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BCDA slams high tribunal ruling on Bonifacio South

Commercial interest said to prevail over national security
By: - Reporter / @amyremoINQ
/ 01:01 AM April 20, 2015

THE BASES Conversion and Development Authority on Friday slammed the decision of the Supreme Court to subject the 33.1-hectare Bonifacio South Pointe to a Swiss challenge, pointing out that the move “prioritized the commercial interest of SM Land Inc. instead of the lives and welfare of the soldiers of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).”

This final decision is expected to hamper efforts to generate the much needed funds in modernizing the country’s armed forces. The government could lose a hefty P12 billion if the Bonifacio South lot would be disposed of via a Swiss challenge, the BCDA said in a statement last week.

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The state-run agency was referring to a recently released 13-page decision penned by Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. of the the Supreme Court Special Third Division.

The high court decision affirmed a previous ruling ordering the BCDA to subject the Bonifacio South Pointe lot to a Swiss challenge based on an unsolicited proposal from SM Land, rather than subject the property through a public and competitive bidding.

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It also denied with finality the motion for reconsideration of the BCDA, which sought to refer the case to the Supreme Court en banc.

“We find the decision to be quite disturbing considering that commercial interest has been prioritized over national security and the lives of the soldiers who defend and protect our country, not to mention threatening the level playing field for business,” BCDA president and CEO Arnel Paciano D. Casanova said.

“A Swiss challenge will discourage the participation of other players because it will create a scenario where other players are playing catch-up instead of being equals in a level playing field,” he explained.

Casanova also cited the dissenting opinions of Associate Justice Marivic Mario Victor F. Leonen and Associate Justice Martin S. Villarama Jr.

Leonen noted that the “public interest involved in this case is the P13 billion (approximation) that the government stands to lose if it is forced to dispose respondent BCDA-administered property at the price proposed by petitioner SMLI…. The figures show that competitive challenge would not be the most beneficial in this case. Proceeding with the less advantageous procedure would diminish the benefits that may be obtained for legitimate government purposes.”

Casanova further pointed out that SM Land’s unsolicited proposal could be likened to a midnight deal as the company’s submission to the BCDA was May 4, 2010, or six days before the 2010 Presidential election.

He claimed that “in a span of three hours, the previous BCDA Joint Venture Selection Committee received, opened, evaluated, and recommended the acceptance of SM Land’s unsolicited proposal.”

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In 2012 the BCDA terminated the “competitive challenge” proceedings, more popularly known as Swiss challenge, for the Bonifacio South Pointe property and decided instead to dispose of the property through open competitive bidding pursuant to a directive from the Office of the President.

Casanova said the President’s legal and economic teams were convinced that a transparent, competitive bidding would yield the best deal for the government.

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