Jolly Benitez and the Return to the Kubeta Village

IN RECENT weeks there has been a flood of material about the Philippine Women’s University (PWU) and its early education unit Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS). It stemmed from recent events where the STI group was calling in a P450 million loan taken out by the PWU and its managing group led by the Benitez family.

A lot has been said between the two parties, which I had attempted to cover in a previous blog (The curious case of PWU/ JASMS: Nothing personal, it’s business.). Since then the Benitez group has announced that they were taking the matter to court which, up to this point, has not materialized.

On the other hand numerous internet sites have been published pointing to the Benitez groups alleged mishandling of PWU finances (How the aristocratic thieves from Taft looted PWU’s coffers dry) as well as more allegations of management misconduct by members of the family involved with the school management (People are coming out with more Benitezes’ secrets. What they reveal will scare you).

The popular site Get Real Philippines had an entry by Paul Farol that chronicled what it viewed as a series of acts of covering one debt for the other by the Benitez management led by Jolly, the former fair haired boy of Imelda Romualdez Marcos when she reigned supreme at her self created Ministry of Human Settlements and concurrent head of the Metro Manila Commission. (Getting Out of Debt the Benitez Way) The debt to cover older debts scheme – like credit card misuse by ordinary folk – begged the question: where did the money go if PWU/ JASMS ended up in such a rundown state?

The answer, apparently, is in another blog post, as Farol pointed out to a seething Lyka Benitez Brown: “And oh, Miss Lyca… A blog that I stumbled upon tends to fly smack in the face of your previous claims the Benitezes are against STI because it wanted to commercialize the JASMS QC property. The blog states that IT WAS JOLLY BENITEZ who actually thought of moving JASMS QC to Fairview so that the entire campus could be commercialized…” (The 90s Benitez Deal: Where Did the P250M JASMS Development Fund from HK Firm Go?)

These escalating exchanges brought back memories from my early days as a journalist, after the assassination of Benigno S. Aquino where I was writing for the weekly Mr&Ms Special Edition. This was the spinoff of the lifestyle magazine Mr&Ms covering those turbulent times. I recalled Jolly Benitez, the guy who ran for the Ferdinand Marcos rubberstamp national assembly – the parliamentary body called Interim Batasang Pambansa – under the moniker “Technocrat ng Masa.”

Despite the dictatorship Marcos seemed to allow a few brickbats against his administration by the very minority opposition party in IBP, some sort of semblance to democracy that George Bush, then visiting US Vice President, said he so loved about Marcos.

I recall one of the issues we were covering then about Jolly Benitez was that of the “Kubeta Village.” Apparently Benitez had created a relocation site for squatter in Carmona Cavite which was supposed to be completely built – facilities, amenities and all. But when it was investigated all that it showed was a big piece of land with rows upon rows of toilet bowls lined up – like the soldiers’ crossed in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

In the meantime, Benitez had been building his mansion in the Mariposa area of Quezon City, and it was believed that the cement trucks and building materials for the squatter relocation were diverted there. Well, that mansion is no more, having been sold and redeveloped as a condominium complex.

The Kubeta Village had already been a blur, so far back in my memory, when a few internet Google clicks provided me with some clarity about it… and of Jolly Benitez’s actions. First, there was the column of veteran journalist Efren Danao in the Manila Times reminiscing about his coverage of the legislature:

Nanny Perez also stood out for his exposes on the projects of the Ministry of Human Settlements and questions to Human Settlements Deputy Minister Jolly Benitez. Until now, I still relish his expose on the “Kubeta Village” in Cavite developed by Benitez. (16th Congress like a legislature under martial law)

In the book America’s Boy: The Marcoses in the Philippines by James Hamilton-Paterson, this was detailed as part of Imelda’s Sariling Sikap project which Jolly Benitez had whipped up:

In due course bulldozers and diggers arrived and soon on a Cavite lot arose the remarkable sight of hundreds of lavatory bowls, all in precise rows, each gleaming in their own little patch of cement. But then, just as suddenly, the bulldozers vanished again and nobody came back to lay the foundations. Within a month or two the local poor decided to upgrade their existing shacks rather than start afresh and began stealing the bowls. Today they have vanished, but the site is known locally as ‘Kubeta Siti’ or “Toilet Town.” (America’s Boy: The Marcoses in the Philippines)

It’s very difficult to hide anything from the internet these days. Always, your past will come back to haunt you.

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