June 17, 2017

Press Club saddled with added debts; got nothing

THE National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) is seeking an explanation from its former president, Louie Logarta, regarding three unresolved issues that happened during his long tenure as a Club official and which mired the organization in controversy and sunk it into debt.

Logarta, a columnist for ‘The Daily Tribune,’ was NPC president from 2001 to 2003 and then served in various executive positions until 2012.

In a letter last June 16, 2017 to Logarta, NPC president Paul M. Gutierrez said that failure by the former to make an explanation, coupled by his incessant, unfounded attacks against the NPC in social media– despite fully knowing these attacks are in clear violation of the amended NPC By-Laws– can be grounds for his expulsion, “a first, incidentally, in the entire history of the Club.”

Of the issues, the Club wants Logarta to explain, first, why during a portion covered by his term, from 2001 to July 2002, the NPC failed to pay the premium contributions of its employees with the Social Security System (SSS).

“It also totally burdens the present NPC Board to understand the reason for such failure on your part to pay the same for as you very well know, such failure, deliberate or not, is a criminal offense under the SSS Law. Hence, we respectfully seek for your explanation,” the letter said.

The NPC only learned of the SSS arrear that, with penalties imposed over the years, has now reached to over P7 million, while soliciting payment for an advertising material the SSS placed in the ‘coffee table book’ the Club produced to celebrate its 64th anniversary last year.

“The Club is now suffering because of your failure, if not negligence, to pay the said SSS premiums,” Gutierrez told Logarta. He stressed that the NPC is “definitely in no position to forthwith settle this obligation you left behind.”

Aside from Logarta, Gutierrez said they have also sent separate letters requesting explanation from his three immediate predecessors as NPC president over the issue.

On the second and third issues, the NPC sought Logarta’s explanation over two failed cooperatives established during his time as president and executive officer, the ‘NPC Multi-Purpose Cooperative’ (NPCMC) and, the ‘Fourth Estate Housing Cooperative’ (FEHC).

Millions of money were collected and deposited in separate bank accounts thru these cooperatives although not under the control of the NPC.

In the NPCMC case, the Club only learned about its bank account at the Postal Savings Bank (Post Bank) early this year when a former member came forward and handed over the cooperative’s passbook with only P142,000 remaining balance.

Gutierrez said their effort to recover the balance, “enough,” he told Logarta, “to subsidize the education of 28 children of NPC members in one college semester,” proved near impossible as the NPMC has already been “de-listed” by the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) as far back as 2004.

In a letter last March 2, 2017, Post Bank Metro Luzon Area head, Ma. Theresa Urbano also informed the NPC that they have already turned over the amount to the Bureau of Treasury.

Significantly, Urbano also informed the NPC that in case of dissolution, the By-Laws of the NPCMC approved by Logarta and his group “expressly stated” that its funds “shall not be distributed to its members.”

“Furthermore, nowhere is it stated in the By-Laws that the funds shall be assigned in favor of the NPC,” the Post Bank letter added.

As for the FEHC that Logarta also helped to establish after the shutdown of the NPCMC, its registration with the CDA was also subsequently revoked.

“Worse, the entire property ended up not being titled to the NPC but, as you probably also know, to some other private corporation,” Gutierrez reminded Logarta.

The FEHC was formed by the NPC purportedly to provide decent housing for its members and other members of the Fourth Estate.

Then Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in 2009, agreed to give the NPC some 3.6 hectares for the project at government-owned lands inside Global City/Fort Bonifacio.

The Club also uncovered a demand letter from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) dated 2011, Logarta’s last year as an NPC officer, where it is demanding from the FEHC over P95 million in unpaid documentary stamp tax and expanded withholding tax.

The amount, which includes the accumulated penalties, is for the transfer to the cooperative of three land titles for the property from the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA). Not a single structure, however, was erected for any member of the press after the turnover to the FEHC.

“We are not however surprised by the huge amount being demanded by the BIR, given that Fort Bonifacio/Global City real estate commands the highest price in the entire country these days,” Gutierrez said.

“But why even a single centavo from this “multi-billion project” appears not to have entered the NPC fund, this we find indeed surprising,” he added. ###


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