By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star
Strong reactions from readers met last week’s column piece detailing how Pryce Plans, Inc. tried, in vain, to induce me into accepting only 40% of the cash value of my P300,000 pension plan that matured five years ago or taking 80% equivalent in liquefied petroleum gas or memorial plots.
At least nine other victims expressed their outrage through email. I take liberties to quote them in the spirit of our common demand for fair treatment by Pryce Plans and other pre-need establishments.
Due to space limitation, I have condensed or paraphrased their messages. Three of them wrote:
• Pia Alonzo: “I’ve been frustratingly dealing with (Pryce Plans) for the past years with the same result.”
• M. G. Espaldon: “What are you going to do? If in your stature you cannot do anything, the rest of us cannot do anything. Let us know what happens next.”
• Rolando Maliwat Jr.: “If somebody like you (got) such shabby treatment, paano na lang kaya ang small people who are not as prominent?”
Three others provided details of their experiences.
• Sonny Marcos: “I hope you can get a good chance of recovering a major portion of your investment soon. As a columnist, you can also speak on behalf of the countless condominium buyers who, after deciding to back out, cannot get a sizeable portion of their paid amounts ASAP.”
“I paid P30,846 monthly for 12 months, (after which we backed out). Of the P370,152 I had paid, I got a refund of only P180,000.
“My discontent is due to the following: 1) the company is not insolvent; 2) it used my money interest-free for a year; 3) no damage to the developer as it can sell the unit to another at a higher price.
“The primary reason for backing out was that my wife had cancer and we needed the refund for her treatment. My wife died in 2011. Last February I wrote to Boo Chanco (PhilSTAR business columnist) who forwarded my email to the developer — and that was it.”
• Elmer Maat: “Thank you for exposing the nefarious activities of that plan company. That is what happened to the CAP (College Assurance Plan) pension plan. Muntik nang hindi makapasok ang anak ko sa school and not finishing his studies.
“Ano kaya ang remedyo sa kanila, instead of having them (lined up before) a firing squad? More exposes!”
• Leodegardo Pruna: “I fully agree with your comments on the way Pryce Plans attends to your claim. UNFAIR! But that seems to be how pre-need and insurance plans have been doing business.
“Take the case of a special program for elderly members of a fraternal association. Instead of looking after the welfare of senior members, the program has made them victims.
“Example: A member has already paid P164,250 (for nine years at P18,250/month), but the face value of his claim is only P97,000. Still, he’s being billed another P18,250 for a total payment of P182,500!”
• Nomer Obmania sent a rather unfairly sweeping condemnation of Filipino businessmen, but let him have his say:
“Filipino businessmen cannot be trusted. Foreign investors are at risk partnering with Filipinos. If they cheat their own kind, how much more they would cheat foreigners? Your misfortune isn’t unique. Where is justice in the Philippines?”
My comment: Under capitalism, cheating has been historically proven worldwide. The worst is what the biggest US banks and investment houses have done to their clients, big and small alike, that spurred the current prolonged global financial-economic crisis.
Three of our reader-reactors suggested certain solutions to the problem.
• Leodegardo Pruna urged formally bringing “this ploy of pre-need and insurance companies” to the attention of the Insurance Commissioner for appropriate action.
• Sonny Marcos, who claimed to have been jobless for five years now, called for amending some provisions of RA 6552 to put a stop to the shortchanging of customers. Enacted in1972, the “Maceda law” provides protection to buyers of real estate, including condos, on installment basis.
• Victor Lorenzo, who resides in Canada but periodically visits his home country, said he had forwarded my column piece to friends egging them to write to me their own experiences. He advised:
“I think we need to correct the system of accountability and responsibility. There have been many companies like the one you wrote about and we (all stakeholders) haven’t learned (lessons from their bad practices). For instance, there is no obligation to disclose important information about the company and its financial health to the potential investors/consumers.
“Please continue writing on issues such as this. Kawawa ang Filipino consumers.”
The fourth advice came from Leo Mario Celdran, who termed it an “innovative solution.” Here’s his proposal:
“Ask to be paid in Pryce Plan shares of stock (PSE-listed but suspended from trading) equal to 900,000 shares at a conversion price of 30 centavos/share (last price in 2006: 25 centavos). Once you get the stock certificate, I will buy it from you at P270,000. You get your full cash claim.”
I say, “Thanks, but No. What of the other planholders?”
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April 27, 2013