Revisiting Pryce Plans’ unjust, unfair ‘settlement’

By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star

Six years ago (March 17, 2008) my modest pension-plan contract with Pryce Plans, Inc. matured, after I had diligently paid P256,800 in premiums over 10 years. The company asked me to choose the mode of payment on my claim. I chose immediate full lump-sum: P300,000.

But Pryce Plans made me wait. Over five years I tried to get a categorical answer when I could get my money. Last year my brother (an insurance company president) advised me to talk directly to Salvador P. Escano, Pryce Plans president.

However, Escano wouldn’t talk to me. He sent a lawyer to persuade me to accept either of two Pryce “settlement” offers.

One, 40% of my P300,000 cash claim minus 10% service fee: P108,000 (less than half of what I had put in!). The other: 80% of full value in kind — PryceGas LPG or memorial plots in Mindanao.

I rejected both offers for being unfair, unjust, and exploitative. After I narrated my case against Pryce Plans in this space, I have been receiving supportive emails from other victims who shared their similar outrage and protest.

This week came a moving letter from Marygold Lemoncito-Chuatico, a lawyer and single parent from Bacolod City. With her permission, I’m sharing portions of her letter:

“I have two educational plans taken from Pryce Plans, Inc. One is a Legend Plan (it guarantees payment of 40% of tuition fee and allowance) for the high-school education of my youngest kid. It matures once fully paid and the child qualifies for high school or reaches the age of 13. The other is for the college education of my third son, a Treasures Plan (guarantees payment of 40% of tuition fee-allowance plus 100% return of pre-need price upon proof of graduation from college).

“I paid the pre-need price (PNP) of P136,246 for the high-school plan, and P395,328 for the college plan.

“A single parent, I strived to pay the premiums from 2000 to 2006, hoping that when the time came, I’d be spared from further financial burden on my younger children’s schooling. My youngest turned 13 last December and will be in second-year high school by June. My third son graduates from high school this March and will go to college.

“I tried to contact Pryce Plans, intending to claim the plans’ Appraised Legacy Value (the guarantee value set by Pryce to repurchase the plans, which proportionately increases from 100% at date of full payment up to a maximum of 420% of PNP).

“Honestly, this was the reason why I bought the plans. Setting the ALV with a maximum of 420% of PNP effectively conveys Pryce’s commitment to honor the plan agreement. But I was bluntly told that it would take a minimum of two years for me to receive the ALV.

“If I make my claim today, Pryce guarantees to repurchase the plans at 160% of PNP. Hence, I am entitled to P217,993.60 for the high-school plan and P632,524.80 for the college plan. These total P850,518.40, which could definitely go a long way in my children’s schooling.

“Recently a Pryce representative called me to offer a settlement: either a) 40% of net amount of ALV in cash after deducting 11% service fee = P302,784.55 (with aviso that it may take years before I could collect); or b) 80% of the net value in LPG: P605,569.10 x 40% = P242,227.64.

“Obviously, the amount as proposed is incredulous (much less than the alleged Pryce offer). I was amazed, the Pryce representative explained that it’s the best I can ever get! How gullible he thought I was. I may be in dire need of money, but I cannot stoop to this level and accept an amount a lot lesser than what I have put in. It’s against the very principle of justice and equity. I wonder what happened to the basic legal principle that ‘No one can enrich oneself at the expense of another.’

“I may be a lawyer, but in this particular instance I am more of a mother and provider of my children’s basic needs, an ordinary citizen who painstakingly sets aside the premium amounts for their educational plans, who believes that education is the best gift she can ever give to them.

“I know what it means to bring an action in court, to litigate, how a case can drag for years and drain the litigants, physically, emotionally, and psychologically, among the reasons why many people never believed in the justice system of our country.

“However, I cannot just accept such an offer by Pryce — not because I do not need the money, but because I have to make a stand and show my children that I am fighting for what is just and fair, that contracts have to be honored, that no one can take money from another without any consequences.

“To reject the offer is the right thing to do.

“Reading your article and excerpts from those who emailed you expressing support has strengthened my conviction that I have to do something about this matter. Otherwise, I would allow the perpetration of injustice on me and my children, which contravenes what I have fought for as a lawyer.”

Attention, Mr. Salvador P. Escano

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March 22, 2014

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