BALIKATAN HOUSING UNDER FIRE

Cabling, Quitain tasked in legal battle vs. Balikatan

By ROGER M. BALANZA

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has verbally ordered city legal officer Melchor Quitain and city councilor Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling to prepare for a legal battle against Balikatan Housing Finance Corp. if Malacanang refuses to heed a request to help solve woes of housing loan borrowers facing foreclosure of their units.

Duterte gave the order last week as he met with officers of the Davao City Federation of Homeowners Associations, which is taking the cudgels for about 5,000 borrowers who defaulted on their loans and are now facing foreclosure proceedings.

Balikatan, a subsidiary of Germany’s Deutsche Bank, has absorbed collection of bad housing loans from National Home Mortgage and Finance Corporation (NHMFC), after winning a bid for the accounts involving about 25,000 borrowers nationwide. NHMFC is the lead national key housing agency handling accounts for housing loans of the National Housing Agency and Pag-ibig. Poor amortization performance by borrowers had led to a stockpile of bad accounts that forced NHMFC to bid out the task of collection.

Duterte ordered Cabling and Quitain, who were in the meeting with the group headed by Richy Nalagon, to study how to stave off the foreclosures and file a case in court if the national government would not change its housing policy that could render thousands homeless. Cabling, chair of the committee on housing, had conducted public hearings on complaints of borrowers against Balikatan.

The mayor however said filing the case would be a last option and would ask President Arroyo through presidential executive secretary Silvestre Bello to look into the problem of the defaulting borrowers.

Duterte in the meantime asked Balikatan lawyer Gerald Paez, who was also in the meeting to explain the position of Balikatan, to declare a three-month moratorium on foreclosures in the spirit of Christmas.

Give us three or four months to resolve this, asked Duterte as he said he would not allow people in the city losing houses during the Christmas season.

Duterte admitted Balikatan could not be questioned in its collection efforts, saying its deal with NHMFC is legal.

He told the federation officers he could only promise a “doable and possible” solution, and ruled out any possibility of the city government financially bailing out the defaulting borrowers, saying this would place him in legal trouble.

Duterte’s statement shot down a resolution passed earlier by council floor leader Danilo Dayanghirang asking Duterte to provide technical, legal and financial assistance to the beleaguered housing loan borrowers.

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