PAMPANGA, Philippines – For 20 years, Evelyn Niebres dreamed of a house she can call her own. Using her earnings from her milkfish business, she bought a unit at the Xevera Subdivision here for P1.5 million and has been living in it for 5 years. The problem is the house does not belong to her.
Niebres is just one of 162 victims of the so-called double and triple sale of properties of arrested developer Delfin Lee, president of the Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp (GARHC). While they hailed Lee’s arrest last Thursday, the homeowners who sued Lee for syndicated estafa said they will not stop until he is brought to justice for the loss of their hard-earned money.
“Gusto ko danasin niya ang paghihirap ng kalooban na dinulot niya sa aming lahat,” Niebres told Rappler in an interview at her Xevera house in Mabalacat City. “‘Yung hindi ka makatulog, ‘yung hindi ka makakain dahil sa pag-iisip sa ginawa niyang panloloko sa amin kasi pwede kaming palayasin anytime. Saan ka dadamputin? Kain bubog? Nganga?”
(I want him to suffer all the hardships he caused all of us. You can’t sleep, you can’t eat worrying about the deception he did to us because we can be asked to leave our houses anytime. Where will you go? You will just eat shards of glass? Open your mouth?)
The homeowners fully paid for units in Xevera but discovered that these were under the name of ghost borrowers of the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) or Pag-IBIG Fund.
Lee’s company allegedly paid Pag-IBIG Fund members from various provinces P900 to P5,000 to sign fake documents to secure loans from Pag-IBIG under a funding commitment agreement. Like the homeowners, Pag-IBIG also fell victim to the supposed scam that spanned 2008 to 2011.
Niebres finds it hard to accept that Lee complained of high blood pressure while in detention at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) center in San Fernando, Pampanga. Her blood pressure also rose recently but for a different reason.
“Nung time nangailangan ako ng pera, namatay ang mother ko at sumunod ang brother ko. Naisin ko man isangla ang bahay, ‘di ko magawa dahil wala akong titulo. ‘Di ko naisalba ang buhay ng dalawang taong mahalaga sa buhay ko.”
(During the time I needed money when my mother and then my brother died, I wanted to sell the house but I couldn’t because I have no title. I can’t save the lives of the two people most important in my life.)
Homeowners can stay but…
In a dialogue with homeowners on Monday, March 10, Pag-IBIG Fund Chairman Vice President Jejomar Binay and Pag-IBIG Fund President and CEO Darlene Marie Berberabe assured them that the agency will allow them to stay in their Xevera units but with conditions. The primary consideration is to join the 162 complainants and Pag-IBIG in suing Lee.
“It depends if you have already fully paid, if the proof of your payment is acceptable to us. So there are conditions we will ask of you, join us in the case. We should be holding hands at the end of this case,” Berberabe said.
The Pag-IBIG Fund president explained that with the total 9,951 units of GARHC, only 1 out of 4 are real borrowers paying for the houses. She said while the agency holds the collateral to the units, Pag-IBIG will have a difficulty recovering the loss, which it is still appraising.
“Several years have passed. The units are already old. When we sell those now, it will not be the same value when we lent money for these units. If they borrowed P750,000 for one unit, at what value can you sell those units now,” Berberabe told reporters.
Berberabe added that some developers expressed interest in buying the units, which they plan to “rehabilitate” and sell at a higher price but it will be a long process with the case against Lee still pending in court.
‘Dirty water, lack of security’
Homeowners conveyed to Berberabe and Binay their concerns about their deteriorating subdivision.
Niebres is worried about the lack of security, leading to rampant theft. She said outsiders go into the subdivision, steal belongings that they hide in empty units, and eventually bring out of Xevera.
“Parang dinala kami sa slum area kung titingnan mo, iba-ibang klaseng tao na ang nandito,” she said. (It was like we were brought to a slum area, there are different kinds of people here now.)
In an interview with Rappler, homeowner William Sebastian said water was the residents’ number one problem.
“Sa Xevera water, ang tubig ng GA, binibili na lang namin ang iinom at pansaing. Iniisip namin parang nalalason kami [sa dumi] ng tubig.”(With the Xevera water coming from GA, we opt to buy water for drinking and cooking. We are thinking we will be poisoned with the dirty water here.)
Sebastian sold his house in Angeles City to buy a unit in Xevera after being wowed by its amenities, which include a school, a church, a commercial center and even a carnival – all in one community.
This was the same come-on for other homeowners, who said Lee even hosted famous personalities, celebrities and variety shows in his subdivisions during the height of his company’s popularity. One of them was Pag-IBIG Fund’s chairman then.
“Noong una kaming pumunta sa Xevera, Bacolor ang nagca-cut pa ng ribbon si Kabayan Noli de Castro. Nagtanong kami, halos sold out na lahat ng units doon. Magbubukas daw dito sa Mabalacat. Dito kami naghanap ng bahay,” Sebastian said.
(When we first went to Xevera Bacolor, the one cutting the ribbon was Kabayan Noli de Castro. We asked around, almost all the units were sold out. They said they were opening in Mabalacat so we looked for houses here.)
When the scam broke out in 2010, Sebastian inquired with Pag-IBIG Fund and found out that his new home was sold not just twice but thrice.
This was the same case for Mariza Dayao, a homeowner who runs a feeds business in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija.
“Napatunayan ko na hindi sa akin nakapangalan ang title kaya masamang-masama ang loob ko. Umiiyak talaga ako noon kasi ang tagal kong pinaghirapan para sa mga anak ko na lang sana tapos ganoon ang nangyari.”
(I proved that the title was not under my name so I felt so bad. I kept crying because I worked hard for the money to give a house for my children and then that happened.)
‘Like Napoles, Gloria’
Once strangers, Niebres, Sebastian and Dayao became close friends as they console each other, and share one cause: to hold Lee accountable.
They are adamant in opposing Lee’s detention at the NBI and any possible request for hospital arrest. The homeowners said Lee should not be like high-profile detainees former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, who were given special treatment.
“Lahat ng paghihirap dapat ibigay sa kanya. Dapat nga ikulong siya sa isang maliit na kulungan, maranasan niya lahat ng paghihirap na naranasan naming niloko niya,” Dayao said.
(He should experience all types of difficulty. He should be jailed in a small cell and experience all the sufferings we’ve been through.)
After 3 years, they said other homeowners already lost the will to see the case against the powerful and wealthy businessman through. Yet they are determined to fight it out.
Now acting as their leader and spokesperson, the once distraught Niebres said Lee’s arrest lit up the gloomy days of Xevera’s residents.
“Nag-viva kaming lahat! Masayang-masaya kami at parang daig pa namin ang tumama sa lotto dahil matagal na naming panahon hinintay ang mahuli si Delfin Lee. Managot ang dapat managot.”
(We all celebrated. We were so happy, even happier than lotto winners because we’ve been waiting for Delfin Lee’s arrest for a long time. He should be held accountable.) – Rappler.com