John Hay homeowners rage vs eviction
BAGUIO CITY—Aaron Goodman, a 55-year-old New Zealand native, has made Camp John Hay his home, after investing P22 million of his savings in two Forest Cabins at the former American rest and recreation baseland.
But Goodman received on Monday a court-issued notice to vacate his two houses that would leave his Filipino family homeless.
He said he is putting up a fight, along with many other homeowners who intend to ask the court to stop the evictions.
“It’s not about the money. We’ve made our home here. We don’t want to go,” he said.
So do some of Goodman’s neighbors, who received their eviction notices on Wednesday from court sheriffs deployed on the second day of enforcing an arbitration judgment that was supposed to have resolved a contractual dispute between the administrator and the developer of Camp John Hay.
The notices were addressed to Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevco) and “all persons claiming rights under them,” because a tribunal formed by the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center (PDRC) required the CJHDevco to return to the government its 240-hectare leased area and all its improvements.
It also ordered the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to reimburse the developer its rent amounting to P1.42 billion, which the agency deposited in an escrow account it opened for a Baguio court.
The tribunal said both CJHDevco and BCDA have violated the 1996 lease agreement to develop a tourism complex at John Hay, and its only recourse is to void the lease and to “revert [the property] as far as practicable to their original position prior to the execution of the original lease agreement.”
“If the idea [propounded by the PDRC judgment] is to take everybody back to the original position [in Camp John Hay, as if the lease was never executed], the original position of the BCDA was not this,” Goodman said, because Camp John Hay was composed of US military barracks when the Americans abandoned their bases in 1991.
“The truth is [government] will enrich itself by grabbing
everybody’s houses without any sort of compensation,” given how the PDRC decision is being enforced, he said.
Both CJHDevco and BCDA have put up help desks to offer legal advise to sublessees ordered to leave John Hay.
Many homeowners rushed to the CJHDevco help desk, some still in their slippers, saying they were startled and confused about the notices delivered to them.
In an earlier statement, CJHDevco executive vice president Alfredo Yñiguez III said the locators were protected under law as they have made their investments in good faith.
“It is possible for these investors to sue the BCDA if they are evicted since they are protected under the law and governed by the law of contracts and obligations,” Yñiguez said.
These locators are considered vested rights holders and were buyers in good faith,” he said.
In the same statement, CJHDevco legal counsel Gilbert Reyes said it was actually BCDA that benefited from the payments made by investors.
“BCDA used the investors’ hard-earned investments to discharge its obligation to pay interest to CJHDevCo. It, therefore, does not require too much imagination to see why it is plainly wrong for the BCDA to accept the benefit of using the investment of third parties to pay for its debt,” said Reyes.
A few were outraged by the fact that the feuding parties failed to protect them from the conflict.
Goodman said many investors had not even been informed about the dispute and the problems plaguing the John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ).
A John Hay Business Club was developed to shield tenants from the feud by providing them a neutral venue to jointly market Camp John Hay, according to Zaldy Bello, JHSEZ zone manager, in an earlier interview.
The PDRC ruling, however, impacted negatively on Camp John Hay’s residents and business operations because it did not detail how their contracts would thrive after the original lease agreement was voided, said lawyer Federico Mandapat, who mans the CJHDevco Help Desk. With a report by Jerome C. Aning in Manila