LAND SCAM: Is PRCI board trying to hide something?

Another real-estate-scam-in-the-making being done by the Malaysian scammers.

Is PRCI board trying to hide something?

By Neal Cruz
Last updated 01:49am (Mla time) 08/27/2007

MANILA, Philippines – Last August 8, this column reported an emerging scam in the attempt of the Malaysian-led majority members of the board of the Philippine Racing Club, Inc. (PRCI) to swap the PRCI’s 26-hectare Sta. Ana racetrack worth 12 billion (that’s billion) with a P25-million moribund firm called JTH Davies Holdings.

Minority shareholders, who have been kept in the dark about the deal, asked for full disclosure of the details and documentation on the proposed exchange of properties. But the majority and management denied the requests. So the minority shareholders went to court which then issued a temporary restraining order on the deal and a subpoena duces tecum to the management to show to the minority shareholders all the documents pertaining to the two deals. The Malaysian-led faction of the board then filed a motion to quash the subpoena with the Court of Appeals. Obviously, the Malaysian faction is bent on preventing the minority shareholders from gaining access to information regarding “business transactions.”

The row has opened a Pandora’s box of violations of corporation laws. First, the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) bared that PRCI has breached the constitutional cap of 40 percent foreign ownership following a surge in unregistered foreign holdings in 2005—the year PRCI’s Malaysian-led group bought JTH Davies.

The row also brought into full view the personalities representing the Malaysian interest in PRCI. And the interesting discovery is that the controversial Datuk Surin Upatkoon a.k.a. Lau Khin Koon of Temasek Holdings fame sits on the board of the racing club. (Read August 8 column.)

The business community’s view is that the row should not have reached this level of intensity if only the Malaysian-led group had simply recognized the rights of the minority.

It seems that the Surin Upatkoon group, which includes the Westmont Investment Corp. (Wincorp) stalwarts led by Santiago Cua Sr. or Cua Sing Huan, failed to recognize the trend toward transparency in the Philippine corporate setting. And part of the move toward greater transparency is the protection of minority shareholder rights.

Cua Sr. is at present honorary chairman of PRCI while son Solomon is president, son Simeon is executive vice president, and son Santiago Jr. is director and treasurer.

There is now a silent revolution of reforms in the Philippine corporate world. Unknown to many, this is an initiative and a collaboration of the Securities and Exchange Commission, PSE, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and other such organizations.

That revolution began with the passage of the Securities Regulation Code (SRC) or Republic Act 8799. The Code set new provisions including the clarification of the scope of insider trading and market manipulation and the protection of minority investors.

Also part of the reforms was an SEC requirement for publicly-listed companies to have a “Manual of Corporate Governance” which guarantees corporate records to be “available for inspection by any stockholder of the corporation at reasonable hours on business days.”

In addition to the SRC, the Corporation Code (CC) also protects minority shareholders. Both the SRC and the CC guarantee the minority’s “right to information and inspection, right to vote, legal process for redress and the right to bring derivative/class action suits.”

This means that when the Filipino shareholders of PRCI asked that they be given full disclosure regarding the purchase of the moribund P25-million JTH Davies Holdings for P450 million, they were merely exercising the right guaranteed by the SRC and the CC.

They were also exercising that right when they asked for full disclosure of the aborted swap deal that would have made the moribund JTH Davies a billionaire firm overnight. And they were exercising the same right when they brought the derivative action against the Surin Upatkoon/Santiago Cua Sr. group.

The reform environment initiated by the SEC, BSP and PSE is the reason the business community tends to view arguments by the lawyers and public relations people of the Malaysian-led group as comic and absurd. The group branded the Filipino shareholders as a “noisy minority” and questioned their move asking for full disclosure. Are the Malaysians aware of the reforms in the corporate world?

These reforms are obviously an offshoot of the Enron and WorldCom scandals that rocked corporate America. The image of senior executives being led away in handcuffs by FBI agents continue to haunt not just the US but the global business world.

The Surin/Cua group has boasted that it has asked the Court of Appeals to quash a subpoena issued by the regional trial court. This legal maneuver can only be viewed as an effort to block full disclosure.

And when one is trying to hide something from the full light of day, the logical question is: “Are they trying to hide something?”

As lawyer Brigido Dulay Jr., a PRCI director representing minority stockholders said, “if the Malaysian-led group has nothing to hide, why are its lawyers going out of their way to quash a court order for them to show the documents related to the deals?”

The lawyers of the Surin/Cua group would do their clients a great service if they are educated on Philippine corporate reforms. This should correct current perceptions regarding both their moves and their principals.

These lawyers should play their cards right. A miscalculation might propel the PRCI now into the local version of the Enron scandal. Transparency would help deter such fate.

For starters, they can help us understand how a P25-million firm could be bought for P450 million and later exchanged for a P12-billion chunk of prime real estate.

The Unbelievable “Heirs of Homer Barque”

Here is another article by Mr. Amado Macasaet which shows that there is some “foul-play” to the anomalous, unbelievable and questionable claims of the “Heirs of Homer Barque” that they realized all-of-a-sudden, after nine long years, that they own the property which the Manotok Family has been living on for decades. Out of the blue, the “Heirs of Homer Barque” (not Homer Barque himself because he never claimed any land), are claiming something that is not theirs but they do not have any “real or genuine” documents to actually prove their claim. It is just a matter of time that someone would file a “falsification of public documents” against these scammers belonging to the “Heirs of Homer Barque” group.

The following article has been taken from here

Where are Barque documents?

In the oral arguments held July 23 on the Manotok land dispute, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Florentino P. Feliciano asked the lawyers of the claimants — the heirs of Homer Barque — where the documents justifying the claim are kept.

The lawyer said he did not know because he was not the original lawyer of the heirs of Barque.

If he does not know, who else would know?

All I know of the case is that the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court which ruled against the Manotoks with finality conveniently ignored the requirement that judicial reconstitution of land titles belongs exclusively to the regional trial court.

The Highest Tribunal, in the pen of Associate Justice Consuelo Santiago, found the Torrens title of the Manotoks sham and spurious.

That, to the nit-wit does not necessarily prove that the title of the Barques’ — lost in a fire in Quezon City in 1988 — is genuine. Important to this case is the fact that the heirs of Barque saw fit to file a claim nine years after their alleged original title was lost in a fire.

On the other hand, there is evidence — like payment of real estate taxes — that the Manotoks have been in possession of the 34-hectare property in Quezon City since 1923.

CONGRATULATIONS to Gerry Peñalosa!

Peñalosa nails RP’s 3rd world title
By Salven Lagumbay
Last updated 04:44am (Mla time) 08/13/2007
SACRAMENTO — Gerry Peñalosa became the third Filipino world champion in two months Saturday, dethroning Mexican WBO bantamweight champion Jhonny Gonzalez with a seventh-round knockout at the Arco Arena here.

Proving to detractors that he still had some fight left in him, the 35-year-old former WBC super flyweight champion put away the Mexican for good with one punch to the body late in the seventh round.

The world title was the third for the country after Florante Condes captured the IBF minimumweight crown and Nonito Donaire seized the IBF flyweight championship early last month.

The impressive 5-1 Philippine victory in Saturday’s RP-Mexico Boxing World Cup, however, was bitter-sweet after Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista lost via a first-round technical knockout to WBO super bantam champ Daniel Ponce De Leon in the main event.

Ponce De Leon, who outpointed Peñalosa last May, knocked down the previously unbeaten Bautista with a left to the face.

The Mexican was going for the kill as the Filipino lay helpless on the ropes after a second knockdown when referee Jon Schorle stopped the bout with 30 seconds left in the round.

Bautista’s loss prevented a sweep for the Filipinos in their duel with the Mexicans.

Z Gorres sealed the World Cup victory by giving the country a fourth win as he stopped ex-WBC champ Eric Ortiz with an eighth-round technical knockout

The night’s first winner was Davao City’s Diosdado Gabi, who prevailed on an eight-round unanimous decision over Jose Angel Beranza.

Michael Domingo followed it up with a six-round unanimous win over previously unbeaten Miguel Roman in their six-round tiff.

AJ “Bazooka” Banal completed the five victories, as he stopped Jorge Cardenas in the third round of their six-rounder.

“Winning the World Cup means the world to us Filipinos,” said Tagbilaran City Mayor Dan Neri Lim, who flew to this city to lead a small contingent of supporters.

Gonzalez was leading on two judges’ scorecards — the third had it even — when Peñalosa connected with a big left to the Mexican’s rib cage in the seventh.

Gonzalez made two steps backward and then crumpled to the canvas.

Gonzalez threw a total of 467 punches — 103 of which landed, while Peñalosa threw 357 punches and only 69 landed. Gonzalez connected on 31 of 248 jabs thrown, while Peñalosa scored only 17 of 162 jabs.

“I have always said that I am going to retire after this fight,” said Peñalosa. “But I am going to still fight if Ponce De Leon wants to fight me again in a rematch.”

Bautista came out of his corner looking for the big punch, possibly in an effort to stop Ponce De Leon early.

Another Land-scam in the making…

Hmmm… it seems that more land-scams are coming out in the open and using “technical legal-looking channels” to appear legitimate. Like the story of the “heirs of Homer Barque” and their outrageous claim to a property that is clearly not theirs, here is another story…. As I See It : RP stockholders may be cheated in P12-B deal

By Neal Cruz

Posted date: August 08, 2007

There were two related stories in the newspapers this week on the corporate sector. The first is the disclosure by the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) of a report by the Philippine Dealing System Holdings Corp. that at least four local corporations have breached the limit set by the Philippine Constitution on the ownership of local publicly listed companies by foreign interests. These are Asian Terminals Inc., Edsa Properties Holdings Inc., Mabuhay Holdings Corp., and Philippine Racing Club Inc. (PRCI), which owns and operates the prime 26-hectare Sta. Ana racetrack in Makati City.

The second story was about the denunciation by its minority stockholders of a sellout of the PRCI to a shell corporation controlled by Malaysians. In fact, it has the appearance of another multibillion-peso scam. The assets of PRCI would be swapped with a company with only a P25-million capitalization called JTH Davies Holdings. The firm has admitted that it has been consistently in the red until 2005 and that it has disposed of all its earning assets.

A P25-million firm without assets would be swapped with the PRCI whose main asset is the 26-hectare racetrack in Makati worth P12 billion. The racetrack is the only big open space left in Makati, and you can put two Rockwell shopping centers in it. That is why land developers are salivating to get their hands on it. That property will be swapped with a shell company with a P25-million capital? There’s something very wrong here.

PRCI is a public corporation whose shares are sold in the Philippine Stock Exchange. It has many small stockholders. At least 25 percent of the shares are held by Filipino minority stockholders. Whatever happens to it is, therefore, of public interest.

The Filipinos objected to the deal for two reasons: (1) they were kept in the dark regarding the transaction, alleging that the Malaysian-led group refused to furnish them with documents and details pertaining to the transaction; and (2) the swap would have taken away from the racing club its most important earning asset, the racetrack.

The Malaysians partnered with the Cua family in PRCI. The Cuas are led by 80-year-old Santiago Sr., who also goes by the name of Cua Sing Huan. His three sons — Santiago Jr., Solomon and Simeon — also own significant holdings and important positions in the racing club. Santiago Sr. is the honorary chair, Solomon is president, Simeon is executive vice president, and Santiago Jr. is a director.

The Malaysian interest in PRCI is represented by the Kuala Lumpur-based Magnum Holdings Berhad, which has four board seats, led by Datuk Surin Upatkoon.

A look at the Internet on the backgrounds of the Cuas and Datuk Surin will send shivers climbing up and down the spines of Filipino shareholders. Santiago Cua Sr. once served as president of Wincorp Corp. Santiago Jr. served as senior executive vice president of the defunct Westmont Bank. Wincorp, it will be recalled, was involved in a giant misadventure in the late 1990s, which saw a lot of companies and business personalities go under. Westmont, on the other hand, went bankrupt and closed down. Many cases filed by investors and depositors are still being tried by the courts.

Datuk Surin Upatkoon, a.k.a. Lau Khin Koon, on the other hand, figured in the Temasek Holdings scandal that rocked the Thai business community and led to the downfall of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Datuk Surin turned out to be the major stockholder of a private firm used in the controversial takeover by Temasek Holdings of Thailand’s Shin Corp. The takeover was the fuse of a major political scandal in Bangkok. Thai politicians accused Datuk Surin of being a “Temasek stooge” or “front.”

The takeover generated overwhelming Thai anger. Thais call the Temasek takeover a “sellout” of their country’s sovereignty. They believe Datuk Surin was the key player in that deal.

The takeover of our own multibillion-peso racing club is very similar to the Temasek takeover. Is Datuk Surin about to do a Temasek on PRCI?

According to the PSE, PRCI breached the limit on foreign ownership in 2005. It was also in 2005 that PRCI led by the Malaysian group purchased the moribund JTH Davies and apparently started preparing the ground for the swap.

It would seem that the Magnum group bought more shares in PRCI in 2005, over the limit of 40 percent. No other foreign group would want to get into PRCI unless it can control the firm, either directly or through local “representatives.” Magnum may have also decided to buy more shares to fund the JTH Davies purchase. Also, Magnum may have decided that it is cheaper to breach the constitutional limit, fund the JTH purchase and then swap its shares with the prized Sta. Ana property rather than directly buy it. JTH Davies is a P25-million firm; Sta. Ana is a P12-billion property.

It is understandable that Filipino shareholders would protest. Take the Sta. Ana racetrack out of PRCI and its share prices will plunge.

There is, therefore, public interest that must be protected here to preserve confidence in the capital market. Filipino minority stockholders must also be protected from becoming victims of an emerging scam.

For most of those who breached the cap, it looks like a simple case of foreign investors wanting to cash in on infrastructure development opportunities in the Philippines. For the racing club, it looks like a scheme for a very cheap way to get hold of a prized real estate.


The Story of The “Heirs of Homer Barque”

Here is the consolidated article in the “Overnight Billionaire” series by Mr. Victor Agustin written as:

Overnight Billionaire

Overnight Billionaire 2

Overnight Billionaire 3

It does not need a Sherlock Holmes, Pink Panther or a regular person to understand what the “Heirs of Homer Barque” are upto. Ms. Teresita Barque-Hernandez has a small real-estate company and all of a sudden just woke up and realized that her father owned a multi-billion piece of property. But Mr. Homer Barque, now deceased, never told anyone that he owned the property and he never even entered the property. Most likely, Mr. Homer Barque has not even seen the property which his “Heirs” claim to be his.

Enjoy these articles:

Overnight Billionaire
By Victor Agustin
Last updated 00:49am (Mla time) 07/21/2006

Published on Page B5 of the July 21, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE Supreme Court has made a litigant an overnight billionaire, and Justice Antonio Carpio is wincing from his colleagues’ decision.

The case involves a 34-hectare piece of property right behind the Ayala Heights subdivision in Quezon City, whose title, in the name of the long-time settlers, the Manotoks, was effectively invalidated in favor of a new claimant.

The new claimant, a certain Teresita Barque-Hernandez, said to be a daughter of the late Homer L. Barque, surfaced in 1996, claiming that their copy of the land title had been destroyed in the City Hall fire of 1988.

The long and the short of it is that, last December, the Supreme Court’s First Division, then chaired by outgoing Chief Justice Hilario Davide, not only upheld the reconstitution of the Barque title but also cancelled the Manotok title.

The First Division also modified the Land Registration Authority (LRA) decision that it is up to the Regional Trial Court, as the LRA had wanted, to determine the actual ownership of a disputed property, as had been spelled out in Presidential Decree 1529, the Property Registration Decree.

Ironically, the high court’s decision also effectively set aside the factual basis of a 1984 decision by the same First Division, then chaired by Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, affecting the same 34-hectare property.

The 1984 case, involving a spurned tenancy claim, referred to the findings of the Court of Agrarian Relations that the Balara property was donated by Severino Manotok in 1946 to his eight children and two grandchildren.

The 1984 decision even noted that the Manotok heirs in 1950 used the property as their capital contribution to form the still-existing Manotok Realty Inc.

The Manotok heirs include Rosita Go, the wife of banker Edward Go, and the family of retired general Mamerto Bocanegra, who lives in the sprawling compound.

Nothing is known about Barque-Hernandez, except that she uses a No. 9 Pluto St., Greenland Village, Rosario, Pasig City, address, and that her counsel is also Joseph Estrada’s counsel, former fiscal Jose Flaminiano.

According to court records, the late Barque not only had a duplicate Transfer Certificate of Title but also real estate tax receipts and tax declarations. Five years of accumulated real estate taxes were allegedly paid in one lump sum, shortly before filing the 1996 claim.

It is not immediately clear why, since 1946, when the Manotok patriarch transferred the Balara land title to his heirs, Barque or his representative(s) never attempted to take legal or physical possession of any portion of the 34-hectare rolling land, and did it only in 1996.

In his dissenting opinion, which incidentally is longer than the opinion of decision author Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Carpio noted not only the flip-flopping findings of the LRA but also the Court of Appeals, having reversed itself in invalidating the Manotok title.

Carpio’s position is that, although the LRA may reconstitute the land title, ownership of the disputed property must still be determined in a full-blown trial before the Regional Trial Court, and not the appellate court and now the Supreme Court assuming “equity distribution” over the case, “when the law,” Carpio added, “has not granted such jurisdiction.”

But the First Division is steadfast in its ruling, saying it would be “needlessly circuitous” to remand the case to the Regional Trial Court after the LRA and two Court of Appeals divisions had already ruled the Manotok title as invalid.

“Basic is the rule that factual findings of agencies exercising quasi-judicial functions are accorded not only respect but even finality, aside from the consideration that this court is essentially not a trier of facts,” said the First Division, as it again denied a renewed appeal from the Manotoks to bring the case for review by the entire Supreme Court.

“Without such authority, the LRA would be a mere robotic agency clothed only with mechanical powers.” To stop their ejectment, the Manotoks have filed an adverse claim with the LRA and Register of Deeds, although it is not clear if that can stop the writ of possession that Barque-Hernandez had already reportedly obtained.

Almost one and a half times the size of the University of Santo Tomas campus, the contested property, at a conservative estimate of P5,000 a square meter, is easily worth P1.7 billion. Except for the dozen houses built by the Manotok heirs, the property remains a “rolling, forestall land,” hardly changed since 1912, when the Manotok patriarch was said to have first laid claim on the land.

Overnight Billionaire 2

By Victor Agustin

Last updated 05:59am (Mla time) 07/24/2006

Published on page B2 of the July 24, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IT IS BEGINNING TO LOOK LIKE mischievous spirits have run circles around the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, causing the learned justices to award the 34-hectare Manotok compound behind Ayala Heights, Quezon City, to an unknown claimant.

Read Cocktales, July 21, 2006, for background and then consider these:

A realtor-wife of a Caloocan City Regional Trial Court judge had been selling lots and bringing prospective buyers to the P1.7-billion compound even while the case was still being heard by the Court of Appeals.

The realtor-wife and the judge happen to be neighbors of the “overnight billionaire,” Teresita Barque-Hernandez, of 9 Pluto St., Greenland Village, Rosario, Pasig City.

The Greenland Village house that Barque-Hernandez uses is not registered in her name–a detective agency found out that she is merely renting the property–despite her claim to the 34-hectare property and presumably other inheritance.

A check with the Bureau of Internal Revenue showed no tax account number has been issued to Barque-Hernandez. No employment history or business affiliation is known about her, except that she is being represented by Erap counsel, former Fiscal Jose Flaminiano.

The Register of Deeds of Quezon City who had initially resisted issuing duplicate papers to support the Barque-Hernandez claim was transferred to Cebu under duress.

The administrator of the Land Registration Authority, Reynaldo Maulit, under whose tenure the Manotok title was cancelled, is now the lawyer of another private individual who had obtained a title to and is now claiming the 30-hectare Los Baños compound of the Department of Science and Technology.

And, in a sign of–to be polite about it–judicial inadvertence, both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court’s First Division were unaware that the ownership of the same 34-hectare property had already been upheld in favor of the Manotok family by the Supreme Court way back in July 1984 under GR L-62626.

The Manotok lawyer who appeared in and won that 1984 case is now a Supreme Court justice, Romeo Callejo Sr. Callejo was with the Second Division and apparently was not consulted on the case when the First Division handed down the controversial ruling shortly before last Christmas.

Just last month, a certain lawyer Lito Abrogar, allegedly with Ayala Land, e-mailed a proposal to banker Edward Go, claiming that a client of his, not Barque-Hernandez, owns the 34-hectare compound and offered P35 million to the Manotoks to ally against Barque-Hernandez.

In return, the Manotoks would give up their claim to their property in favor of the Abrogar client, and would be allowed to continue living in the property for the duration of the court case, this time against Barque-Hernandez.

(Correction: The first name of banker Edward Go’s wife, another Manotok heiress, is Pacita, not Rosita, as had been reported in Friday’s column.)

Overnight billionaire 3

By Victor Agustin
Last updated 00:07am (Mla time) 07/31/2006
ERAP counsel Jose Flaminiano furnished some biographical data on his “overnight billionaire” client, whose claim on the 34-hectare Manotok compound in Diliman has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

According to Flaminiano, the lucky litigant, Teresita Barque-Hernandez, is a retired teacher who owns the Pasig house that she lives in, contrary to information furnished to Cocktales in previous columns.

In 2003, Barque-Hernandez put in P62,500 as paid-up capital to form a real estate company for the urban poor, with proper SEC and BIR papers to boot.

Flaminiano also traced the provenance of Barque-Hernandez–Cocktales has several photos of the alleged Barque-Hernandez bungalow, showing its rusted roof and makeshift garage–but, unfortunately, the learned counsel failed to answer the most crucial question of all: When and how much did his client acquire the multibillion-peso, 34-hectare property?

Bre-X’s Felderhof found not guilty

Bre-X’s Felderhof found not guilty

Acquitted on all 12 counts

Peter Brieger
Financial Post

John Felderhof in the photo.
CREDIT: (Photo: CanWest File)
John Felderhof in the photo.

TORONTO — The Ontario Securities Commission said it is considering whether to appeal Tuesday’s verdict in which John Felderhof was found not guilty of insider trading and misleading investors in the multibillion-dollar Bre-X gold fraud.

“We’ll take a look at the decision and see what are options are,” said OSC lawyer Emily Cole, who has worked on the case since it resumed in 2004. “It’s a very important case, a very unique case and a complex set of facts.”
The former Bre-X geologist has been found not guilty of insider trading and issuing false press releases, a decade after the company was exposed as a massive fraud.

Mr. Justice Peter Hryn cleared Mr. Felderhof of all eight charges laid by the OSC in May, 1999.

Regulators allege Mr. Felderhof sold $84-million worth of Bre-X stock based on information not disclosed to the public. He was also charged with four counts of issuing false press releases, which reported growing gold reserve estimates.

Outside the courtroom, Ms. Cole said the OSC may appeal Judge Hryn’s ruling. “We worked very hard,” she told reporters. “We put the evidence before the court. It was the judge’s decision to render.”

“I find Felderhof has proven he took reasonable care,” Judge Hryn told a Toronto courtroom.

Bre-X, a one-time market darling, collapsed in the spring of 1997 after its Busang property was revealed as a fraud, erasing more than $6-billion in shareholder value. At its height, shares in the Calgary company climbed above $280 as investors latched on to reports the company’s mine contained a startling 50 million ounces of gold.

Mr. Felderhof, who lives in Indonesia and did not attended the trial regularly, faced jail time and millions of dollars in fines if convicted.

Joe Groia, Mr. Felderhof’s lawyer, argued that Ontario’s securities regulator could not prove Mr. Felderhof knew the mine was a fake, considering some of the world’s top geological consultants initially signed off on the property.

The OSC answered that argument by saying it didn’t have to prove Mr. Felderhof is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt — as in most criminal trials. Instead, the OSC set out to prove Mr. Felderhof fell short in his duties as an officer and director of the now defunct company.

The Bre-X geologist is the only person who has ever been taken to trial over his alleged role in the fraud: Company founder David Walsh died in 1998 and geologist Michael de Guzman, who was suspected of masterminding the gold fraud, allegedly threw himself out of a helicopter over the Indonesian jungle in 1997. Last year, reports surfaced that Mr. de Guzman may be hiding out in Brazil.

Mr. Felderhof was also the one who gave final approval to various press releases touting the amount of gold at the mine, the OSC said.

Ontario’s market regulator said it is “not an unreasonable burden” to make company officers and directors responsible for material information that is released to investors.

© Financial Post 2007

Supreme Court shines as beacon of hope

Inquirer 08/01/2007

As a citizen and retired judge, I cannot help but express my thoughts in these troubled times. In what seems to be a bleak and darkening social landscape, bless us all, the luminous and resonant presence of the Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Reynato Puno — a leadership that is brave and bold and benevolent — now fortunately stands tall, its message loud and clear.

Where the other two branches of government seem to be faltering and feckless in their duties and obligations to protect the people from political killings and forced disappearances, the Court has emerged and loomed as a beacon of hope, a true citadel of justice, a sanctuary for people whose civil liberties and inherent rights are under threat.

The purpose of government is to “preserve man, his liberty and property,” “men being by nature all free, equal and independent”; their rights, derived from the “laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” are therefore “inalienable rights,” as the American people’s Declaration of Independence, aptly put it; also “preferred rights” or “enforceable rights,” as the Philippine constitutional law so classifies them.

The call of Chief Justice Puno for the judiciary to exercise its special power (Inquirer, 7/17/07) to protect the basic rights of Filipinos could not but calm the anxieties and fears of the people.

“I shall do that which shall be fit for a judge to do” — one now recalls what Sir Edward Coke, chief magistrate of England in the 17th century, uttered before King James I, when asked whether a judge ought not to first consult the king in a case involving royal prerogative.

Just the same, the executive, led by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and the legislature should continue to busy themselves with promoting the economic rights of the numerous “descamisados” [unclothed] and the powerless.

EDMUNDO H. ESCALANTE, former president, Integrated Bar of the Philippines – Sorsogon Chapter