Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hanjin’s cookie jar

By Conrado Banal III - Philippine Daily Inquirer

You may be pl eased to know that legendary Korean group Hanjin is also trying to “work on” the Supreme Court.

Aside from its controversial project in the Subic Bay Freeport, it seems that construction giant Hanjin also has a case in which it forgot to pay hundreds of million of pesos in obligations to its subcontractor.

Down here in my neighborhood, we know such antics of Hanjin as … well, plain “suba.”

Anyway, from what I have heard, the Supreme Court has ruled—it’s final and executory, brother—that Hanjin must honor the claims of a company called DPCC.

That’s the nickname of Dynamic Partners and Construction Corp., which was the subcontractor of Hanjin in the Davao International Airport project.

Several years ago, Hanjin got a big fat contract from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC), worth some P1.7 billion to build the Davao airport terminal.

Without much ado, Hanjin simply turned around and subcontracted a big part of the project to DPCC.

The job assigned to DPCC, based on the contract price of the DoTC, was worth about P1.2 billion.

And so, for work worth P1.2 billion, the clever Hanjin promised to pay DPCC only about P900 million. Wow!

In other words, even without doing anything, not even scratching its “whatever,” Hanjin made a cool P300 million by merely acting as a broker on the billion-peso DoTC contract.

But then again, even after DPCC already completed about 95 percent of its contract, Hanjin still withheld payment to DPCC, although the former already collected a hundred percent from the government under this cute administration of Gloriaetta.

That kind of notorious!

* * *

Anyway, ruling against Hanjin in the collection case filed by DPCC, the Supreme Court awarded the local company some P450 million, which included interest during the long years that Hanjin refused to honor its obligations.

My info is that the DoTC itself already mediated between DPCC and Hanjin. A top official of the DoTC even ordered Hanjin, albeit only verbally, to settle with the Filipino firm. No dice!

And so DPCC pursued its collection case against Hanjin with the Construction Industry Arbitration Commission (CIAC), which is under the Department of Trade and Industry.

Now, any adverse decision of the CIAC could mean that Hanjin could be blacklisted in government contracts. You wish!

You see, Hanjin is known in the construction industry as a favorite of this cute administration.

Word goes around that Hanjin has a “runner” inside the Palace itself, going by the name of … well, Mr. “S.”

It is not a surprise, therefore, that the CIAC was under pressure from some important Palace officials, particularly Mr. “S,” to go easy on Hanjin.

Question: Is the son of his mother Mr. “S” also moving to pressure the Supreme Court to reverse itself this late in the process, when its ruling already made it to the Book of Entries of Judgment?

Lawyers I know say such a reversal had never happened before.

But then again one of the many law firms of Hanjin used to be the most important law firm in this country.

It’s hard to say though how many hands in this cute administration actually got caught in the Hanjin cookie jar. I am pretty sure there were some!

* * *

Years ago, after the CIAC ruled against Hanjin—again—the wise guys of Hanjin thought it best to contest the CIAC ruling before the courts. And so the case went all the way up to the Supreme Court.

Early this year, the Supreme Court decided against Hanjin—again. In fact, after a couple of motions by Hanjin that were also dismissed, the Supreme Court logged its decision into the “Book of Entries of Judgment.”

Lo and behold, an executive of Hanjin named Myung Goo Kwon wrote letters directly to Chief Justice Reynato Puno, questioning the ruling, asking that the case be brought up to the Supreme Court en banc.

Puno even referred the letter to the Supreme Court division that handled the case. You know what—the division noted the letter. “Without action,” too!

Thus the ruling went to the CIAC for execution.

Still, nobody can be sure that this cute administration is willing to blacklist Hanjin anytime soon.

* * *

Over at the Senate, Sen. Pia Cayetano is calling for an investigation of Hanjin, particularly what the senator termed as the “killing fields” in Subic.

It may interest the Senate that Hanjin has a bad track record regarding its treatment of workers.

Several years ago, Hanjin refused to pay for the wages of its workers in a project in Bohol province, which amounted to P70 million.

I mean, come on, boss, those were hand-to-mouth construction workers, right?

And those poor workers had to go through the same ordeal as this small construction firm, DPCC, waiting for years for the legal process to come to a conclusion.

From what I gathered, the Supreme Court also ruled against Hanjin on that labor case.

And what did Hanjin do? Without much ado, after years of legal battle, it settled with the workers. Meaning, the Supreme Court decision did not have to go to the CIAC for execution, which could have been reason enough for Hanjin’s blacklisting.

Very wise indeed!
By Conrado Banal III - Philippine Daily Inquirer

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