PWU, STI dispute worsens

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 23 2014 02:35 PM | Updated as of Dec 24 2014 01:07 AM

Benitez group calls STI takeover of PWU 'illegal'

MANILA (UPDATE) – The dispute between the Benitez group of the Philippine Women's University (PWU) and the Tanco group of STI Holdings worsened on Tuesday following conflicting statements from both parties.

In a statement released Tuesday, PWU called the takeover by STI Holdings “illegal" and denied that the founders of the university resigned as board members and trustees.

“Eusebio Tanco’s STI Holdings recently issued a press release claiming the Benitez family resigned from PWU, thereby allowing him to take over PWU. The claims are baseless and the so-called take-over is illegal,” PWU said.

STI Holdings issued a statement on Monday claiming that STI has taken over eight out of the 10 board seats and 11 of the 15 memberships following the failure of PWU and its sister company, Unlad Resources, to pay P928 million in debt.

But the Benitez family, which ran the university for most of its almost 100-year history, said a Notice of Default issued to PWU demanding to pay the entire amount in a week is “baseless and procedurally infirm.” The Benitez family is contesting the default notice and taking legal action to oppose STI’s takeover.

“The Benitez family does not recognize the so-called take-over of PWU, none of its members have resigned from PWU, and the Benitez family contests the notice of default (both as to amount and as to the factual basis of default),” PWU said.

PWU said the issuance of the default notice and the takeover attempt were retaliatory moves by STI because the PWU-JASMS community resisted the idea of STI's Tanco group to commercialize the JASMS Quezon City campus.

“The current act of take-over of PWU was triggered by the refusal of the JASMS community to agree to [their] idea of commercializing the JASMS campus,” PWU said.

"Over the course of three years, the Benitez family realized that Mr. Tanco’s vision to commercialize PWU and JASMS does not conform to the vision of the founders and the Benitez family’s enduring commitment to education," it added.

STI, however, refuted the claims of PWU, saying it received signed resignation letters from key board members of PWU including chairperson Helena Benitez that became effective upon default.

STI also said that it was the Benitez group that approved the commercialization of the JASMS campus.

“Mr. Tanco and STI only came into the picture when it bailed out PWU and Unlad Resources in November 2011 before PWU was to be foreclosed upon by Banco de Oro. Please note that STI could have cited the Benitez Group in default as early as November 2011 for failing to meet its obligations under the bail-out agreement. Specifically, the Benitez Group was supposed to raise the authorized capital of Unlad Resources to P1.5 billion within that month to allow the conversion of STI’s loans into equity, which in effect was how STI was to be paid,” STI said in a statement also released Tuesday.

“That it took STI three long years waiting for the Benitez Group to comply with its obligations signified its sincere intention to help PWU and its studentry,” it added.

STI, being a publicly-listed firm, also maintained that the takeover was made to protect the interest and shareholders of the company.

Monico Jacob, who was elected president and chief executive of PWU, also earlier justified STI’s takeover, saying the university was “deteriorating financially and physically,” and was about to lose its key accreditation because of the decline in its quality of education.