• Benitez Group raises settlement offer to STI


    The Benitez Group, owner of the Philippine Women’s University (PWU), has increased its debt settlement offer to STI Holdings Inc. to P644.44 million from P550 million previously in a bid to peacefully resolve its years-long legal tussle with the latter.

    In a statement, the Benitez family said it sent a second letter to STI president Monico Jacob, dated February 27 and signed by PWU president Francisco Benitez, reviving the settlement offer to a higher price of P644.44 million to pay all of its obligations to the STI Group.

    “We again propose that we settle amicably the [PWU] issue,” Benitez said in the letter.

    Payment terms were the same: down payment of P150 million within three weeks after the agreement is signed and the balance of P494.44 million to be paid within a six-month period.

    Monico Jacob, president of STI, confirmed to The Manila Times that they have received the Benitez family’s second offer but that it was “not acceptable.”

    “Yes, we received the letter. It is not acceptable because 1) It is not what they have agreed to in the contract. We did not charge anything that is not in the contract. 2) We cannot accept term payments. We cannot rely on their promise to pay. 3) We have filed our foreclosure petition. We will just let the legal process take its course,” Jacob said in a text message to The Manila Times.

    In their second offer, the PWU president said: “We believe that the above offer of payment, which assumes a return of 8 percent per annum plus value-added tax, is a workable, rational, and reasonable solution that shall safeguard the school’s operations from further disruption, and the school’s community from further instability. At the same time, [it will]provide STI Holdings a fair rate of return for its loans to PWU and Unlad.”

    “This latest offer to settle with STI Holdings is consistent with the family’s commitment to settle all its obligations under fair and just terms. We hope Mr. Eusebio Tanco will consider the offer, as we believe it is fair to all parties,” PWU media director Lydia Benitez-Brown said.

    “Our main concern is for the school. Reaching an amicable settlement with STI Holdings and Tanco will be very good news for the school, the students and their parents, and for the faculty and staff,” she added.

    Alumni of both PWU and Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS) had earlier aired their concerns over the financial tussle and said they support the leadership of the Benitez family.

    The STI Group had earlier rejected the Benitez family’s first offer, made through their corporate arm Unlad Resources Development Corp., in a letter dated February 4.

    STI said: “First, the offer is just a principal. We have put in the money three years ago. Second, we continue to incur collection costs plus foreclosure costs. Third, we are not agreeable to term payment.”

    STI had already sought extrajudicial help to foreclose the three properties of the Benitezes, consisting of the PWU Manila campus on Taft and Indiana; the JASMS Quezon City campus; and a Davao property under Unlad.

    The PWU tug-of-war stemmed from the Benitezes’ failure to pay the loans of PWU and its sister firm Unlad to Banco de Oro in 2011 amounting to P230 million.

    The STI Group settled PWU’s loans, saving the university from foreclosure, and funded the operations of Benitez-owned PWU and JASMS since 2011 amounting to P448 million. Due to appreciation, interests and cost of money over time, the debt has expanded to P923 million.


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