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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Bengzon not giving up on GRMC job

The former chief executive officer of the Guam Regional Medical City, who was ousted from her job last year, is confident of getting her job back despite a recent court decision dismissing her plea for reinstatement.

“I look forward to returning to GRMC and continue advancing our mission of improving health and life on Guam and in our region,” said Margaret Bengzon, who was replaced by Dr. Michael Cruz in December 2018.

Bengzon was removed from her job as a result of a corporate dispute involving GRMC’s Philippine-based parent company The Medical City, of which the former hospital CEO is a shareholder.

Another group of investors led by Jose Xavier Gonzales and his Singapore-based partner, the Viva Holdings/Clermont group of companies, took over The Medical City. Gonzales replaced Bengzon as the GRMC board chairman.

Bengzon has petitioned the Guam Superior Court to rule for status quo prior to her removal until the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission resolves the dispute over shareholder ownership of GRMC.

In dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Elyze Iriarte ruled that Bengzon “lacks standing to raise claims concerning harm to GRMC.”

“We may have experienced a temporary setback, but we are confident that the SEC will soon fairly and favorably resolve serious questions over the legitimacy of the share ownership of the Gonzales and Viva/Clermont group,” Bengzon said.

Phil Torres, Bengzon’s attorney, believes the court will ultimately take into consideration how the Philippine SEC resolves the broader shareholder dispute involving GRMC’s parent.

“We are all eagerly awaiting the Philippine SEC’s decision regarding Gonzales and Viva’s alleged fraudulent acquisition of TMC shares which, in the end, is the final common pathway,” Torres said. “The SEC decision will provide full and final resolution to TMC’s and GRMC’s current corporate challenges.”

Bengzon’s removal from office was preceded by the ouster of her father-in-law, the 83-year-old Alfredo Bengzon as the company’s long-time CEO resulting from Viva’s takeover.

Gonzales’ 29 percent and Clermont’s 25 percent stake in the company combined give them majority control of the board.

Gonzales is Alfredo Bengzon’s nephew. In September 2018, Alfredo Bengzon filed a complaint with SEC alleging that Gonzales acquired his shares with the help of the Singaporean firm Clermont, without notifying the board, rendering the purchase invalid.

In January 2019, criminal charges of fraud were levied by the Philippine courts against Gonzales and his associates.

The charges were based on SEC’s filing in November 2018, charging Gonzales and Viva/Clermont companies with numerous violations of the Philippines’ Securities Regulation Code.

SEC found that the group may have “misrepresented their independence from each other,” as they secured majority ownership of The Medical City to the prejudice of “unsuspecting stockholders whose share value and voting power have declined” as a result of the fraud.

The SEC stated that these acts violated SRC provisions designed to protect stockholders from “fraudulent, manipulative and deceptive act(s) or practice(s)” in connection with securities transactions.


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