Monday, October 6, 2008

A case of plunder

When Rep. Joker Ar-royo of the first con-gressional district of Makati was robbed of the speakership in June 1998, he asked some investigative journalist to dig deeper into information he received about an alleged land-grabbing incident in the hilly town of Norzagaray in Bulacan, right beside the foothills of the Sierra Madre. He had information that behind the supposed land-grabbing was the Villar couple, Manuel, soon to be proclaimed Speaker of the House by the grace of the newly-elected president of the land, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, and his wife Cynthia.

On August 17, 1998 Joker Arroyo spoke before his peers and charged the new Speaker with violations of the Constitution and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, or R.A. 3019, in all of ten specific instances. The fourth charge of corruption stated by Arroyo was about the Capitol Bank’s receipt of financial accommodations from the Bangko Sentral between 1992 and 1998, when Mrs. Cynthia Villar was its CEO, and her husband Manuel was a congressman from Las Piñas, and now, Speaker of the House.

Sometime last week, at just about the same time that now Senator Arroyo was defending his by now good friend and fellow Wednesday dining companion, Senate President Manuel Villar, on charges of conflict of interest discovered because of a 200 million peso "singit" in the 2008 national budget, a story appeared in one of the national dailies. It said that a certain Gina Jarvina and Valentin Amador, representing several farmers of Norzagaray, filed charges of probable plunder against Villar, his wife Cynthia, now congresswoman of the lone district of Las Piñas, along with Anacordita Magno, first vice-president of Capitol Development Bank, Arturo de los Santos, executive vice-president of Optimum Development Bank, and Andres Rustia, managing director in charge of the Department of Loans and Credit as well as the Assets Management Department of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, in connection with an unpaid loan from the BSP amounting to almost P1.5 billion.

Cynthia Villar was charged in her capacity as president of the Capitol Development Bank (now Optimum Development Bank) who was one of the signatories in the P1.5 billion loan, while Senate President Manuel Villar was made respondent for being a shareholder in the family-owned bank.

The plunder case was filed last Friday by a group of farmers whose ownership of some 484 hectares of agricultural lands in Norzagaray, Bulacan is being disputed by the Bangko Sentral before the Regional Trial Court of Malolos. Complainants are assisted by their lawyer Sergio Angeles of the Angeles, Golla & Associates which holds office in Eagle’s Nest, Sumulong Highway, Barangay Sta. Cruz, Antipolo City.

Based on that complaint, pertinent facts of which were confirmed to this writer by the investigative journalist Joker Arroyo commissioned in 1998, this is the story of the case:
Mrs. Cynthia Villar and Ditas Magno (once introduced to this writer by then Speaker Villar), president and vice-president of Capitol Development Bank, managed to secure a loan from the Bangko Sentral amounting to one and a half billion pesos in two tranches: 1.17 billion on 22 April 1998, and 332 million on 24 April,1998.

Based on the promissory notes signed by Villar and Magno on the two mentioned dates, they promised to pay their loan after six months or 180 days at an interest rate of 14.957 percent per annum. Upon maturity however, the bank and/or the signatories to the loan accommodation failed to pay.

Instead, they settled the loan through a dacion en pago of 483.97 hectares in Norzagaray, Bulacan, the same property that the complainants now before the Ombudsman are claiming to be lawfully theirs. At the time of the dacion, the zonal value assigned by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, which is supposed to approximate actual market value, was 60 pesos per square meter or 600,000 pesos per hectare. Those 484 hectares should therefore be worth 290 million pesos, but it was used to settle an account from the Bangko Sentral of 1.5 billion pesos! Can you beat that?

In fine, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, fiduciary trustee of the people of the Republic of the Philippines, issuer of legal tender used by its benighted residents within the metes and bounds of the same Republic, now holds assets valued at 290 million, which "erased" liability of the Villars worth one and a half billion, or five times the value of the property now in its possession. In effect, the Bangko Sentral lost 1.210 billion of the people’s money to some very, very wise guys, for and in behalf of a hopelessly bankrupt Capitol Development Bank.

The deed of real estate mortgage was dated June 29, 2001 for the 483.973 hectares (484 has.) of agricultural land in Norzagaray, Bulacan which was used as payment for the P1.5 billion loan of CDB in April 1998. By this time, Manuel Villar had ceased to be Speaker of the House, and was already a candidate for senator of the realm under newly-proclaimed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s People Power Movement ticket, in the "unusual" company of Joker Arroyo, his erstwhile tormentor-rival in 1998. Both won, Joker Arroyo for his tagline "Uubusin ang corrupt!" and Manuel Villar as "Mr. Sipag at Tiyaga".

The perfect corporate crime, with the people of the Republic holding land one-fifth the value of the monies it lent? That’s not the end of the story, though.

It was only in 2007 that the complainant-farmers learned about the so-called nine transfer certificate of titles (TCT) covering the 484 hectares of land now being claimed by the BSP as their property after the foreclosure proceedings it conducted against the CDB.

The complainant-farmers, whose forebears had been cultivating the land since the turn of the last century, learned about the BSP’s claim only when they filed before the Malolos City Regional Trial Court for reconstitution of their land titles after the records of their titles in Norzagaray were burned in a fire that destroyed the building which houses the local Register of Deeds.

The complainants questioned the validity of TCTs in the possession of BSP since the date of issuance of the sales patent on July 17, 1944 and the date of issuance of the original certificate title (OCT) on July 25, 1944 "took place when there was no civil government in the Philippines."
The complainants added that Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, maintained that "authorizing the issuance of sales patent was illegal and inoperative during the Japanese occupation."
Sa madaling salita, "peke" pa ang mga titulo ng lupa na ibinayad sa Bangko Sentral!

Niloko na nga sa over-valued na halaga, naloko pa ang Bangko Sentral, na binayaran ng "mickey mouse" torrens title, issued during the Japanese occupation. At ninakawan ng lupain ang mga mahihirap na magsasaka. Will wonders never cease?

When the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman was printed in a broadsheet, the spokesperson of the Villar companies, or was it the Nacionalista spokesman, former Rep. Gilbert Remulla of Cavite, the young man who would be senator of the realm, called it "old hat", "recycled issues" that were already dismissed by the Ombudsman. "Pulitika lang ‘yan", he scoffed. Yet a check with the agency records in the pink building along Agham Road in Quezon City shows that what was brought before the graft prosecutor was a mere letter-complaint, and this is the first time that a formal complaint of plunder regarding the transaction was received by them.

The signatories of the promissory notes for which Bangko Sentral loaned out 1.5 billion of the people’s money were Mrs. Cynthia Villar, not yet a congresswoman at the time of the transaction, and Ditas Magno, with Arturo de los Santos participating at the time of the dacion. The signatory for the Bangko Sentral was Andres Rustia.

Yet, the complainants and their lawyer included Senate President Manuel Villar in the complaint, who at the time of the transaction and its episodes, was either a congressman or already Speaker of the House. The lawyer explained that though Villar was not a signatory, the circumstances in the irregular and unusually generous transaction suggest clearly that the latter must have exerted undue influence or pressure upon the officers of the Bangko Sentral.

While that contention may be legally debatable, would Manny Villar leave his wife the congresswoman to answer this complaint singly? Can he simply shrug these charges off as "recycled" and "old" or leave the explaining to his faithful political acolytes, as he did the mystery of the 200 million double entry which would cross through properties he and his wife own, and for which monies of the Republic were used to compensate for road right of way?
Ah! How the rich and the mighty screw us all. Using the money of the people in ways more ingenious than "sipag at tiyaga" could ever achieve.

Now a postscript. I asked the staff of Senator Jamby Madrigal, just before I started pounding the keys of my laptop, if their announced complaint before the Senate Ethics Committee had anything to do with this Norzagaray caper that Joker Arroyo, then congressman from Makati, mentioned in his August 1998 speech. The answer was negative.

What they have on Villar is about C-5, as politically explosive as C-4, and how the "King Balimbing", as they quoted me, used his power and influence in more ways than once, to promote personal and corporate interest (in a completely closed family corporation).

2 comments:

Andrea said...

Thanks for this article. Can I post it in our Negrenses 4 Noy-Mar website? I'll put your picture, brief about who you are, and a link to your litobanayo.blogspot.com. Our website is http://negrenses4noynoy.ning.com.

Andrea L. Si

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