PRESIDENTIAL Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Tuesday said the government may initiate a probe into allegations that Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim and his group managed to establish a business empire in the country by circumventing the constitutional limits on foreign ownership of local companies.
But the official stressed that there should be enough evidence for such investigation to push ahead.
“If our Constitution or any law was violated, of course it is the government’s duty to investigate and hold the culprits liable. That’s why if there’s information about that, it should be brought to the attention of the government,” Coloma said.
The Palace official was reacting to a series of articles written by The Manila Times columnist, former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao, detailing how Salim built his business empire in the Philippines, using the influence of businessman Manuel Pangilinan.
“Pangilinan owns only 0.09 percent of Salim’s flagship firm Metro Pacific Investments, and 1.4 percent in the parent company, First Pacific. The Indonesian tycoon’s holding companies own in those firms 56 percent and 45 percent, respectively, with the rest of the shares dispersed to thousands of stock market investors,” Tiglao said in his column.
“For his huge role in building up Salim’s empire, Pangilinan has no share at all in any of the three offshore firms, which at the end of the corporate layering ultimately own the empire,” he added.
The Times column further revealed that “according to Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd. in its 2012 annual report, Salim’s holding and ‘command’ firm, profits from its Philippine operations now exceed those in the magnate’s home country, Indonesia, by about $200 million.”
Salim’s firms in the Philippines include the Manila Electric Co., the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., telecommunication companies Smart and Sun, and several other utilities and media outfits.
Coloma, meanwhile, said the issues should be made clear first by anyone who would formally accuse the businessmen of breaking the law and the Constitution itself.
“We should know the issue. It is the job of government to implement the law if particular complaints are raised by any group,” he stressed.
It was further alleged that Salim’s lieutenants are the ones pushing for the economic Charter change being espoused by no less than House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
Pangilinan is known to have an interest in Belmonte’s Star Group of Companies that publishes, among others, The Philippine Star.