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Thursday, July 19, 2012

GA Housing Scam: Unit Owners Evicted, High Utility Bills

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MANILA, Philippines - A P1-million reward has been proposed for the capture of housing developer Delfin Lee, one of the country's high-profile fugitives from justice. "There is a proposal by the Vice President (Jejomar Binay) for Pag-Ibig to offer the reward money," Binay's media officer Joey Salgado told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. But Salgado said the money was still subject to the approval of the Commission on Audit (COA). "Vice President Binay thinks it's more than a reasonable amount considering that Lee defrauded Pag-Ibig and its members of over P7 billion. If this will lead to his arrest, it should be offered but subject to COA approval," he said. Pag-Ibig refers to the Home Development Mutual Fund.

Binay earlier said that he would ask for the cancellation of the passport of the owner of Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp. if reports that he had left the country to evade arrest were confirmed. "If that's traced abroad, a request will be made to the host country to send him back. It’s like having his passport canceled," Binay said. He noted that Lee had a standing warrant of arrest for syndicated estafa in connection with Globe Asiatique's Xevera housing projects in Bacolor and Mabalacat towns in Pampanga province. A son of Lee and three officers of Globe Asiatique— Christina Sagun, Cristina Salagan and lawyer Alex Alvarez — were also ordered arrested by a judge in Pampanga.

Victims of Globe Asiatique, who have filed complaints of double-selling against Lee in the Pag-Ibig General Counsel Office, want his daughter Divine included in the charge sheet. lobe Asiatique took out P7.03 billion for 9,951 housing loan accounts from the Pag-Ibig Fund from March 2008 to August 2010, documents showed. The amount far exceeded the P500-million annual limit that Pag-Ibig grants accredited developers.

It turned out that the houses were not in the names of the people who were paid to take out the loans. The contracts and titles were supposed to be amended to bear the name of the real buyers. The scheme was reportedly hidden because it was Globe Asiatique that collected the amortization supposedly paid by the buyers. Many of the houses were later found not to be occupied or were being used by other people and not the legitimate buyers.


The double-selling of units was not limited to Globe Asiatique projects in Pampanga. Margie Escasa is one of the more than 200 unit owners of Globe Asiatique Tower 2 on Edsa in Mandaluyong City, who received notices of a cancellation of contract and of eviction from Globe Asiatique after she discontinued payments when she found out from Pag-Ibig that her unit had been sold twice. "They referred us to Pag-Ibig, but they could not process our papers, because someone else's name was assigned to that unit. Now, instead of explaining the matter to us, they want to evict us," Escasa tearfully told Pag-Ibig general counsel Robert Cocico in a meeting Wednesday. She said property manager Edilberto Cruz accompanied Globe Asiatique staff in notifying residents of their eviction.

Pag-Ibig also received complaints from residents of Sta. Barbara Village in San Mateo, Rizal province, and St. Monique in Valenzuela City, said Jobert Po, a lawyer for the agency. "We will study all the documents submitted and we will provide assistance to all victims," Po said. Mayet Abrera, whose husband is a seafarer, said they sold their house and lot in Bulacan to buy a GA Tower unit. Another victim, Sheryl Fisher, said she found out about the double-selling after Pag-Ibig declined to accept her payments because her unit was not in her name. "Someone took out a loan in our name with Pag-Ibig, and now GA wants to evict us because we refuse to continue paying them," Fisher told the Inquirer.

She said she also filed a complaint about the realty firm's overcharging of fees for utilities. Beth Clapano, another unit owner in Globe Asiatique Tower 2, complained against unusually high electricity and water rates in the condominium. "There were only three of us in the unit and we are out most of the day, but our electric bill is always P10,000," Clapano said. She said she filed a complaint but Cruz did not act on it. "The property manager insisted it was our consumption charge and they could not do anything about it," Clapano said. "However, we found out the reason for the large electric bill. The electric consumption of the unit beside us, which is being leased by GA management, was tapping our meter," Clapano said.

A number of renters of unsold units have also complained about high water bills. "We resorted to cost-cutting measures, but our water consumption remained the same," Pody, a call-center agent, told the Inquirer. "Our complaints have fallen on deaf ears. The GA administration charges 48 percent per annum for every day of delay of payment. Otherwise, they cut your water services and electricity without any warning," he added. "For a unit of three people, the water bill does not go down below P2,000," Pody said.
Cruz, in a letter to one of the residents, explained that he had nothing to do with Globe Asiatique and that all complaints should be directed to the developer. "We bill whatever was consumed," Cruz said. "This is hard-earned money and lifetime savings of my daughter they are playing with. While we worked hard to meet payments, Delfin's daughter, Divine, goes around town and flaunts her signature bags in the social network," Escasa told lawyers of Pag-Ibig at a meeting with the victims. Documents obtained from the Securities and Exchange Commission showed that Divine was part of the sales and marketing division of Globe Asiatique Tower 2, near the Boni MRT station. "She (Divine) should be included in our complaint and she should face us now that her father is in hiding," Escasa said.

Sources & Images Credit: The Philippine Daily Inquirer & Everything in Budget

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