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Legacy owner linked to Davao housing mess


By Jess Diaz Updated May 21, 2009 12:00 AM [ philstar.com ]

MANILA, Philippines – The controversial owner of the failed Legacy group of companies, Celso de los Angeles, was linked yesterday to a housing mess in Davao City involving at least 55,000 homeowners.

Davao City Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang told the House committee on housing and urban development that De los Angeles was one of the incorporators of Balikatan Housing Inc. in December 2004.

He said documents show that a few weeks after Balikatan was incorporated, the National Home Mortgage Finance Corp. (NHMFC), whose chairman then was De los Angeles, transferred P13 billion worth of housing mortgages to Balikatan in exchange for a P5-billion payment.

He said these mortgages covered the housing units of 55,000 families in several Davao City subdivisions.

He said it was highly irregular for De los Angeles to be an incorporator of a private housing mortgage company when he was the head of a government corporation involved in housing mortgages.

“At the very least, this was a case of conflict of interest, which his superiors should not have allowed,” he said.

President Arroyo appointed the Legacy owner as NHMFC chairman upon the recommendation of her housing czar, Vice President Noli de Castro.

Dayanghirang said De Castro should have known the irregular situation his NHMFC chairman found himself in and the equally irregular transfer of billions of pesos in housing mortgages to Balikatan Housing.

He said Balikatan has since increased interest rates on the delinquent homeowners and started foreclosing their units.

De los Angeles is the confessed founder-owner of the shuttered Legacy group of 12 rural banks and three pre-need companies.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) have been filing criminal cases against him with the Department of Justice (DOJ) since last January.

Until now, however, the DOJ has made no decision on any of the complaints filed by BSP and PDIC and private complainants.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has been repeatedly urging DOJ prosecutors to now file the necessary information in court against De los Angeles.

He said it should not be difficult for prosecutors to find probable cause against the Legacy owner and his “cohorts.”

“There is a crime, there are numerous victims and the modus operandi has been established. What remains to be done is to prosecute the culprits and secure their conviction,” he said.

He pointed out that the BSP and PDIC “have painstakingly documented the paper trail on De los Angeles’ liability.”

The PDIC has progressively settled the deposit insurance claims of depositors of Legacy’s rural banks, starting with those with accounts of P100,000 and below.

It has already paid out billions. It initially identified suspicious accounts worth more than P6 billion but has since cleared P1.5 billion of these for payment.

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