SBMA: P19-m Comteq debt is ‘indisputable’
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT―The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority has clarified misinformation about the ejection of the defaulting Comteq Computer and Business College from the building it previously occupied here, pointing out that the P19.97 million the school owed the agency in terms of unpaid rentals was indisputable.
In a statement, the SBMA said Comteq has occupied Bldg. Q-8131 since 2011 and collected tuition fees from students studying in the premises, but “has not paid even a single cent” from the use of the building.
“Bldg. Q-8131 is government property and rent is due for such use,” the SBMA said, reacting to a statement attributed to Comteq president Danny Piano that the P19.97-million back rentals they owed the SBMA was “debatable.”
It added that the need to pay rent for property used and profited from was not debatable, as there was nothing in writing between the parties that said the use of the facility was “rent-free.”
The Subic agency peacefully took control of Bldg. Q-8131 on November 25 after the Comteq management failed to settle its hefty financial obligation with the SBMA.
As early as April this year, the SBMA Legal Department already sent Comteq a “Notice to Vacate with Demand to Pay” because the school administration has been operating without securing any lease agreement or business registration for the school.
Following the takeover, officials of the debt-ridden school blamed the SBMA for not issuing a lease agreement and a Certificate of Registration and Tax Exemption (CRTE), and claimed this prevented them from paying rent over the years.
However, the SBMA said it cannot issue any lease agreement and CRTE then because the Comteq management “did not submit the required payment scheme proposal for it to be able to settle its accounts” and instead asked the SBMA to give them a “rent-free period” from 2011 to 2015.
The SBMA Board, however, disapproved the said request because it was disadvantageous to the government and was not allowed by the Commission on Audit.
The SBMA also noted that the statement of account purportedly showing zero balance in Comteq ’s record only reflected payment for utilities and other billings that were automatically charged for buildings occupied by business locators.
However, a validated computation from the agency’s Accounting Department showed the school management’s unpaid rental dues at P19,971,435.68 as of Nov. 30.
Comteq officials had also taken the SBMA to task for being “insensitive” to the fate of students, whose studies were disrupted by the takeover.
But the SBMA pointed out that the continued occupation by Comteq of Bldg. Q-8131 since 2011 without any rental, as well as the six-month extension it granted the Comteq administration last April, happened “precisely because SBMA is concerned about its students.”
It added that while it had allowed Comteq to operate for years despite the lack of a lease agreement or a CRTE because it was an educational institution, it can no longer tolerate the “blatant abuse and profiteering” by the Comteq management, which disregarded the repercussion of its growing debt on its students from whom they collected tuition and other school fees.
The SBMA added that in ejecting the defaulting business locator, it was just doing its job as estate administrator of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. “It is not about money,” the agency made it clear. “It is about the obligation to collect rental dues for the use of the property of the government.”
It also said that it cannot be faulted for taking over Bldg. Q-8131 as it did, because it was school president Danny Piano who assured the SBMA Board in a letter that they would vacate the premises by October 31 this year, after the six-month extension given by the SBMA last April.