Remember Gotesco Investments (Gotesco), the company that was able to have a 22,585.80-square-meter Caloocan City-owned lot worth more than P182 million titled to its name without paying Caloocan a single centavo and there built the first Ever-Gotesco shopping mall, which was gutted by fire recently; the same company that grabbed the Gotesco Tower in Manila from its new owners (As I See It, 11/9/12), the same company that took over the property of Joey de Jesus in Marikina City on the same day that it grabbed Gotesco Tower? It has struck again, this time at the Evercrest Golf Club and Resort in Nasugbu, Batangas.
It seems that it has hit on a modus operandi to amass great wealth without spending much capital. It consists of leasing or buying pieces of property with borrowed money, and then not paying the rent or the loans, and holding on to these pieces of property and deriving profit from them. How does Gotesco do that? With the cooperation or connivance of friends (certain judges, justices and sheriffs) in the lower courts and, in the unkindest cut of all, in the appellate courts. They invariably render decisions favorable to Gotesco based on legal technicalities despite the merits of the cases. In the interest of justice, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno should look into these cases. It is shameful how the courts are being used to trample on justice.
In the Caloocan case, Gotesco was able to have the P182-million lot titled in its name despite the fact that it did not pay Caloocan a single peso. It also did not pay Caloocan real estate taxes, and when the city sold it at a public auction to pay for the taxes, a friendly regional trial court judge issued a restraining order on the city.
In the case of the Gotesco Tower, a 10-story apartment building in Manila, Gotesco did not pay its loan to the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) so that the bank was forced to foreclose the mortgage. After the foreclosure, Gotesco was able to convince UCPB to lease the building to it through a subsidiary, Royal Overseers Inc. True to form, the subsidiary did not pay the rentals either, forcing UCPB to institute ejectment proceedings. UCPB subsequently sold the tower to Philippine Investment Two which, in turn, sold it to Machro Trend. Nevertheless, Gotesco was able to get favorable decisions from its friends in the courts and forcibly took possession of the building. This despite the fact that its lease contract on the building had already expired five years before the court issued its decision.
The Joey de Jesus property in Marikina was grabbed in a similar way.
In the case of the 78.8-hectare Evercrest Golf Club and Resort, this is the way it happened: Gotesco or Jose Go, its owner, took over the ailing Orient Commercial Banking Corp. When the bank began to fail, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) extended an astronomical P5-billion loan to Orient Bank to keep it afloat. Orient Bank, or Go, did not pay the BSP as usual. So BSP was forced to sue in 1999. In 2003, BSP and Gotesco concluded a compromise agreement.
And surprise, surprise: Evercrest stockholders suddenly found their beloved golf club taken over by BSP, which quickly tried to sell the property last year. There were no takers despite sale sweeteners, however, despite the fact that the golf club and resort is valued from P1.2 billion to P1.73 billion—because the suspicious way that the property landed in BSP’s hands is widely known in golfing circles.
This is the mystery: Evercrest was not a party to any transaction with BSP or Orient Bank. It had absolutely nothing to do with the compromise agreement between BSP and Orient Bank, or Go. It was never a party to the BSP-Gotesco case. The agreement did not include Evercrest and neither did Evercrest give its consent or approval to the agreement. The signatories to the agreement did not include Evercrest. Still, for reasons unknown, BSP took over Evercrest.
Gotesco did not comply with the agreement, BSP claimed in filing a motion for execution in 2008. But what has Evercrest got to do with it?
Here is a clue: Evercrest used to be owned by Jose Go.
The BSP motion was initially struck down, but BSP filed a motion for reconsideration. And here the court again sided with Gotesco’s victims.
Evercrest members were aghast because—as in the case of Gotesco Tower where the owners were not a party to the case between Gotesco and UCPB—Evercrest was not a party to the BSP-Gotesco proceedings. Evercrest was not “aware, much less made a party thereto, in gross violation of their right to due process.”
Evercrest sought relief from the Court of Appeals which, in a split vote of 3-2 that left many legal luminaries scratching their heads in puzzlement, refused to rule on the merits of the case. Instead, the Court of Appeals declared the case moot and academic, owing to BSP’s takeover of Evercrest.
Evercrest members contend that the Court of Appeals in effect “abandoned its responsibility of determining the principal issue raised by Evercrest, which was whether or not its real properties may be made to answer for another entity’s alleged financial liabilities despite the indisputable fact that Evercrest was never a party to the case, much less to the compromise agreement.”
Evercrest has appealed to the Supreme Court, which they hope would “demonstrate utmost impartiality” and render a “full and exhaustive determination of the case.” That Evercrest was never a party to the BSP-Gotesco agreement was admitted by both parties and by the Court of Appeals. Evercrest owes nothing to BSP, which the latter concedes.
So how come BSP got to own Evercrest?