POSTSCRIPT / March 22, 2005 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

Share on facebook
Share This
Share on twitter
Twitter

Senate unwitting tool in $2M collection bid?

NOW YOU KNOW: How come Manny Pacquiao lost to Erik Morales of Mexico in their 12-rounder in Las Vegas last Sunday?

Our friend Jim said the slugger from General Santos was distracted by several Pinoy congressmen wildly rising from their expensive seats near the ring and shouting “Money! Money! Money!”

A related fiscal-crisis issue bothering me: What happened to the money bag that a fat guy reportedly brought to Vegas to hand over to Pacquiao had he won?

* * *

IN AID OF…: Was the Senate used as an unwitting tool in the efforts of a former employee of Standard Chartered Bank to collect $2 million from the bank for his $8,000 investment that went sour?

Looks like it. I have a copy of two letters signed by the lawyer of Manuel Baviera, the former SCB employee, asking the bank for that huge dollar amount or else….

Baviera had invested $8,000 in an SCB product. After its value dropped to $3,800, he asked the bank to return his money, but the bank said that under the contract the investor took all the risks and that prices could go up or down.

The lawyer’s letters threatened SCB with all sorts of suits — civil, administrative, criminal — if the bank does not pay the $2 million demanded.

One letter said in part: “We guarantee that all the evidence will be laid bare before the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, Department of Justice, National Labor Relations Commission, the Prosecutors’ Office, the Regional Trial Court, and both Houses of Congress.” He made good his threat.

Baviera also sent email to SCB officials outside the Philippines to press his demand. One email allegedly said that his lawyer was to file cases in the forums mentioned earlier against the bank’s “illegitimate operation.”

* * *

…COLLECTION: After the bank filed a countersuit against Baviera for blackmail and perjury before a Makati court, the threatening letters were brought out. The demand letters were among the documents submitted by SCB as evidence.

Had the senators been apprised earlier of the demand letters, many of them might have hesitated to subject bank officials to an investigation that, at one point in the Supreme Court, was described as not actually in aid of legislation but “in aid of collection.”

The senators, at the start of the hearing last Monday, may have been stung by that remark made in the bank’s petition for the high court to stop the Senate inquiry. Nobody pricks the sensibilities of our honorable senators and gets away with it.

Finding the remark contemptuous, the Senate committee on banks detained for six hours last Monday bank officials led by SCB regional boss Simon Morris. That delicate situation would not have arisen, and waste of time and public funds avoided, had the bank officials been asked to explain first.

If lawmakers are not careful about flexing their investigative muscles, they might just prove themselves no better than some prosecutors, judges and police officers earning commission for helping press collection cases.

* * *

NOT A PINOY: I was expecting more, but only three readers have emailed me as I wrap up this column to point out that the story we ran last Sunday’s POSTSCRIPT about a supposed Filipino multimillionaire in New York who used his $250,000 Ferrari to secure a $5,000 bank loan was old hat.

Roland Salvatierra said: “Unfortunately, the story is quite old. If I can recall it correctly, I first read this one about three years ago, and the subject is definitely not a Pinoy.”

Teriopaje of Carson, California: “The story first circulated on the Internet more than two years ago. It was a Japanese businessman who borrowed money from the bank using his expensive Ferrari as collateral.”

Hermenegildo Estrella: “Sorry to tell you that that was an old story (some 10 years ago) with the ‘hero’ an American, also in New York. The Pinoy one was obviously an adaptation of some ‘ingenious’ Pinoy, just like the old ‘Erap’ jokes. Am your regular reader. Continue the good work. Cheers.”

But there were seven other readers who were amused, to say the least, with the story and liked it, apparently unaware (or did not care) that it was a rerun. Half of them remarked on the “abilidad” of the Pinoy.

If I may repeat myself, I used that story only as an intro for a few other things I wanted to say about the deteriorating streets of Metro Manila.

* * *

DARK AGES: What would happen to the estimated six million rural households who may be overtaken by the Dark Ages once a Value-Added Tax is imposed on power generators and passed on to consumers?

The Senate version (SB 1950) of the expanded VAT bill on commodities, including power, does not distinguish between rich and poor electricity consumers.

Those who can still absorb another power rate increase are starting to feel the pinch of the rising cost of electricity while middle-class consumers are starting to be threatened as they see their buying power diminishing.

* * *

UNFAIR, UNKIND: Statistics show the unfairness of VAT being imposed on rural electricity consumers.

The combined revenue of 119 electric cooperatives in the provinces amounts only to P32 million a month. Look at this in the light of electric cooperatives serving 6.6-million households, excluding the more than the 4.5 million customers in the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) franchise area, more than half of whom belong to Classes CD and E.

Despite their lower sales volume and lower revenues, the electric cooperatives’ average retail rate nationwide is P6.30/kwh. This rate pertains to the rural poor being served by the cooperatives.

The 119 electric cooperatives have a total circuit kilometer of lines of 238,638 kms., mostly in far-flung rural areas with few customers. Their consumer density is only 28 consumers per kilometer of line, compared to Meralco’s consumer density of 334 consumers per kilometer.

Compare the rural poor users, who usually use no more than three light bulbs, with, say, an SM mall in Metro Manila whose requirement is equivalent to the entire energy demand of one franchise area of a rural cooperative.

The inequity is in the fact that, under the Senate version of the VAT bill, a rate increase is the same for rural communities and the metropolitan malls ablaze with lights.

Imposing VAT on electric cooperatives will raise rates by anywhere from 50 to 85 centavos per kwh. Can the rural poor take that extra burden, in addition to other items whose prices are expected to also go up?

* * *

RP ALLURE WANING: On the investment front, companies involved in energy, telecommunications, transportation, and water regard the Philippines as one of the less attractive investment sites in East Asia, according to the joint survey of the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

The perception survey entitled “East Asia and Pacific Investors in Infrastructure” was included in the latest study “Connecting East Asia: A New Framework for Infrastructure” released by the three multilateral financial institutions.

We have the second highest electricity rates in Asia. Our power might even become more expensive, and therefore less attractive to investors, once a 12-percent VAT is applied on power generators.

VAT being a pass-on consumption tax, once it is imposed on the producer, it can be expected to find its way down the line to the consumers in the form of higher prices.

* * *

STILL ON SABAH: Add to your reference materials on the Philippine claim on Sabah this item from former Ambassador Rodolfo Arizala, now residing in Santiago, Chile:

“The problem it seems is how to ignore or forget the words of President Diosdado Macapagal, the ‘progenitor’ of our Sabah claim in 1962 who on Aug. 28, 1988, reminded us:

“‘With due regard for contrary views, it is our conviction that dropping the claim to Sabah (also called North Borneo), especially now, would be unwise, undignified, and against the national interest and honor. x x x

“‘It is only through any of the four ways — negotiation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, or a similar means — that the claim can be permanently settled pursuant to international law. The claim was backed up by Congress and the 1973 Constitution, and was not abandoned by the 1987 Constitution, which means the support of the Filipino people grounded on history, sovereignty, ownership, security and national interest. x x x

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 22, 2005)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.