The rumors of Philippine Women’s University’s foreclosure are false.
The Benitez family has won a stay from the Manila Regional Trial Court. Dr. Helena Z Benitez, PWU chairperson and a longtime creditor of the university, has filed for involuntary rehabilitation of PWU in a bid to preserve its operations after STI Holdings initiated foreclosure proceedings against the university in a takeover bid stemming from a business dispute.
PWU is a non-stock, not-for-profit institution, which has been supported by the Benitez family for the past 96 years. In 2011, STI offered to help PWU by loaning it funds totaling to 513 million pesos. When the terms of the deal were not approved by the government and the Benitez family cancelled the deal, STI asked to be paid back Php 1 billion just four years later.
Despite the Benitez family’s offers to pay STI for the Php 513M, In December 2014, STI Holdings initiated default proceedings against PWU covering its Taft Ave. and Indiana St. campuses, the Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS) campus on EDSA, Quezon City, and a property in Davao City. The JASMS QC property is the site of a condo mall development announced by STI in September 2014, which the Benitez family and the JASMS community opposed.
Dr. Benitez stated in her petition that PWU’s operations are obviously dependent on the income generated by its campuses. “The foreclosure and sale of any of the properties will extremely prejudice PWU and endanger its existence or survival since the properties are vital to its operations and rehabilitation,” she said. The matriarch also said the foreclosure proceedings will prevent PWU from paying its debts and will render it insolvent. “The foreclosure proceedings…..will also drastically disrupt and stop PWU’s school operations,” she said.
The Benitez family welcomed the Manila court’s issuance of a Commencement Order, which paves the way for the approval of a rehabilitation plan for PWU, saying the decision ensures the continued operations of the university and its schools. The Petition for Rehabilitation of PWU filed by Dr. Helena Z Benitez asked the Court to issue a Commencement Order and a Stay or Suspension Order which shall “suspend all actions or proceedings, in court or otherwise, for the enforcement of claims against PWU and against third party mortgagers.” The order, granted last week, suspends the extrajudicial sale of lands currently occupied by PWU (in Manila) and JASMS (in QC) worth well over Php 1.2 billion, which STI is seeking as a creditor of PWU as payment for the initial loan.
The Benitez Group of the Philippine Women’s University (PWU) said the move of STI Education Systems Holdings (STI) to pursue the foreclosure of the university’s properties only serves to hurt the school and threaten the welfare of the students, faculty, and employees. In a statement, PWU Media Director Lydia Benitez-Brown said, “It is now very evident that STI is totally disregarding the welfare of PWU. This is what we have been saying all along, that the priorities of STI’s owner, Mr. Eusebio Tanco, are really incompatible with those of the Benitez group and the PWU stakeholders.”
Ms. Brown lamented that STI Holdings continue to reject attempts at an amicable settlement. “This foreclosure is clear proof that STI will always put business ahead of education. The action merely validates our concerns. It is an unfortunate and disappointing development, but we have confidence in the fairness of the courts and that the legal system will protect the public interest of our students,” she said.