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Settlers asked to return P3M in Fort Boni spat

Written by  Ed Velasco
Monday, 10 September 2012 00:00 [ tribune.net.ph ]

The board of directors of the Consular Area Residents Association Inc. (Carai) has been asked to cough up P3 million plus interest within five days under pain of being criminally sued for their 1999 joint venture agreement (JVA) over a government property within the Fort Bonifacio Military Reservation in Taguig City.

The Diplomatic and Consular Area of Fort Bonifacio are among the areas being supervised by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA). Under the law, according to Arnel Casanova, BCDA president, only the government, through the BCDA, can sell the property as it owns in the area.      

Carai is composed of informal settlers at the Diplomatic and Consular Area in Fort Bonifacio, with retired Colonel Benjamin Zabat as its president.

According to Hilario Soriano, president of the Soriano Holdings Corp. (SHC), Zabat in his capacity as president and representative of Carai, received the total amount of P3 million “in consideration of its possessory rights under the JVA.”

In return, Carai was supposed to turnover possession of the 40,000-square meter (sqm) portion of the Diplomatic and Consular Area to the SHC.

SHC wanted its P3 million back within five days upon receipt of its demand letter, otherwise it would file estafa and falsification of document charges against the said Board of Directors.

Carai and SHC further agreed for the latter to set up a concrete hollow-block fence around the government land.

In his letter to the Board of Directors of Carai, attention to Zabat and the alleged legal counsel of Carai, lawyer Howard Calleja, Soriano said they were surprised to find out that some members and officers of Carai were not even aware of the JVA, and that current controversies “will definitely cause bigger problems where the possession and occupancy of the property by CARAI will be jeopardized.”

“We firmly reiterate the full return within five days of the P3 million that our company has released for Carai (plus legal interests), and this letter serves as our final demand,” the letter stated.

Soriano accused Carai and its board of directors of allegedly “using fictitious name, or falsely pretending to possess power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions, or by other means of similar deceits” to lure him into the joint venture project.
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