STI wins PWU campus bid

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THE STI Group, through its subsidiary STI Education Systems Holdings Inc., has secured ownership of the Philippine Women’s University’s (PWU) Manila campus after being declared as the winning bidder in a foreclosure auction.

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In a disclosure to the stock exchange, STI said it was declared by the Manila Regional Trial Court as “the winning bidder for properties along Taft Avenue, Malate, Manila where the PWU school is located,” as well as for another property along Pilar Hidalgo Lim Street, both previously owned by the Benitez Group.

Asked for comment, PWU media director Lydia Benitez-Brown said the Benitez family will still pursue the rehabilitation efforts despite the recent foreclosure bid ruling, as they have “confidence in the fairness of the courts and that the legal system will protect the public interest of our students.”

“A petition for rehabilitation has already been filed to pay off PWU’s debts at a reasonable rate and, more importantly, ensure the continuation of the operations of the university. These are matters that are now in the hands of the rehabilitation court,” Benitez-Brown said in a statement.

STI had earlier filed for foreclosure proceedings on three properties owned by the Benitezes — the PWU Manila campus along Taft Avenue, the Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS) Quezon City campus, and a property in Davao under the Benitez Group’s corporate arm Unlad Resources Development Corp.

Court decisions are still awaited for the JASMS and Davao properties.

Prior to STI’s filing of the petition for foreclosure, the Benitez family had offered to pay off its obligations to the Tanco-led STI Group twice, but both offers were rejected by STI president Monico Jacob.

“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,” Jacob earlier said.

The legal battle between STI and the Benitez Group stemmed from the Benitezes’ failure to pay the loans of PWU’s sister firm Unlad to Banco de Oro in 2011, amounting to P230 million. The STI Group settled PWU’s loans that saved the university from foreclosure. It also funded the operations of PWU and JASMS since 2011 amounting to P448 million.

Due to appreciation, interests and cost of money over time, the debt expanded to P923 million from the original P448 million.

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