Disputes

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


MANY disputes are not symmetrical.

One party claims to have been wronged and the other party says very little.

A topical example is that of Globe Asiatique Realty Holding Corp. (GA) headed by Delfin Lee.

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Numerous complainants have said that they entered into an agreement with GA, paid money according to the agreement, and then found that they have not obtained what they paid for.

We had a similar experience some years ago when we paid for a single premium life assurance policy advertised and marketed by Philamlife through its Bancassurance partner BDO where we banked at the time.

Although we paid for the policy we never received it despite making urgent representations over many weeks to both BDO and Philamlife.

Perhaps we were naive but trusted our surroundings. We did not expect to be cheated on our own bank’s premises.

Eventually, Philamlife deigned to give us a partial refund, withholding a hefty P50,000 which it obtained by doing absolutely nothing except causing us stress.

[GA clients are having the same experience. After paying much money, they cannot get what they paid for yet cannot get their own money back without incurring outrageous penalties].

It is very important in the fight against corruption that such cases are dealt with properly.

In our situation, we were unable to get any sense from Bacolod City Prosecutor’s Office which did not concur with our recommendation that further investigation was needed in order to fully understand what went wrong.

At the time we also made representations to the office of BDO’s Chairman Teresita Sy-Coson. This office requested Philamlife to provide the timeline of our failed transaction. Philamlife gave a blustering reply which did not answer BDO’s straightforward question. Where I come from, requests from the Chairman are treated with diligence and respect. This is not the case with our financial services sector where even Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Insurance Commission are treated with disdain.

In the GA case it is important that the whole truth emerges. This enables us to understand what happened to GA clients so that what is alleged to have happened to them does not happen to others. A small step in the fight against corruption is made.

Delfin Lee will, hopefully, spill the beans at a Senate inquiry this week. GA may have cheated its clients but there is also the allegation that he, in connivance with housing officials, defrauded the Pag-Ibig Fund of P6.6 billion.

A further interesting feature of the GA case is that it has been reported that Delfin Lee has “opted for mediation” which is scheduled for May 9.

How can Lee “opt for mediation”? Mediation requires acceptance from both parties. Lee cannot unilaterally decide that he will take part in a mediation process.

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A frequent problem in the Philippines, with its highly stratified society, is that in many disputes, one party sees himself in the ascendancy and tries to treat the other party, often the wronged party, as a mere supplicant. We see this with GA and Philamlife/BDO.

Mediation is sometimes proposed as a mechanism to resolve disputes. This requires a modicum of goodwill from both parties which is often sadly lacking. Mediation rarely works.

It is vital to the efficacy of the mediation process that the objectives are clearly defined and agreed. Those responsible for mediation must insist that they are presiding over a level playing field. There are no superiors and no subordinates in the mediation process.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 09, 2014.

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