MANILA, Philippines - Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima expressed his support for the new board members of a state pension fund who are facing arrest over alleged violation of a temporary restraining order on a land settlement case.
"The Department of Finance supports the GSIS Board in its efforts to finally bring this litigation to a complete end," Purisima said in a statement Friday.
The arrest warrant against the 9 members of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) board of trustees stemmed from a 21-year old land case that GSIS recently settled with Rosario Santiago, an 82-year-old claimant.
Santiago sued GSIS in the 1970's over a 3.3-hectare land, which was wrongfully foreclosed, according to a 1999 decision of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court (Branch 71). The decision favoring Santiago became final and executory in 2004.
The previous board, led by former GSIS general manager Winston Garcia, tried 3 times to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider the decision, but all their motions were denied.
The current board, led by Robert Vergara who was appointed in September 2010, filed a fourth motion, which was also denied. The Supreme Court ruled with finality on December 14, 2010 in favor of Santiago.
On February 24, 2011, GSIS finally paid Santiago. Both informed Branch 71 of the settlement on February 28.
However, on March 2, Branch 167 of the same court issued a TRO in favor of certain Antonio Vilar and Harold Cuevas. Both were not parties to the GSIS-Santiago case.
"The provisions of the TRO were highly irregular," GSIS said in a statement, adding that the TRO directed the GSIS board members to pay Vilar and Cuevas even if the payment has already been made with Santiago.
On March 31, Judge Roberto Mislang of Branch 167 issued the arrest warrant against the BSIS board members.
"The GSIS is exhausting all available legal remedies to annul the orders of Judge Mislang. However, all members of the Board are prepared and willing to go to jail if this is the result of their collective decision to protect the pension fund and its more than 1.7 million members and pensioners," the pension fund statement said.
For his part, Purisima said, "It is highly unfortunate that the members of the newly constituted Board of Directors of GSIS who are merely complying with a now final and executory decision of the Supreme Court, are now caught between contending claimants."