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Textual harassment

MANILA, Philippines–Some other groups—already salivating over the 20-year-old special economic zone at Camp John Hay in Baguio City, with its 250 hectares of prime land—could not seem to wait to seize control of the project, and so they have started to use the Office of the President.

And who could blame them—what with only about a year left in the Aquino (Part II) administration, under our leader Benigno Simeon (aka BS), recently dubbed by his Palace boys as the world champion corruption buster?

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The battle for Camp John Hay would soon celebrate its fifth anniversary of endless court cases and raucous media demolition jobs, waged between the landowner, the government’s Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), and the project developer, the private firm Camp John Hay Development Co. (CJHDC).

Caught in the crossfire were, of course, the more than 1,600 locators in Camp John Hay, including more than a thousand senior citizens.

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From what I gathered, the government (i.e. BCDA) recently applied some new dirty tactics to wrest control of the property from CJHDC, obviously to hand it over to other property developers in good standing with the Aquino (Part II) administration.

The BCDA tactic seemed to have turned into pure harassment, now invoking the name of the Office of the President—yes, by extension, the name of our dear leader, BS.

The harassment tactic just had one recent victim—a retiree from abroad—who, many years ago, bought into the government program to entice foreign investments into the country, the one called SRRV.

That was the so-called special resident retiree’s visa, issued by the Philippine government under the program of the Philippine Retirement Authority, with the promise of government protection against almost anything under and across and over the sun, as long as the retirees brought in oodles of cash.

Anyway, this poor fellow was one of those lured by the government to retire here, having invested more than P20 million in the “rights” over a residential property in Camp John Hay.

This foreign retiree happened to be one of those SRRV holders who dared to stand up against the BCDA, which issued an order to the Camp John Hay locators, including the foreign retirees, to vacate their residences. Or else…

In a long distance telephone interview, this retiree (who was in Baguio) told me that a woman threatened him recently as he went to the court to file a case against the BCDA.

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Through the case, he hopes that he could save his rather sizable investment for what he thought would be his blissful “retirement” here, by asking the court to stop the BCDA from confiscating his residence located in Camp John Hay.

The retiree said that the woman, who claimed to be a lawyer from the Office of the President, gave her name as Michelle Nievres.

The lawyer supposedly ordered him to refrain from filing for a temporary restraining order and injunction against the BCDA eviction notice to the “retirees” like him, threatening him with the statement “we could give you a lot of trouble”—or words to that effect.

There—aside from the textual harassment, the poor retirees in Baguio must go face the threat of “trouble” supposedly from the Office of the President.

The problems of poor retirees in Baguio, who invested millions of their hard-earned pension, actually started when BCDA wanted CJHDC to vacate the project immediately.

The two sides earlier went through arbitration proceedings, and after the case was decided, the Baguio regional trial court issued to CJHDC a notice to vacate the property after the BCDA would pay for the P1.42 billion that BCDA owed the company.

Still, even without the settlement, the BCDA started to harass the retirees—and of course everybody else in Camp John Hay—by issuing eviction notices.

To avoid eviction, the locators simply had to sign a piece of paper, admitting that 1) they did not have the right to sue the BCDA, 2) they had no right to stay in their present houses, and 3) they would agree to join the side of the BCDA in any case in any court at any time in the future against anybody as the BCDA may deem necessary.

That is the straight and narrow path for you!

*  *  *

Uh-oh, not again!

It seemed that SGV-EY (the country’s biggest accounting firm Sycip Gorres and Velayo and its multinational partner Ernst and Young) would have to deal with another claim by its former executive involving P30 million.

Not too long ago in 2009, the same firm faced a similar claim, apparently connected to the move of the SGV at that time to merge its operations with the multinational EY.

The firm eventually paid out some P150 million to former partners, who later formed the fast rising accounting and audit firm Reyes Tacandong.

Anyway, this time around, the complaint came from David Lucas Balangue, the former managing partner of the firm, who filed a case against the new boss, Cirilo Noel, alleging that the latter refused to release his retirement benefits and the reimbursement of his investments.

Balangue claimed he was against the SGV-EY merger much like the 14 former partners who got payments from the firm several years ago.

Balangue alleged that SGV-EY, under Noel, did not give him the P30 million that was his share in the SGV account simply called “Fund,” which he said was already released from the partnership during the time of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima as managing partner of the firm.

That was more than 10 years ago.

Balangue claimed that the firm, under Noel, offered to give him a “share” in Fund, an amount with the cutoff date 2002, versus Balangue’s position of 2010 as the cutoff date.

Balangue asserted that the firm was only getting back at him for opposing the merger between SGV and EY, which he claimed to have violated the Philippine Constitution that prohibited accountancy practice by foreigners.

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TAGS: Baguio, BCDA, Camp John Hay, Ernst and Young, SGV
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