A bungled investment deal has escalated into a case of syndicated estafa resulting in two sets of friends bracing themselves for a protracted legal battle involving money amounting to P 6 million. The crime of syndicated estafa is a non -bailable offense. Filed before the city prosecutor's office last January, the case was kept from the public eye hoping that it would be settled amicably considering that the contending parties are the best of friends. But there appears to be no amicable settlement in the offing as both protagonists are now in each others throats as demands for payment for the sums of money involved in the transaction have become intense every passing day. The complainants of the case who are topnotch doctors of the Ramiro Community Hospital filed the case of syndicated estafa against a power couple who carved a name in Bohol's educational firmament by raising to higher standards such private institutions like the Bohol Wisdom School and the Bohol International Learning Center, a school identified with businessman Mario Uy.
While all seven complainants were doctors of the private hospital, a nurse whose husband is a seaman, the spouses of the three physicians were also included as complainants of the case. A nurse who is a sister of one of the physicians also joined the legal fray making the total number of complainants into 10. In the complaint sheet, they were identified as Dr. Maria Corazon Lim and husband Alvin; Dr. Imelda Jumang-it, her sister Cleofe, a nurse; Dr. Ronald Ramiro and his wife Dr. Jane Ramiro; Milagros Malanog, the nurse whose husband is a seaman; Dr. Isagani Jodl de los Santos and the couple Dr. Lynette Rodriguez and husband Hector. The couple Jose and Zenaida Caberte were prominent fixtures of the two leading private schools in this city until they decided to go on their own giving rise to a school in Totolan, Dauis now known as International Academe of Enciema.
HOW TROUBLE STARTED
The legal trouble of the Caberte couple started when they accepted the all-out support from what they addressed as esteemed IAE benefactors who provided “us additional funds for the construction of the school building” now standing as International Academe of Ensciema located in Totolan, Dauis town. This statement was contained in a letter dated August 15,2010 addressed to the esteemed benefactors who turned out in subsequent events as the complainants of the criminal case for syndicated estafa. Couched in diplomatic legalese, the letter said “we (referring to the Caberte couple) are a people who know where gratitude is due, that is why, we are greatly indebted to you for all your help and support in action. They further said “we have been blessed by well-meaning friends like you and certainly, we owe you all the appreciation and gratitude the expression of which is beyond measure of words”. With the phrasing of the Caberte couple's statements, there was no iota of doubt that the relationship was founded on trust. As one went on poring over the letter, their was no mistaking of any inkling that something was smoldering between the two groups with all the pontifications about the good working relation of both parties.
Citing a meeting held at Saya's Restaurant last April 5, 2010 where the two groups invited a resource person of high refutation identified as a certain Michael Canares, it was in this instance where an “accident was waiting to happen”. In that meeting, the resource person articulated that whatever funds infused to the construction of the building shall all be considered as loans and shall be charged interest accordingly. The couple said such terms were in accord with the Securities and Exchange Commission of the IAE adding that such were the only terms and status of their money. While the Cabertes have negotiated for more funds to finance the construction of the school from other sources, it turned out that they were only part of a 10-member Board of Trustees composed of close family members of both sides of their marriage.
According to the couple, the family raised P4.5 million to start the construction before enlisting the participation of investors. With the opposing positions of the two groups, it became inevitable that they were a headed for a collision course. That started all the legal troubles. In the ensuing exchange between the two groups in most cases resulting to heated altercations, it became apparent that the bone of contention was the status of the corporation. While the Cabertes appeared sold to the idea of the group of physicians to convert the family venture into a family corporation into a stock corporation, as per their request, they have to contend with the majority of family incorporators balked at the idea saying they wanted to stick to the original non-stock corporation registration papers with the SEC. According to the Cabertes, since they cannot do otherwise because they were outnumbered, it was in this predicament “ we are left without a choice but to follow the majority's decision to maintain the non-stock, non-profit nature of the corporation as it is now. As a consequence, the two educators told their partner-investors to stick to the terms set in a non-stock corporation and that is to consider the financial support as loans. They promised to pay the financial indebtedness to the investors within a minimum of three years and a maximum of five years following the prevailing bank rates of interest.
In a three-page reply, the so-called investors lamented that after spending several hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pesos, that have brought the school's infrastructure nearing to its completion, “we have been unceremoniously relegated as mere “benefactors”, instead of investors as what was originally agreed. Worse, the investors muttered, that the Caberte letter has unjustly and unfairly portrayed them, albeit, impliedly and very subtly, as irresponsible and unreasonable individuals, and probably, troublesome, who will wreck havoc and bring frustration to their cherished dream of running and operating the school in their own style and fashion, should and when the investors be allowed to become part of and join the school, as members. They said that was worrisome was the invocation of God every time they try to justify an otherwise unjustified and reprehensible acts.
They further said that such irresponsible statements coming from very well respected people in the academe were the least that the investors expected. They said while they may have earned the refutation as among the best in the academic community in terms of instilling discipline and inculcating the value of education among the youth, their past and present actions in handling and resolving the issue at hand have regrettably fallen short of the basic tenets of honesty, good faith, and straightforwardness in dealing with other persons and individuals like the investors. The business partners continued that as the ones who actively solicited their help , they have expected the couple to make true and stand by their words rather than hide behind the skirts of the other members of the Board of Trustees whose voices were in reality insignificant, if not, nil, as compared to theirs. They concluded that such was a criminal act that cannot and should not be countenanced in any civilized society.
In the complaint filed by the investors, they claimed they made a collective amount of P6 million representing their investment in the school venture. But in the counter-affidavit filed by the couple, they said the claim of P6 million was still subject for verification as some materials were directly purchased by them without giving them the corresponding receipts of payment. The Cabertes said that in their own verification, their total contributions only amounted to about P3,800,000.00 only based on their own listing of investments. The Cabertes also stipulated that it was not true that their only contribution was the lot on which the school stands adding that the incorporators have spent so much more that the total contributions of the complainants and other “financiers”.
The building is standing on a 1008 square meters area with an assessment cost of P15,000/sq. m. from ground work to complete painted smooth finish, per computation of well-known architects, according to the respondents. They continued that this resulted to a total value of the building to P15,120,000 aside from the present value of the land in the amount of P13,120,000.00 at the rate of P2,500/sq. m. In closing, the respondents asked with the total cost of the land and building thereon of P28,257,500 to what fraction was the complainants' unverified and questionable total of P 6 million to P28,257,500 total value of the land and its improvements.
With the two factions now locked in a bitter legal fight before the city prosecutor's office with the resolution coming out anytime soon, the case is far from over only if both parties will come to terms according to the demands of the complainants. The complainants have only two demands within which their partners will agree: make all the 10 investors as owners and or members of the IAE or they will buy them out.
When the Post learned about the brewing controversy, the paper lost no time in looking for the protagonists to get their side of the story. There were earnest efforts to get in touch with the complainants but some of them opted to ignore the paper's pleas for documents involving the investment gone kaput. It was to the good fortune of the Post that the Caberte couple allowed the paper to use their files to support this banner story.
TOP CALIBER EDUCATORS
A perusal of the educational credentials of the Cabertes, showed that they were no pygmies in their chosen fields of discipline. While the helm of the Bohol Wisdom School the two, Jose, as principal and Zenaida, as school administrator, the institution made waves in practically all annals of competitions particularly in the field of science, mathematics, public speaking among other talents. When the Filipino-Chinese school was embroiled in a power struggle between two contending factions, the Cabertes were caught in the crossfire. The BWS infighting resulted in the group of Mario Uy who opted to go on his own giving rise to his Bohol International Learning Center now located in Tiptip district this city. But it take too long for the Cabertes to stick around in the Uy-owned school. Citing plans t look for greener pasture, the couple chose to resign from their positions in the BILC and went elsewhere to form the IAE.
In an interview with Mr. Uy last night, one reason got rid of the Cabertes was when he learned that they were out to leave him in favor of constructing their own school. Uy's hunch was never been truer when he discovered that the couple started soliciting investors for a planned facility in Totolan. pening in all levels, meaning from kindergarten to high school, the Totolan school has an enrolment in the vicinity of 200 students during its initial opening last year. Most of the students were transferees from BILC estimated from 35 to 50% of the school's last enrolment. But according to Mr. Uy, the students gave signified their interests to go back to BILC as a result of the brewing conflict in the new school they