Press Release
May 29, 2009



Liberal President Senator Mar Roxas today urged President Arroyo to use her influence over the justice department and order the waiving of filing fees for pre-need plan holders victimized by the fraudulent operations of Legacy owner Celso de los Angeles and his cohorts.

At the same time, Roxas filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking the exemption of victims of failed pre-need companies and investment scams from the payment of filing fees, which he stressed have become "stumbling blocks" in the victims' quest for justice.

Roxas, chairman of the Senate trade and commerce committee, lamented the inability of Legacy victims from paying the required filing fees with the DOJ and the corresponding legal fees with the courts have delayed, if not blocked, the recovery of their claims and the prosecution of De los Angeles and his cohorts for fraudulent transactions.

The fees include filing fees, which are paid to the DOJ if complainants want to institute criminal actions, and court fees, which are paid if planholders lodge criminal complaints against fraudulent investment entities and pre-need companies.

"Itong mga fees na ito ang isa sa mga pinakamalaking hadlang sa pag-pa-file ng kaso laban dito sa Legacy at kay Celso de los Angeles," he said in his opening statement during Friday's committee hearing on the collapse of Legacy companies and the plight of the pre-need industry.

"Nananawagan po ako sa Pangulo, nananawagan po ako sa administrasyon: Imbes na pag-aksayahan po ninyo ng panahon iyang mga political parties, 'yang pagsasama-sama ng mga partido po ninyo, imbes na pag-aksayahan po ninyo itong mga birthday at iba pang mga okasyon, siguro dapat pag-aksayahan ninyo ng panahon, bigyan ninyo ng oras, itong mga naging biktima ng Legacy. Kayo mismo, Pangulong Arroyo, DOJ, at administrasyon, kayo mismo dumulog sa Supreme Court at tumulong sa ating panawagan na i-waive na itong filing fees na ito," he appealed to President Arroyo.

"Pangulong Arroyo, kung sinsero ka sa pagtulong sa ating mga kababayan, alam mo ang kabigatan ng iyong impluwensiya sa DOJ, alam mong makikinig sa iyo ang secretary nito kung iuutos mo ang pagtigil ng paniningil ng mga filing fees para sa mga biktima ng Legacy," he added.

In his petition with the Supreme Court, the Visayan senator said the high bench, like Congress, has the duty to "reduce social and economic inequalities in order to further improve and uplift the lives of Filipino people."

"One such way of lessening social and economic inequalities is an outright exemption from filing fees for victims of failed pre-need companies and investment scams, which filing fees can just constitute as a lien on whatever monetary award that said victims may receive in the event of a favorable decision," he said.

"The importance of exempting victims from filing fees cannot be overstated. Such exemption from filing fess will definitely provide real financial relief to these unfortunate victims considering what they are going through financially and emotionally ... For the victims and their families, every little bit of financial relief matters. By easing the burden of paying filing fess, access to justice will be increased dramatically," he added.

Roxas had written to the SC on February 26 requesting justices to waive court fees for pre-need victims. The court said pre-need victims could be exempted from paying court filing fees if they are indigent litigants under Administrative Circular 35-2004.

Noting that Legacy victims do not fall under the said category, the senator argued: "Victims of investment scams and failed pre-need companies should not be subjected to the category of an indigent litigant in order to be exempted from the court's legal fees. What should be considered is the injustice that was done to the said victims ... the special circumstances of the victims of investment entities and failed pre-need companies should be considered by this Honorable Court as not an ordinary case of money claim," he stressed.

He said exempting pre-need victims from payment of such fees would increase their access to the courts and criminal or civil cased would not be defeated at the outset and could at least, go to trial.

"Hindi ako papayag na patuloy kayong apihin nitong mga siga sa gobyerno. Sa ating pagkakapit-bisig, lalaban tayo at magpupursige," Roxas vowed.

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