THE Securities and Exchange Commission has lodged criminal complaints against Organico Agribusiness Ventures Corp. and its officers before the Department of Justice.
And since they perpetrated their illegal deeds through the Internet, the officers face penalties that are one degree higher than what is prescribed by the Securities Regulation Code.
On Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, the Commission filed criminal complaints against Organico along with its president Cerrone Roial Posas, corporate finance officer Marve Subere Posas, corporate secretary Anthony Butaslac, and members of the board of directors Renato Subong and Karen Maasin, for violation of Sections 8, 26.3 and 28 of Republic Act 8799, known as the Securities Regulation Code (SRC).
The SEC also charged its agents and representatives, Kathleen Hortesano, Rochelle Camacho and Annielyn O. Hilotin for acting as salesmen of Organico by directly offering and selling securities to the investing public.
The Commission found that Organico’s scheme involves assurances that the money invested amounting to P3,600 would become P6,000 after 90 days or a return of 66.67 percent without having to do anything other than investing and receiving the promised payment from Organico.
Based on the report of the SEC Enforcement and Investor Protection Department (EIPD), Organico has been operating in Ormoc City, Leyte; Toril, Davao City; Cebu City; and Quezon City.
The news did not sit well with Kylle (real name withheld) of Cebu City, who had invested at least P50,000 in Organico.
“Quits na jud ni padung diay? Makaingon ko ba nga ma quits na jud hinoon kay naa may kaso (The chances of getting our money back are ending? It looks that way since there is already a case),” he said on learning of the charges filed against Organico.
Even though the company already missed payment schedules in June, July and August, he had remained optimistic that he could still receive his money and its interest.
“In our group chat, we are almost 20 under an agent named ‘David.’ We were told that we would receive the promised payout by the third week of September. But there was also a commotion there that if they (company) would still miss paying us, we would bring it out to the public,” he said in Cebuano.
He said he was not worried then, as they were promised that their “agent” was close to Organico’s management.
He also said they were warned that should they opt to get a refund of their investment, it would be given to them but this would take a long time.
“We were told that if we kept our money with the firm, they would include us in the new investment firm they were planning to put up. They warned that if we pulled out our investment, we would never be allowed to invest in the firm again,” he said in Cebuano.
The SEC posted a public advisory last May 21, stating that Organico is not authorized to offer, sell or distribute any investment/securities for lack of a secondary license.
It also issued a cease and desist order (CDO) on May 28 against Organico along with its president, partners, officers, directors, agents, representatives, conduits and assigns, from engaging in activities of selling and/or offering for sale securities in the form of investment contracts.
On May 31, the SEC EIPD ordered the revocation of Organico’s Certificate of Registration for serious misrepresentation as to what the corporation can do or is doing to the great prejudice or damage to the general public.
On June 11, on the strength of search warrants issued by 1st Vice Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Marivic Balisi-Umali of Branch 20, the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the SEC raided Organico’s principal office and its various branches.
Yet, Organico has continued to operate its investment scheme, the SEC said in a statement last Sept. 11.
The investment scheme publicly offered and sold by Organico falls within the definition of securities and investment contract under section 3.1 of the Securities Regulation Code.
Section 8 of the SRC—in relation to Rule 3.1.17 of the 2015 SRC Rules on what constitutes a “public offer” of securities to include those made through information communications technology such as the internet—is clear that no securities shall be offered, sold or distributed to the public without a registration statement duly filed with and approved by the Commission.
Since the offer and sale of investment contracts by the respondents were facilitated and perpetrated through the use of social media networking and video-sharing websites, in particular Facebook and YouTube, the penalty to be imposed should be one degree higher than what is prescribed by the SRC.
Section 6 of Republic Act 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, provides for the imposition of a penalty one degree higher than that provided by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and special laws if the crime or offense was committed by, through, and with the use of information and communication technologies. (PR, WBS)