400 gov’t employees win 19-year fight for loan
GENERAL SANTOS CITY—After about 19 years of waging a protracted battle, more than 400 government employees, who stood up against amortization imposed by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) on their housing loans, finally won.
The victory was ushered by a recent decision of the GSIS to restructure their loans by buying back their debts, which have reached about P800,000, including surcharges, penalties and accumulated interests.
The battle of the government employees started in 1992 when they availed themselves of what was then touted as a low-cost housing program through GSIS financing.
When they were applying for units at the Doña Soledad Subdivision Phase I here, which was undertaken by Tierra Minerva Development Corp., the government employees were told their monthly amortization would only be P1,000.
Most of them were making only about P2,400 per month and the offer was interesting, said Paul Bernaldez, one of those who availed of the housing loan.
But it turned out the amortization was more than thrice the amount quoted to them.
Bernaldez said they found this out when GSIS started sending them notices that they have to pay P3,600 in amortization.
Instead of paying, the government workers sued GSIS.
In 2006, then South Cotabato Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio took notice of the plight of the government employees and tried to strike a deal with then GSIS president Winston Garcia to resolve the problem.
But nothing happened.
“I was frustrated that this problem was not solved in 2006,” Custodio, now city mayor, said.
Worst, the court sided with GSIS, which opened the prospects of the government workers’ eviction from their occupied units, Bernaldez said.
But then, the unexpected happened.
Instead of evicting them, GSIS decided to buy back their debts and offered them a new scheme, in which, they will only pay about P2,700 per month.
The cost of the houses was also revised and was pegged between P300,000 to P400,000.
“Now, we have a President, who has a vision to reform the government. Finally, the GSIS and the beneficiaries agreed to terms acceptable to both parties,” Custodio said of the Aquino government.
On Monday, 21 of the government employees got the title to their homes.
Ma. Lourdes Juliano, legal officer II of the GSIS regional office in Central Mindanao, said the 21 beneficiaries got their titles after they paid in full the restructured loans.
Ma. Cecilia Vega, GSIS regional manager, said the distribution of titles to the 21 beneficiaries was a manifestation that the GSIS buy-back scheme was real.
Vega said when the buy-back scheme was launched last February, many expressed skepticism about it.
“At first, many doubted the program. Now, the 21 beneficiaries can attest that the program is for real,” Vega said.
GSIS trustee Mario Aguja, who resides at the neighboring Doña Soledad Phase II, said: “This is part of the Aquino regime’s legacy of social justice and also my own legacy to the neighborhood.” Aquiles Z. Zonio, Inquirer Mindanao