SC allows heir to settle GSIS housing loan left by fallen military pilot

MANILA. Facade of the Supreme Court in Manila.
MANILA. Facade of the Supreme Court in Manila.File photo

THE Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that the heir of a Philippine Air Force combat pilot who died in the line of duty may be allowed to settle the deceased soldier’s outstanding socialized housing loan to avoid foreclosure.

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, the Supreme Court’s Third Division ruled that Felimon C. Torres, the brother and sole heir of military pilot Dominador dela Cena Torres Jr., may apply for a restructuring of the soldier’s outstanding housing loan with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

In granting Felimon’s petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45, the Court stressed that more than others, “the socialized guarantee of security is most required by Filipinos who serve in the military and allied forces -- they who stand in uniform, daily put their lives on the line and protect our lives and liberties, often at the cost of theirs.”

“[T]he assurance of dignity of a shelter to come home to is earned, even deserved, by those who all too often have to leave their lives behind and march towards the threat of their early graves at a moment’s notice,” said the court.

In 1979, Dominador acquired, under a Deed of Conditional Sale, a low-cost housing unit in Soldiers’ Hills Village, Muntinlupa City, secured by a housing loan from the GSIS, payable through salary deductions.

Less than a year later, Dominador died when his helicopter crashed while on a mission in Mindanao.

Dominador, who was single and without children, died without a will. When his parents died in 1986 and 1997, his brother Felimon was left as his sole heir.

The GSIS Quezon City Branch Office, uninformed of Dominador’s death, later sent a Notice of Foreclosure/Cancellation to his address for failure to pay the amortizations.

Felimon challenged this, claiming that the property must be consolidated in his name under GSIS’s Sales Redemption Insurance (SRI) policy. The SRI guarantees the full settlement of the loan balance in case of the borrower’s death within the loan term.

Felimon nevertheless expressed his willingness to pay the outstanding balance should the GSIS rule that the loan is not covered by the SRI.

The GSIS denied Felimon’s claims and canceled the Deed of Conditional Sale, demanding that the occupants vacate the property.

This was affirmed by both the GSIS Board of Trustees (Board) and the Court of Appeals.

However, the SC ruled that Felimon, as Dominador’s sole heir, may apply for a restructuring of the soldier’s outstanding loan. The case was remanded to the GSIS Board to determine the loan payment restructuring.

While the Court held that the housing loan was not covered by the SRI as the insurance premium had not been paid, Felimon can nevertheless avail himself of loan restructuring under GSIS Resolution 48.

Under the resolution, the legal heirs of deceased housing loan borrowers with remaining unpaid balances may avail of remedies under the GSIS’s Housing Loan Remedial and Restructuring Program.

While the program was implemented only from 2013 to 2014, it should remain applicable to Felimon as his non-recourse to the program’s remedies was not his fault since, during the implementation period, his Motion for Reconsideration was pending before the GSIS Board.

This interpretation is consistent with the GSIS Board’s mandate to “expand the social security net that must capture and cushion the impact of life’s contingencies on Filipinos within the sphere of public service.” (PR)

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