Thursday, March 08, 2007

An Open Letter From A Concerned Parent

I got this through my email: This is a summary voluntarily sent by a parent to a group of parents who banded together for the purpose of fighting the unscrupolous businessmen in the Pre-Need Industry. The parent's name is withheld for their right to privacy and security reasons.

Dear Parents.......

I would like to update all of you on the plan to launch the PEPC Party List. It is definitely being spearheaded by the Pacific Education Planholders but joined by the planholders from CAP, TPG and Platinum. The move comes about because of the realization and first hand experience of the sad flaws of our current systems in government which plays not by the rules of justice but of power and influence. But instead of just griping and bashing, the leaders would like to try and work for changes by using the electoral system. Significantly, this will be the first time that the middle class and the business people will be bonding together and try to enter the realm of politics.

The basic platform of the party is good governance as well as protection of consumers, especially from being bullied by big corporations--exemplified by what happened to pre-need plan holders.

A few updates on the fight of the Pacific Planholders (given by PEP Coalition President Philip Piccio to the school's parents last Friday night)...

As you know, the Yuchengcos filed 14 libel cases against the officers of PEPCoalition. 10 have been dismissed; there are 4 more to be resolved. There were some near attempts to arrest Philip and the officers but Philip told the judge that if he did that, he would not post bail and he would gladly wait in jail for all the planholders to raise his bail money--just to highlight the injustice of the charge. The judge balked and did not issue the warrant. (As I understand it, then, it shows that the cases really do not have merit)

The decision to declare legal the formation of the Lifetime Plans (the spun off company that got most of the money from the PEP plans so that PEP became insolvent) by the Regional Trial Court was appealed by PEPC. The presiding judge in that case (Judge Barza) was also made a justice of the Court of Appeals 3 days after he approved the rehabilitation plan of Pacific Plans . Things did not seem to look so good for PEP planholders. But by a miracle, Philip admits, the Court of Appeals remanded the decision to the lower court and told that court two things: a) by virtue of the evidence presented by the lawyers of Yuchengco, it is obvious they are liquid enough to pay the receivables up to 2014 and b) the lower court erred in not allowing the new evidence presented by the PEPC and the case should be re-decided!

This puts the Yuchengcos now in a quandary. If they appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, the case will reach a final decision immediately, instead of a long protracted struggle (which they thought would happen and prefer). It is most likely that they will lose in the Supreme Court because the merits of our case are very strong. If they follow the Court of Appeals decision, they are forced to settle with the planholders. This comes about due to the untiring heroic efforts of the PEPC leaders (who no longer can live normal lives--their families, too) and the Ongkiko law office who is doing all this pro bono.

PEPC has started filing cases of syndicated estafa against the Board of Directors of Pacific Plans. During arraignment, all came except Helen Yuchengco (the prime architect of the maneuvers to isolate Pacific Plans from the Yuchengco Group of Companies that became the reason for declaring insolvency and inability to pay) despite the fact that her appearance was mandated by law. But she was allowed to get away with it. The first case was filed in Manila and, as expected, was dismissed. The second will be filed in another place in Metro Manila, after examining the reasons for dismissal. New evidence will be presented. But the officers expect this to be dismissed again. The dismissals while disappointing are actually Ok with them (they are realistic about the power and influence of the Yuchengcos). They have more than 100,000 plan holders anyway all over the country and a lot are willing to file the cases, which hopes to get stronger and stronger as each of Pacific's arguments for dismissal are rebutted. It exemplifies the tenacity and commitment of the men and women who are leading us in this fight to see that what is due us is eventually given to us.

So I make this appeal. If you think that this shouldn't be happening--that people cannot rely on promises written in the contracts by big companies, that cannot hold them accountable to these promises because they are so small compared to these wealthy companies, that some have to experience being threatened, their lives being disrupted just because a lot of us wish to see these companies made accountable--please put PEP COALITION (or PEP, for short) -- both are acceptable in the ballot-- in the blank for party list in your ballot during elections. It is estimated that for every 300,000 voters that do so, we will get 1 seat in Congress. We are aiming for at least 3 party seats. The people who will represent us in those seats will be (in this order): Philip Piccio (PEPC's President), Wilson Lee Flores and PEPC's Finance Head, Vicente Ortuoste. Wilson Lee Flores (the Star columnist) is not a pre-need holder (but his sister is a preneed victim as well) but he represents the other members of the business community who are joining us in this stand for good governance and protection of the consumer. As Wilson says, this is historical in that it is the first time that the middle class and the business community will be sending a party to congress... [By the way, the parties that have 3 seats in Congress are Bayan Muna, APEC and Akbayan...they're well-organized. So why can't WE do this too?]

"I am not an officer of PEPC. I do not head any committee. I don't have any responsibilities assigned to me. I just receive the texts and pass them on to whoever I know is interested. But this is my contribution to my country. I am being given an opportunity to make a difference through a group I know who share many of my frustrations with the current way we are governed. So I send this write-up and hope that you will help us get those 900,000 votes or more we need to make a difference. Thank you for reading my email."

A Concerned Parent