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Pro-Friends victims’ plaints not mere propaganda

12:18 AM January 11, 2016

THIS REFERS to two items about real estate developer Property Company of Friends (Pro-Friends) that came out in the Inquirer: one by Daxim L. Lucas (Biz Buzz, 10/9/15); the other by Rina Jimenez David (Opinion, 10/30/15).

These items, apparently from Pro-Friends management, attribute a “vicious, well-funded and well-orchestrated Internet and social media campaign against Pro-Friends” to a business rival, “the family of a realtor politician,” who wants to monopolize the Philippine mass housing market by “running this developer to the ground” with “unsubstantiated accusations.”

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We take exception to this view because it trivializes and makes a mockery of the years of frustration, resentment and suffering that thousands of legitimate Filipino homebuyers like us have experienced at the hands of this developer, especially those who have invested in various house-and-lot packages at its projects in Cavite.

The narration by these buyers of their negative experiences with Pro-Friends has been ongoing in social media long before the reported infusion of capital into this company by GT Capital Holdings Inc. It is neither the cause nor the result of this alleged “well-orchestrated and well-funded campaign.”

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Anyone who regularly uses social media knows that it hardly requires much planning, money and talent to share with others their experiences with this developer. And a good number of these “well-funded” buyers are overseas workers from the United States, Asia and Europe whose remittances are keeping the economy of our country and their respective families afloat. It is not unusual for them to resort to social media if government agencies like the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board refuse to help them in their dealings with this developer.

The image that Pro-Friends is trying to promote, with its glitzy TV and newspaper advertisements, merely glosses over the truth: This developer has unsettled, outstanding obligations—particularly refunds running into tens of millions of pesos—to thousands of its home buyers.

These obligations are the result of its unscrupulous housing practices, including undue delay in the turnover of housing units to buyers; absence of a license to sell or certificate of registration at the time of unit sales; false and misleading advertising; misrepresentation and misinformation in dealings with homebuyers and homeowners; use of substandard and defective construction materials and hazardous sites prone to earthquakes, floods and liquefaction; lot alterations; cancellation of unit reservations and sales without due notice; forcible in-house financing for buyers; substandard subdivision facilities and amenities; and no-inspection and no-refund policies.

Mention of the alleged hiring by these buyers of “professional protesters,” in a democracy like ours, where activism is viewed as a healthy exercise of the freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution, is ludicrous.

So is any reference to the alleged pirating of the developer’s sales and marketing staff by the alleged rival, which indicates dissent right within the very ranks of this developer over its anomalous and fraudulent practices.

Reference to “disruptive activities” at the Pro-Friends’ office by a small group of customers is a clear sign of the pent-up frustration and resentment that had been building up over the years as a result of this developer’s practices.

Lately, this developer attempted to prevent buyers active on social media from further exposing the truth about it by filing libel and cyber-libel complaints against them.

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Also, in 2014, the prosecutor of Trece Martirez, Cavite, issued arrest warrants against 13 ranking officials of Pro-Friends after finding probable cause for violations of Presidential Decree No. 957 and other housing laws.

—DANIEL M. AGONCILLO AND 26 OTHERS (THE PRO-FRIENDS VICTIMS GROUP)

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TAGS: developer, letter, opinion, Pro-Friends, property, real estate
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