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BCDA unfazed by latest ‘harrasment’ complaint

Published on 27 July 2012 [ manilatimes.net ]
Written by Lovelyn Quintos

Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) President and Chief Executive Officer Arnel Paciano Casanova said on Thursday that majority owners of the Camp John Hay

Development Corp. (CJHDevCo) “seem to be afraid of their own shadow when the College Assurance Plan and the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 are mentioned,” stressing that the second P100 million libel suit recently filed by CJHDevCo would not stop him from protecting public interest.

“[It] is a fact and public knowledge that Robert Sobrepeña is also majority holder of the College Assurance Plan [CAP], the Metro Rail Transit Corp. [MRT] and Southwoods . . . I wonder why he felt ashamed being associated with these companies. If he is truly a well-respected businessman, he should be proud of his businesses,” the BCDA head said in a statement.

Last week, Sobrepeña counsel Frank Chavez filed a P100-million libel case against Casanova before the Pasig City Prosecutor’s Office. In the complaint, Sobrepeña said that, “the repeated use of the name ‘Sobrepena’ [correctly spelled as Sobrepeñ] in the defamatory articles leads to no other conclusion than that principal respondents [Casanova] are directly imputing to me the commission of the crime of estafa [swindling], the purported violation by CJHDevco of laws and alleged questionable practices of CJHDevCo.”

In a phone interview, Chavez told The Manila Times that the libel case is not meant to harass Casanova but was based on his statements that have maligned Sobrepeña.

“He should not [liken] it to harassment because the libel complaint is built on issues that he has twisted, and facts that he has invented and accusations that has damaged the reputation of Robert Sobrepeña,” he said. He added that they will be filing another case next week.

Issues over Camp John Hay
Sobrepeña is the chairman of CJHDevCo, which the BCDA said owes the government over P3 billion in arrears. He is also a member of the board of directors of CAP while his brother, Enrique Sobrepeña Jr., is president and chief executive officer.

CAP sold over P20 billion worth of pre-need plans in the late 1990s to early 2000 but eventually went bankrupt. The MRT Development Corp., meanwhile, owes the government P1 billion from a foreign loan which it allegedly failed to pay, making the Department of Transportation and Communication shoulder the obligation, according to department officials.

Sobrepena was also the head of MRT DevCo.

In the statement, Casanova said that the BCDA wants to safeguard investors by informing them on what is happening at Camp John Hay in Baguio City, and advising present and future locators and unit owners to keep in touch with the BCDA.

Casanova said that he has not yet received a copy of the complaint, the fifth of a series of charges filed by CJHDevCo against BCDA officials in the past two months.

The new “harassment case,” he said, “is an obvious ploy to prolong their [CJHDevCo] stay in John Hay, to the detriment of the government and the Filipino people.”

“What is clear is that Robert Sobrepeña, chairman of the Camp John Hay Development Corp. [CJHDevco] has been filing court suits calculated at intimidating and harassing me and the BCDA Board in our determined effort to make the Camp John Hay lessee pay its over P3 billion arrears in rental payments,” he said.

Casanova earlier said that 25 percent of the P3 billion will be given to the local government of Baguio and CJHDevCo’s refusal to pay arrear obligations has affected the economic and social development in the city. BCDA and CJHDevCo executed a lease agreement in 1996 but since 1997, the developer has allegedly failed to pay rentals. In May, BCDA terminated the lease contract citing “material and incurable breaches.”
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