Press triumphs over evils of Winston F. Garcia

Press triumphs over evils of Winston F. Garcia


By BERTENI "TOTO" CATALUÑA CAUSING



New Year, the 59th, starts with a good note for the National Press Club.  Too telling why the NPC is a definition of press freedom.
In front of the backdrop of the NPC theme I conceptualized: "NPC@59:WE DEIFNE"

First, it wins all its cases that have put the Club in a quagmire of doubt and fears five years ago caused by then oppressive President and CEO of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), whose agenda even went beyond his ugly head.

He filed cases, left and right, criminal and administrative, against the officers of the NPC during the term of 2006 to 2008 and against members in the form of libel charges.

He vanished with his chief patron, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but he is situated now better than his boss.  While she has been eating plunder and election sabotage cases left and right, he is sitting in one of the most coveted board seats of San Miguel Corp., which could have been related to his decision to sell to SMC all the shares of stocks of the GSIS with Meralco in a highly-questionable manner.

Nevertheless, all the too-important cases of the NPC with the Court of Appeals established a firmer foothold: ensuring never again that the Club will be debased by assaults that diminished to some extent its strength to fight for press freedom.

The latest triumph over evil came when the Court of Appeals rebuked the theory of the GSIS that the officers of the NPC for the 2006-2008 term were thieves. To the contrary, the CA penned that just is just: one cannot steal his own money.

Second, the “blood money” that has been the focus of all these cases have finally found a blood bank that will give true life to the pen men and air men through giving them houses they could call home while at the same time showing a face of assurance of preservation and growth for the blood to be added with more blood of press freedom fighters to found a new blood bank that will give more leases on life for more journalists.

Imagine journalists without blood, or some who have but are anemic. Can they write well to the expectations of the society they serve for information on matters of public interest?

Going simpler and direct to the details, let it begin from the beginning.

In December 2006, the Board of the NPC, led by Mr. Roy C. Mabasa as the president and Mr. Benny D. Antiporda as the vice-president presided over a grave problem on how to deal with the Vicente Manansala mural painted on a canvass of lawanit nailed to a lumber frame running parallel to Pasig River beside the building.  The grains were falling and there was no hope it can be arrested: the restoration bid ran to almost two million pesos. 

The ultimate remedy beckoned: To sell.

The search for better sale than the standing P10-million proposal began and ended after a period. No better offer came. The Board was compelled to seal. In 2006, the mural was taken carefully without any damage to the painting or to the wall and the buyer paid in full.

Early in 2007, many amongst the olds and “conservatives” cried out, without giving a thought that some of the blame should be on them why the mural decayed or why they say the Club decayed.  But they have not done anything to arrest what they call “decay.”  They don’t care to regret the decay that they caused.

The GSIS joined the fray, upon the urging of some of the “olds” who call themselves “pure” NPC members.  They call the young ones who hold the reins as “impure”; but how do you call those who caused them to be “impure”?    

So the GSIS and these olds called the board members “thieves” for selling the mural.  So that this law-created firm whose mandate is to attend to the welfare of the retirees from the government service filed a case of qualified theft against the directors. 

Its head, Winston F. Garcia, used power and influence to cause the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila that was lacking in balls to file a case of estafa in court, in defiance of the time-honored rule that only an air-tight evidence can justify a filing of a criminal case in court to justify sacrificing the presumption of innocence in favor of the prejudice of warrants of arrest and trial that are so stressing and shaming.

But good will never triumph over evil by sitting by.

So the directors who were—and are—young did not take comfort from Edmund Burke’s never-dying statement, “For evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” 

Not minding the criticisms that could bring worst of the names for them, these directors believed more in this: “For evil to triumph is for good men to do not enough.” 

And so they fought back with passion and extraordinary courage. And the evil is now crushed.  The rest is history.

The NPC won the case before the Department of Justice that ruled there was no crime of theft or estafa that was committed by the NPC directors.

The DOJ ordered the Manila prosecutor to withdraw the case from the RTC of Manila that, in response, conducted a hearing on whether to approve its motion to withdraw the information.  Until today, the RTC is yet to decide on whether to terminate the case or not.

The evil fought back. It cannot accept reason.

So that it challenged the ruling of the DOJ before the Court of Appeals, which only affirmed the ruling that there was no case. 

Yet the story is not about to end. The GSIS manifested it will file a motion for reconsideration to present new arguments how can the directors of the NPC be considered thieves when what they sold, the mural, was sold by them in the name of the Club and the proceeds went to the Club’s bank account and used for its own purposes.

To understand what the GSIS is fighting for, this is their theory.

The GSIS owns the NPC building and the land upon which it stands by virtue of its purchase of the real property during the public auction conducted by the Manila City Treasurer’s Office on April 15, 1975 and the fact that the NPC failed to redeem the property in one year. 

So that the GSIS insists that whoever owns the building also owns the Manansala mural, arguing that the painting was intentionally destined by the building owner to be a permanent part of the NPC building, borrowing from Article 415 of the Civil Code.  And since the GSIS now owns the building, the GSIS also owned the painting.

The NPC countered that the Manansala mural was movable. The fact that it was removed by the buyer in December 2006 without causing destruction to the painting or the building, it means that the NPC of old did not intend to make the painting a permanent part of the building.

Additionally, the NPC insisted it remained the owner of the NPC building by virtue of Letters of Instruction No. 500 issued on January 28, 1977 by then President Marcos, invoking his emergency powers under Amendment No. 6 to the 1973 Constitution that said: If the National Assembly or Batasang Pambansa cannot act on matters deemed urgent the President can pass a law, in the form of a decree, proclamation, executive order or letter of instructions.

The DOJ and the Court of Appeals fully concurred with the NPC arguments.

Aside from the criminal case, the GSIS also filed a case seeking to evict the NPC from its house, the NPC building. 

The Club lost in the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 22, but won in insisting that the Club cannot be compelled to pay for the use of the building and the land to prevent implementation of the said decision. 

The NPC appealed and the RTC of Manila, Branch 19, reversed the MeTC’s decision, anchoring on LOI No. 500 that commands the GSIS to donate the real property to the NPC.   The GSIS argued that the land title showing the GSIS as the owner cannot be collaterally attacked.  But the RTC rebuked it by saying it cannot also collaterally attack the law, LOI No. 500.

The GSIS appealed to the Court of Appeals.  That is why it got another rebuke from another division of the CA that declared that the complaint of the GSIS was poorly done that it failed to state a cause of action based on its claim that it tolerated the NPC to use the property and that they already withdrew that tolerance. 

The appellate court clearly lectured the GSIS that it did not state in its complaint any overt or clear act of how tolerance was given before the NPC occupied the building. 

This ruling of the CA favored the argument of the NPC stating: How can the GSIS withdraw tolerance when before the NPC started using the real property the GSIS did not give tolerance from the start? How can you withdraw nothing? 

Undaunted by this defeat, the evil went to the Supreme Court. The NPC is confident the triumph over evil will be preserved until the end of the fight.

The GSIS also filed a case for a recovery of personal property, seeking for the court to order the surrender the mural to the GSIS.  The Pasay RTC granted the motion of the NPC to summarily adjudge the case and ordered the GSIS to implement LOI No. 500. 

The GSIS questioned the Pasay RTC decision and another CA division ruled that the GSIS has never owned the mural. The GSIS never relented that it filed a motion for reconsideration. But the NPC is confident that the ruling will still declare that the NPC owned the mural until it was sold. 

The only good thing for the GSIS in this case is that it succeeded for the CA to rule that it was premature for the RTC of Pasay to order the implementation of LOI No. 500 because the Club did not pay a filing fee and that there are some issues yet that need to be threshed out in a trial. 

To this, the Club argued: there is no need to pay for the filing fee because the claim is a direct challenge and intimately connected to the claim of the GSIS; and that there is no need for trial because the only issues left are answerable by the court as these involved only interpretation, construction and application of laws.

The RTC of Manila handling the criminal case, upon the other hand, is yet to approve or deny the prosecutor’s request to withdraw the case against the same NPC directors.

After seeing great success in all these cases revolving around the proceeds from the sale of Manansala Mural, the NPC is now assured that the P6-million that remained thereof would be rolled over to produce houses for the journalists while getting back the money at the end of the project with modest returns ready for a new housing program.
The model of the NPC Village houses on Pulilan, Bulacan

For the skeptics and the naïve amongst the NPC members to be assured that the invested money will not go to naught, these are the material clauses and security features of the NPC Village housing project embodied in a joint venture memorandum:

1.      The owner of the land valued a little less than P4 million committed the real property to be constructed with 48 houses;

2.      The land is located beside NLEX near Pulilan Exit, a high ground that was not even soaked when waters submerged Calumpit and Hagonoy towns in Bulacan province;

3.      The NPC committed P6 million to build all these houses on a rolling scheme and that these houses shall be awarded to journalists whose loans were approved immediately by the Pag-Ibig;

4.      Right after building the first 11 houses, these shall be fast-tracked to be given right away to the members whose loans shall be processed by the NPC itself as part of the partnership agreement with the Pag-Ibig;

5.      Thereafter, the Pag-Ibig releases the payments for the houses to the NPC and the members could pay the amortization in the average of P5,000 a month, more or less, and they could chose even up to 40 years to pay to reduce further the monthly payments, depending on what is the difference between 70 years minus their actual age at the time of the loan approval;

6.      The payments of the Pag-Ibig that will not go beyond two weeks shall then by used by the NPC for the next phase of the NPC Village;

7.      The process repeats until all the 48 houses are built and awarded to the NPC members;

8.      At the end of the project, the NPC gets back all its P6-million capital and the landowner gets the amount equivalent to the lot, while the excess shall be the small profit that would go to the Club, ready for new housing projects aimed at empowering the journalists to be more independent in their work;

9.      To assure the project is implemented, the contract calls for the release of the P6-million fund by installments of P3-million each and the next P3-million will not be released until the works for the particular phase are not commensurate to the earlier P3-million that was released, thereby compelling the contractor to use up first the P3-million before getting another P3-million;

10.  As an added security feature, the contractor was required to post a surety bond of P3 million to be taken by the NPC if the contractor fails in any part in any phase thereof; and

11.  Moreover, all the three parties—the contractor, the NPC and the landowner—shall become the surety of each, that in case one of them decides to withdraw from the project the two who remain will complete the same.

Indeed, it is a good note. Happy Anniversary to all NPC members.
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