Feud rocks Romero family as father, son trade suits

by Joel San Juan, BusinessMirror

Posted at Jun 07 2014 09:37 AM | Updated as of Jun 07 2014 05:37 PM

THE feud between businessman Reghis Romero and his son Michael over the control of Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI), which operates the North Harbor, has erupted after the two traded suits over the past few months.

It can be recalled that the elder Romero, chairman of HCPTI, accused his son, who serves as the chief executive officer of the company, along with two others of stealing funds of the firm amounting to P9 million.

A case of qualified theft has been filed before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office against the younger Romero, HCPTI Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Edwin Jeremillo and Chief Finance Officer Edwin Joseph Galvez.

Based on the complaint, Michael caused the issuance of five falsified corporate checks totaling P9 million within two days in 2007 without the knowledge of other HCPTI board officials.

The HCPTI complaint said the check payments were “neither authorized by the corporation nor were issued for a valid and/or legitimate obligation.”

The complaint said the RII Group “who were principally in charge of running the affairs of the corporation for many years until lately, and who were particularly entrusted with managing its funds and finances, had been systematically stealing funds belonging to the corporation, precisely, by taking advantage of the almost absolute trust and confidence that were reposed upon them.”

Reghis filed the case through HCPTI Corporate Secretary Jerome Canlas.

Canlas claimed that the alleged illegal activity of the respondents were discovered during a recent audit conducted to determine why the company is consistently losing money, in spite of the millions of pesos in gross revenues it has been regularly receiving each month.

Michael, who had formed a spin-off property firm Harbour Centre Port Holdings Inc. (HCPHI), turned the table on his father, after his firm filed a petition for a restraining order before the Regional Trial Court of Manila against his father’s company R-II builders to stop Reghis and directors Jerome Canlas, Mark Roy Boado and Amelia Lazaro from sitting in the HCPTI board.

R-II immediately sought court relief and asked the dismissal of the petition branding the petition of Michael’s group as a harassment suit, which the court denied.

It held that the motion violated the Interim Rules of Procedures for Intra-Corporate controversy that prohibited a motion to dismiss as a pleading.

The court further explained that “defendant’s (RII Builders) Omnibus Motion is a probative pleading. Section 8, Rule I of the Interim Rules unequivocally provides that a motion to dismiss is a prohibited pleading and is generally not allowed.”

In a ruling on April 3, RTC in Manila also denied Michael’s HCPHI’s motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Reghis’s group, as it ruled that “the acts sought to be restrained are future acts and have not been consummated.”

RII builders tried to argue among other reasons that the case was a “nuisance suit against” Reghis and his group and that it was also in the nature of an “election contest” involving the validity of the election of Reghis’s group in the HCPTI board.

An “election-contest” rule on intra-corporate controversies provides for “specific requirements that must be alleged” otherwise the complaint is rendered of no force or effect.

The court ruled that on the issue of an “election contest,” the interim rules on intra-corporate controversies give the court authority to dismiss the case motu propio, but “a perusal of the allegations in the complaint show that the same is not an election contest.”

“There are issues related to the General Information Sheet of the corporation as well as the purported holding of a special stockholders meeting,” it said.

In ruling that it was not a harassment suit, the court said it took into consideration “shareholdings and interest of the plaintiffs in the corporation as well as the attending factual and legal issues raised by the plaintiffs requiring the conduct of a full-blown trial.