Benitezes not backing out of STI fight

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The Benitez Group, the founder of the Philippine Women’s University (PWU), on Monday said it will not back down from its fight with STI as it denied the latter’s claim that it mishandled the university’s funds.

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The Benitez family said STI’s statement was merely part of a “propaganda” in its bid to take over PWU and its assets.

The family also dismissed the allegations of STI Holdings Inc. President Monico Jacob that the Benitezes were behind the approved commercialization of the Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS) property in Quezon City.

Jacob claimed that the Benitez Group received P250 million from Jardine Land Inc. and Northpine One Residences Inc. for the JASMS project.

“The project that Mr. Jacob cited in his press release was for a new JASMS facility. It was hit by the Asian financial crisis in 1998. Jardine Land turned the cash advances it made for the project into a loan which the PWU could not pay because of financial difficulties,” the Benitez Group said.

It lambasted the STI Group of businessman Eusebio Tanco for twisting facts in an attempt to put pressure on the family to settle its debts, or to acquire the university and its assets by default.

“It is becoming obvious that the group of Mr. Tanco is pulling all the stops in its desire to lay hands on PWU and its assets including the JASMS campuses in Quezon City and Manila to the point of twisting facts,” the family said.

Lyca Benitez-Brown, PWU media director, said the Benitez Group had committed and is seeking ways and sources to settle its obligations with STI to terminate its involvement with the Tanco Group.

She denied claims that members of the family resigned from the PWU board, saying the commercialization of JASMS was executed by the STI Group without prior notice to the Benitezes.

“STI is the one that has shown bad faith when it filed a notice of default and unilaterally demanded payment of the entire amount within a mere seven days. It assumed PWU’s P230-million loan with Banco de Oro just three years ago and is now demanding P928 million,” Benitez-Brown said.

Benitez-Brown said the family is opposed to STI’s plan to commercialize JASMS as it would downsize the space allotted for the school. The Benitezes are also against borrowing P500 million from STI to finance the construction of a 9-story school building inside the JASMS campus.

“It is now clear that Mr. Tanco’s plans for PWU – as seen in his attempt to commercialize JASMS Quezon City – is not in sync with the vision for education that the Benitez family and the entire PWU-JASMS community hold dearly. It is just unfortunate that we are now being subjected to this kind of corporate extortion,” the Benitez Group said.

“One thing is certain: We will not back down or back out of this fight,” it added.

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