MANILA, Philippines?How can you possibly mortgage a city jail?
This was the question on the minds of senators who were surprised to learn that the Old Bilibid Compound where the Manila City Jail is located was in hock to the Home Guaranty Corp. (HGC) for P1 billion.
Elmer Nonnatus A. Cadano, acting HGC president, told members of the Senate committee on finance that the Old Bilibid Compound was part of its portfolio of assets, which also includes the Smokey Mountain housing project in Tondo, Manila, and the Apec Villas at the Subic Freeport.
Cadano explained that the property came into its possession when the HGC guaranteed a loan by the Public Estates Authority (PEA), but the latter failed to pay it back. The PEA used the Old Bilibid Compound as collateral.
In 1995, then President Fidel V. Ramos issued Proclamation No. 542, which transferred ownership of the Old Bilibid Compound on Quezon Boulevard and Claro M. Recto Avenue in Manila from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to the PEA for its urban renewal project.
In 2004, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation 661 transferring ownership of the property to HGC, which was also designated to take charge of the project.
?How can Ramos transfer that to the PEA when (the agency?s) sole duty was to take over reclamation powers from the Bureau of Public Works? The land cannot be titled to a government corporation, not even by the President. I don?t blame Ramos, he was not a lawyer but he must have had brilliant lawyers,? Enrile said.
Added Enrile: ?Can you mortgage Muntinlupa prison or Iwahig or the Davao penal colony??
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III questioned why the HGC would guarantee the loans given by the Pag-IBIG Fund and end up with assets which made it short on cash.
?If you don?t have cash to pay off Pag-IBIG loans, will you give them the city jail?? Osmeña said.
Cadano explained that the Old Bilibid Compound was booked at P1 billion, and several land developers had expressed interest in taking the property off the HGC?s hands.
Cadano, however, said the problem was that the HGC would have to pay for the relocation cost of the city jail.
Sen. Franklin Drilon also said it was unusual for the HGC to own the Manila City Jail.
?How they ended up with those assets and how they valued these assets in their books is something that would have to be examined closely,? he said.