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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Nalzaro: Was MCIAA lot deal overpriced?

THIS is a development to our expose several weeks ago regarding the multi-million lot deal of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA). Was the purchase of the lot by MCIAA from the Pulvera/Patalingjug heirs overpriced? And if, indeed, it was, who benefitted from that deal?

These questions surfaced after the siblings of the lot owners, who are now in disagreement, are questioning each other as to the actual amount received by the heirs from MCIAA on the purchase of the 42,000 -square-meter property in Barangays Bankal and Buaya in Lapu-Lapu City, which used to be occupied by the defunct Air Transportation Office (ATO).

The Pulvera/Patalingjug heirs were able to reconstitute the property after the ATO turned it over to the MCIAA upon the creation of the latter’s charter in the ‘90s. After a protracted legal battle at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Lapu-Lapu City, the heirs won, with MCIAA appealing the case.

While the case was pending before the Court of Appeals, a series of negotiations for possible settlement was held between the heirs headed by Eduardo Pulvera Patalinghug and MCIAA officials headed by General Manager Paul Nigel Villarete.

Both parties agreed to a one-time payment of P590 million with the approval of the Office the Solicitor General.

The payment was done sometime last June when President Rodrigo Duterte was about to assume office. This, despite the opposition of one Anatalia Booc, who claimed to have a “valuable interest” in the property.

Booc, who sought my help in exposing this “questionable deal,” claimed that while the case was pending before the RTC, the Pulvera/Patalinghug heirs sought her financial support for the recovery of the property. She extended financial help with the agreement that she would be given 1/8 of the proceeds once the heirs won the case, There is a judicial declaration to the agreement.

But during the negotiations, Booc was not included until the payment was consumated. This, despite her series of letters to Villarete and the MCIAA board. She sought the assistance of the ombudsman and court intervention to hold the payment in abeyance. But it was too late. The heirs already received and divided the money.

But the latest twist is that the heirs and their siblings are questioning each other over the exact payment received. The exact payment was P590 million but sources said the amount received by the lot owners was only P200 million. If, indeed, this is true, who got the P390 million? Sources said that during the negotiations, the heirs were agreeable to settle at P7,000 per square meter but it was MCIAA officials who insisted that they can settle it at P14,000 per square meter. That is why the amount ballooned to P590 million.

Banking on some documents he obtained from Mrs. Booc and on the series of columns I wrote about the matter, self-styled anti-graft crusader Eng. Cris Saavedra asked President Duterte, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to investigate the deal to determine if there was any anomaly. Saavedra furnished me an audio recording apparently taken from a cellular phone conversation between a male and a female who were knowledgeable of the deal. I presumed the male voice belonged to one of the “financiers” of Mrs. Booc while the female (name withheld) is a relative of the heirs who claimed that the lot owners only received P200 million.

In the conversation, the duo mentioned some personalities who took part in the deal. A known politician from Cebu City was mentioned while some were MCIAA officials and lawyers. Some private citizens, presumably “real estate brokers,” were also mentioned. Also mentioned was the one who reportedly got a big share of the deal. I have their names, but I won’t divulge their identities because I don’t have enough evidence that indeed money changed hands.

I am not accusing anybody of committing any irregularity. But I smell something fishy about this multi-million deal. I think this is really worth looking into by proper authorities to determine if indeed there is anomaly in this transaction. Culprits should be made to answer.

(bobby@sunstar.com.ph)
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