The newest, yet hidden, Philippine oligarch isn’t even Filipino: Anthoni Salim

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RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

First of Two Parts
This is how bad our country has become. The newest, yet hidden oligarch in the Philippines isn’t even a Filipino: He is the Indonesian magnate Anthoni Salim.

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If President Duterte tries to make a list of oligarchs in the country — the few who rule the commanding heights of the economy — he is likely to miss Salim, for he may not have read his name in the country’s biggest newspapers.

In three of these, which he totally controls or has substantial stakes in — Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer, BusinessWorld — and in the third biggest TV-radio network in the country, Channel 5, which he also dominates, “Salim” is the name that can neither be written nor spoken.

It’s the elephant in the room of Philippine media, which practitioners pretend does not exist: How can a foreigner become the country’s media mogul despite the fact the Constitution prohibits even a single coin of foreign money invested in the press?

Salim has never ever set foot on Philippine soil, yet his First Pacific Co. Ltd. conglomerate in the Philippines has achieved growth through major moves under each of the past four Philippine administrations, with each President apparently extending crucial assistance and support — a phenomenon that would fit the definition of cronyism. With such support from sitting Presidents, Salim has overtaken many of the old magnates in stature in just two decades, even capturing the prized corporations of two of the country’s old elites, the Cojuangcos and the Lopezes.

There’s worse news. Salim’s conglomerate is based on telecoms, power, water distribution, and other public utilities — the few sectors the Constitution bars foreigners from controlling since they exploit natural and national resources that in all nations in the world are reserved for citizens. How bad can it get?

The Indonesian oligarch and his P2M/day executive: Salim (left), who owns 45% of the First Pacific conglomerate, and Pangilinan, his most valuable professional (Salim photo from Tempo magazine)

The Indonesian oligarch and his P2M/day executive: Salim (left), who owns 45% of the First Pacific conglomerate, and Pangilinan, his most valuable professional (Salim photo from Tempo magazine)

Salim, 67, has probably even become the most powerful oligarch in the Philippines.To situate Salim as an oligarch, Roberto Ongpin, whom Duterte had identified as an oligarch, actually simply acted as a clever investment banker who packaged Salim’s acquisition of Philex in 2009, after the Indonesian was rebuffed by the Social Security System (SSS) and when he faced a stiff challenge for control by the San Miguel Corp.

Salim is the controlling owner through his 45-percent stake in First Pacific Co. Ltd. This is the mother firm of the country’s biggest public utility companies, which include the lucrative cellphone sector (PLDT’s Smart), the electricity monopoly in metropolitan Manila (Meralco), the water distribution firm for the western half of the metropolis (Maynilad Water Services), the company operating the longest toll road system in the country, the infrastructure firm that is constructing the country’s expressways and light-rail systems, and the nation’s largest gold mining company, Philex Mining.

new salim 9

The reason why most Filipinos outside of big-business have never heard of Salim – even if they have most likely bought his products and services such as Smart phones, electricity, water and toll roads — is that he has been hidden very successfully from public view by the face of his top executive Manuel V. Pangilinan.

Instead of Salim, his top executive Pangilinan has been portrayed — falsely — as the biggest stockholder, or leads the stockholders of First Pacific, the Hong-Kong based, Bermuda-incorporated holding company of the vast Philippine conglomerate.

Colossal deception
This has been such a colossal deception foisted on the nation, so successfully that Salim’s conglomerate is routinely referred to as the “MVP Group of Companies.” Likewise, Pangilinan has always been known as the “top businessman” controlling the First Pacific group of companies, and never, ever, as “Salim’s executive.”

However, Pangilinan, despite his more than 30 years as Salim’s employee, receiving over P2 million a day in executive pay from Salim’s firms, owns insignificant shares in Salim’s conglomerate.

■ Pangilinan owns only a total of 1.4 percent stake in First Pacific Co., while Anthoni Salim owns 45 percent. This is exactly the same percentage share his father Soedono held when, with three other cronies of the Indonesian strongman Suharto, he set up the company in 1981 in Hong Kong. First Pacific was intended to move their crony wealth outside Indonesia, in a strategic move to prepare for the fall of Suharto, who at that time had already been in power for 14 years.

One of these cronies, Sutanto Djuhar, who had held 45 percent in 1981, is First Pacific’s next biggest stockholder with a 3 percent stake. The rest of First Pacific shares are distributed among 600 of the world’s most lucrative fund management firms, with 20 percent held by US institutions, making the firm essentially a Salim-US multinational.

■ Pangilinan holds only token shares — less than half a percent — in PLDT, MPIC, Philex and other Philippine companies of the Salim conglomerate. In all of these firms, the biggest stockholders are intermediaries or subsidiaries of Salim’s First Pacific. (The other Filipino who has been behind Salim’s expansion in the Philippines, having been his adviser since the 1980s, is former Philippine Ambassador to the US and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, who has been a director of First Pacific from 2003 until 2011, and several of its biggest Philippine firms. Del Rosario’s wealth – he was the richest of Aquino’s Cabinet members – appears to have come mostly from his compensation from and business with Salim’s firms.)

del rosario

Aquino’s foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario: The other Filipino behind Salim’s expansion into the Philippines.

One reason why many believe Pangilinan controls First Pacific is that his public image has been deftly managed since the 1990s, that he has a high-profile “corporate citizenship” unmatched by any tycoon or executive, past or present.

He has been portrayed as a patron of the sports, especially basketball, a generous donor of academic institutions (mainly his alma mater Ateneo), and a board member of prestigious universities to which he gives his precious, free financial advice. It has been, of course, Salim’s firms, mainly through the huge advertising budget of PLDT and Smart, that have been bankrolling these activities.

There is even a website for the “MVP Group of Companies CSR”, which reports the “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs of the MVP Group of Companies.” Its site includes firms like First Pacific Co. (Pangilinan’s employer) and Indofood, the Jakarta-based Salim-owned firm with which he doesn’t have any connection to at all.

A brilliant PR move for Pangilinan has been First Pacific’s acquisition of 12 hospitals, which include iconic ones such as Makati Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center and Manila Doctors’ Hospital. This has portrayed him (but not Salim whose Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings owns these hospitals) as a tycoon concerned not only with business profits but also with humanitarian endeavors such as medical care. But this isn’t solely philanthropic activity: First Pacific’s income from these amounted to $66.4 million (P3 billion) between 2010 and 2015.

Pangilinan’s “corporate citizenship is, indeed, a laudable quality so much needed in a country ruled by oligarchs, who view the Philippines merely as a country where they make profits, and not their real nation.

There is obviously however, a big ulterior reason for First Pacific’s huge public relations campaign to portray Pangilinan as a tycoon with a high sense of civic duty. This is to build up public sympathy for him, to make it easier for gullible Filipinos, including its political leaders, ,to believe the myth that he owns the First Pacific conglomerate, concealing the reality that it is tightly controlled by an Indonesian magnate, in violation of constitutional provisions limiting foreign capital in public utilities.

Beneath the hullabaloo of our wild democratic system, the drama of presidential contests, the seeming gravity of issues such as the US military basing agreement and China’s intrusion into our territory, and the drug pandemic, the heights of our economy has been quietly taken over by an Indonesian, and billions of dollars are being siphoned off the country as super-profits from public utilities — and most Filipinos aren’t even aware of it.

What a sad, unlucky country.

On Friday, even Forbes magazine now conceals Salim, who is not only an oligarch, but going by the UK-magazine The Economist’s definition, a crony.

Sources of data and a more comprehensive history and account of the Salim empire in the Philippines are found in my book, available online at rigobertotiglao.com/book and soon at major bookstores:

colossal20160819

tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com

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69 Comments

  1. if filipinos does not invests in his own country then foreigner will come inn..now kumikita na si salim aagawin naman ng pinoy?this is called econmic coup..which is wrong….filipinos has an attitude pag ikaw nagtanim gusto sila kumain……

  2. if filipinos does not invests in his own country then foreigner will come inn..now kumikita na si salim aagawin naman ng pinoy?this is called econmic coup..which is wrong….filipinos has an attitude pag ikaw nagtanim gusto sila kumain…

    • Not new indeed!

      But only little of our population knew.

      Time to curb the stakes of SALIM in PLDT, Maynilad, MERALCO etc which are basic utilities.

  3. Mr. Tiglao, maybe you may want to dig deeper who really owns these corporations. You may dig deeper beyond 1981. Where did MVP worked before going to the Salim Group and who picked him for his job there? For whom he worked for before Salim??? As you said, Salim is the Dictator Suharto’s crony. Suharto was tagged as the #1 Most Corrupt government official in the world, running second is Ferdinand Marcos. Suharto and Marcos are BFF??? Well, do the math. You have the time and resources to dig deep into this. I hope you find out! ???

  4. But what does Salim have over MP that keeps the latter from just taking over his Philippine corporate empire?

    2M a day may be incredibly huge for compensation but I don’t think it’s enough for him to keep MP loyal, especially since MP legally owns these companies.

    • Rigoberto D. Tiglao on

      read the article MVP has only miniscule shares in these firms. Salim companies are the biggest stockholders, disguised as Phlippine firms

  5. Teodoro Jalolino on

    Reading MVP sympathizers here makes me cringe.
    “It Makes Jobs!”
    “Social Responsibility!”
    “Muh Basketball team!”

    Seriously, you’ve been blinded by your boss. Please save yourself from embarrassment and stop milking too much cash from Filipino citizens. We all know the real issue here, You do realize Salim has been siphoning the profits from the Filipnos into Indonesia, How’s that sound to you now huh? I would have applauded Salim and MVP if they have done it right by giving back their income to Philippine Economy through investments and taxes, but it isn’t.

    In short, these moguls especially Salim are raking money from philippines and bringing the majority of the revenue back hom in Indonesia.

  6. I’m not surprise. just look at the top 10 billionaires in the country. none of them are truly filipino. lol. whose fault is that? if these foreign or mestizos billionaires can make it to a corrupt lawless country then they deserved the credit. and how come no truly native filipino is on the list? because we are laid back and want easy money. Just read the biography of these billionaires in the country and how they grew up and made it. they all have good work ethics and hard work. thats all. nothing complicated really.

  7. I was hoping to find something new here, but it’s all the same dead horse being beaten ad infinitumin this and countless past columns.
    .
    Most amusing is the article’s penultimate paragraph:

    “(E)ven Forbes magazine now conceals Salim, who is not only an oligarch, but going by the UK-magazine The Economist’s definition, a crony.”

    Perhaps there was hope that the average reader, exhausted by wading through this morass of allegations, would merely pick up on the words ‘Forbes’ and ‘The Economist’ and come to the conclusion that said allegations are backed by these authorities. But rereading the parargraph reveals:

    1. A *personal* observation by the author that Forbes is practicing partisanship by *allegedly* protecting Salim, in short, no facts. (And even if the second part of this article does contain the columnist’s ‘proof” I’m pretty confident it will just be more reaching and twisting Forbe’s statements to arrive at a personal conclusion, unless Forbes openly admits: Hey, we’re protecting this guy.

    2. The article merely cites a general definition of ‘crony’ from The Economis’t lexicon which this article has decided is applicable to Salim.

    It’s come to this, now?

    • > dead horse being beaten

      the issue was never dead. you are in denial because your master are giving you the indulgence and necessities just to forget the real issue. this author is reminding us about the daylight robbery of these oligarchs.

      the copanies

    • Not new information but sadly very little of the population heard, last of all know that Indonesia controls the Philippines

  8. “If President Duterte tries to make a list of oligarchs in the country — the few who rule the commanding heights of the economy — he is likely to miss Salim, for he may not have read his name in the country’s biggest newspapers.”

    Guys, this is WRONG. Doesn’t anyone remember when Duterte called MVP a “puppet”? He definitely knows this. It’s likely that he is doing something. I myself knows this for a long time. I’m surprised a lot of people here don’t know this.

  9. Don’t wash your hands, you are as guilty as most government officials. YOU turned a blind eye even if your bosses on the previous administration is doing the same thing as this! shame on you!

    • That should be the question he should (Tiglao) answer!!! Most people are only good discussing the problem on hand when in fact, it should be the solution he should focus on!!!

  10. Excellent reporting. Concise, precise investigative journalism at it’s finest.
    Congratulation’s and thank you.
    Now, if only our countrymen will be made aware of all this information perhaps there may be measures that can be taken to prevent more of the same happening in the future.

    • HuH?
      Wake up sissy! stop fulling yourself. Those journalist your saying have done nothing to stop the countr’ys woes much less care enough to do something about it other than sit at their table hoping they make a name and take the spotlight. Digong is not a saint, we know that and he needs us more than ever since he made a lot of enemies just because he wants to help his country. And if you haven’t notice, he’s old enough to have experience problem that you cannot dare imagine. So I say, in his twilight years even as less as six years, he will try to make a difference and solve this woes. But one thing is for sure, we will be at his back supporting him until it hurts. An eye for eye may make the world blind, but we’ll make sure they’ll go blind first!

  11. Imagine during the of Marcos era, they control all the public utilities like the electricity for NAPOCOR and MERALCO, water for NAWASA. People live with simple life, less payment for the basic needs. Look at now, most of government-owned corporations are now being privatized.. Just saying

    • That’s the result of Democracy of the oligarch only. —– the Filipino people had suffer a lot dahil sobra ang bilib sa mga Aquino at American’s – kaya ang resulta – ginawang tanga ang mga ordinary Pilipino.

  12. The government should take back Meralco and Maynilad as well as the hospitals…..this is the reason we are paying so much for these BASIC NEEDS….HANG PANGILINAN!

  13. There was a rumor or probably an urban legend, that First Pacific Co. Ltd. was actually a joint venture of Suharto crony Salim and a Marcos crony during the last few years of FM, given that Suharto & Marcos have sort of a good relationship back in the day, as a way to offload their assets. Hence First Pacific Co. Ltd. was relatively easily able to penetrate the Philippine & Indonesian markets. In the Philippines, First Pacific targeted industries with natural monopolies such as power, tollways, telecommunications,etc. because allegedly Marcos had always wanted to get these away from the Philippine “Old Rich” families, eg. Lopezes, etc.

    • From the grapevines: on one occasion in China ,MVP was in a bank and suddenly bumped into Madam First lady Imelda and he said…Maam nandito pala kayo. Your guess is as good as mine.

    • Rigoberto D. Tiglao on

      get a copy of my book Colossal Deception. MVP’s father was presidrnt of TRaders Royale b
      Bank, owned by Marcos crony Benedicto, the sugar baron. MVP invited Benedicto to invest in First Pacific. Benedicto declined.

  14. After winning the recent election, MVP told Duterte to leave the businesses alone. He then rebutted saying that MVP is only a puppet. I am very certain that Digong is aware of what is happening and I am sure that he knows who the Salim’s are.

  15. See it’s historical fact, the greediest cronies & crooks came after Marcos, from the mother Aquino president to the son.

    Scotland has its “Blood Mary,” Russia it’s “Ivan the Terrible,” England its “Mad King George… we have “Criminal Cory and Treasonous Noynoy.”

    • reread your history please. “bloody mary” refers to mary tudor of england. do not confuse her with mary stuart of scotland.

  16. Ah there we go again. Bashing another oligarch. Doing another like Ongpin bashing. announcing the termination of the license of Philweb operation resulting to significant dive of WEB shares in the stock market only to announce a few days later that operation will be continued and then the WEB stock market price rise to double.

    Some smart guys advisers could have now become future oligarchs because they have advance info on this move.

    Okay let you guys be vigilant for any next bashing watch the stock market codes owned by would be next to be bashed. I maybe smart but nothing to deploy.

    • “Okay let you guys be vigilant for any next bashing watch the stock market codes owned by would be next to be bashed. I maybe smart but nothing to deploy.”

      Then you’re not really smart. If you were, you would have the resources and intelligence to position yourself to benefit from this.

  17. It is good that I discovered Manila Times on the Internet. I would not be able to have read this kind of article from the previous Philippine newspapers that I have been reading in the internet..Thank you.

  18. well they are working within the bounds of the constitution… blame the law… blame the person who started these oligarch and cronyism… they are still doing it and no one’s stopping them.. they are even considered heroes for goodness sake…

  19. This issue should be the major agenda of President Duterte.

    ang lungkot ng Pinas– indonesian, espanoles, instsik– dumamai ang nagsasamantala sa atin.

    sino kaya ang tutulong sa atin? Meron kaya???? naway kaawaan tayo ng DIOS na may likha sa atin at nagbigay sa ating ng ating lupa at teritoryoing Plipinas at tulungan NIYA tayo at lumikha ult ng isang TUNAY na BAYANI NG MGA pILIPINO–BONIFACIO ANTONIO LUNA FERDINAND E. MARCOS , ROBERTO TIGLAO

  20. @rodyduterte Take over properties of Salim oligarch . Nationalized all public service utilities ownership . Privatization like PPP means corruption . Stop privatization Sequester Salim properties . Legislate anti-dummy act like jail Manny V. Pangilinan #GeneralLuna #ArticuloUno Death penalty to traitors ….

  21. Andres Salgado on

    There should be a law where they can only take out of the country the equivalent of their foreign direct investment plus a certain amount of profit.In other words, if they invested only through local banks loan, they should not be allowed to remit the profit, They just have to be reinvested here.

  22. Andres Salgado on

    There should be a law where the investors can only take out of the country the equivalent of their foreign direct investment plus a certain percentage of profit. In other words, if the investment came from the local banking system, they should not be allowed to remit them to their own country.This will force them to make foreign direct investment.

  23. i think duterte knows about salim, remember when duterte called pangilinan as “only a puppet”. he was referring to salim as puppet master then.

    • Abrilus Dobledos on

      I agree. I heard Pres. Duterte mentioning Pangilinan as Salim’s puppet in one his speeches.

  24. hilarion cordero, jr on

    A COPY CAT OF THE WORLD RICHEST MAN MR SLIM OF MEXICO OF LEBANESE DESCENT.. B U T A PHILANTHROPIST

  25. DEEDS ON THIS NATURE AND MAGNITUDE SHOULD NOT BE LEFT WITHOUT PUNISHMENT.

    ALL FILIPINOS MUST NOW STAND AGAINST ALL TYPES OF CORRUPTION SUCH AS THIS.

  26. This foreigner financier should instead be given a medal for investing on Philippine infrastructure and for creating jobs for Filipinos that local-born investors had not been able to do in the same scale.

    He’s done more for the Philippines than any of the leaders combined in the last 20 years.

    He may be Indonesian but he’s invested more in the Philippines through the crafty skill of hireling Manny Pangilinan.

  27. Sure topple the oligarch. Yeah right. Then who will take over? You prefer we don’t have reliable electricity, water, etc? This kind of nationalistic thinking is what’s keeping the Philippines behind. Other Asian countries allow foreigners to come in, invest in businesses and make money, because in the long run this benefits the country as well. It’s not a crime to invest and earn money from legitimate businesses.

    • Independent Filipino Worker on

      Yeah, sure. Philippine electric, water, and other utilities are cheaper and reliable than our neighbours because they’re controlled by a man from a competing neighbouring country. These foreigners definitely have the Filipino people’s interests by controlling and siphoning money from the Motherland /sarc

    • I really dont care whether the utilities are owned by a local or a foreigner. All I care about is I get reliable electricity and water and I’m willing to pay for them. Id rather have a foreigner build water pipes to get flowing water to my home than to wait forever for an ideal situation where the government or a local business would do it for me. When the government was running MWSS we had water delivered to us through water trucks for more than a decade. When Maynilad came by we had flowing water anytime we want at around 5% the price. If a local business can do better then why don’t they compete and I’ll switch to their service. In the meantime, I prefer whats here and what’s built over an ideal that doesnt exist.

    • Independent Filipino Worker on

      Do you realise that the notion “that ‘competition between businesses’ is beneficial to a country” is also an ideal thing? Businesses, whether they’re local- or foreign-owned, shall always be profit-oriented and this profit-oriented mindset does not guarantee better quality or cheaper services.

    • Public utilities should be owned and controlled by the government like in the golden age of marcos years.

      Efficient? Services still the same but cost is higher compared before. Sa Manilad (Nawasa), ginigisa tayo sa sariling mantika.

  28. Edgardo R. Porlares on

    Mr. Tiglao, why don’t you inform President Duterte about these oligarchs that violates our constitution, they siphoned every penny of poor filipinos. This oligarchs should be toppled down the soonest possible time before the end of term of DU30.

  29. In most of these “MVP group of companies” ordinary employees are pressured to produce more, but are paid less ,, stock options are given only to executives but are returned to the company through a “buy-back” scheme such that voting shares are distributed among MVP-controlled executives compensated w/ 1Mphp/mo++. Not only is the Philippine economy being controlled here by a foreign owned conglomerate, the National Security is gravely at stake with its control of major utilities.

  30. Re: the hospital holdings, it’s Manila Medical, not Manila Doctors. Both hospitals are on United Nations Avenue. Manila Doctors is still controlled by the Tys of Metrobank.

    • Rigoberto D. Tiglao on

      MPIC bought 20 percent stake in Manila Doctors Hospital in December 2015. I guess even the old taipan Tys bow to Salim.

  31. This is horrible! President Duterte should look into this seriously too! Right, Mr. Pangilinan must be investigated for this. He must be charged with treason, if found true!

  32. Why was this tolerated by the Philippine government? What should we do now? Being unconstitutional, can we confiscate the shares of the Salim group?

  33. I’ve heard about this before… So sad for our beloved country and my fellow Filipinos… MVP should be held answerable for being a greedy puppet… President Duterte… Isunod mo na kay Ongpin ang mga hunyangong katulad ni MVP

  34. Wow! This is such a revelation and eye opener! How can some Filipinos sell their own soul and their countrymen’s???…such greed of power and money! May these oligarchs, known or otherwise, rot in hell!!!

  35. Nilo del Mundo on

    This is huge.
    I hope it reaches the President
    This article should make the people rise and act

  36. If Anthoni Salim’s web of corporate set ups are doing unconstitutional activities which are illegal then why won’t the PH government just confiscate these corporations assets? Their activity is illegal/Unconstitutional, right? If t his is in Rusia they do it quick!

    • I know a cousin of Mr. Pangilinan (mvp). According to Vincent, mvp is just like us – born of middle class family. Todate, he is very successful because he prayed hard, work hard and have taken gigantic risk in his aquisitions. When all the rich people were getting out because everything is chaotic, mvp is busy bargain hunting buying of their businesses. Now, things has dramatically improved and the reward is geometrical. Now, are we going to blame everybody who had the faith, the vision and ambition to be successful? GOD JESUS CHRIST, save or country.

  37. Charge Pangilinan with treason and impound his assets, seize PLDT, Meralco, Maynilad Water and every other company that have been illegally captured.

    • reynaldo carpio on

      Its capitalism- same as most of the countries of the world. There is always a competition- the best investors are always on the top of any competition, that means we need the best Filipino investors to win the Philippines’ market! The gov’t should stop the monopoly (if there is) of any businesses to have a fair competition. I think this is not the fault of Salim or whoever, as these guys are just taking advantage of the market opportunities (legally?) available in the Philippines.These investments create jobs as what the Philippines needed!

  38. Thank you Mr. Tiglao for the so many valuable informations I have learned from all of your articles !

    • Here goes tiglao again. Criticizing legitimate business personalities. Wala ka na bang nagawa sa buhay. For a change I’d like to see piece from tiglao giving practical solutions to our national problems. I’m just saying…