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?