QC gov’t not being fair to property owners
If you have been reading the business pages, then you must have read about Calata Corp. and the investigations being conducted by the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
A 10-year-old company, Calata Corp. is the country’s biggest seller of agricultural feeds, chemicals, fertilizer and seeds. Its founder, chair, president and chief executive officer is Joseph Calata, a 31-year-old management graduate of La Salle with a ridiculous pompadour that sticks out in any crowd.
Bouyed by the success of his company (total sales in 2011: P2 billion), Calata decided to expand to the countryside, where he has practically no competition. He plans to construct 118 retail stores all over the Philippines and another 100 in the next 14 months. His goal is to have 1,000 retail stores that he projects will generate P10 billion in annual sales.
To raise capital, Calata went public last May. Its initial public offering (IPO) at the PSE began at P7.50 per share and zoomed to P23.95 per share in only two weeks, which gave rise to suspicions of stock price manipulation. (Price manipulation is any activity that attempts to interfere with the proper operation of the stock and create the appearance of an active and liquid market.)
Suspecting that the stockbrokers were profiting at his and the public’s expense, Calata wrote to the PSE last June 7, asking for an investigation. “This is in connection with the sudden movements in the stock price of Calata Corporation for the past trading days since its maiden listing with the Philippine Stock Exchange,” Calata wrote. “The Company has expressed concerns over these developments and would like to formally request for appropriate action to be taken in order to ascertain whether there were any legal breaches and/or violations committed in connection thereto.”
What came out in the media is that Calata Corp. is being investigated by the market surveillance unit of the PSE after the latter received a report by the Capital Market Integrity Corp. (CMIC), an independent unit of the PSE responsible for spotting illegal trading ectivities. This is misleading—it’s as if Calata Corp. itself were doing the price manipulation. As shown above, it was Calata himself who asked the PSE to look into the sudden jump of the stock price of its IPO. (Calata’s stock price has since dropped to P5.50 per share, then rose to P6.30 per share, still below the P7.50 per share IPO.)
Now Calata is puzzled: Why is it being made to appear that Calata Corp. itself was behind the stock manipulation when it is Calata himself who asked the PSE for an investigation? And even granting that it is because of the sudden spike in the price of its IPO, why only him when there are others with even more dizzying increases? For example: IPVG Corp.—204-percent increase in four trading days; Tanduay Holdings Inc.—226-percent rise in seven trading days. But here are more spectacular increases: Bloomberry Resorts Corp.—1,877 percent in just eight trading days! Or Century Properties Inc.—616 percent!
Calata is wondering why the “big boys” of the PSE are ganging up on him, a probinsiyano.
I think I know why—his hairdo, and I don’t blame them for it. The pompadour went out of style with Ronald Reagan. But even if they don’t like Calata’s hairdo (they told him that to his face), that is no reason for the PSE big boys to gang up on him. Calata would be doing the farmers a favor by making agricultural supplies available to them.
As for Calata himself, the only advice I can give him is this: Go see a barber.
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The Inquirer section published Sunday the story of squatters who were able to buy, with the help of a parish-based cooperative, 1,200 square meters of a squatter-infested parcel of land in Barangay Pansol, Quezon City. The land was sold at a public auction by City Hall for its owners’ nonpayment of real estate taxes.
That is well and good for the squatters, but what about the poor owners? The bid price was P700,000 for 1,200 square meters of land beside the high-class La Vista Subdivion (where Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other wealthy personalities live), and the University of the Philippines Integrated High School, which would soon be transformed into an Ayala shopping mall. The proceeds in the auction sale will go to City Hall as payment for real estate taxes on the land that the owners were unable to pay. Nothing goes to the poor owners.
The QC government is not being fair to property owners who have made it the richest city in the Philippines. Consider this: The property has long been occupied by squatters; the owners could not use it nor derive any income from it. City Hall did not lift a finger to help the owners reclaim their property, which is its responsibility in exchange for the taxes already paid. Yet City Hall has the temerity to demand full payment for real estate taxes that the owners could not pay because the land was being occupied by squatters who were not paying any taxes either. If you were the owners, would you pay the taxes for a piece of land that squatters are using for themselves, and which the city government is not helping you to recover?
If their own government does not help landowners, is it fair for City Hall to demand tax payments from them but not provide them any service in exchange for the paid taxes? Wouldn’t it be fair for City Hall to suspend the collection of taxes until their lots shall have been restored to them? In such a case, the owners would not only be happy to pay the taxes but thank City Hall for its help in reclaiming their property.
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