Pag-IBIG gets COA nod on law firm to handle Globe Asiatique cases

MANILA, Philippines – The Yorac Arroyo Chua Caedo and Coronel Law Firm will now handle the Home Development Mutual Fund's (Pag-IBIG Fund) case involving Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corporation (GARHC) and property developer Delfin Lee, after securing approval from the Commission on Audit (COA).

In a 5-page decision released last Friday, July 14, the Commission Proper (CP) ruled to partially grant the request of Pag-IBIG Fund to lift certain conditions earlier imposed by the COA’s Office of the General Counsel, Legal Services Sector on the payment for legal services to the law firm.

COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo as well as Commissioners Jose Fabia and Isabel Agito said the payment of hourly rate or time charge to lawyers appearing in various Globe Asiatique/Delfin Lee cases is allowed, noting the complicated nature of the lawsuits and the amount of assets involved.

COA also granted charging of out-of-pocket expenses, including claims for transportation and accommodation by the handling lawyers. (READ: DoubleDragon acquires foreclosed Globe Asiatique project)

No additional retainer fees

However, COA overruled the billing of additional acceptance or retainer fees amounting P200,000 for additional cases arising from the same issue on top of the P1 million already paid under the original retainer proposal. 

This despite Pag-IBIG Fund's assertion that from just 4 "highly-complicated cases" of two counts of estafa, syndicated estafa, and specific performance and damages suit in 2010, the law firm is now handling a total of 23 cases including 9 before the Supreme Court en banc and 10 pending in Pampanga courts.

The COA said it cannot grant additional P200,000 acceptance fees for the new cases "for being unreasonable," citing the fact that the properties under litigation are low-cost units covered by the government’s socialized housing program.

Lee and his property firm were accused of double sale to various buyers of subdivision housing units that were also mortgaged or used as collateral for housing loans from Pag-IBIG Fund.

Because of the number of cases and defendants as well as the complexity of issues involved, the COA said it is inclined to grant time charges or hourly rates subject only to the condition that the sum shall not exceed the amount set under the Certificate of Availability of Funds.

"With over a billion pesos involved in these alleged scandal of double sale, fictitious and special buyers and fraudulent documentations, full commitment is extremely necessary to ensure proper representation in courts," the COA said. –