Rufinos could raise P10 billion for Marawi

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RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

I HOPE the Rufino/Prieto family that owns 80 percent of the powerful Philippine Daily Inquirer finds some ember of patriotism in their hearts to cooperate with government and give up their claim to the state-owned Mile Long property, which their Sunvar Realty Development Corp. has been holding on to for 35 years, thanks to the largesse of former First Lady Imelda Marcos.

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If they do so, they would even go down in history as heroes, not as a clan that allegedly used their powerful newspaper that supported two Aquino presidents and the pro-Aquino Fidel Ramos presidency in order to defend their business interests.

If they do, the Duterte government could raise P10 billion. This would be half of the P20 billion the President said is the minimum needed to rehabilitate Marawi City, which has been practically destroyed in the wake of our military’s battle to rid it of local jihadists funded by the IS, that wanted the Islamic city to be the first territory in Southeast Asia under their fantasy of a worldwide Caliphate.

This P10 billion could be raised through the following:

First, the auction of the 22,900-square meter Makati Mile Long property. Using current market values in the Amorsolo St. area of P200,000 per square meter, its value would be P5 billion. However, it could be auctioned up to as high as P7 billion as it is the only remaining contiguous block of property of that size in Makati.

Especially as it is near Manila, it could be developed into a mixed-use commercial and residential site, that could accommodate a mall and five-story hotels.

Second, collection of the P1.8 billion government claims comprising the Rufinos’ unpaid rentals from 1978 to 2015. This 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.

Third, collection of the P1.5 billion in unpaid taxes by Golden Donuts, Inc., the local franchisee of Dunkin’ Donuts, which is majority-controlled by the Rufino/Prietos. This is, however, contingent on Bureau of Internal Revenue head Cesar Dulay’s leadership in getting his bureaucracy to implement the final P1.5 billion assessment on the firm, made three years ago and which officially cannot be appealed. I was told though that certain officials of the BIR appear to be compromised and have been giving various flimsy reasons as to why the assessment can’t be implemented. Duterte shoud lower the boom on Dulay, if he cannot implement a final tax assessment.

Those three items would total P10.3 billion.

A part of the Mile Long development that sits on government property.

The auction of the Mile Long property can be done quickly, as it is owned by the National Power Corp. In 1980 and 1983, it leased the land, on orders of First Lady Imelda Marcos, to the Technology Resource Center Foundation, which she set up and controlled. The “foundation” then leased the land to the Rufino/Prieto clan’s firm Sunvar, at a scandalously low rental.. The lease expired in 2002, although the Rufino/Prietos continued to control the property as if nothing happened and refused to vacate it, managing to file several cases in the courts that had the impact of putting the issue in limbo.

It is astonishing – and unexplainable to this day – why the Presidential Commission on Good Government had not sequestered Sunvar in order to investigate whether its assets were ill-gotten wealth or not, as it did in the case of more than 100 firms it suspected of having benefited through crony deals with the Marcos regime.

Republic Act 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) , had mandated the National Power Corp. to sell off all its assets in order to reduce its losses—due mainly to the expensive power it paid private power generators in the 1990s—that continues to be borne by consumers. The Epira’s provision therefore could be easily invoked to sell off the Mile- Long property—that is, if the Rufino/Prietos do not attempt to delay the property’s surrender through the courts, which they have done for a decade.

It would, however, require another law that would amend the law for the Mile Long proceeds, when it is auctioned, as well as its unpaid rentals and the Dunkin’ Donuts’ taxes to be used for the Marawi rehabilitation.

I’m sure though House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd can get Congress to quickly enact a law for that. After all, they got Congress to extend martial law until the end of the year, with an unprecedented 94 percent of the members of the House of Representatives agreeing to it.

Villaraza behind BoC’s bad-mouthing lawyer
Top corporate lawyer Arthur (“Pancho”) Villaraza is behind Mandy Anderson, the Bureau of Customs head Nicanor Faeldon’s chief of staff who became controversial recently for calling Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez an “imbecile”.

Villaraza in comments on my post in Facebook timeline (which is public) said that Anderson was with his firm Villaraza and Angangco Law, until she joined the Bureau of Customs when former military mutineer Faeldon was appointed July last year to head it. What has raised eyebrows in the bureau is that her contract is for “Chief of Staff” which is a nonexistent post at the bureau, and in that post, has been authorized by Faeldon to sign documents in his behalf.

The Chief of Staff post is certainly a powerful function in the notoriously corrupt Bureau of Customs in which its head’s signature clearing a single shipment of goods that didn’t pay the required VAT could mean hundreds of millions in graft money. Non-career officials in the BOC as well in the entire government, below the secretary, undersecretary and assistant secretary levels can be recruited only as “consultants”.

Villaraza backed Anderson, saying that she did nothing wrong to call the Speaker names. He even recommended that Anderson replace Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Villaraza has been one of the country’s top corporate lawyers, and a politically influential one. His firm which in the past had Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and former Arroyo, and then Aquino, official Avelino “Nonong” Cruz as partners, was considered the most powerful firm during the Arroyo administration.

Villaraza and Cruz, however, had a messy break-up in 2015. Villaraza forced Cruz and his allies out of the firm’s posh building at the Bonifacio Global City by cutting the water and electricity from the latter’s floor.

But Cruz, who was very close to former President Aquino’s sidekick, Mar Roxas, the then interior and local government secretary, and would run his presidential campaign in 2016, reportedly got to bring in a police SWAT team to eject Villaraza instead.

The SWAT team backed off though, and Cruz and his partners had to vacate the building and hold office at his new, although smaller building nearby. What did the SWAT find so frightening that they withdrew?

They found guarding Villaraza’s floors Philippine Marines, veterans not only of so many battles against the Abu Sayyaf and the NPA, but of the 2003 failed coup attempt—which Faeldon, then a Marine captain, led together with Senator Antonio Trillanes. Faeldon and his loyal Marines saved the day—an entire building to be precise—for Villaraza and his partners. (Margarita Fores, the operator of the firm’s exclusive restaurant and Roxas’ cousin, was quickly replaced, of course.)

Guess who got Duterte to put Faeldon in that much-sought-after post of Customs head? Do you think that Anderson was so filled with patriotism that she volunteered to help Faeldon, that she left the Villaraza law firm’s posh building at Bonifacio Global City (where she lives in a nearby condominium) to work in the dingy Customs office at Port Area? Or was she seconded there, of course to help Faeldon, but also to keep an eye on him and what’s happening there? It would certainly be interesting to find out how many brokers have retained her former firm as their lawyer.

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

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