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Former Senator Rene Saguisag has taken up another minority cause that could put him into a collision course with his martial law-era human rights colleague, Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Saguisag has agreed to represent the minority tenants of the Atrium condominium, the eight-story building along Makati Avenue fronting the Ayala Triangle Park that is now majority controlled by Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG Fund, which Binay chairs.
Saguisag and the minority tenants are scheduled to meet with the Makati City Hall on Tuesday, after the HDMF last month rejected the city engineer's recommendation to retrofit the three-decade-old building built by the late Makati Mayor Nemesio Yabut.
The HDMF rejection was communicated by senior vice president Florentino Espana Jr., who also identified himself as chairman and president of the Atrium of Makati Condominium Corp., a claim being questioned by the minority tenants, including lawyer and Saguisag classmate Rodolfo Robles, Metrobank, Manila Bulletin, Prince Carpet and lawyer Nemia de la Vega of Yabut's Sanpiro Realty Development Corp.
Should the HDMF insist on its do-not-rehabilitate position, City Hall has no choice, according to Makati Building Official Nelson Morales, but to revoke Atrium's building and occupancy permits for safety reasons.
What is complicating the situation is that the Yabuts not only own about 20 percent of the Atrium units, but the late mayor as well as his son, Makati Councilor Nemesio Yabut Jr., and his daughter-in-law Maria Concepcion Yabut belong to the opposition against the Binays.
The Yabuts have also found themselves squeezed on the tax side after City Treasurer Nelia Barlis included a number of Yabut-registered Atrium units for auction late last year over alleged real estate tax delinquency.
The future of the Atrium building has been put in limbo since mid-2011 after the HDMF voted to leave the building over concerns about vibrations and cracks on the sixth floor, which the HDMF was using as warehouse to store records.
The HDMF decision to abandon the building and vote against its repair has already spawned a conspiracy theory among the minority tenants, who believe that they and the Atrium are being squeezed into submission amid a multi-billion real estate redevelopment play. This was about by the gentrification of the neighborhood after the new Zuellig building rose on what used to be a nondescript parking lot beside Atrium.
Still, Saguisag sounded conciliatory when reached, preferring not to discuss the case, other than saying he and his clients were still "in search of a win-win formula."
"I'd rather not look (on) who's-right-or-who's-wrong," Saguisag said. "And I remind the (Atrium) members of the vicissitudes of litigational attrition."
Casino-resort regains thunder
Thunderbird Resorts and the PNoy-installed board of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. have reached an amicable settlement, with the regulatory agency dropping its threat to revoke Thunderbird's franchise to operate two casinos.
Pagcor extended the gaming license of Thunderbird up to June 2027, provided the casino-resort pays a gaming tax of 30 percent and injects a $30 million investment each for its Poro Point and Binangonan projects.
Thunderbird "will now focus on obtaining approval from Pagcor for the $52 million equity funding from Solar Entertainment Corp. that was announced in August 2011, which includes significant allocations for debt pay down, funding of our investment commitments, and funding of projects in our development pipeline," the Euronext-listed property and gaming concern said.
Thunderbird's pointman in the Philippines is none other than Ramos-era Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo.
o The fight between the groups of PNoy uncle Ernesto Teopaco-Jose Ricafort and Conrado Calalang-former Foreign Secretary Roberto Romulo over the control of mining rich-Nationwide Development Corp. has gotten interesting, with the Teopaco-Ricafort group having obtained an alliance with Lopez Inc. president and ABS-CBN director Angel Ong.
o Pancake House chief executive Martin Lorenzo has managed to convince the Manila Polo Club to open a branch of the country's best known pancake-and-waffle chain within the country's most exclusive club. The newest Pancake House branch is opening July 4 at the club's tennis pavilion.
Heard through the grapevine
Acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio is taking his nomination to head the judiciary seriously. A small but telling detail: Like many senators who want to appear youthful, the magistrate has also taken to dyeing almost jet black his still thick top.
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