Parents to sue Pacific Plan management for syndicated estafa
Jan. 27, 2009
A GROUP of Pacific Plans, Inc. education plan holders will again sue the former owners of the pre-need firm for syndicated estafa, saying its recent sale was proof that the company had intended to defraud them.
PEP Coalition President Philip H. Piccio — JONATHAN L. CELLONA
The Parents Enabling Parents (PEP) Coalition told a briefing yesterday at least four cases of syndicated estafa, a nonbailable offense, would be filed on Thursday against the Yuchengcos, who used to own Pacific Plans.
To be sued are Alfonso Yuchengco, former Yuchengco group and Pacific Plans chairman and president, and daughter Helen Yuchengco-Dee, who took over from him, said Philip H. Piccio, president of the coalition.
“They sold [Pacific Plans] and even profited from it. This is an exit plan. This is the final nail in the coffin proving that estafa had been commited,” Mr. Piccio argued.
The coalition, which consists of parents seeking claims against troubled pre-need firms, was still studying who among the former members of the management would be sued, he added.
Last month, businessman Emmanuel Noel C. Oñate’s Abundance Providers and Investment Corp. bought Pacific Plans for P250 million.
The PEP Coalition sued Pacific Plans officials three years ago after the company failed in 2004 to pay clients who had bought traditional educational plans. The suits, however, were dismissed by prosecutors for lack of sufficient evidence.
Mr. Piccio said members of their group would file the cases before the Prosecutors’ Office in Makati, Pasay, Antipolo and Muntinlupa. Nonmembers outside Metro Manila may also file their own suits.
“When you are fighting Goliath, you don’t just fire one shot,” he told reporters. “It’s about time we stand up to corporate giants connected to government officials,” he added.
In a statement, Grepalife Holdings Inc., the former parent of Pacific Plans, refuted the PEP Coalition’s charge that the sale was a ground for syndicated estafa.
“There is no legal restriction to the sale of a company undergoing rehabilitation,” the Yuchengco company said.
Grepalife said Pacific Plans was not running away from its obligations, adding that its new owners have committed to pay the plan holders.
It added that the sale had not shrunk the corporate or trust assets of Pacific Plans, which remained at P12.5 billion.
It also said the sale would not affect the court-approved rehabilitation plan as far as traditional plan holders were concerned.
“The sale, therefore, caused no damage or injury to the plan holders,” it said. Grepalife denied having profited from the sale, noting that Pacific Plans was worth P450 million as of 2007.
Mr. Piccio said the PEP Coalition would sue before the central bank today Yuchengco-owned Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., whose trust unit handled the trust fund of Pacific Plans, for mismanagement.
But Grepalife denied that it had mismanaged the trust fund. “It is common knowledge that the present financial meltdown has battered trust funds here and abroad,” it said. It added that the fund, while earning less now, was intact.
Mr. Piccio said the coalition was consulting its lawyers about suing the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for having failed to prevent Pacific Plans’ alleged mismanagement.
He said it was media that exposed the woes being experienced by pre-need firms, which warned the corporate regulator as early as August about their impending collapse.
This, the coalition said, showed that the failure of several pre-need companies in the past might not have been isolated incidents, but due to the regulator’s failure to do its job. SEC officials were not immediately available for comment.
Mr. Piccio said it would listen to the proposal of Pacific Plans’ new owners, whom the coalition had with met at least three times.
“We can’t have a hardline stance. I don’t want to derail talks because they may have good intentions,” he said, noting that the new owners had come when the industry was warning of its collapse. — Don Gil K. Carreon
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