Camp John Hay homeowners ready lawsuits
BAGUIO CITY—The countdown for Camp John Hay homeowners to leave the former American rest and recreation center is far shorter than the 30-day period granted to the developer, Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevco), a likely reason for a lawsuit being prepared by homeowners in the tourism estate.
The Baguio court sheriff has been serving notices to vacate to owners of luxury cabins and cottages inside Camp John Hay since Tuesday to enforce an arbitration judgment that directs CJHDevco to turn over the leased property and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to reimburse P1.42-billion rent to the developer.
The ruling, made in February by a tribunal formed by the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center (PDRC), ended the contractual dispute between CJHDevco and BCDA, which, it said, violated the 1996 John Hay lease agreement. The tribunal said the only cure for the dispute was to extinguish the deal.
But according to some homeowners who spoke to the Inquirer, the sheriff has been telling them that their deadline coincides with the eviction period of CJHDevco, which is reckoned from April 20, the time the developer received the notice.
In letters sent to homeowners, BCDA lawyer Peter Paul Flores confirmed that “the 30-day period of the notice runs from April 20 [and this] holds true for all sublessees … because all subleases emanate from the CJHDevco lease [which was voided by PDRC].”
“It doesn’t give us much time. Our time is shorter,” said New Zealand native Aaron Goodman on Wednesday when he sought legal advice from the CJHDevco Help Desk.
‘Not on anyone’s side’
Goodman said he and a neighbor, Michael Alan Conduit, intend to ask the court to stop the sheriff from proceeding with the evictions, arguing that they were not party to the dispute and should not be punished by its resolution.
“We are not on anyone’s side [in this dispute]. We are on our side,” he said.
Goodman also met with Zaldy Bello, John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ) manager, who supervises the BCDA Help Desk.
“It is normal for them to seek the perspectives of both sides,” said lawyer Federico Mandapat Jr., who mans the CJHDevco Help Desk.
The legal advice the two help desks have been offering, however, tends to invite more lawsuits.
BCDA, for example, has offered to protect the sublessees from eviction if they submit their properties under a deed of assignment that makes BCDA their landlord, instead of CJHDevco.
In one of these letters, Flores said this document grants BCDA some measure of authority to “assume the legal risk of going after CJHDevco for the [money] that have been paid by the investors and the latter get to enjoy the facilities for the duration of their respective leases without any additional payment, save for the maintenance and other
assessments provided in their contracts.”
Paid in full
Flores, in an earlier interview, said BCDA’s predicament with sublessees and other third party interests was that many have paid their investments in full by the time the PDRC dissolved the original lease agreement.
A new government contract must be drawn up to allow them to continue their stay in Camp John Hay, but the government would be required to collect new lease payments from them or face sanctions from government auditors, he said.
One of the government’s options is to secure the new lease payments from the developer’s P1.42 billion rent, Flores said.
‘It’s up to them’
Mandapat, on the other hand, has been enumerating the legal options homeowners may take to fight evictions, among them a petition for declaratory relief so a court would define which entities the arbitrators intended to leave Camp John Hay.
“We also offer to shoulder their legal expenses and their legal representation, although it’s up to them. They have their own battery of lawyers,” he said.
“But I don’t compel them to take one option over the other. We don’t tell them not to sign the deeds of assignment of BCDA because it’s a ploy to make us appear we were in bad faith [involving the transactions] all along. It’s really up to them,” he said.
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