Solons clash on Legacy handling

By Fernan Marasigan, Business Mirror

Posted at Feb 04 2009 01:31 AM | Updated as of Mar 13 2009 04:38 AM

Legislators expressed disappointment on Tuesday’s congressional investigation into the multibillion-peso Legacy group fund mess as the expected fireworks and grilling of businessman Eduardo “Celso” de los Angeles turned out to be a dud.

Instead, chairperson Fe Barin of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was the one grilled by the congressmen during the hearing conducted by the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries.

The committee conducted an investigation into the voluntary dissolution of the Legacy group and the spate of closure of 15 rural banks and the actions taken by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the SEC.

It also discussed the Preneed Code bill of Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara of Aurora and the Preneed Insurance Corp. bill of Lakas Rep. Jaime Lopez of Manila.

“This is not what the Filipino people are expecting,” remarked Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino [Kampi] Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Cavite while his fellow legislators were questioning Barin.

Lakas Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay lamented what he described as chopsuey proceedings, referring to the way how his colleagues asked questions.

Lagman was particularly disgusted by his colleagues’ raising questions one after the other even as the resource person had yet to answer a certain query.

“This is all chopsuey. Aren’t we fed up with chopsuey?” asked Lagman in Filipino.

Some spectators were also expecting de los Angeles to drop a bombshell on some congressmen who reportedly entangled on Legacy group. “This is just watusi [dancing fireacracker],” said a House employee who was in the hearing, referring to a dud explosion.

During questioning, Barin said the SEC has not totally checked the corporations of de los Angeles, who earlier admitted there are 30 corporations under the Legacy group.

“We are not aware of the 30 companies. The totality is not yet established by the SEC,” said Barin.

She also supported an earlier claim by de los Angeles that Legacy has a trust fund of more than P300 million, which the latter claimed is enough to pay plan holders.

Lakas Rep. Monico Puentevella of Bacolod City was emotional when he asked Barin if a person was imprisoned since the Republic Act 9474, or an Act Governing the Establishment, Operation and Regulation of Lending Companies which he principally authored, was signed into law two years ago.

“We’ve been repeatedly conducting this investigation. We’ve been like this. Nothing happens to the implementation of our laws,” said Puentevella when Barin replied that no one has been imprisoned.

The proceedings became “lively” when Lagman started posing questions on de los Angeles focusing on the 10 corporations which he admitted were under the Legacy group.

They are Legacy Consolidated Assets Holdings Inc., formerly SPPI Realty Development Corp.; Legacy Consolidated Plans Inc.; Scholarship Plan Phils. Inc.; Legacy Card Inc., formerly Legacy Group Inc.; One Realty Corp.; Galaxy Realty and Holdings Inc.; Legacy Motors Inc.; Shining Armour Property Inc.; Fusion Capital Corp., formerly United Pacific Capital Corp.; and Conventional Realty Corp.

De los Angeles told Lagman he was formerly the chief executive officer of Legacy and later became its chairman emeritus and was only given a share.

But Lagman, showing a document, told de los Angeles that this is not true because based on records, he has 4.41-percent share.

Apparently caught flat-footed, de los Angeles said he will consult the group’s accounting legal department.

“This document speaks for itself,” Lagman told his colleagues.

PDP-Laban Rep. Isidro Ungab of Davao City asked why Legacy is soliciting in his district when it has no bank there. De los Angeles replied that Legacy has a branch in General Santos City and that money is transferred through wires.

An angry Ungab told de los Angeles: “Huwag mo na akong bolahin [Don’t fool me]. I’ve been in the banking industry for 12 years.”

Before the discussion on the Legacy mess, members of the committee approved the Angara bill that put the preneed companies under the supervision and regulation of the Insurance Commission, subject to committee amendments.