Ombudsman Merceditas N. Gutierrez issued directives on Monday to investigate two high-profile cases — the alleged housing scam and the excessive salaries and allowances received by officials of government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs).
She formed two special teamsto look separately into these cases with instructions to file the necessary criminal charges if evidence warrants.
"In the interest of justice, Task Force Pag-Ibig is hereby created to investigate the alleged anomalies in the Pag-IBIG loans in connection with the housing project of Globe Asiatique in Bacolor, Mabalacat and Angeles City in Pampanga,” Gutierrez stated in Office Order No. 345.
The probe was triggered by reports that the Home Development and Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG) released hundreds of millions of pesos to developer Globe Asiatique for its housing projects to applicants who are not allegedly members of the housing company.
Assistant Ombudsman Jose de Jesus said Gutierrez issued the order to protect the interests of Pag-IBIG members, and punish those guilty of extending housing loans to illegitimate applicants.
Records showed that Pag-IBIG disbursed last year some P40 billion to its members who wanted to put their own dream homes.
In another directive, Gutierrez formed a panel to look into the excessive and exorbitant salaries and allowances of top GOCC officials.
De Jesus noted that while some of these government enterprises are not making profits their officers continue to get huge compensations.
It was learned that Malacañang is drafting an executive order to put a cap on the GOCC executives’ huge incomes.
GOCC officials are not only getting scandalous salaries but also fat allowances for every conceivable schemes like transportation, representation, food subsidy, matriculation, cost-of-living, Christmas, clothing as well as per diem for attending board meetings.
Meanwhile, former vice president and housing czar Noli de Castro said he is willing to attend Congress investigations to give light on the Pag-IBIG Fund – Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp. issue, adding that he stands ready to cooperate with Vice President Jejomar Binay by explaining the issue hounding Pag-IBIG Fund.
In an interview over DZRH radio station, De Castro said that he will attend the proposed committee investigation at the House of Representatives once he receives a formal invitation.
“Kinakailangang umattend ako para ipaliwanag ko sa kanila kung anong nangyayari at kung may magagawa talaga sa kanila in aid of legislation (I need to attend the investigation so I can explain to them what happened and what can be done in aid of legislation),” De Castro said.
He said that though he is not anymore the housing czar, he still follows up with Pag-IBIG officials on the issue until it was exposed by media.
“Nabulabog na yung ginagawa nung Pag-IBIG para maresolve yung problema (The solutions being undertaken by Pag-IBIG to resolve this problem has been hampered),” he said, adding that they had received reports as early as March this year of applicants who were granted housing loans but failed to submit full requirements.
De Castro said he was not able to turn over the issue to Binay since the latter’s appointment as chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) came in July. He also said there is still no formal appointment of a permanent Pag-IBIG chairman.
He, howeve,r said he is willing to explain to the Vice President the issues in Pag-IBIG Fund, particularly on Pag-IBIG Fund membership, housing loan qualification, and how this issue could have arisen.
According to De Castro, Pag-IBIG Fund entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Globe Asiatique in 2008. Under the MOA, Globe Asiatique “guarantees through the five-year buyback scheme should the housing borrowers fail to pay.”
Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp. stated last week that they were the one that discovered doubtful accounts, adding that the doubtful accounts had long been settled.
In a letter dated May 27, 2010 addressed to Pag-IBIG Fund chief executive officer (CEO) Jaime Fabiana, Globe Asiatique chairman and president
Delfin Lee wrote that there are “buyers not paying since the takeout,” adding that they are “closely monitoring some 1,000 accounts from questionable buyers” of which 400 accounts had already been canceled and their housing units resold to new buyers.
Lee said Globe Asiatique is “not a new and a fly-by-night operator,” saying that it has been in the industry for 16 years.
Reports had said that Globe Asiatique allegedly took at least P6.6-billion in housing loan proceeds from Pag-IBIG Fund using names of non-existent or dead persons or those who were not living in the address given.
De Castro said the issue may prompt the government to demand more requirements among home developers and buyers.
De Castro said former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had directed all government agencies to cut red tape and thus cut down the requirements for home developers, borrowers, and homebuyers. Red tape has been the cause of corruption among government agencies.
However, the issue may prompt the government to ask for more requirements from home developers and buyers in a bid to secure a housing loan.
“Sa nangyaring ito… baka maghigpit ulit ang Pag-IBIG sa mga requirements. Yun naman ang minsan inaangal ng mga borrowers at mga developers (With what’s happening now, Pag-IBIG might demand stricter requirements, which is what some borrowers and developers had been complaining),” De Castro said.
“Pero wala tayong magagawa sa nangyaring yan, it’s a lesson na dapat ibalik ulit yung paghihigpit sa mga requirements sa mga developers at sa mga borrowers (We cannot do anything. It’s a lesson for Pag-IBIG to demand stricter requirements again among developers and borrowers),” he added.
De Castro said that during his time when he was still the housing czar, the issue was already being resolved.
“So ang nangyayari ngayon, pumutok na yan, nabulabog na, pati House of Representatives ay gusto na sumawsaw.
Baka hindi na magawan ng paraan (What’s happened now is that the issue has been exposed and even the House of Representatives want to get involved in the issue and this might not be resolved),” he said. “Malungkot kasi sabi nila may mga 5,000 na mga manggagawa na umaasa diyan (It’s very sad because they say there are 5,000 workers who are relying on this for their living).”
Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp. said that contrary to earlier media reports, it was the company that discovered dubious accounts, stressing that it is not a ghost housing project and does not enjoy favoritism from the government.
Delfin Lee, chairman and president of Globe Asiatique, said in a statement that it was his company which discovered doubtful accounts and not the other way around, adding that the doubtful accounts have long been settled.
In a letter dated May 27, 2010 addressed to PAG-IBIG Fund chief executive officer (CEO) Jaime Fabiana, Lee wrote that there are “buyers not paying since the takeout,” adding that they are “closely monitoring some 1,000 accounts from questionable buyers” of which 400 accounts had already been canceled and their housing units resold to new buyers.
According to Lee, Globe Asiatique is “not a new and a fly-by-night operator,” saying that it has been in the industry for 16 years. He said the public is invited to visit the housing projects in Bacolor and Mabalacat, Pampanga to see for themselves.
Jun Ramirez and Madel Sabater, Manila Bulletin