati-based Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, Inc. (PDRCI) on February 11, 2015.

The PDRC tribunal ruled that both parties violated the lease contract, which it nullified before requiring CJHDevCo to return Camp John Hay to the government in exchange for reimbursements of its rent.

Archog directed the BCDA and CJHDevCo to submit to arbitration to end their public feud.

She also imposed a gag order on the proceedings, until the turnover was completed.

Reyes explained the omnibus motion sought to call Archog’s attention that “the rights of third parties were not among the issues raised and resolved by the PDRC judgment and are therefore not part of the arbitration ruling.”

The third parties refer to CJHDevCo’s sublessees who built log cabins or bought hotel rooms under time-sharing or revenue-sharing arrangements, entrepreneurs who set up food or service facilities, and other groups with vested rights in the former American rest and recreation center.

Many of the homeowners have questioned the eviction notices and have consulted lawyers about a class suit to protect their leased property.

The court has given CJHDevCo until May 20 to vacate the leased area.

Lawyer Peter Paul Flores, senior BCDA legal officer, said the agency had fulfilled its commitment to the PDRC when it opened the escrow account at Development Bank of the Philippines on April 17.

But CJHDevco said the escrow deposit did not represent “payments as contemplated under Rule 39,” Reyes argued. Rule 39 of the Rules of Court outlines the execution, satisfaction and effect of judgments.

Section 9 of Rule 39 states that in cases where judgment involves a demand for money, the party required by court to make these payments in a writ of execution “shall pay in cash, certified bank check … or any other form of payment … directly to the judgment obligee (in this case CJHDevCo) or his authorized representative if present at the time of payment.”

In an earlier news conference, Alfredo Yñiguez III, CJHDevCo executive vice president, said the company had offered the BCDA a program for relinquishing their property, complete with a transition period to help government administrators gradually take over operational and managerial control over its hotels and restaurants so these facilities can continue serving customers.

The BCDA declined the offer, according to court records.

The arrangement, therefore, is for CJHDevCo to immediately leave as soon as money is turned over directly to the developer, Yñiguez said.

Judge Archog assured both parties that she will rule on the omnibus motion filed by the developer prior to the expiration of the grace period prescribed by law for the purpose of complying with their respective obligations.

By Dexter A. See

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