• Inquirer owners’ unpaid rentals on govt’s ‘Mile Long’ prime property: P2B

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    RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

    RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

    Including Dunkin’ Donuts P1.5B, that’s P3B
    RENT on the state-owned prime Makati property called the Creekside/Mile Long complex which the Rufino/Prieto family, the main owners of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), owe government—but to this day have not paid—would total a mammoth P1.8 billion, computed up to May this year, according to a government suit filed in 2009.

    (The PDI’s main, controlling owners are the Rufino/Prieto family with 75 percent. The next biggest shareholder, with 25 percent, is a firm set up using the pension fund of PLDT, which Indonesian magnate Anthoni Salim controls.)

    If government’s claims are valid, and its figures accurate, the Rufino/Prietos’ liabilities through their firm Sunvar Realty and Development Corp. would be this P1.8 billion, plus the P1.5 billion alleged tax evasion by another firm they own, Dunkin’ Donuts. That would total nearly P3 billion, putting them in the league of Chinese-Filipino tycoons notorious for being tax evaders.

    No wonder President Duterte himself angrily said in a recent speech that he will investigate the case, which was reported to him as having been a “sweetheart deal” when it was leased by a state firm to the Rufino/Prietos’ firm Sunvar Realty Development Corp.

    The P1.8 billion figure is based on what then President Arroyo’s Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera in 2009 through the metropolitan trial court asked Sunvar to pay, using figures determined by the government’s Privatization Management Office that had taken over the property. This consists of ₱630 million for the “illegal and unauthorized” use and occupation of the property from 2003 to March 31, 2009, and ₱10.4 million per month from April 2008 until the property was surrendered to government.

    TWO PRESIDENTS, TWO TREATMENTS: Could the Mile Long case (background) explain it?

    The property was originally leased to the Prieto firm in 1980 and 1983, allegedly at a scandalously low rental by the Technology Resource Center Foundation, controlled at the time by Imelda Marcos. The lease expired in 2002, although the Prietos continued to control the property as if nothing happened, and refused to vacate it.

    If you think that P1.8 billion figure is unbelievably huge, consider the following. The Rufino/Prieto firm continued to control the 22,900-square meter prime commercial property in Makati (between Amorsolo and Chino Roces Avenue, valued now at about P6 billion) and collected rentals from the over 400 stores there for 14 years, after its lease expired in 2002. That P1.8 billion amount translates to a measly rent of P360 per square meter per month government is asking Sunvar to pay—a give-away price in a prime area where rents are at least P50,000 per sq. m. per month.

    Country of oligarchs
    Can you imagine anywhere else in the world where a rich family manages to control a government-owned urban prime property, and sublease it to businesses, even if its lease had ended 14 years ago? What a country ruled by oligarchs! Or perhaps as I pointed out in my previous column: such is the power of media in the Philippines.

    For reasons unexplained or perhaps expected, the case dragged on that government asked the Supreme Court for help, which issued a decision in June 2012 that practically said the Rufino/Prieto firm should pay ASAP what it owned the state, since it didn’t even challenge the “factual issues” of the case:

    “The Court notes that respondent Sunvar has continued to occupy the subject property since the expiration of its sublease on 31 December 2002. The factual issue of whether respondent has paid rentals to petitioners from the expiration of the sublease to the present was never raised or sufficiently argued before this Court. Nevertheless, it has not escaped the Court’s attention that almost a decade has passed without any resolution of this controversy regarding respondent’s possession of the subject property…

    The Court emphasizes the duty of the lower court to speedily resolve this matter once and for all, especially since this case involves a prime property of the government located in the country’s business district and the various opportunities for petitioners to gain public revenues from the property.”

    Only in the Philippines: Even with the order of the Supreme Court, it still look three years for the lower court to issue a decision. Metropolitan Trial Court Judge Barbara Aleli Briones in July 2015 ordered the Rufino/Prieto firm to pay up, although she reduced the amount to P555 million, 30 percent of the P1.8 billion government asked.

    Sunvar would certainly go bankrupt if it is asked to pay just that P0.6 billion, as its assets amount to only P400 million.

    In a country where there is a rule of law, and perhaps where even the most powerful media firm is treated just like any other firm, the Rufino/Prieto firm would have paid up immediately, and the story would have ended.

    Next court levels
    But not in the Philippines. The Rufino/Prieto firm filed several cases in the next levels of the court system, all of which did not question the facts of the case but merely raised such obscure technicalities as the metropolitan court’s jurisdiction and the need to consolidate all cases—which the company itself filed.

    The orders last year up to March 2017 of the judges involved—Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 141 Maryann Corpus-Manalac and MRTC Branch 59 Judge Winlove Dumayas—have in effect allowed the Rufino/Prietos, to maintain the status quo—to control the property, collect rents from businesses there, and ignore government’s decade-long effort to collect P550 million to P1.8 billion from this billionaire clan.

    Isn’t it uncanny that the efforts to reclaim the Creekside/Mile Long property started during the watch of President Macapagal-Arroyo, whom the PDI demonized, were practically suspended during the entire term of President Aquino, whom the paper unabashedly idolized and supported? And that the first real court decision on the matter was in July 2015, when Aquino just had a year to go?

    Guess who really gets to appoint judges to higher level, even up to the Supreme Court? Such is the sad state of our institutions.

    It would be so tragic if after fourteen long years, government because of sheer incompetence fails to recover a prime property and to get its rent from one of the richest clans in the country have managed not to pay.

    What would the hundreds of thousands of urban poor squatters in the metropolis say when riot police try to eject them? “Why us poor, not the rich squatting on prime government land?”

    Email: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
    Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao
    Twitter: @bobitiglao

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    48 Comments

    1. Very true, dapat i pako sa crux ang mga oligarh na pahirap sa bayan. Mangtak mo, si Florendo, maliwang pa sa sikat ng araw ang kamalian ginagawa noong ilang decada, naging member pa ng CA – dito lang yang sa Pilipinas. Hanggang ngayon, yong mga owners ng mining, isa pa rin pahirap sa bayan – aling bayan sa Pinas na may mina na umasenso – ang nagkamal ng yaman ang mga buweitri at linta na mga mining companies – I hope Pres. Duterte persecute those people na pahirap sa ating kalikasan –

    2. In other SEA countries. Tax evaders are fined heavily and jailed. In the Philippines – they are the bosses.

    3. It’s more fun in the Philippines!!!
      Meanwhile the Pasay City Government have increased “Real Property Tax” by 50% this year, 80% in 2018 and plan a 100% increase in 2019!

    4. If the allegation is true. these Oligarchs, Rufino, Prieto and Floreindo’s must be crucified for what they have done. Its time to apply the full force of the law of our land. We don’t need word but strong action with definite result.Include those concern people who made mockery of our justice system by conniving with these Oligarchs.We have been fooled for more than a decade. We need money for our people so take back our land and collect the right taxes from them. Enough is enough.

    5. Robert Bachmann on

      “Where rents are at least Php50,000.00 per sq. m. per month” in lease rate? Are you kidding me?

    6. Why don’t we really start putting our talks into actions?
      Satsat ng satsat, panay naman ang patronage sa PDI at ABS-CBN!
      Stop buying inquirer and stop watching those teleseryes!

    7. What can the government of Pres Duterte do to make this oligarchs pay their dues, I hope it will happen within the term of Du30 otherwise sa kangkungan nalang mapupunta ulit to..

    8. Thank you Mr. Tiglao for this expose/article, I am pretty sure our President DU30 will investigate head on.

    9. Can you imagine? All this time, the Rufino-Prietos are big-time scammers stealing from the gov’t. Fake news coming from Inquirer, and now Fake elite Prieto living in Forbes Park with money that’s not theirs. In essence, they cannot be considered as oligarchs because they’re fake. Ahahaha! They should start wearing face masks because these are excruciatingly embarassing revelations!

    10. To the Honorable President of the Philippines:

      Please ensure this case be attended to the utmost importance. Corruption at it’s finest. This is the reason why the gap of the poor and the rich is “heaven to earth” because affluent were the worst manipulators. They’re not fair in the playing fields. Evil-minded Oligarchs money-hugger. You thought only the “have-nots” were squatters, but they are giants in squatting all things massive either in politics, media and even manipulate narratives to new vulnerable leaders. Please PRRD not to let them get away with this. Crime has to be paid. The domino-effect of corruption before, painted the whole country. Not to be sorry to those politicians who previously corrupted to finance luxuries of their families,children sent to best schools, 1 vehicle each members and so on. That has to halt. It’s not their own money, they were stolen. If it’s not theirs, they are not to touch them period. Those were tax payer’s meant to be put to good use such as endowment for babies till teens in minimal amount of allowance for little assistance of their daily living in order to get by.

    11. And to think that this high society family with all their wealth would have at least a semblance of delicadeza. They are no better than those criminals in our jails but at least some did it to feed their families while this sin verguenza familia did it for greed.

    12. Wow naman!…Kaya pala ganon na lang magsipsip sa mga dilaw itong PDI dahil may kakabalaghang kasunduan kay Henares. Pera-pera lang talaga at ang kawawa mga ordinaryong taong bayan na agad-agad binabawasan ng tax ang kanilang hard-earned salary. Itong mga dambuhalang negosyante ay billiones ang utang sa buwis at ayaw bayaran…

    13. I almost cried and happy that this tax evaders have been exposed through this news. This is the beginning of the prophecy that God will pull down the spirit of corruption.

    14. My goodness, what an eye-opener! Thank you Sir Tiglao.

      Am I right that the Prietos haved lived lavishly as residents of Forbes Park? All this time that they have avoided paying the right taxes and arrears on Mile Long property?

    15. I say it again. I read this paper because of Mr. Tiglao. Keep it up, sir! The Filipino nation needs your brand of investigative journalism.

    16. Eject them from the government-owned property! Corruption is really rampant in our country! The president, PRRD is right when he said that the reason why the country cannot move forward is due to corruption. The Oligarchs are the one ruling the country!

      Thank you po, Mr. Tiglao for exposing such evil practices and for your professionalism. Sana gaya ninyo ang lahat ng mga journalists sa Pilipinas.

      I just hope PRRD will really do something about the Oligarchs who have cheated the whole nation, the Filipino people, for decades!

      Go, Go, Mr. Tiglao!

    17. Prieto and Rufino family should come clean with these Mile Long controversy and tax arrears of Dunkin Donuts.
      Or else they will loss moral accendancy to continue operating media business hammering corrupt goverment official when they themselves are involve in a stinking deal.Sir Bobbie, can you study also about the ECOLOGY VILLAGE,I think it is also a goverment property,how much they are paying to the goverment.I think the one living thre are oligarch.I hope you will feature this in your future column.

    18. Kaya pala mga yumayaman, di nagbabayad ng taxes…kaming mga common people, auto debit…
      We are lucky that andyan si PDU30…Thanks Sir Bobi sa info

    19. Its an open secret; however, only the caliber of Sir Tiglao exposed the greedy media owners to the max. Gawain na nilang matagal yan. Congress should craft a law limiting the businesses of media owners so they could not use media to malign the government. See, how they painted the image of Macoy, Erap, GMA? Kc hindi nila puppet?

    20. Kudos to you Mr. Tiglao. I hope you don’t stop on writing on this issue so people will be always made aware of this acts of Evasion by these Filthy Rich Prieto/ Rufino etc. who makes a fool of the government and in cahoots with the Yellows in position before. I know our current President will not let this pass. Constant reminder thru media and people murmur will propel government to act.

    21. That is the same modus when a property owned by National Housing Authority in Quezon City is leased at a bargain price and the lessee would sublease the property to a developer who would then build high end condos thereat. How the lessee was able to get a government agency to lease to them the property at a very ridiculously low rate should be a case study at a UP MBA course.

      • Bang Geonzon on

        Are you referring to North Triangle? I’m also curious about that because the last I heard they shooed out the squatters for government housing projects.

    22. Best way is for government to get back control of the prime properties from the Prietos and sublet them with the proceeds going direct to government coffer. Aside of course from compelling the Prietos from paying up the delinquent taxes. Does the present dispensation have the political will to do it? This is the bigger question.

    23. Vicky Solinap on

      This is now God’s will that this be exposed and be known by every ordinary Filipino. Im sure the Pres will move heaven and earth to give justice to every ordinary tax paying Juan and Juana. And Im faithful that this oligarch is destined to their downfall.

    24. Payment of the arrears ensured the government’s proposed developmental projects will come to fruition. Dapat ikulong din si Inoytil!

    25. I’m sure a number of cases like the Prieto’s lie hid under the “sweet deals” rug. It’s high the govt goes after them without let up.

      • Bang Geonzon on

        Sa totoo lang, enough of this yellowtard or dilawan comments. Di ba kayo nagsasawa? Taking sides – Duterte vs Pinoy – will keep you one-sided and at risk of becoming blind to facts. We are all Filipinos. Period. If you start looking at it that way, you’d be more objective about the situation, what is right and wrong and what does or doesn’t help Filipinos and the Philippines. I am a Filipino and a resident of the Philippines, so I support my country’s elected President. Checks still in place. So, please move on and stop creating further division.

      • Tiglao’s expose is good but it could have been better if he tried to be a bit impartial in his writing. Prieto’s ownership of the PDI is immaterial to their ‘other’ business undertaking. Tiglao sounds like a beaten newspaper owner. Is he after a cabinet posting?

    26. Amnata Pundit on

      Can’t the government seize/sequester their assets, one of which is the Inquirer?

    27. jack reacher on

      “…Guess who really gets to appoint judges to higher level, even up to the Supreme Court? Such is the sad state of our institutions…”

      Nice article Mr Tiglao

    28. Ganito dapat ang mga expose, detalyado at may mga reference, verifiable at obvious yung mga sinasabi na may basis. Di tulad ng sa NYT, reuters at Inquirer pati Rappler puro hidden character at testimonies wlang evidence at unverifiable. Ganyan dapat! Sir bobbi paki sampal na din si Tatad dahil puro puna yung matanda wla naman sustansya yung mga sinusulat.

    29. Hanep sa Tigas at Kapal ng mukha ng mga may ari ng Inquirer. Kaya naman pala todo tira sa mga kalaban at baka singilin sila sa utang nila at todo puri sa kakampi nila na mga dilaw

    30. Now that PDI’s defender in Noynoy is out of office, the government should aggressively go after it and deny it from collecting rentals on property it does not have a lease contract on anymore. If there is freedom of the press, it is but proper that the press abide by the law of the land which gives it such freedom.

    31. This is another case of things not happening as they should. We all know that is the sign of graft and corruption.

    32. Bayang-walang-kinabukasan on

      Kung ang Presidente natin mismo ang kikilos nakakatiyak tayo na meron mangyayari. Pero kung ito ay ipa-uubaya sa kanyang alipores, tiyak na mag lalaho ito na parang bula. Mapag kakaliwalaan pa ba natin ang DOJ na nasangkot na sa mga anomalya? Hindi nga nila makasuhan yung mga nag samantala sa MRT, Peter Lim, at iba pang high profile na nag litawan na kaso.

    33. Sir Saludo po kami sa Inyo, Tirahin nyo na mga dapat tirahin. Tapos n mga Oligarchs n yan :)

    34. Resolution of this despicable deal all depends on the President Duterte’s determination to follow this up with the courts or it will just be another case to be swept under the rug for the next administration.