The 90s Benitez deal: Where did the P250M JASMS development fund from HK firm go?

In the mid-1990s, Jolly Benitez, the father of PWU President Kiko Benitez, had an ambitious plan. He wanted to transfer pupils and students of JASMS in Quezon City to some remote location in Fairview.

The idea was simple and straightforward. For the Benitezes, the JASMS property located in EDSA had grown so much in value that Jolly figured they would get more profits if they just evict the school community there and turn the entire place into shopping malls and condos.

Jolly, a known Marcos crony and former deputy minister of Imelda Marcos’ Ministry of Human Settlements, had commissioned the formulation of a development plan for his commercial property project.

The 1990s represented the first phase of mall projects boom and the plan Jolly had for JASMS was so enticing that the Benitezes managed to get the attention of Hongkong firm Jardine Land. In no time, Jardine was in on the idea, lending the Benitezes P250 million to proceed with the project.

However, after taking the cash from Jardine, nothing came out of the plan. Not a single structure was put up. Nada!

Today, they just go around telling people that the 1997 financial crisis literally blew all that money into smoke. They have yet to account to the public where the P250 million ended up.

But Jardine did not buy the financial crisis excuse. That is why the Hongkong-based company went to court and foreclosed a big portion of the JASMS property — about 1.1 hectares.

When the Benitezes were wooing its most recent creditor, the STI group, they again dangled the JASMS property. They even managed to convince the new creditors to buy back from Jardine the 1.1 hectare property so the commercialization project, masterplanned by the Jolly Benitez, could continue.

These are all documented facts. These completely negate all claims by the Benitez family that the deal breaker with its partnership with STI was the development plan on JASMS. They completely – and conveniently – failed to tell JASMS parents and alumni that the whole thing was the Benitezes’ idea all along. Why do you think Jardine and STI loaned them money to begin with?

The online Philippine news magazine and commentary website, Get Real Philippines, was brave enough to show proof of how the Benitezes was in on the development project for the JASMS property in QC.

Somehow, the enterprising people behind the website managed to obtain minutes of the board meeting of UNLAD – the sister company of PWU and the one managing the properties of the school – which show how deeply involved the Benitezes were in the commercial project for JASMS.

In a blog post titled, “Getting Out of Debt, the Benitez Way,” Get Real Philippines said not only were the Benitezes in approval of the JASMS development plan, the family was again assertive of the original plan to throw the JASMS school in Fairview, where lots can be bought cheap.

Here are some excerpts of the Unlad board meeting which took place last May 8, 2014, as reported by Get Real Philippines.

 

Mr. J. Benitez suggested that the Board consider transferring JASMS QC to Fairview where parcels of land can be bought at a cheaper price, hence, allowing the school to have an open space. Mr. Tanco,emphasized that the current location of JASMS QC is a good one and although the Ten Thousand Square Meters (10,000 sqm) floor area may take time to fill in, the potential, is, nevertheless, present.

“Mr. Tanco informed that Board that there will be an open space or al fresco between the school and the mall. In addition, the open space at the roof deck of the mall may also be used by the school, which should be enough to comply with JASMS’ philosophy regarding open space.”

 

Surprisingly, it was Mr. Tanco who fought to keep the JASMS in EDSA, not the Benitezes. No one from the Benitez clan can contradict these facts as the minutes of the board meeting was signed by their family members, including PWU President Kiko Benitez.

The Get Real Philippines blog also showed three more minutes of the UNLAD board, dated March 25, 2013, November 20, 2013, and February 27, 2014, where the JASMS joint venture with Ayala was discussed and subsequently signed by the Benitez-dominated UNLAD board.

And in all these discussions, the Benitezes never opposed the project. One of its members, again Jolly Benitez, only raised one point – parking space. In the November 20 meeting, he stood up to say this:

 

Mr. Jose Conrado Benitez (“Mr. J. Benitez”) stated that the parking structures should not be too far from the shopping mall as people might not be inclined to go to the same if they have to cover a long distance from the parking to the mall. Mr. Tanco stated that ALI will have already considered Mr. J. Benitez’s concern since ALI has already constructed several malls.

 

So amidst the deal with Jardine and the emotional war the Benitez followers are launching against STI, we pose this one simple question: Where did the money go?

 

(Click here to read the full post in Get Real Philippines, complete with images of the Benitez family-signed minutes of the UNLAD Board meetings.)

Advertisements

People are coming out with more Benitezes’ secrets. What they reveal will scare you

Barely a day after this simple blog was created, thousands of people have been visiting to read our documented stories that detail the skeletons the so-called venerable Benitez family has been hiding deep in their closets.

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter have been driving so much traffic. In fact, we were informed a Facebook page which shared our article has received nearly 300 shares from different users. It’s not surprising that so far, our website got more than 20,000 views in less than 24 hours.

But what’s more interesting is that people are coming forward to give their own tales about decades of corruption and dubious transactions done by the Benitez family, which led to the downfall of Philippine Women’s University.

In our previous blog posts, we detailed how the Benitezes, led by PWU President Francisco Benitez (who we learned was just a substitute professor in the US before he was appointed as PWU president), got PWU involved in a series of loans with Jardine Land, MetroBank, BDO, and lately the STI group to hide the dubious activities of his father Jolly Benitez and the rest of their clan members.

We also know that independent audit reports questioned the cash advances and disbursements of former PWU Presidents and siblings Amelou Benitez and Jolly Benitez. Among their dubious activities include Amelou’s use of PWU funds worth P100 million to finance her failed digging activities for Yamashita Gold as well as Jolly’s disbursement of P109 million in PWU money to his company to purchase mostly a land in Caliraya that turned out to be protected forest land.

But there’s more where this brand of corruption came from. One commenter, Ms. Cecile Tan, said that after Amelou and Jolly pillaged the funds of PWU, it is now the turn of Conrad Benitez and Lyca Benitez Brown to take their piece of the PWU action. According to her, this is an open secret in the PWU community.

Cecile Tan

Roel Sarmiento, meanwhile, tells us that every JASMS alumni knows that the P250 million paid for by Jardine Land to PWU was pocketed by Jolly Benitez. For everyone’s information, in 1997, Jolly proposed the conversion of the entire JASMS property in Quezon City into a mall and have the pupils and students there transferred elsewhere.

Roel Sarmiento

Sarah Donato also came forward to reveal that now that the money of PWU is drying up, the Benitezes have begun to dip their hands into the trust funds of the PWU scholars as well as the retirement funds of the employees.

Sarah Donato

Dante Albano, in his comment, thanked us for exposing the truth about the Benitezes. He also said that family members have become so greedy that they are now targeting the money to family matriarch, Sen. Helena Benitez.

Dante Albano

Eddie Florendo’s comment was rather intriguing. He was actually appealing to the alumni associations of PWU, St. Theresa’s College, Assumption, St. Paul, and Miriam not to support the Benitezes and that the alumni donations would only end up in Benitezes’ pockets. Does he have personal knowledge that the Benitez clan is turning to fundraising activities, using other people’s money, to help cover up their mess?

Eddie Florendo

But perhaps the most curious comment came from one Joel David. Apparently, the Benitezes were not only known Marcos cronies, one member of their family, the late Betty Benitez (wife of Jolly and mom of PWU President Kiko Benitez), gained notoriety for her involvement in tragedy that was the Manila Film Center.

Joel David

We Googled this bit of information and we found this piece in the Philippine Star by the late great journalist Teddy Benigno. He said that in 1981, Betty was handling the 24/7 construction works of Imelda Marcos’ Manila Film Center. At around 3:00AM, the scaffolding collapsed and at least 169 workers fell and were buried under quick-drying wet cement.

Mr. Benigno wrote: “Hundreds were buried in the cement debris. Thousands? Nobody in authority knew about the tragedy at the time, not even Imelda. Betty Benitez, a high priestess of the film festival, was immediately notified by telephone. Her instructions were to rope off the place, not to allow media to penetrate. It was martial rule, remember? This scandal had to be kept secret.

Other sources even said that it was Betty who ordered to pour more concrete over the piles of dead bodies. Tragically, Betty died months later in a bizarre accident in Tagaytay.

Such are the secrets now coming out in the open. We’re glad that what we have started now serves as encouragement for people to help us unravel the truth about the Benitezes.

To the Benitezes, it’s time to own up. There have been claims you have been using PWU as your milking cow and now you are hiding under the proverbial skirts of your faculty, alumni, and students. What you don’t realize is that you are toying with the lives of people. You know that you are bound to bring the school down and you are taking the students along with you.

And as long as you remain heartless, we will remain vigilant – watching and revealing what we know.

This is just the beginning.

How the aristocratic thieves from Taft looted PWU’s coffers dry

Are the Benitezes the real esteemed family that they claim themselves to be? Are they really the protectors of the revered legacy of Philippine Women’s University?

Documents leaked to us tell of a different story. The documents, which purportedly form part of an audit into the transactions of the school’s management over the last decade, details how former PWU Presidents and siblings Amelou Benitez Reyes and Jolly Benitez got involved in dubious activities and transactions that were paid for using funds of the PWU – worth more than P200 million.

What was glaring in the audit findings is this:

20150108_181414

The first item, referred to as “Advances to officers & Employees – ABR,” are in fact the total amount of money released to finance the “special projects” of ABR or, as you probably would have guessed, President Amelou Benitez Reyes. Auditors question why so much amount was disbursed to Ms. Benitez-Reyes in a span of less than three years and these advances had nothing to do with the core services of the school. No one from PWU can provide a straightforward answer.

But everyone who belonged in the PWU community may have an idea where the P99.6 million went – gold digging. Literally. As you know, Ms. Amelou Benitez Reyes does not hide her so-called claim to fame that she was the lover of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. She also would always tell people that she has personal knowledge where Marcos hid the fabled Yamashita Gold in different parts of the Philippines, including Intramuros.

When Amelou Benitez Reyes assumed the presidency of PWU, she wasn’t really concerned about helping the school. What she was interested in was to use the school’s money to finance her treasure hunting activities. Apparently, if she indeed was Marcos’ lover, the late strongman did not love her that much because nothing came out of the digging projects she initiated. What was left was the P100 million missing in PWU’s coffers.

Her brother, Jolly Benitez, a known Marcos crony and former deputy prime minister of Imelda Marcos in the Ministry of Human Settlements, also engaged in highly irregular transactions, not in gold, but in his field of corruption expertise – real estate.

During his stint as PWU president, Jolly Benitez—who is the father of current PWU President Francisco Benitez—immediately activated his two real estate development companies: Mordev Inc. and GAIA Land.

He wasted no time. Jolly Benitez used his company Mordev (Mango Orchard Resource Development Inc.) to broker an agreement with Sta. Lucia Realty, which obliged PWU to pay P20 million to Sta. Lucia as part of the JV.

Worse, Jolly Benitez also used another of his company, GAIA Land, to have PWU purchase a 250-hectare property in Caliraya, Laguna. For this, PWU advanced P88.8 million. Problem was, the purchase did not materialize as the said property was declared forest land and is therefore deemed inalienable. The advance payment was never returned to PWU.

20150108_180224

The P207 million dubious transactions were reportedly the main reasons why the Benitezes applied for a P223 million loan from BDO. That is probably the reason why no improvements in PWU resulted from this loan; it was really meant to cover the mess the siblings Amelou and Jolly got themselves into.

Luckily for the Benitezes, they were able to hide all these when they managed to get the STI group to buy the BDO loan from them. Not only that, they also got about P300 million more from STI for school renovations and upgrades.

Perhaps, the outspoken media bureau head of PWU Lyca Benitez Brown should stop claiming that the Benitezes are the victims in the ongoing issue with STI. What she should be asking her cousins is “where did all that money go?”

Gold diggers or thieves? You be the judge.

Here’s the complete annex of Ms. Amelou’s disbursements being questioned.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Are the Benitezes of PWU the new ‘Balasubas?’

 

There has been a lot of drama going on in Taft recently, particularly in the Philippine Women’s University campus, which was suddenly locked down just this weekend. The decision to close the school came from the PWU management, composed mostly of VPs and managers, whose main qualification for the job is that they have to carry the name “Benitez” either in the middle name or preferably their family name.

They are led by the school president named—surprise, surprise – Francisco Benitez.

If you must know, the lockdown order was in response to PWU’s creditor, the STI group, which last December declared the university to be in default of its loan, which has ballooned to P928 million.

Instead of honoring their obligations, the Benitezes opted to cover everything up with this telenovela plot: The legacy of the 96-year-old university is being attacked by the STI group. They hid and continue to hide behind students, faculty, parents, and alumni who had no idea what really led to this situation.

In the interest of public service, we are taking a deeper look into the PWU issue and how the Benitez family practically threw the school in this sorry state.

The so-called death of PWU did not start last December. In reality, it was already in a virtual ICU back in 2011. During the time, the school was in deep crisis as its original creditor, BDO, was close to defaulting PWU’s loan worth P223 million.

This P223 million loan with BDO was supposed to be used for improvements in the school, such as building improvement, computerization, and purchase of facilities. For reasons known only to the Benitezes, the money was gone and the school remained a veritable dump. Elevators had no elevator shafts, the roof was leaking, windows were broken, computers were part of the 90s era, and the electrical wiring was almost as old as the school, making the place a complete fire accident waiting to happen.

Even its basic education school, the Jose Abad Santos Memorial School in Quezon City, was in the same decrepit state. The young pupils and students were constantly at risk of getting leptospirosis because rains would raise water levels in the nearby creek, leaving the grounds and classrooms flooded for days.

Personnel was also a complete mess. The school offered an early retirement program, but it did not have the funds to pay for the retirees. It was also paying the hefty salaries of 15 deans, even though enrollees were not enough to sustain these many colleges.

So where did the P223 million go? Your guess is as good as mine.

This is the reason why back in 2011, every financial institution that the Benitezes went to gave them a glaring REJECT stamp. No one was willing to cough up money to a poorly managed school.

PWU was ready to announce its closure, until the STI group came along. Its chairman, Mr. Eusebio Tanco, wanted to preserve the legacy of Asia’s first school for women. He was willing to enter as a white knight to PWU’s problem.

But first, the Benitezes have to shape up. Finances must be put in order and the school must transform to become more competitive, especially in terms of facilities. The Benitizes were, of course, all Amens.

Long story short, STI group bought the BDO loan. BDO, in return assigned to STI all rights, titles, and interest of the PWU loan, including the undated letters of irrevocable resignation of the PWU board, which essentially says that they are willing to leave in case of a loan default.

It was a marriage made in heaven. Not only did STI save the Benitzes from its BDO loan, Mr. Tanco’s group loaned more money. The Benitezes got P198 million and another P70 million which they promised to use for renovation and upgrade of the schools. Another P26 million was also loaned to PWU for payment for the benefits of its retired employees. It was a Benitez dream that STI funded and it cost more than P500 million

The Benitezes promised STI that the loan would be paid either via shares of stocks or cash. Since the Benitezes had no money to begin with, they promised STI that they would allocate 40 percent of total shares to Mr. Tanco’s group. To make this possible, PWU – though Unlad – would raise its capitalization from P20 million to P1.2 billion to allow the fresh money to be paid through stocks.

However, the stocks that was supposed to pay the loan never happened. Three years after the dream deal, the Benitezes kept coming up with excuses to delay the assignment of stocks to STI. The Benitezes suddenly wanted to file for divorce as Conrad Benitez, in a meeting last December 5, 2014, said the Benitez family wants to discontinue the partnership.

It was a classic Benitez move. After sweet talking many debtors and investors, the family would find a way to get out of their agreements, then they would be on the lookout for new groups to make promises to. They pulled off the same scheme with Jardine Land (when the Benitezes wanted to turn all of its JASMS property on QC into a mall), with Metrobank, and with BDO.  It was almost a modus operandi.

The Benitezes, in a statement by its media bureau head named (once more) Lyca Benitez Brown, said the family would find a way to pay its loan to STI—which has already ballooned to P928 million. They just want more time and better terms.

How exactly the Benitezes will pay is beyond anyone’s comprehension. No bank would want to deal with them because they are simply unbankable. They cannot use money from tuition because enrollment from its PWU campus has gone down from 12,000 in the 1990s to 2,000 today. Combined post graduate and JASMS enrollment is also barely 2,000.

Now, the Benitizes are going to the streets shouting “Save PWU!”

Save it from what? Certainly not from STI, which only wanted to preserve the legacy and improve the PWU schools. If students, faculty, parents, and alumni really want to save the venerable institution, it should not go far in waging war against the forces that are out to destroy the school. In all likelihood, the real enemies may lie within.

As kids, we were taught by our parents and teachers to honor our obligations. Filipinos in particular takes this value as “palabra de honor.” In fact, we Filipinos have a particular term for people who renege on their promises, especially when it comes to money.

We call them “Balasubas.”