Fugitive developer Delfin Lee still in Philippines, says lawyerBy Tonette Orejas
Inquirer Central Luzon
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Housing developer Delfin Lee has not left the country but is hesitant to surface “like Senator Panfilo Lacson” two years ago until the conditions are right for him to get justice, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
But Vice President Jejomar Binay immediately rejected the analogy. “Lee is no Ping Lacson,” Binay said in reaction to a statement made by Willie Rivera, lawyer of the Globe Asiatique president, on the ANC talk show.
“Senator Lacson was a critic of the Arroyo regime, while Lee defrauded Pag-Ibig Fund of almost P6 billion by using fake borrowers and fake documents, and destroyed the dreams of thousand of working Filipinos,” Binay said.
Lacson, former chief of the Philippine National Police during the term of former President Joseph Estrada, left the country for Hong Kong on Jan. 5, 2010.
By February, the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) ordered Lacson’s arrest for his alleged role in the killings of publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito. A year later, the Court of Appeals withdrew the murder charges against Lacson, who returned to the country on March 26, 2011.
“I was making an analogy,” Rivera told the Inquirer by phone on why he likened Lee to Lacson. “Mr. Lee is exerting all remedies before surfacing. And we’re doing that,” he added.
Binay, who chairs the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, also called on the PNP and National Bureau of Investigation to intensify efforts to find Lee, his son Dexter, and three other coaccused, and arrest them based on a warrant issued by the Pampanga RTC on May 22 for syndicated estafa.
The Home Development Mutual Fund (or Pag-Ibig Fund) alleged that Globe Asiatique had committed irregularities so it could take out housing loans for its Xevera projects in Bacolor and Mabalacat towns in Pampanga province. Binay has chaired the Pag-Ibig Fund since July 2010.
The alleged irregularities include recruiting unqualified people as Pag-Ibig members under the special working group program, making them sign public documents in exchange for cash to obtain loans from the savings agency or passing them off as real buyers to be later replaced by special buyers through a double sale scheme.
Rivera said his client would “show up, given the right opportunity.”
Ricardo Diaz, director of the NBI office in Central Luzon, said the agency had no information on the whereabouts of Lee. “We are, however, quite sure he’s not in (Central Luzon),” Diaz told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Pag-Ibig Fund has no basis to file the syndicated estafa case for a host of reasons, according to Rivera.
For one, Makati City RTC found that Globe Asiatique was “not at fault” in a civil case, rendering no ground for the criminal case, Rivera said.
For another, Pag-Ibig Fund had not paid a docket fee of P132 million when it filed the criminal case in the Pampanga RTC, he said.
Rivera added that a coaccused, lawyer Alex Alvarez, was a Pag-Ibig Fund employee and should not have been included in the syndicated estafa case.
“There is no syndicated estafa as the [Department of Justice] resolution showed,” Rivera said, adding that the Pampanga RTC had been asked to withdraw the arrest warrant.
“It was improperly issued,” he said of the warrant, referring to reasons he earlier cited.
But Binay disproved Rivera’s claim that there was no syndicated estafa against the real estate firm and its officials.
The Vice President said a Jan. 30, 2012, resolution of the Makati City RTC ordered Pag-Ibig Fund to comply with the contract provisions on replacement buyers or those who bought units previously owned by others.
“Globe Asiatique is just muddling the issue. The Makati RTC ruling does not absolve Lee of syndicated estafa,” Binay said.
He said the Court of Appeals, in a decision on April 16, ruled that whatever was the outcome of the final ruling on the Makati civil case, “it will not serve to extinguish the criminal liability of Lee and his coaccused.”
Darlene Berberabe, Pag-Ibig Fund president, said in the same statement that the Makati RTC decision did not tackle the issue of fraud in the case against Lee.
Pag-Ibig, she said, refused to accept the replacement buyers.
Rivera said Globe Asiatique was not double selling the units but was exercising its right under the financing agreement to issue a notarial cancellation for the first buyers.
The titles of the properties were still in Globe Asiatique’s name, he said. What the firm assigned to Pag-Ibig Fund were accounts receivables covered by a collection servicing agreement that Pag-Ibig Fund canceled in 2010 as the irregularities became public.
Noli de Castro
Former Vice President Noli de Castro expanded the two-year guarantee for Globe Asiatique to buy back the units to five years.
The guarantee applied to all Window 1 developers, said Rivera, who noted that the company was one of the Window 1 developers.
“Globe Asiatique wants Pag-Ibig to be compelled to accept replacement buyers. Pag-Ibig did not accept the replacement buyers because the original buyers (Pag-Ibig borrowers) are fake. To accept such replacements would mean covering up the fraud of Globe Asiatique,” Berberabe said.
Rivera said fully paid units were properties of the owners. He insisted that there was no double sale because the membership status verification slip came from Pag-Ibig Fund. “The problem originated from Pag-Ibig,” he added.
Inquirer sources in Pag-Ibig Fund said Globe Asiatique filed hundreds of applications for housing loans that amounted to tens of millions of pesos weekly.
Lee’s firm managed to take out nearly P7 billion from 2008 to 2010 for over 9,000 housing units in Pampanga.
Rivera accused homeowners of taking advantage of the dispute by not paying amortization. With a report from Jerry E. Esplanada