SOMETHING is brewing at the UST Cooperative canteen.

To most students, the “Coop”, as it is fondly called, serves as a food haven, where the hungry Thomasian gets his quail eggs, mojos, and tacos quick and cheap. To the tenants, the Cooperative Canteen is a source livelihood. But to the UST administration, the Coop present a big obstacle to its plan of turning the Cooperative building into a student center, to house student organizations.

In this issue, the Varsitarian tackles the issues about the alleged lack of transparency and mismanagement of funds surrounding the UST Cooperative Canteen.

Oldest

The UST Cooperative is a consumer cooperative society organized in 1946, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1947.

It is one of the oldest, serving Cooperatives in the country and was a brainchild of two Spanish Dominicans, Fr. Modesto Mate and Fr. Jose de la Cuesta. The UST Cooperative is composed of students, faculty, and other people associated with the University.

Those interested in joining the Cooperative must buy a minimum of 10 shares to be a member, each share costing P100.

The members of the Cooperative board own the most number of shares, thereby assuring control over the organization. The board is headed by Fr. Efren Rivera, O.P. It is the board who runs the Cooperative.

The Cooperative supposedly has 17 tenants, including the four establishments just outside the Coop building. These tenants provide services to the students.

The Cooperative used to pay some P85,000 to P90,000 to the University per month for the rental of the property. Each stall pays P4,500 + 15% of its gross profit directly to the Coop.

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Shareholders of the Cooperative say that since they joined, they have not received any dividend. They said that the Cooperative has really become the personal business of the Cooperative’s managers, John Herrera and his sister Amelita.

The Varsitarian tried to get the side of Fr. Rivera but failed. The office of the general manager of the Cooperative told the Varsitarian that Fr. Rivera had instructed it not to grant interviews.

Case against Coop

The administration filed a complaint against the UST Cooperative at the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 2 on February 9, 2001 alleging that the Cooperative had been occupying the area, past its period of lease.

According to the trial documents, the Cooperative had been leasing the building under a lease contract, which was renewed from time to time. The last lease was for a period of six months from July 1, 1999 until December 31, 1999, with a monthly rent of P86,336.25 plus the VAT of P8,336.25 or in the aggregate amount of P94,672.50 per month payable within the first five days of the month.

On December 31, 1999, the contract expired and was no longer renewed but the Cooperative continued leasing the building. Fr. Roberto Pinto, O.P., the UST treasurer at that time, sent a letter to Fr. Rivera dated October 12, 2000. In the letter, Pinto demanded payment of the total amount P802,315.59 representing arrearages and utility bills from July 1999 to October 2000, or for a total of 16 months.

When the letter got no response from Fr. Rivera, Fr. Pinto sent another letter dated November 21, 2000 reiterating the previous demand. On December 12, of the same year, Fr. Pinto again released a letter demanding the payment of the money and ordering the Cooperative to vacate the premises at the end of December 31, 2000.

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The Cooperative’s board of directors, through Fr. Rivera, met University’s counsel at the Cooperative Building on January 10, 2001. In the meeting, Fr. Rivera requested that UST not remove the Cooperative. The University’s counsel immediately conferred with UST authorities but was told that the UST Economic Council had already decided to remove the Cooperative.

On January 24, 2001, UST’s counsel received a letter from the Cooperative’s. The letter stated that non-payment was justified by the absence of billing statement from the University.

On May 8, 2002, the verdict resulted in favor of the University and ordered the Cooperative to vacate the building, pay UST P820, 877.59 and P135, 000 per month beginning from January 2001 until the time that the Cooperative vacate the premises as compensation for the use of the building, pay UST P20, 000 as attorney’s fees, and pay the costs of the suit.

To date, however, the Cooperative is still using the building.

Student center

The administration seeks to remove the Cooperative so that it could convert the building into a student center that it will house all the University wide-organizations.

The proposed student center is a welcome idea for the organizations who have no function rooms.

Thomasian Debaters Council (TDC) member Shelah de Jesus said that without function rooms, they couldn’t train properly.

“Medyo na-apektuhan ang performance namin, dahil pag wala kaming makitang rooms sa isang college, we end up debating on trash cans,” she said.

Roi Calilong, an Artistang Artlets member, said that having an office would allow their operations to run smoothly.

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TDC president Carlo Olivar said that the student center is a good plan, but the administration must give due consideration to the tenants. John Carlo B. Bautista with reports from Maria Pacita C. Joson

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