MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has again issued an order to keep Globe Asiatique (GA) president Delfin Lee in jail.
In a resolution, the third division of the high court issued another temporary restraining order (TRO) on a Court of Appeals (CA) decision that would have downgraded the case against Lee from syndicated estafa to plain estafa and allowed him to post bail.
Specifically, the SC stopped the implementation of the ruling of the sixth division of the CA in October last year that quashed the charges and lifted the arrest warrant against one of Lee’s four co-accused in the case, former Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF also known as Pag-IBIG Fund) foreclosure manager Alex Alvarez.
In the assailed ruling, the CA held that Alvarez could not be treated as a conspirator in the alleged scam involving GA’s Xevera housing project in Mabalacat, Pampanga merely for notarizing the documents executed by the alleged fake buyers.
“Absent clear indications or links that a notary public has knowledge of the alleged crime and willingly and willfully participates in the commission of that crime, his mere act of notarizing is not enough basis to allow the hammer to fall upon him,” it stressed.
Earlier this month, the same division of the SC issued a TRO stopping the enforcement of another CA ruling last year that lifted the arrest warrant against Lee and quashed the charges against him before the San Fernando, Pampanga regional trial court (RTC) in connection to the allegedly anomalous housing projects in Pampanga worth P6.6 billion.
Another co-accused, GA officer Christina Sagun, was also cleared by the 10th division of the CA, but the SC had likewise issued a TRO against the ruling in April last year.
The assailed rulings of the appellate court effectively downgraded the case against Lee and the other four to estafa since a syndicated estafa case requires at least five accused.
With the three TROs so far issued by the SC, the case against Lee remains syndicated estafa.
He also should remain in detention at the Pampanga provincial jail.
Lee had been a fugitive since Pampanga RTC Judge Amifaith Fider-Reyes ordered his arrest in 2011.
Police arrested Lee at Hyatt Hotel in Malate, Manila last March 6.
Vice President Jejomar Binay said yesterday that the Pag-IBIG Fund has put in place safeguards to prevent the housing agency from being defrauded again similar to the large-scale housing scam perpetrated by Globe Asiatique that siphoned off billion-peso loans from Pag-Ibig through ghost buyers and double sale of housing units in Xevera Subdivision in Mabalacat, Pampanga.
“In Delfin Lee’s case, basically it is a double sale and he used ghost buyers to get loan from Pag-Ibig. That is what we studied very well to prevent it from happening again,” Binay, chairman of the Pag-Ibig Fund and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), said.
For her part, Pag-IBIG Fund chief executive officer (CEO) and president Darlene Marie Berberabe said they have put in place an internal ombudsman, as well as an internal control audit that regularly checks all of the fund‘s transactions.
Berberabe said that after the discovery of the Globe Asiatique scam, Binay ordered Pag-IBIG Fund to abolish the Window 1 scheme, which was used by Lee to siphon off loans from the agency using ghost borrowers.
She said Window 1 was the express lane for real estate developers with good track records to fast-track loan applications.
Under the scheme, Berberabe said developers were essentially deputized by HDMF to evaluate the financial capability of potential borrowers and submit application documents on their behalf.
Berberabe said that as a replacement of the scrapped scheme, the HDMF implemented the Employer’s Accreditation Program, which offers the country’s top employers with accreditation to process housing loans for its employees.
She said the accreditation provides employers with faster access to Pag-IBIG’s housing services such as housing loan prequalification, home or housing needs matching, and faster housing loan processing time.
The agency also introduced a special lane in several branches for loans amounting to P1 million and above to facilitate faster processing.
Berberabe said that upon Binay’s instruction, the HDMF has implemented the Affordable Housing Program, which offers subsidized rates for the first 10 years for members with gross monthly income not higher than P17,500.
Loans up to P400,000 have an interest rate of 4.5 percent, while loans from P400,001 up to P750,000 have a 6.5 percent interest.
She said that at the end of the 10-year period of subsidized rates, the borrower will have the option to pick the re-pricing period of his choice.
Meanwhile, housing for local government units (LGUs), employers, employee associations and cooperatives are also fast-tracked through Pag-IBIG’s Group Housing Loan Program.
“Project proponents are given access to a maximum loanable amount of P20 million for horizontal development and P40 million for vertical development,” Berberabe said. – With Jose Rodel Clapano