Congress, SEC share blame share blame for pre-need industry woes
abs-cbnNEWS.com | 02/02/2009 3:44 PM
The Senate on Monday began its probe into the beleaguered pre-need industry.
The Senate committees on trade and banks sought to find out what will help pre-need firms meet their obligations to planholders.
Early in the hearing, lawmakers admitted that Congress is partly to blame for the troubles hounding the pre-need industry.
“The Senate has passed the pre-need plans code, its version. Unfortunately, this cannot yet be passed into law and implemented because there is no counterpart measure from the House of Representatives,” said Mar Roxas, chairman of the Senate committee on trade and commerce. “This was the Senate’s response to a set of hearings that were done about two years ago when the CAP [College Assurance Plan] and the Pacific Plans were in trouble. And so there was a tightening of regulations.”
“Today, several years later, we are again back here in the Senate as if we did not learn anything, as if we have not been able to improve the status of the industry and more importantly, of the trust funds that hundreds of thousands of our parents are depending on,” he added.
“Hamon ito para sa ating lahat dahil tila nagkulang din ang Kongreso nang hindi namin naipasa ang pre-need code nung nagdaang Kongreso, at halos nangangalahati na kami, hindi pa rin napapasa hanggang sa ngayon ang pre-need code na sana magbibigay ng tamang framework para mabantayan at maiwasan ang mga kaganapang nangyari noon kaugnay ng pagbagsak ng mga kompanyang ito,” said Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the committee on banks.
Senators also grilled the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for failing to address the problems in the pre-need industry and protect the interest of the public.
SEC Chair Fe Barin told the committees that they were only informed between December 8 and 10 last year that Legacy applied for voluntary dissolution.
The Legacy Group owns the Legacy Consolidated Plans, Scholarship Plan Philippines, and All Asia Plans Corporation.
Barin admitted later in the inquiry that the SEC might have had shortcomings stemming from the lack of personnel working for the commission. But she said she would leave it up to senators to judge if they had been negligent or inefficient.
“Kami po, may mga records sa aming opisina, and we can stand on our records. If the office is being investigated, they’re willing to submit all documents and to show for you to make a judgment. If in the end, the judgment is we have been negligent, we have been inadequate, we have been inefficient, nasa sa inyo po ang desisyon,” she said.
Passing the buck
Roxas expressed disappointment over Barin’s response.
“If I may just know…ma’m I’m really saddened by your response. Talagang nalulungkot po ako dahil naghuhugas po kayo talaga ng kamay. Umiiwas po kayo sa responsibilidad,” he said.
“Nasa kapangyarihan niyo po yan kaya, nalulungkot ho ako dahil I know you’re trying hard ma’m, pero yung kamay na bakal, yung desisyon nasa sa inyo po. Nasa sa kumisyon, nasa sa tanggapan po ninyo, at kung may kakulangan, ang tanong na lang ngayon whether oversight ito, honest mistake, negligence or may pagkukuntsaba sa mga kumpanya dahil tuloy ang ligaya ng kumpanya. Tuloy-tuloy silang nagbebenta,” he added.
The Parents Enabling Parents (PEP) Coalition also assailed government agencies for the pre-need industry’s troubles.
PEP Coalition President Philip Piccio said they informed Legacy Group of the complaints they were receiving from planholders as early as 2006. But instead, Legacy owner Celso delos Angeles threatened to sue them for libel.
Piccio said they raised the matter before the SEC, but until now, nothing has been done.
Hubert Guevarra of the SEC’s compliance and enforcement department says the PEP coalition filed the wrong complaint at the wrong department. — ANC report
as of 02/02/2009 3:44 PM
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