SBMA takes over computer school for failure to pay obligations | SubicNewsLink

28 November 2017

SBMA takes over computer school for failure to pay obligations

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) on Saturday (Nov. 25) peacefully took control over the facilities of a computer school for failing to settle its financial obligation to the SBMA amounting to more than P19 million.

The move came after the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Olongapo City denied the application of a Comteq Computer and Business College restrain the SBMA from serving an eviction notice due to its failure to settle outstanding obligations.

The SBMA’s Legal Department, assisted by personnel from the Law Enforcement Department, entered the premises of COMTEQ Computer and Business College at about 6:30 in the morning and informed the school’s personnel of the takeover.

Atty. Melvin Varias, lead of the SBMA team who took over said, that although COMTEQ shall be closed to its students and personnel, students and faculty of the nearby UP Extension Program in Olongapo (UPEPO) shall be allowed to enter the complex and use the facilities it has been sharing with the computer school.

In an order issued on Nov. 20, 2017, Judge Richard A. Paradeza of RTC Branch 72 refused to grant Comteq Computer and Business College, Inc. a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the SBMA in the absence of a reason for its issuance.

“One of the requisites for the issuance of a temporary restraining order is the presence of a substantial right that needs to be protected,” Paradeza said in his order.

However, “It is clear that (Comteq) has no clear existing and unmistakable right in esse that is entitled to legal protection, a violation of which would justify the issuance of the injunctive relief applied for,” Paradeza ruled.

The court in its order noted that Comteq filed an application for TRO to prevent the SBMA from taking over the classrooms and offices that the school occupied in Bldg. Q-8131 located at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. The school also sought “to prevent the harassment of students, teachers and staff by padlocking the classrooms, sequestering books and learning equipment, and preventing students and teachers from conducting their right to attend classes.”

However, Paradeza noted that on Nov. 14, 2017, the SBMA had already issued a notice giving Comteq until Nov. 19, 2017 to vacate the subject premises and to pay its outstanding obligation with the SBMA that amounted to P19,971,435.68.

He also noted that the SBMA has allowed Comteq to use the said facilities up to Oct. 31, 2017 for humanitarian reason, and that Comteq “had even wrote a letter dated April 27, 2017, asking SBMA that it be given up to the end of October to look for a new building to relocate to.”

Paradeza said that Comteq had essentially argued that pursuant to Batas Pambansa 232, or an Act for the Establishment and Maintenance of an Integrated System of Education, as well as Section 32 of the Manual for Regulations for Private higher Education, the termination of a school year shall be effected only at the end of an academic year.

But the judge also ruled that Comteq’s right to occupy the subject premises “had already expired on Oct. 31, 2017, pursuant to SBMA Board Resolution No. 17-05-0167 dated May 10, 2017” and that a similar notice to vacate and demand to pay had been sent by the SBMA to Comteq on March 30, 2017.

“It would appear that ample time was already given to the plaintiff to vacate the subject premises,” Paradeza said.

“The fact that the eviction notice was given in the middle of academic year is not substantial enough to prove the plaintiff’s right in esse. Besides, plaintiff already agreed to vacate the subject property at the end of October 2017 per letter dated April 27, 2017,” the judge added.

“Therefore, at this stage of proceedings, it cannot be said that plaintiff Comteq Computer and Business College, Inc. has substantial right on the subject premises that needs to be protected,” hence the court’s refusal to grant a TRO, Paradeza added. (30)

The SBMA issued Comteq a notice to vacate its facilities it is occupying at Building Q-8131 on Manila Avenue at the Central Business District after the school failed to meet requirements for its continued operation here.

SBMA concerned over fate of Comteq students

Earlier, the SBMA aired its concern over the fate of students of Comteq Computer and Business College, all because of the latter’s failure to pay its rental dues despite the leeway the agency has given for the school to meet its obligations.

“It’s because of the students that the SBMA has given Comteq enough consideration for far too long. This has been a lingering case of irresponsibility on the part of Comteq owners and I am sorry to say that we cannot extend any more generosity to them,” SBMA Chairperson and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said.

Eisma said that as early as April this year, the SBMA Legal Department has already issued a “Notice to Vacate with Demand to Pay” because the school has been operating without any valid lease agreement nor business registration with the SBMA, as well as failing to pay obligations with SBMA in the amount of Php17,771,863.19.

Eisma explained that the SBMA has actually taken over the Comteq facility last April, but the Board has granted another extension of six months for humanitarian reasons.

“However, during this final extension of six months, Comteq should have either settled their arrears with SBMA or should have responsibly arranged for the migration and transfer of their students, but they did not. Instead, they filed a case in court, thus betraying the kindness of SBMA,” she added.

In a letter dated April 27, 2017, Comteq president Danny J. Piano argued that the basis for the SBMA back pay rent of P17.7 million “is highly debatable” and added that the school “just have no capacity of paying back even a significantly reduced back pay rate.”

“Because of this, the new Board of Trustees of Comteq have come to the decision to transfer Comteq College out to Olongapo City where the rates are much lower,” Piano said.

Piano also asked for “a sufficient-enough transition” for the transfer, which he said can be successfully achieved by the end of the 2017 first semester or end of October.

With this, the SBMA Board allowed a six-month extension, but ordered that the school “should be fully out of the Subic Bay Freeport facility before the start of the 2017 second semester, or until October 31, 2017.”

SBMA records indicated that Comteq, which offers courses in preparatory, secondary, and tertiary levels, originally leased Bldg. Q–7932 starting 2008. In 2011, when construction of the Harbor Point Mall began, Comteq relocated to Bldg. Q-8131 where it occupied 10 rooms with a total area of 808.61 square meters, as well 188.55 square meters of common area.

Comteq’s transfer to the new location, however, met some problems as the building was also occupied by the University of the Philippines Extension Program in Olongapo (UPEPO), which wanted to solely occupy the building. After the SBMA Board finally approved Comteq’s lease proposal in August 2015, Comteq asked for a “rent-free” period from January 2011 when it transferred to Bldg. Q-8131, to August 2015 when the SBMA approved its lease. The SBMA, however, denied this request.

In May 2016, the SBMA reiterated its denial of Comteq’s “rent-free” request and further advised the school of its total back rentals amounting to P13.12 million. It also asked Comteq to submit a payment scheme proposal on the settlement of its rental obligations so that SBMA may process a contract for 25 years under the policy on educational institution.

However, without any positive response from the school on these matters, the SBMA Legal Department declared in August 2016 that because Comteq did not have any lease agreement with SBMA, or a sublease agreement with other Subic locator, or a valid certificate of registration, it was engaged in unauthorized operation inside the Freeport and in illegal use of SBMA property.

In January this year, the SBMA Board of Directors approved the issuance of a Notice to Vacate against Comteq and instructed management to file a case against the original owners for collection of the company’s outstanding obligations. (HEE/RBB/MPD-SBMA)