THE Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) said loans worth more than a billion peso obtained by the Lopez group over a decade ago were not written off, adding that no irregularity took place and assets were sold off through a bidding.

In a probe led by the House Blue Ribbon Committee, DBP President Emmanuel G. Herbosa said the bank “has been always promoting the highest standards of good governance.”

He added that DBP conducted a public bidding of the non-performing loans and assets of Lopez-affiliated companies as called for by Republic Act No. 9182 or The Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) Act of 2002.

“What took place was not a loan condonation, which is gratuitous to write off, rather it was a sale particularly authorized by RA 9182,” he said.

The said law allows banks to unload their bad loans and assets to an SPV, which is a stock corporation that will invest or acquire the non-performing loans and assets.

Mr. Herbosa said through a bidding, the loans were sold to Lehman Brothers Asia Ltd., the Asia-Pacific arm of defunct US investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc., for P3.83 billion.

The Lopez group came under fire after past House hearings on ABS-CBN Corp.’s franchise revealed that a P1.6 billion loan was condoned by the state-run bank to the Lopez group. The Lopez-owned network was closed last year when House lawmakers moved for the franchise’s non-renewal.

Documents relating to transactions on the loan disposal are no longer available due to the bank’s retention policies under the National Archives of the Philippines Act, which requires the disposal of documents after five years. Mr. Herbosa said the documents being requested were from nearly 20 years ago.

The transaction was also looked into by the Commission on Audit and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, which found no irregularities, DBP said.

However, lawmakers remained unconvinced that the state-run bank did not have any data available regarding the transaction, adding that the resolution calling for the probe was filed in July while a notification regarding the hearing was posted last month, which would have given them time to prepare.

“I just request that they comply with the documents we have been asking because it is hard for us to proceed with this hearing,” said Davao Occidental Rep. Claudine Diana D. Bautista.

Both DBP and the Lopez group were given a month to provide the needed documents.

Lopez Holdings Corp. Chief Financial Officer Salvador G. Tirona said in the same hearing, “we need to understand what documents are needed by the committee and we will continue to pursue it.” — Gillian M. Cortez