Feud over PWU ownership settled
After more than a year of exchanging tirades and lawsuits, the Benitez family and the STI Group ended their feud over Philippine Women’s University (PWU) and its basic education arm, Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS).
Under the peace pact, PWU will remain under the control of the Benitez family, which will, however, cede to STI two pieces of property. STI will get a valuable 1.5-hectare landbank along Edsa in Quezon City where JASMS is located and a separate 4-ha property in Davao.
JASMS will remain on the Quezon City campus until the end of school year 2017 after which it will be moved to a new location.
Inquirer sources said Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Bantug Benitez was instrumental in ending the dispute between the Benitez family with STI chair Eusebio Tanco. The squabble was settled after a month of negotiations that led to the division of assets.
In a joint statement to the Philippine Stock Exchange yesterday, the Benitez family and STI said they settled their differences through a “dacion en pago” or payment-in-kind arrangement using the assets of Unlad Resources Development Corp., the real estate company that owns and holds the assets used by PWU.
PWU, on the other hand, will retain its Manila campuses on Taft Avenue and Indiana Street. The Taft campus is deemed by the Benitezes as a heritage site, a structure deemed most symbolic of PWU. At the same time, STI representatives will resign from PWU, allowing the Benitez family to consolidate control of the educational institution.
Although the Benitez group had to give up the Quezon City and Davao properties, this is seen as a less bitter pill to swallow than having all of Unlad’s assets foreclosed by Tanco.
In a press statement, PWU president Francisco Benitez described the settlement as “a mandate to rebuild PWU and JASMS while remaining true to the educational legacy of our founders.”
Benitez said talks were underway to open new campuses outside Metro Manila in time for PWU’s centennial celebration in 2019.
“It’s a win-win solution,” Tanco said. The STI Group plans to use the Davao property to put up a new campus while it has no plans yet for the EDSA- Quezon City property.
The Tanco group already owns a 7,000-square meter portion of the original JASMS campus, having bought this parcel years ago from Jardine Land, which had foreclosed on the lot in exchange for unpaid cash advances to the Benitez family.
The squabble between the Benitez and STI groups erupted in end-2014 following disagreements over a three-year old joint venture. STI moved to seize a controlling stake in PWU, citing the Benitez group’s failure to meet obligations under a cooperation deal forged in 2011. STI also initiated extra-judicial foreclosure proceedings against PWU’s assets in Taft Ave. and Indiana St. in Manila as well as the Quezon City and Davao properties.
From the point of view of Tanco’s group then, the foreclosure proceedings were meant to protect STI shareholders amid PWU’s failure to pay what the former claims to be almost P1 billion worth of accumulated loans, interest, and expenses from the soured partnership.
The Benitez family, on the other hand, contested the computation of interest on the principal debt and has offered to settle for an amount much less than that demanded by Tanco’s group. From the Benitezes’ perspective, when STI took over its loans, the latter had agreed to waive all interests, thereby challenging the loan default declared by STI.