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SC asked to probe irregularity

A former board member and stockholder of the United Coconut Planters Bank on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to investigate what he alleged was an irregularity in the resolution by the Court’s Third Division of a case involving the United Coconut Planters Bank in 2017 that would cost the bank about P1 billion in coco levy funds.

In a letter addressed to the justices, Jesus Arranza, also chairman of the Federation of Philippine Industries and former member of the UCPB Board of Directors and its Legal Oversight Committee, urged the High Court to set aside the ruling of its third division he said would cost UCPB about P1 billion in funds that were supposed to instead go to coco levy funds for the benefit of coconut farmers in the country pursuant to previous decisions of the Court.

YOUR HONORS, PLEASE. Federation of Philippine Industries Chairman Jesus Arranza shows to media a copy of the letter he submitted to the Supreme Court Thursday to immediately investigate an irregularity he says was committed by one of its divisions.  In a five-page letter, Arranza urges the Supreme Court to look into whether a decision rendered by Justices Lucas Bersamin, Benjamin Alfred Caguioa, Noel Tijam, Samuel Martires and Alexander Gesmundo violated the Constitution pertaining to the United Coconut Planters Bank and developers of the Lucena Grand Central Terminal. Norman Cruz
Arranza specifically raised alleged “irregularities” in the resolution of the third division on the case involving the mortgage of Revere Realty and Development Corp. owned by businessman Jose Go in UCBP over properties in Lucena City belonging to a couple with whom he had a joint venture that fizzled out.

“While the government is now the owner of the majority of the outstanding shares of stocks of UCPB, which shares have been considered part of the so-called coco levy fund, it must be stressed that this Honorable Court had also directed that the same should be utilized for the benefit of the coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry Whatever action the Supreme Court will take in this case will definitely impact on the coconut farmers and the coconut industry, in particular, and the government, in general,” he said in a press conference.

Arranza alleged that the Third Division might have violated the Court’s internal rules in resolving the case involving  Lucena Grand Central Terminal Inc. 

Arranza claimed that three justices— now Ombudsman Samuel Martires, now retired Noel Tijam and Alexander Gesmundo—voted to concur with the assailed decision even after only two to three days since they were designated to the third division.

“How could the three above-named justices of the third division [Gesmundo, Martires and Tijam] have adequately studied the cases [which I understand already consists of around 2,000 pages] only for a period of two or three days, before the decision dated Aug.16, 2017 was promulgated?” he asked.

Arranza cited internal rules of SC, which require the writer of the decision to prepare the draft decision and send to the other justices at least seven days before voting. 

“It is likely that this rule was not complied with as the said three justices became members of the third division only two or three days before the decision dated Aug. 16, 2017 was issued,” he said.

The UCPB stockholder asked the High Court to correct such infirmity as he also called for resolution of the motions for reconsideration and to elevate the case to the full court that have not been acted upon for over one year already.

“If an irregularity indeed attended the promulgation of the said decision, it is rather difficult to expect the same members of the third division who signed the decision to reverse themselves and/or in the process, expose the irregularity committed,” Arranza added.

In the said ruling, the SC third division reversed the Court of Appeals’ March 2014 ruling that affirmed the UCPB mortgage of Revere over the property of spouses Felix and Carmen Chua.

In 1997, Go and the Chuas had entered into a joint venture to develop the 44-hectare property in Ilayang Dupay into a subdivision but it did not push through. Still, several deeds of absolute sale were executed putting the lands in Revere’s name to hold in trust for the Chuas.

In the meantime, the Chuas executed a mortgage with UCPB to secure their personal loans and corporate obligations for the Lucena Grand Central Terminal Inc. Unknown to the Chuas, Go and Revere took out a mortgage over the properties too. When the land was foreclosed, the Chuas were prompted to ask UCPB to apply the proceeds only to their obligations and not Go’s, but the bank did not heed the request.

The SC agreed with the Chuas that they had not consented to Go’s mortgage over the land, which they still effectively owned.

The Court said UCPB should have exercised greater care in handling the mortgages and determined the real ownership of the subject properties.

It added the CA’s upholding of the Go mortgage meant the Chuas would still be left with P68 million in liabilities since the foreclosure proceeds could not be entirely applied against their obligations.

Topics: Supreme Court , SC , United Coconut Planters Bank
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