Sugarcane planters, who have past due accounts with the Philippine National Bank, can pursue the estate of former Ambassador Roberto Benedicto and file claims with the Philippine Commission for Good Government and the Republic of the Philippines, lawyer Roger Reyes said in a press conference Saturday in Bacolod City.
He said PNB, which is now owned by Lucio Tan, is collecting past due accounts of several sugarcane planters with the Republic Planters Bank, amounting to billions.
Reyes, who claimed to be a supporter of the newly formed Movement for Restitution of Plundered Sugar Proceeds, said that some of these planters have approached him for help, and he told them that they can recover from the estate of Benedicto or “RSB”, composed of 24 properties, or also claim from the PCGG where the 36 companies of RSB were surrendered.
He estimates that there is about P5 billion worth of cash, properties and corporations turned over by RSB to the government through the PCGG, including billions in corporations he was able to have released through sequestration, he said.
“I believe the planters can pursue the valuation of these corporations and the cash involved, since the compromise agreement between RSB and PCGG says that private sectors can also claim. In fact, the sugar industry did not receive even a single peso from the settlement with PCGG,” Reyes said.
These assets should be returned to the planters and not to the government, he said.
He also said these companies surrendered and returned from sequestration were based on the agreement with PCGG.
He said that since the sugar planters were not paid the full value of their sugar produce they were not able to pay their loans.
Reyes said the amount estimated by the University of the Philippines School of Economics, about P14 billion were taken from 1974 to 1984 by Philippine Sugar Commission-National Sugar Trading from the sugar producers.
It is not only the Montilla family in Pulupandan affected by these demands of PNB-RPB but hundreds of sugarcane planters are also being pursued by PNB for loans incurred during the Philsucom-Nasutra era, he said.
RSB passed away in 2000 but Reyes said he believes it is still a viable remedy for planters who feel aggrieved, to intervene in his estate and to file claims against PCGG and the Republic of the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Reyes also said the problems facing the sugar industry should be addressed by all stakeholders.*CGS