Ex-BCDA chief faces trial for P100-m libel suit
A PASIG City Regional Trial Court has ordered the arrest of Arnel Casanova, former president of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority.
The court gave the order after it found probable cause to hold him for trial for causing the publication of a notice that tarnished the reputation of the chairman of CJH Development Corp. that developed Camp John Hay, a former American recreational facility in Baguio City.
Pasig City RTC Branch 67 ordered the arrest of Casanova and other BCDA officials to face trial for libel that was filed by the Justice department through the Office of the City Prosecutor of Pasig City in 2013.
The indictment arose from the P100-million libel complaint filed by CJH chairman Robert John Sobrepeña, who accused Casanova and several
BCDA executives of conspiring to cause the publication of a notice in a national newspaper “containing false, malicious and highly defamatory statements” against the complainant, who sought P100 million in damages.
In January 2013, Pasig City Assistant Prosecutor Joselito de Asas found probable cause in the libel complaint filed by CJH executives over a BCDA advertisement published in a national paper in April 10, 2012, that accused them of involvement in “questionable business practices,” and primarily over the so-called “double sale” of an allegedly previously-sold P20-million log cabin in Camp John Hay.
The log cabin was one parcel in a lot of five pieces of property worth ₱180 million that was remitted to and accepted in 2008 by the BCDA as rent payment in kind.
The CJH chairman said a prospective buyer, Wilson Sy, backed out in 1999 and the unencumbered title to the log cabin remained in CJH’s name. In an affidavit, Sy disclaimed ownership of the log cabin.
Judge Yson said “this Court holds that there is probable cause to believe that accused movants . . . committed the offense charged and should be held for trial as they caused the publication of the subject “Notice” in a newspaper seven years ago.
The court set the bail for Casanova and the others at ₱10,000 each.
The libel complaint and indictment are the latest episode in a contentious multi-billion-peso Public-Private Partnership development project signed in 1996, but was hindered until 1998 by the lack of an environmental compliance certificate that the BCDA said it would help secure, and by the BCDA’s long-delayed demolition and clearing of existing structures that were completed only in 2003.
This was followed by the Supreme Court’s 2003 voiding of tax and fiscal incentives granted CJH as one of the prime incentives during the BCDA bid, a clear case of default by the BCDA. The incentives were partially restored by legislation in March 2007, by then causing irreparable damage and unnecessary expenses for CJH. More obstacles emerged through the years.