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Ombudsman junks R-II raps vs HGC officials

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The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed a misconduct complaint filed by property developer R-II Builders against seven Home Guaranty Corp. (HGC) officials.
In a decision dated Oct. 12 but approved by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez on Nov. 12, the Office of the Ombudsman cleared the HGC officials, namely, Gonzalo Benjamin Borlongan, president; Elmer Nonnatus Cadano, executive vice president; Melinda Adriano, vice president, Guaranty Group; Rafael de los Santos, vice president, Asset Management Group; Corazon Corpuz, vice president, Corporate Service Group; Danilo Javier, vice president, Legal Group; and Jimmy Sarona, vice president, Management Service Group.
The complaint filed by Jerome Canlas of R-II Builders alleged that the HGC officials committed misconduct when they sold two parcels of land belonging to HGC with an aggregate area of 28,926 square meters to La Paz Milling Corp. for P384,715,800 or at P13,300 per square meter.
Canlas claimed that the sale of the properties to La Paz Milling Corp. is grossly disadvantageous to the government, since there was a big disparity between the actual market value of the properties (based on the selling and offering prices of adjacent and adjoining properties) at the time of the sale, and their purchase price under the contract. The difference between the actual fair market value of the properties and the actual purchase price is from P121,489,200 to P309,508,200. The respondents allegedly committed misconduct when they sold the properties at a relatively low price.
For their part, the HGC officials said that the sale of the properties may not be considered grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government since the purchase price well exceeds the latest zonal valuation which the Bureau of Internal Revenue had fixed for them.
HGC president Gonzalo Benjamin Borlongan pointed out that the latest zonal valuation for the properties is P9,750 per square meter. The properties were sold for P384,715,800 or at P13,300 per square meter. This is way above the zonal value of the properties amounting to P282,028,500 only at P9,750 per square meter. Thus, the government suffered no loss or injury in the sale of the properties at a price much higher than its own determination of their current fair marker value.
Borlongan further said that the consideration for the sale was even higher than the minimum disposition value, i.e., Net Effective Return Method (P11,668.49/sq.m.) and Severity of Loss Method (P5273.76/sq.m.) as set under the HGC’s Revised Disposition Guidelines. The assigned book value of the properties is P10,971.29. Clearly, the price for the sale is well above the minimum and thus he and the other HGC officials may not be held liable for misconduct.
In throwing out the misconduct complaint, the Ombudsman noted that “R-II Builders and/or their officers have been filing unfounded cases against the HGC and its officers in relation to the Smokey Mountain Project. This is but a bead in a string of unfounded cases in a vain and unethical attempt to cow the HGC officers into submission to the whim of a party seeking to prevent HGC from recovering its guaranty exposure.”
Respondents Danilo Javier and Rafael de los Santos said basically the same thing: that the complaint was intended to harass and chill HGC officials into inaction from recovering HGC’s guaranty exposure. They said that HGC was even fortunate to have sold the properties at all, since there was a lack of interested buyers as shown by the dearth of offers to buy despite the publication of two notices of sale. They added that the property was illegally occupied by R-II’s Harbour Center Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI), who stocked iron and coal piles in the area. The government housing agency had also noted a downward trend in the values of real property in the Smokey Mountain area.
Javier and De los Santos averred that HCPTI had also offered to purchase, at a price of only P12,000, from La Paz Milling Corp. a lot in the vicinity. They attributed the reduction in the selling price to the fact that basic utilities and amenities, such as road concreting and incomplete electrical facilities, that R-II Builders was supposed to deliver did not materialize.
Respondents Corazon Corpuz, Jimmy B. Sarona and Melinda Adriano, for their part, said that the questioned sale was a corporate act of the HGC and that the properties were sold at P13,300 per square meter. When tested against determinable standards, they said, there is no basis to conclude that the sale was manifestly or grossly disadvantageous to the government or to the HGC. They also pointed out that R-II’s basis for challenging the sale were values in 1999 and 2000, or 10 to eight years prior to the sale of the properties, and thus could not be made as basis for determining present values.

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