• The arrogance of an Indonesian magnate’s lackey

    48

    First of a Series
    What kind of a nation have we become, that an Indonesian magnate’s corporate executive – the modern equivalent of a “lackey” in the pre-capitalist era – tells an incoming government “to get out of the way?”

    I am referring to Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), its subsidiary Smart Telecom, Meralco and all companies controlled and mainly owned, through intermediary firms, by Indonesia’s Anthoni Salim. The Indonesian tycoon is heir to the vast wealth of his father, the late Soedono Salim, the closest and richest crony of Indonesian strongman Suharto.

    In a June 18 interview with provincial reporters brought to Makati City to cover PLDT’s annual stockholders’ meeting, Pangilinan reportedly said that the company’s digital shift was likely to succeed if the government would not meddle too much. “The government’s share is to get out of the way,” he said. What arrogance to tell the government not to exercise its duty to regulate public utility firms!

    Did Pangilinan forget that his boss is a foreigner, an Indonesian, and that foreigners own a total of 76 percent of PLDT, and therefore they do not have the right to tell this sovereign state what to do, and what not to do?

    President Rodrigo Duterte (according to one of his Facebook accounts and online new sites) purportedly replied to Pangilinan’s remark: “Simply recall that you are just a puppet of the foreign-based Salim Group, while I am the chosen President of the Republic of the Philippines!” I couldn’t confirm if he really said that through any of Duterte’s official spokesmen. But if Duterte really said that, he has added a new meaning to the MVP initials – Most Valuable Puppet for Salim, Most Vexatious Puppet for Duterte.

    One can’t, perhaps, blame Pangilinan for his bluster, as he may have started to believe his PR operators’ colossal deception, the biggest this country has seen: that there is an “MVP Group of Companies,” of which he is the controlling or even majority stockholder.

    The owner and his main man in the Philippines: Salim, left, and Pangilinan, in First Pacific’s annual report.

    The owner and his main man in the Philippines: Salim, left, and Pangilinan, in First Pacific’s annual report.

    The reality, however, is that Pangilinan is merely Salim’s staff, albeit a very highly paid one and chief staff in the Philippines, and has insignificant shares in the “MVP Group of Companies” – unless he has been deliberately hiding his shares from regulatory bodies for some dark reason.

    Salim owns, through offshore firms, 45 percent of First Pacific, the mother firm and controlling stockholder of PLDT and his other firms in the Philippines. The next biggest stockholder, with 3 percent indirect shares, is Sutanto Djuhar (and his son Tedy), another Suharto crony and one of First Pacific’s original founders with Salim’s father Soedono. Pangilinan owns just 1.4 percent.

    Salim’s effective stake in PLDT is 25.6 percent, with the next biggest stockholders being the two subsidiaries of the Japanese NTT with 20 percent, and Philippine tycoon John Gokongwei with 8 percent. Pangilinan has 0.1 percent.

    In Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), the holding company for his now mammoth public utility and infrastructure firms in the Philippines, Salim, through Metro Pacific Holdings, has 52.1 percent. The next biggest individual stockholder is former foreign affairs secretary, Albert del Rosario, Salim’s closest associate in the country after Pangilinan, with 0.4 percent. MPIC’s official filings with the SEC (such at its General Information Sheet for 2015) don’t even include Pangilinan as one of its top 100 stockholders.

    mvp, or Salim group

    There is a major motive, though, for this corporate imaging that Pangilinan is a major and even controlling stockholder of what is elsewhere more realistically called the Salim Group: to conceal from Filipinos’ minds the fact that an Indonesian magnate, Salim, is the biggest, controlling stockholder of these companies engaged in telecoms, power, water distribution and other public utility firms, which skirts constitutional limits on foreign ownership of such companies.

    Salim, in fact, has become the country’s newest – but low profile, if not hidden – magnate, the only tycoon almost completely based on public-utility firms.

    The last time in Philippine post-war history that a foreigner wielded such economic power in the country was in the 1950s, when a G.I. who fought here during World War II and stayed on, Harry Stonehill, built a conglomerate of cigarette, glass and cement manufacturers. His net worth was estimated at $50 million at the time, equivalent to $400 million today – peanuts, compared with Salim’s estimated assets in the country of $6 billion, based on the value of his shares in PLDT, his holding firm Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and Philex Mining

    Pangilinan was actually lashing at the Philippine Competition’s Council, which, to his mind, wasn’t jumping fast enough to approve PLDT and Globe’s P69-billion purchase of San Miguel’s telco assets, which included the rights over the 700-megahertz radio spectrum.

    The gall of a foreign agent to make such a comment on this issue! It involves not only the question whether PLDT and Globe together have become a monopoly, or a duopoly, in the telecoms industry – a privilege that in all Asian countries is reserved for state corporations (such as Singtel in Singapore) and firms controlled by their citizens.

    Supreme Court decision

    The Supreme Court in 2011 and 2012 even ruled that foreigners owned more than 40 percent of PLDT, in violation of the Constitution. The ruling, however, was practically ignored by the SEC, purportedly under President Aquino’s orders.

    Equally important is that the issue involves Salim’s company (as represented by Pangilinan) and another foreign-controlled firm, Globe Telecom, and their use of the crucial 700 MHZ band of the radio spectrum. The use of such natural, national resource is the duty of a sovereign state to regulate, as practiced in all other countries of the world, the same way they regulate mineral and oil resources.

    Given that the 700MHz band is such a valuable natural resource, and would yield huge profits for telcos using it, countries have, in fact, been auctioning the rights to bands of that spectrum. The US in 2008 put bands of its 700 MHz on the auction block, and got $19 billion (P798 billion), while Canada made $5.3 billion (P210 billion) in 2014 – figures which dwarf PLDT and Globe’s P69 billion offer for the 700MHz band sold by San Miguel.

    Pangilinan may have a penchant for taking the government-must-leave-business-alone stance since his boss Salim was able to quickly take over PLDT in November 1998, precisely because government got out of the way.

    Then President Joseph Estrada, just three months into his term, ordered Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Perfecto Yasay (President Duterte’s choice as his foreign affairs secretary), who wanted to first approve the takeover, to get out of the way. When Yasay refused, he was suspended on flimsy graft charges. When the Supreme Court ordered Yasay reinstated, Estrada issued an order taking away from him the authority to investigate the PLDT takeover.

    In his 2005 book “Out of the Lion’s Den,” as well as in my 2015 interview with him, Yasay claimed Estrada received P3 billion for his role in PLDT’s takeover, although he didn’t identify which party – the buyer or the seller – provided what Estrada’s associates euphemistically called “commission.”

    Pangilinan doth protest too much, methinks. The deal for San Miguel’s sale of its telco assets was sealed only on May 30. He made his remarks that government should get out of the way only June 18. Yet, it became a screaming banner story on the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, in which a Salim-controlled firm is the second biggest stockholder, with 22 percent of its capital. (However, the Philippine Star, in which a Salim-controlled entity is the biggest stockholder with a 70 percent stake,  did not report Pangilinan’s statements.)

    Why the pressure on government now?

    I’ll discuss that on Wednesday.

    tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com

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    48 Comments

    1. Juan dela Cruz on

      MVP is so powerful that nothing is published about his personal life! He is gay! Im not sure but i think jay manalo,the actor, was once his lover. Thats also why he’s active in basketball. He’s so corrupt and bribe people and he is soooo gay! Lalabas at lalabas din yan!

      • Definitely you are right, pangilinan was the source of all evils in the government becoming so corrupt

    2. Stephanie Davis on

      Will the murders of so many journalists in the Philippines aren’t you worried about writing something negative against Duterte?

      • against? aren’t he backing Duterte’s plan-of-action to break the duopoly? He’s attacking, in fact, Pnoy’s lack of resolve to protect our 700Mhz resource, so I don’t get your comment.

    3. NOMER OBNAMIA on

      With all these revelations of government officials’ collusion with large companies to do business in PI to the detriment of the general public, the likes of Estrada, et. al., so why are they not being hounded by the law? This is the basic problem- criminals are not prosecuted and jailed to pay for their sins- selected justice system. So then the unfortunate fate of the republic is well deserved by FIlipinos. PI is so deep in corrupt mindset there is no way out of this morass. Filipinos will continue living in their miserable way of life. Forget about change for it will never come. Duterte can only do so much and will be out of office in 6 years, then a new corrupt president will take over. And the culture of corruption will continue to flourish with the consent of the people.

    4. Mariano Patalinjug on

      Yonkers, New York
      27 June 2016

      These highly troubling revelations by former diplomat and now Manila Times columnist ROBERTO TIGLAO should merit a thorough investigation by incoming President RODRIGO DUTERTE because it is possible that the well-known Filipino business tycoon MANUEL PANGILINAN is just a lackey or a front for Indonesian tycoon SALIM and that it has been through his nefarious “fronting” for Mr. Salim that the Indonesian has effectively gained control of several iconic corporations in the Philippines–and possibly in violation of the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution.

      MARIANO PATALINUG
      patalinjugmar@gmail.com

      • Dangerously as ot was for the Filipino people, all earning went out to Indonesia and the money became scarce and hard to earn, because nothing was left for the Filipino peopke to earn….do something and go after corrupt businessman like manuel pangilinan….

    5. But…Indonesians and Filipinos are blood brothers…same ethnic Austronesian people…………….please stop calling us foreigners. We are one. All these islands were once so inter-connected to each other before Spaniards and Dutch divided us. Let us not squabble with each other, and let us stand united against China.

      • nesty mcdice on

        Yes we’re brothers, but not in business…hating kapatid…baka hating demonyo…

      • I agree with you Mr. Indonesian. We are blood brothers and so are the Malaysians. MVP is entirely to be blamed here because he thought that he can just dictate Digong on what to do as he was accustomed to do with Noynoy. The action of Pangilinan was definitely improper. He should know better.

      • We maybe brothers but do not think that you can take advantage of us especially when everyone knows how corrupt Suharto and his cronies where and as such the money invested in the Philippines is money taken by his friends from the poor of Indonesia.

      • We have nothing against Indonesians. What bothers us is how our fellow Filipino let Mr Salim owns a huge share and broke the law

      • Even if you are brothers and sisters but if you have different nationalities then one would be a foreigner in another one’s land which is governed by different laws.

      • Karen Faith Villaprudente on

        This article is not about our racial connections. This is not about China’s foreign policy either.

    6. Josefino Bajado Velasco on

      The government should rectify this anomaly.The first action is to limit the shares those foreigners within the limit provided by law and compel them to sell those excess shares either to the government or to new stockholders. Na pamper kasi ang kumag na yan ni P-noy.

    7. Duterte identifies MVP is the puppet of a foreigner …. excess on the 40% allowable holdings by the foreigner will be nationalized …..

    8. renato irlanda on

      it was the jerk Erap who gave the royal carpet to MVP to raid and own most of the countrys’ utilities starting with PLDT. all and in cosideration of a tiny, insignificant commission of Php 3B.
      GMA should have just left Erap to rot in jail for his unforgivable sins

      • itong commission na ito yata ang supposedly laman ng second envelope sa impeachment proceedings ni erap. nawala yung laman ng envelope, hindi ba??

    9. Marcial Santos on

      Sir, your opening statement..”What kind of a nation have we become, ” is very appropriate for your articles re “MVP Group of Companies”. It is because our government (the politicians, regulatory bodies, National Security experts, etal) are playing and/or just plain ignorant of the implication of MVP’s business strategies on ownership and control of public utilities (tri-media, Water, Electric Power, Telecoms, road & transport networks, Hospitals/medical services), The economy and national security of the Filipino people can now be easily controlled/manipulated by a single corporation that is also allegedly owned by Indonesians.

      God Bless the Filipino Nation!

      Bosmar

      • Mr. Tiglao should have added to its headline, “..and invasion and sabotage to Philippine economy”.

    10. “MVP Group of Companies” kuno, Please get out of the way of PLDT,Meralco, Maynilad and other public utilities.

    11. You know boycott of companies and products have never been successful in the country ever since.

      MVP as an executive of Salim could not be blamed for enhancing the assets of First Pacific in the country. It is his job and mandate as a paid executive. Whatever happened to the investment portfolio of Salim in the Philippines – wherein the percentage ownership has breached the law – should be blamed on the Philippine regulators, the trade and business licensing watchdogs, and the courts. There was an intention to deceive the Filipinos by a foreign group of companies – this is very unfortunate. But connivance by the Philippine authorities who turned traitors against the Filipino interest – that is a disaster!

    12. Sir, you just missed something important in the write-ups that mvp was shaped and nurtured by a Ph Damaged Culture. His acts and methods are very similar to Ph-owned rent seeking elite class. Their conduct and ways of dealing with the Ph Govt as if this group of elite is more powerful than the govt. itself at totoo naman.

    13. Elmocastillon on

      Mvp was used by salim to penetrate his business in the country..the incoming administration must review the law..as regards to how much percentage
      should salim invest in our country..

    14. Because he’s used to it. The way he’s been telling all the previous administration and get away with it all the time. Well there’s a new Kid in town!

    15. Kapitan Kidlat on

      To manny Pangilinan….your days are numbered….you make the Filipinos suffer because of your greed and you are a traitor by allowing salim to manipulate you, erpa and abnOY were responsible too for being greedy. Once the death penalty is approved….you deserve to be the first to taste it.

      • Your ignorance of the PRRD genuine intention for the country’s promising future will follow you!

    16. What a sad story for the Philippines!!! Two of our presidents enabled this constitutional violations to occur. And the Secretary of Foreign Affairs also a party to this! How Shameful.

      MVPangilinan has been publicized as a successful patriot!! In fact he is a DUMMY, A LACKEY of foreigners – to the detrement of his country. He should be ashamed of himself.

      What can we do now? Is there any way that this violation be corrected? Can these people be put in prison?

    17. we are in the age where the ownership of a business is no longer a one-man show kaya nga ang tawag dun eh korporasyon. businesses nowadays, mostly, are funded by foreigners. big corporations are partially owned by a foreigner, but a majority of it should be Filipinos, nasa batas yan.

      for mvp, he is a custodian. ipinagkatiwala sa kanya na palaguin ang business dito sa pilipinas. and that is his job description as ceo. if the business is good, every Filipino is happy, if not the government economy will be sluggish. mararamdaman yan ng mga pinoy kasi domino effect yan.

      for me mvp is just stating that the government shouldn’t meddle too much. and this is not directed to duterte but to pcoo. pldt/globe has a mandate from the president na ‘improve our else’ and the 700mhz needed will improve the service. if pcoo is doing his job and sees this deal unfair to the Filipinos, explain it to us, prove it to us Filipinos na this is a bad deal. for us we see it as ‘utak talangka’ for pcoo. nagpapakitang gilas kasi nga bagong ahensiya. pldt/globe is abiding the law and what it requires. but if the law is the one who is stopping to improve the welfare of the people it governs it should be abolished.

      • Gaudioso balace on

        Maybe mvp looks for his own country and do business there, so that no govt will interfere him. He used to be protected by previous presidents, and now du30 did not received his contributions. Boycott all his companies!!

    18. Prinze Fisher on

      Many Filipino leaders and businessmen doesn’t have nationalism and patriotism in their heart and vocabulary! They willingly forgets it or sell it just to fill their pocket. For them, money equals power.

      • Correct. Just look at the ‘photobomber’ In Luneta. The Consunjis don’t have these characters. Duterte, please help demolish this.

    19. There is a lot of undervalue of PLDT shares and a lots of manipulation, hidden shares and dummy representatuve to keep his shares from Salim group, now pangilianan is richer than Salim.

      • samuel andy cahyadi on

        dude, you don’t know how rich salim is, he is one of the richest man in indonesia, pldt is only 1-2 % of his business