POSTSCRIPT / June 17, 2014 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Dark politics behind jailing of Delfin Lee?

VENDETTA?: Beleaguered businessman Delfin Lee, chair of Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp., is crying political persecution as he questions his being locked in jail even when charges of syndicated estafa against him had been quashed already.

From his cell at the Pampanga provincial jail, where he is detained for allegedly having swindled a government housing agency and cheated buyers of Globe Asiatique dwelliings, Lee now complains of being the target of a political hatchet job.

He has been begging to be heard, wondering aloud by even the Senate inquiry into mass housing chaired by Sen. JV Ejercito suddenly did not want to hear him, the central figure in the alleged P6.6-billion housing scam.

Who is afraid of Delfin Lee?

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DARK POLITICS: Before he was shut out of the Senate hearing, Lee had prepared a statement questioning why despite his contributions to closing the 3.9-million-unit backlog in the government’s mass housing program, he has been sued, arrested and jailed.

His lawyer Willie Rivera said Lee is locked up because of “dark politics,” and not on the basis of charges that he bilked the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-Ibig) of some P6.6 billion or cheated buyers of units in Xevera, a township developed by Globe Asiatique in Mabalacat City.

As guest at the forum last Friday of the Capampangan in Media Inc. at its Bale Balita (House of News) in the Clark Freeport, Rivera answered questions on Lee’s predicament.

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BET ON LOSING HORSE: Rivera did not identify Lee’s supposed tormentor, but this columnist got the impression he might be referring to Vice President Jojo Binay, chief of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council which oversees Pag-Ibig.

Rivera did not say it was Binay, but noted that Lee’s problems “began, maybe coincidentally, when the Vice President took over the HUDCC.”

Some Globe Asiatique insiders had traced Lee’s headache to his decision to cast his lot with then Sen. Mar Roxas, who contested the vice presidential post in 2010. They said Lee had turned down another camp’s request for assistance.

* * *

SYNDICATED ESTAFA: As fate had it, Binay defeated Roxas for the vice presidency and eventually bagged the top HUDCC post, as well as the chairmanship of Pag-Ibig.

Soon after, Globe Asiatique ceased to be a good client and partner of Pag-Ibig in making available affordable housing units to qualified members of the mutual fund.

Lee, along with his son and other Globe Asiatique executives, was sued for syndicated estafa by Pag-Ibig and some disgruntled Xevera clients before the Regional Trial Court Branch 42, presided over by Judge Amifith Fider-Reyes, in San Fernando City.

The suit stemmed from allegations that Lee and his company used spurious (non-Pag-Ibig members) buyers of Xevera housing units to get funding from Pag-Ibig.

* * *

NEVER BORROWED: After the suit was filed, media items started popping up portraying Lee as the boss of a syndicate that had swindled Pag-Ibig of P6.6 billion by using fake or ghost buyers of Xevera units.

Lee said the media items were outright lies, pointing out that his company never borrowed from Pag-Ibig, especially the touted P6.6 billion.

(Under the government’s housing loan program, Pag-Ibig members are guaranteed funding, via loans, to acquire dwellings. The loan proceeds go directly to the developers/builders of the housing units that they bought. The borrowers repay their loans on installment either directly to Pag-Ibig or through a designated bank or the developer. But developers do not borrow from Pag-Ibig. It is the buyers of housing units who borrow.)

As for alleged “double sale” of units, Rivera said some earlier buyers lost their dwellings after defaulting on their amortizations and whose contracts to sell – not titles – had been cancelled for non-payment. Only around 30 out of 10,000 buyers actually complained, he said.

* * *

PAG-IBIG SUED: As syndicated estafa is a non-bailable offense, the Pampanga RTC-42 ordered the arrest of Lee and his co-accused. They went on the run, but Lee was eventually caught.

The accused then filed a counter-suit before Regional Trial Court Branch 58 of Makati City against the HDMF, its board of trustees and former Pag-Ibig officer-in-charge Emma Linda Faria.

They accused Pag-Ibig of breach of contract, referring to its inter-related arrangements — Funding Commitment Agreements (FCAs) and Collection Servicing Agreements (CSAs) — with Globe Asiatique.

The Makati RTC upheld Lee and Globe Asiatique’s contentions against Pag-Ibig in a summary judgment dated Jan. 20, 2012, that effectively quashed the syndicated estafa case.

* * *

CA QUASHES ESTAFA CASE: In that judgment, the court declared Pag-Ibig guilty of breach of contract for refusing to honor its FCAs and the CSAs with Globe Asiatique.

It also said Pag-Ibig engaged in impunity by alleging that Globe Asiatique’s buyers of housing units are fictitious just to evade its liability that stemmed from violating the provisions of its contracts with Lee’s realty firm.

Pag-Ibig appealed this decision before the Court of Appeals, but the CA sustained the Makati RTC and quashed the syndicated estafa case, along with the standing arrest warrants, before the Pampanga RTC-42.

Still, Lee was arrested last March 6, and jailed on the strength of the arrest warrant that the CA had already lifted when it quashed the syndicated estafa case against Lee. But the Pampanga RTC-42 continues to ignore the CA rulings favoring Lee.

* * *

POLITICAL DETAINEE: In a statement, Lee said that he is now “in jail because of a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court” against the CA-ordered lifting of the arrest warrant.

He said: “This would only indicate that politics was involved… it is a very dangerous proposition… because I am a legitimate businessman, yet I am incarcerated for political reasons. In short, I am practically a political detainee….

“The evidence that I am being persecuted by a political figure is not only strong, it is overwhelming.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 17, 2014)

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