MANILA - The National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) is now readying a counter-suit against the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) after a Manila court dismissed the estafa case filed against its members over the “Manansala mural.”
In an order dated March 17, Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 22 Judge Marino dela Cruz cited previous rulings in connection with the sale of the Manansala mural to determine that there was no “probable cause” against the officials of the press club.
The case stemmed from the decision of NPC officials to sell the artwork by National Artist Vicente Manansala, which used to occupy a portion of the wall of the NPC Bar and Restaurant.
The NPC sold the mural for P10 million to raise funds for its maintenance bills and debts. A big chunk of the money, on the other hand, went to a trust fund for a housing project in Bulacan for members.
Then GSIS general manager Winston Garcia, however, sued the press club, saying the agency is the rightful owner of all NPC assets, including the mural.
Separately sued for estafa were: Roy Mabasa, president; Benny Antiporda, vice president; Louie Logarta, secretary; Amor Virata, treasurer; and, Rolly Gonzalo, auditor. Also charged were directors Jun Cobarrubias, Jerry Yap, Alvin Feliciano, Joey Venancio, William Depasupil, Denis Fetalino, Joel Egco, Conrado Generoso and Samuel Julian.
Dela Cruz took note of a Court of Appeal decision that already belied GSIS’ claim to the mural. The appellate court’s ruling said: “Clearly, petitioner GSIS never became the owner of the subject painting when it bought the NPC building as well as the land on which it stood.”
The Supreme Court consequently junked appeals from the GSIS.
As a result, the Department of Justice (DOJ) later withdrew the criminal complaint filed before the Manila judge.
In dismissing the estafa case, the Manila court judge said they did not benefit “either as corporate officers and directors or in their own personal capacities” from the proceeds of the sale.
“Therefore, the conclusion would be that NPC officials who are accused for estafa did not convert the proceeds of the same to their own benefit or personal use,” he said.
Antiporda said the decision is a vindication for them, adding that a counter-suit will be filed against the GSIS for damages due to its “unfounded and dubious claims.”
“I guess it’s time to set the record straight and turn the table against our accuser,” he said.