Benitez kin vows to block PWU-STI settlement
ONE member of the Benitez clan has vowed to block the settlement agreement with the Tanco family-led STI Holdings Inc. over assets of Philippine Women’s University (PWU).
Conrado Benitez II – who chairs Unlad Resources Development Corp., the real estate company which owns and holds the assets used by PWU – said in an email that the reported settlement was not possible, claiming it did not have approval of two-thirds of Unlad’s shareholders. He added that he- as chair of Unlad – had not been informed of the signing of the reported deal.
Under a peace pact disclosed by STI on Friday, 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 PWU’s basic education arm Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS) currently operates and a separate 4-hectare property in Davao. PWU, on the other hand, will retain its Manila campuses on Taft Avenue and Indiana Street in Manila.
The JASMS Parent Association has asked for intervention from the Department of Education, denouncing PWU president Jose Francisco Benitez’ decision to sign the deal “without a sure location to move the school to.”
A source from the STI group said 71 percent of the Benitez clan, including the 101-year-old matriarch Helena Benitez, had signed the settlement agreement.
For his part, the Unlad chair claimed that the Unlad stockholders had a meeting last March 21 where the proposed memorandum of agreement (MOA) with STI/Tanco was discussed, adding that “2/3rd majority could not be mustered either for or against the MOA.”
“How can exchanging assets worth P2 billion for properties worth no more than P750 million be remotely considered a fair deal? Tanco says he’s also giving us P150 million sukli (change), but this isn’t enough to cover taxes for this resulting dacion en pago arrangement. Our tax consultants estimate that, because Unlad is a realty company, it will have to be taxed 30 percent of the net value of the properties, plus 12 percent VAT,” Benitez said.
On top of this, since we are settling the debt of PWU, and not Unlad, the settlement will be treated as a donation, for which we will be additionally charged donor’s taxes since PWU is not a PCNC (Philippine Council for Non-Government Organization Certification)—registered company,” Benitez said.
At that stockholders’ meeting on March 21, Benitez said the body agreed to ask Helena Benitez – the family matriarch and the largest shareholder of Unlad – to decide after hearing the two sides. He said his nephew Francisco “Kiko” Benitez, PWU president and himself presented their views.
“..And she decided, in no uncertain terms, that to give up such a large settlement to Tanco would indicate that we were guilty, but we are not guilty. So she ordered me to fight him with all the resources we can muster. This was recorded by Kiko and Petty Benitez-Johannot who witnessed the proceedings, and confirmed by Kiko to our CorSec (Corporate Secretary) Lino Kapunan,” he said.
“It was thus a complete surprise to me that my aunt was supposed to have retracted the position that she so clearly stated,” Benitez said.
Benitez said he had asked his nephew Kiko to furnish him with the documents of the deal by 5 pm Friday or he would denounce the whole thing as a “hoax.” “He has not done so, because I believe he knows this is an unauthorized act which they are trying to make appear as a fait accompli because they somehow got my 101-year old aunt Helena Benitez to sign last Thursday night, with even Tanco present at the signing, from what I gather from STI’s press releases,” he said.
“If the arrangement was so above-board, why was I as chairman of Unlad not even informed of the signing? The signs of bad faith and collusion between Tanco and the individuals who are trying to give him Unlad’s major assets on a silver platter are all over the place,” he said.
Benitez said even if his relatives feel that “bowing down to whatever Tanco wants is the easy way out to buy peace,” he could block the MOA.
The JASMS Parents Association, on the other hand, said the students and their families were not consulted nor informed of any alternative plans before the deal was consummated. JASMS can stay on the Quezon City campus only until the end of school year 2017.
“The 800 students of PWU- JASMS QC from various levels and their families are now perplexed and confused regarding the stability and future of their education. Under the current rules and regulations of DepEd, students and their families are assured of finishing their education without undue difficulties. Conditions that would change the education that students enrolled in cannot be imposed unless agreed to by the parents,” the association said.
“We ask the Department of Education (DepEd) and National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) to intervene on our behalf. More than 20 percent of the students of JASMS QC are children with special needs and this move will create irreparable damage to their developmental well-being,” the association said.
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