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Millionaire widow won’t show up due to ‘age, security risks’

First Posted 07:20:00 12/12/2010

Don't expect the millionaire widow of the Bailili land deal to show up in court.

Her lawyer Carlo Fortuna said it was impossible for Amparo Balili, at 82, to attend court proceedings due to health and security reasons.

?At her age, the last thing she should think of is a problem as big as that (Balili lot issue),? Fortuna told Cebu Daily News yesterday.

The elderly woman, however, will have to fork over an excess in funds withdrawn from the bank account holding assets of the late Engr. Luis Balili.

One estimate places the overpayment at P15.5 million.

A Cebu judge on Friday warned that she would ?send to jail? or cite in contempt the parties who don't cooperate with ensuring that P37.8 million is preserved in the Balili Estate to answer for a pending claim for a refund by the Province of Cebu.

The sum is part of the P98.9 million paid by the Province of Cebu for ten lots in Naga that turned out to be mostly submerged in seawater, real estate that is now the subject of a graft investigation of the Ombudsman's Office.

Judge Ester Veloso of the Regional Trial Court Branch 6 said the widow, Amparo, who had her lawyers withdraw her P37 milllion share from the bank on Dec. 7 despite objections of the estate executor, should return the amount. The judge tasked the executor, lawyer Luis Balili, to make sure the funds are returned.

Fortuna in an interview, said he and co-counsel Mark Rosal haven't conferred yet with Amparo to ask her if she was willing to return the money.

Some confusion exists about how much remains of the sales proceeds, which are tied up in special court proceedings to determine the inheritance of heirs of the Balili Estate.

The executor, Luis, told the court on Friday the ?cash flow? was disturbed by the widow's sudden withdrawal made without his permission and that not enough is left to set aside P37.8 million for the Province's claim.

Based on Cebu Daily News' review of court records, the widow Amparo had already received advances on the estate in 2008 amounting to P15.5 million

Combined with the P37 million she had lawyers withdraw last week, her total take is P52.5 million.

The total appears to be in excess of what the court determined as the widow's share in the Naga lot sale.

Last Dec. 3 Judge Veloso issued an order recognizing the partial shares of different heirs in the sales proceeds. A total of P44.48 million was identified after expenses and inheritance tax, as the net amount for distribution to the widow and Balili's four children.

Amaparo was assigned half of the net amount of P22.24 million as her share of the conjugal partnership. She also got a 2/3 share of the other half that went to the Balili Estate or P14.72 million for a total of P37 million.

When her lawyers promptly went with a court sheriff on Tuesday to the Banco De Oro Universal Bank, F. Ramos Branch in Cebu City, they had two managers checks for P37 million issued in Amparo's name.

Whether they knew the withdrawal does not take into account the prior release of funds to Amparo two years ago was not clear.

Amparo's lawyer Fortuna,whose services were retained a few months ago, said they just followed the court's order for release of P37 million and didn't know the full accounting.

?The accounting (presented by estate executor Romeo Balili) is confusing. I think the executor has to be clear. We have no knowledge as to how much the estate has,? Fortuna said in a phone interview.

He was referring to the Declaration of Heirship and Revised Partial Project of Partition prepared by Romeo Balili and approved by the court.

With the recent withdrawal of P37 million, Romeo Balili lamented that not enough was left in the bank to hold for the Province of Cebu's refund claim of P37.8 million.

He said the only ?liquid asset? left for the Balili Estate is the investment of P24 million and an earning of P789,950.87.

Evironmental lawyer Benjamin Cabrido said Romeo could be held liable for malversation of public funds because, as executor, he has authority over everything that happens in the estate.

Romeo has to give a full accounting, he said.

Cabrido aid the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas and the Anti-Money Laundering Council should intervene to put on hold all the accounts concenrning the Balili sale pending an investigation by the anti-graft office.

Meanwhile, whistleblower Crisologo Saavedra said he believes the Balili lot sale accounting is confusing because part of the P98.9 million has been distributed as kickbacks.

?Only people who connived with each other in that transaction has accessed to that money,? he said.

Saavedra said he will intervene in the civil case filed by the Cebu provincial government seeking a refund of P37.8 million for submerged lots.

The separate case is pending before RTC Judge Raphael Yrastorza of Branch 14.

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