POSTSCRIPT / June 5, 2007 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Tough battle for foes of PNCC compromise

WHINING: Now that the Court of Appeals has shot down interference in the compromise agreement between the Philippine National Construction Corp. and Radstock Securities Ltd., expect the losing parties to go whining to the Supreme Court.

But, everything considered, the High Court is likely to reject petitions to junk the P6-billion compromise agreement for being allegedly disadvantageous to the government.

After all, the SC had ordered the Commission on Audit twice to review the deal, and twice the COA approved it. Also, the High Court would be hard pressed to pick apart a case it had ordered the CA to review.

The original loan — contracted with the Japanese firm Marubeni — was P2.4 billion at current values. It has been taken over by Radstock, which is collecting.

The P13-billion award (including penalties and interest over the last 26 years) is now estimated to be worth P17 billion. This was pruned to P6 billion in the PNCC-Radstock compromise approved by the CA.

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CRUDE ANTIC: Court insiders tell us that many SC justices did not take kindly to the rather crude attempts by Sen. Franklin Drilon and former PNCC chairman Luis Sison to whip up sympathy for their cause.

Drilon’s attempt really rankled, a source said, because the senator is not even a party to any case.

He cast aspersion on a series of court decisions, because he wanted to serve notice of his intention to block the compromise in the SC. Justices these days frown on that kind of manipulative antic.

Drilon may invoke the national interest, but many people remember that he once was with ACCRA, the high-powered firm that lawyered for Marcos crony Rodolfo Cuenca, headman of the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines, PNCC’s predecessor.

Cuenca strikes me as fighting to forestall a High Court ruling on the sequestration of his shares, a most difficult endeavor since he had already lost in the lower courts.

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FOOTDRAGGING: At least two SC justices once lawyered for Cuenca . Since this is hardly a secret, all eyes are now on the justices to see if the honorable magistrates will touch the case.

The CA ruling, issued on May 31, noted that Cuenca and another entity that filed a motion for reconsideration dragged their feet and lost the race.

Cuenca claims to have been caught unaware by developments in the case. This is belied by his appearances in Congress during hearings on PNCC’s franchise extension, where he raised the same points argued in court.

Chief among his points was that no guarantee was issued for the loan. But when confronted by PNCC spokesperson Madel Tacardon that documents and witnesses had identified Cuenca as having given the guarantee, he fell silent and refused to further discuss the issue in the House of Representatives.

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BACKDOOR: As the CA noted, it was not even proper to tackle issues raised by Cuenca as these had already been resolved in court.

The High Court refused to dismiss the case on PNCC’s appeal, saying it found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Regional Trial Court as alleged.

Indeed, it was only after the SC debacle that PNCC grudgingly started to talk about compromise.

The other entity that filed a motion for reconsideration was Stradec, identified with businessmen William Gatchalian and Cesar Quiambao. Stradec once bid for PNCC, but the auction was decreed a failure because no bid matched the floor price.

Stradec is still trying in the lower court to pursue a backdoor takeover of PNCC and thus wants to halt the debt settlement.

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STRADEC’S BID: Back to Drilon, if he thinks paying P6 billion for a P17-billion debt is outrageous, how would he feel about Stradec’s bid to take over PNCC for P1.2 billion?

The PNCC-Radstock compromise agreement, btw, involves no cash outlay and instead banks on PNCC assets and shares in future income.

The compromise represents a settlement of +/-36 US cents on the dollar of PNCC’s total debt obligation. I was told that rate jives with accepted practice in the resolution of bad debts.

Efforts to derail the compromise deal ignored the fact that, after being rebuffed by the High Court, the PNCC faced strong odds of losing the case that Radstock had already won in the lower court.

The court threw out PNCC’s claim that the debt had prescribed, noting documentary evidence showing sustained attempts to collect.

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BUILD ON: Newly elected officials may want to build on solid achievements of their predecessors, instead of tearing them down and starting all over again.

Mayor-elect Fred Lim will lose nothing by taking a positive attitude toward the administration of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and allowing its tested administrators to continue their good performance recognized here and abroad.

PLM is ably managed by Dr. Benjamin Tayabas whose new term started only last year, with five more years to go. A professional US-trained educator, Tayabas has given PLM, a city-funded university, a sterling record in educational administration.

A multi-awarded educator, he has been named as one of Ten Outstanding Filipinos (TOFIL) in education by the Jaycee Senate.

The Pamantasan is the only city university that has consistently been in the Top Ten in licensure examinations, outperforming most state colleges and universities, as well as those in the private sector.

It will be a pity if Lim listens to some of his sycophants and allows PLM to be among the “spoils” of the last election.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 5, 2007)

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