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‘Great power’ behind P7-B Asiatique loan anomaly

/ 03:09 AM September 01, 2011

Employees of the Pampanga branch of the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-Ibig Fund) said a person more powerful than their superiors had exerted pressure on Pag-Ibig to ensure the quick release of housing loans taken out by Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp. for spurious fund members.

“Something or someone of great power must have been behind all these. Nothing of such great magnitude could have been ordered by the mere ranks,” they said in a three-page letter dated Jan. 17 to lawyer Darlene Marie Berberabe, Pag-Ibig president and chief executive officer.

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The letter, obtained on Sunday through a Pag-Ibig source in Metro Manila, gave Berberabe a background of what happened in the branch since the signs of irregularities surfaced.

Syndicated estafa

The Department of Justice ordered on Aug. 24 the filing of a syndicated estafa case against Globe Asiatique owner Delfin Lee, his son Dexter and three associates.

Two days later, Lee obtained a 20-day temporary restraining order from a Pasig judge blocking the filing of the criminal complaint against him.

Sen. Sergio Osmeña III hinted on the liability of former Vice President Noli de Castro, former chair of Pag-Ibig, and other trustees in the anomaly in which, based on documents, Globe Asiatique took out P7.031 billion for 9,951 housing loan accounts from the Fund from March 2008 to August 2010.

Over the limit

The amount was several times over the single borrower’s limit of P500 million for other accredited developers, an agency’s circular showed.

This also surpassed the P5-billion window assured by Pag-Ibig in two memoranda of agreement with Globe Asiatique.

But Vice President Jejomar Binay, concurrent chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, on Wednesday said there was no evidence to link De Castro to the anomalies at Pag-Ibig involving Globe Asiatique.

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In the letter, the Pampanga branch employees did not identify anyone as Lee’s backer but said, “What we are just trying to say is for everyone to be honest enough to tell the truth and not take advantage of the weakness of the subordinates.”

Favored developer

The account of the Pag-Ibig employees showed how Lee was favored and how his company was given priority.

First, there was a shuffling of managers within the Northern Luzon group. “The releases of [Globe Asiatique] were beginning to startle us. Enormous takeouts were being made, the entire branch was on task force for the housing releases. Fund transfers were prioritized for the millions of loan proceeds for [Globe Asiatique],” they said.

Their superiors, they said, knew the big fund releases ahead of time. “Surprisingly, the releases were already known at the head office, when we had not yet requested  the funds, nor had we processed the takeouts,” they said.

Processing time reduced

They said the five-day processing time “was reduced to three days, if not for a day and even in just a few hours.”

“Housing guidelines were being amended to suit the inconsistencies of [Globe Asiatique]. Whatever it was that any employee was trying to finish, it would have to be stopped to give way for Globe Asiatique. All other housing releases for the retail and other developers’ accounts will have to wait for their turn,” they said.

The employees said they were “made to feel that it was useless following the standard operating procedures, or we might just lose our jobs, if not our lives, because some of our employees were being threatened.”

They said they were receiving “direct orders” from their superiors, “even to the point of them being physically present at our workplaces.”

The employees did not name any of their superiors in the letter.

Noli De Castro not business partner

In an interview on July 10, 2010, Lee said De Castro was not his business partner or financial backer. He confirmed, however, that De Castro had helped him end a dispute with then Pag-Ibig president Romero Quimbo and later crafted a compromise that led to the creation of the “Other Working Group,” or OWG.

OWG is a category through which a house buyer could instantly become a Pag-Ibig member by paying a lump sum for his or her 24-month membership fee.

It turned out that Globe Asiatique or its brokers used this window to pay off people to sign loan documents and fake their income. They would later be known as “special buyers.” Their names would be stricken off from documents when the real buyer buys houses directly from Globe Asiatique.

Pag-Ibig officials said Lee used the collection servicing agreement to pay the amortization of the spurious buyers and hide that they were defaulting from payments.

But Lee said he got these covered through a five-year buyback—a guarantee he promised and that which De Castro and the Pag-Ibig Fund board of trustees approved in their 248th regular board meeting on June 23, 2008.

He said the Pag-Ibig board of trustees approved the buyback in their regular board meeting on June 23, 2008.

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TAGS: Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp., Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-ibig Fund), lawyer Darlene Marie Berberabe, Noli de Castro, Pag-Ibig president and chief executive officer, Sen. Serge Osmeña III, Vice President Jejomar Binay
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