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Breaktime: Law and ordeal

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About a couple of months ago, the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, or the HLURB, issued a “notice of violation” to a real estate firm called Picar Development.

Because of the alleged violation, the board ordered Picar to stop marketing and selling its project in Alabang, Muntinlupa, known as the “Chelsea Residences Alabang.”

There—the key word in the name, at least for marketing purposes, should be “Alabang.”

Anyway, the HLURB actually did not have to threaten Picar with cancellation of its property-selling license due to the alleged violation. As it turned out, the HLURB-issued license of Picar already expired.

Aside from its order to Picar to stop selling units in the project, the board also told the company to stop collecting amortization even for units that were already sold to some unsuspecting buyers.

Or else … well, based on the HLURB notice, the board could rescind all the sales that Picar made with its expired license—but only upon the instance of the “aggrieved party”—plus perhaps some administrative sanctions.

And that was it. HLURB did not say what those sanctions could be—you know, whether or not the buyers, the “aggrieved parties,” could still get back their hard-earned money.

Moreover, in such cases, there is no law specifying the criminal liability of the mischievous developer. How can the government protect the buyers? Through the administrative sanctions of the HLURB—is that it?

*   *   *

Recent reports also noted another Picar project, called Stratford Residences, located at the former site of the International School along Kalayaan Ave. in Makati.

Question: Why was Picar in the project when, all along, everybody thought it was another firm, called Century Properties, that won the bidding for the 4.8-hectare school property?

From what I gathered, Century apparently received word from above—if you know what I mean—to give to Picar a sizable piece of the property, although based on reports, Century and Picar do not get along well over the project today.

Reports said Picar had asked the DPWH to investigate Century over its Gramercy project, because Century allegedly built five extra floors, making Gramercy the tallest residential condo in the country.

About three years ago, Picar launched its project at the former International School, called Stratford Residences, setting the turnover date of the condo units for 2014—or just about a year from today.

If you visit the Stratford Residences site today as I did, you can easily surmise that the target date of 2014 would be quite improbable to achieve. The project is still at the “basement” stage, with hardly any activity, at least none in plain sight.

Thus, even in the Internet, some people who claim to have bought in the project during the pre-selling stage are now at a loss as to the completion date. One even bewailed: “until now they (meaning, Picar) failed to let us know how much progress they have made.”

In the real estate business, Picar is known as the company with other projects that seem to go nowhere, such as the supposed 37-floor condo in Barangay Wack Wack and the 50-hectare township named Ara Vista in Cavite.

To our brave senators and illustrious congressmen, what can protect the buyers of properties in the famous scheme called “pre-selling,” should the developer fail to deliver on time—or worse, not at all—other than just HLURB administrative sanctions?

There ought to be a law covering such an ordeal.

*   *   *

What is in it for us—I mean, in the forthcoming midterm elections, featuring the boys of our leader Benigno Simeon (aka BS) against the combined forces of the so-called opposition—Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and the man named Band … Wrist Band?

Hardly anything so far.

Except perhaps here and there certain candidates would mouth some promises that are not exactly in the mold of traditional politics. For instance, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, running for re-election, who only recently became JPE’s best friend in the Senate word war on the Christmas “bonus” for senators, promises us that the government would put up a multibillion-peso low-interest loan fund for small businesses.

Really, who cannot love the idea? Small businesses—without the automation and robotics—actually hire more workers for every peso of capital, compared to the huge capital-intensive ventures like car assembly plants.

Anyway, according to Cayetano, the fund should also help returning OFWs to set up small enterprises, using their savings as initial capital.

Hmmm, do I smell a plan for higher public office for Cayetano, perhaps in 2016, as he seems to court the OFWs and their families? We already have more than 10 million OFWs.

Seriously, the issue in these elections must be the biggest failure of the Aquino (Part II) administration in its economic program—the high unemployment rate.

I thought the candidates should also talk about how they would create jobs for the millions and millions of jobless and the so-called underemployed—those who have jobs like selling bottled water in heavy smoggy traffic in the streets.

Here is another idea from Cayetano that perhaps some people in the Aquino (Part II) administration may detest: a cut in the VAT on oil products. If he succeeds, the cut will surely trigger a chain reaction, reducing the cost of logistics for basic goods, particularly food items.

But the biggest problem of the administration is still its poor revenue collection. Look, for the first time in my life, I received what looked like an affable PR letter from the BIR office in Pasig, thanks to our RDO Luis A. Alberto, making an appeal for me and my colleagues to help the government increase its revenue collection, “by paying the correct amount of income taxes before the April 15, 2013 deadline.” It never happened before—you know, the BIR sending such a letter of appeal, explaining even in detail that while the BIR Pasig office hit its target last year, its target was raised by some 20 percent this year. I just thought it was good PR.

Anyway, Cayetano may meet vehement objections from the boys of our leader BS, particularly the guys in the DOF, to his proposal to cut the VAT on oil products, but he seems to be on the right track in addressing the real concerns of the guys down here in my barangay.

Proof: The latest surveys showed that Cayetano was in a statistical tie for the top position, moving up two notches from third place in the previous polls.


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