Positive turns for Pryce, Phl Prudential planholders

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

After having written six pieces in this space, detailing the complaints of unfair and unjust treatment of policy/plan holders by two big insurance and two pre-need companies, positive turns have developed for the aggrieved planholders of Philippine Prudential Life Insurance Co. and Pryce Plans, Inc.

(The other besieged firms are National Life Insurance Co., which is under Insurance Commission conservatorship, and Prudential Life Plans, Inc., under IC liquidation process.)

What are the positive turns?

1. Re Philippine Prudential: A core group of 141, who call themselves “PPLIC Victims” representing 4,000 planholders, was assured recently by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Insurance Commission head Emmanuel Dooc that their demand for payment of their money claims would be acted on. (Purisima, who has supervision over the IC, referred to Dooc as an “action man.”)

More specific, Dooc advised the planholders promptly to file their money claims, through a Claims and Adjudication desk set up in his office, before the IC raises the filing fee next month.

It remains to be seen if the planholders will get the full value of their claims, which they justly assert as their right. For seven years until 2010, they paid altogether P270 million in premiums.

However, PPLIC has offered a 30% premium refund for only three years (2010-2013), which the planholders have computed to be equal to only P9,000 for P92,000 in paid premiums. Not surprisingly, they have rejected the offer and filed a complaint with the IC.

2. Re Pryce Plans: Last Feb. 12, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals ruling on Aug. 13, 2013, upholding the IC’s jurisdiction over PPI and its decision placing the pre-need firm under conservatorship. (PPI had contested IC jurisdiction and conservatorship. The courts upheld the IC authority under RA 9829, the Pre-Need Code of the Philippines.)

The SC affirmation opens the way for the aggrieved PPI planholders (including this columnist) to seek just and fair settlement of their money claims via the IC.

The CA ruling notes that PPI was in “limbo.” After having “stopped operations” and being “simply in the process of winding up,” and while disputing IC jurisdiction, it hadn’t started any proceedings in the Securities and Exchange Commission or in court for the liquidation of its assets, as it had vowed to do.

In effect, since 2006 PPI was practically under no state supervision as it persistently tried to induce its planholders to accept 40% of full value in cash, minus 10% service charge, or 80% in kind (PryGas LPG or memorial lot plan), of their money claims.

Aptly, the CA ruling stresses that under RA 9829 “any doubt in the interpretation and implementation of any provision in this Code shall be interpreted in favor of the rights and interests of the planholder.”

But to effectively press payment on their claims, the PPI planholders — like the PPLIC victims — must organize themselves.

They can cite this information to the IC: Pryce Gases, Inc., a Pryce Corp. 99% subsidiary also headed by PPI president Salvador P. Escano – whose product is offered as payment-in-kind to planholder victims – reported revenues of P4.5 billion in 2013.

Per a Business Mirror report, at the firm’s stockholders meeting in June, Escano projected P6.5-B income in 2014. The firm has constructed a P700-million import terminal in Pangasinan to expand sales in Luzon. Escano exultingly described Pryce Gases as a “dynamic and exciting business.”

Back to PPLIC: Upon their request, I sat with the planholder-victims in their dialog with Purisima and Dooc last March 26 at the finance department. The group was ably led in the dialog by Jocelyn Tamayo and Leah Valientes.

(I took that opportunity to inquire about Pryce Plans and NLIC. The IC later provided me copies of the CA and SC rulings cited above. No progress yet on the policyholders’ claims against NLIC).

The dialog with Purisima and Dooc was at the instance of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, to whom the planholder-victims had written on July 22, 2013 seeking Malacanang intercession to resolve their complaint against PPLIC, owned by the family of the late “businessman-philanthropist” Daniel L. Mercado Sr.

In their letter, the planholder-victims claim their policies were “all terminated prematurely last March 2013 when majority of our plans [were] nearing maturity.” Ironically, they point out, during PPLIC’s 50th anniversary on Feb. 18 Vice President Binay, Dooc and IC deputy commissioner Chiong congratulated the firm for “stability” by having over P1 billion in assets and 1.8 million planholders.

In four mediation meetings at the IC, they add, they presented evidence to show “deceit, misrepresentation and fraud,” saying PPLIC “even continued collecting from us even as they [had] terminated us.”

Also complaining about Dooc being “hard on us” and “always out of the country when [we] would request humbly an audience,” the letter asked:

“Isn’t the Insurance Commission a governing body which upholds the rights and welfare of the lowly victims of these frauds…? Why is it that the victims [are] not monitored by the Insurance Commission… at the end we are all left crying for our hard-earned money, with nothing left for us?”

“We are desperate for help. Please help us!” the planholder-victims appealed to Ochoa.

We’ll be watching what happens next.

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E-mail: satur.ocampo@gmail.com
March 29, 2014

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