Losing Hundreds of Billions
By Solita Collas-Monsod
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:55:00 01/01/2010

IN 2008, thanks to the efforts of whistleblowers such as columnist Jarius Bondoc, Joey de Venecia, Jun Lozada and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the infamous NBN-ZTE project was shelved. Had it gone through, the Filipino people would have forked out three times what the project was worth, and we would have been about P10 billion poorer as a result.

In 2009, thanks to the efforts of Louie Sison (who filed the case) and then senators Franklin Drilon and Serge Osmeña, the Supreme Court nixed a compromise agreement between government corporation PNCC and a company called Radstock. Had it gone through, PNCC would have been stripped of all its assets, some P17 billion worth, and the government and the Filipino people would have been left holding an empty bag—unable to collect any of the P36 billion owed to it/them by PNCC.

In 2010, a much larger sum than those saved in 2008 and 2009 is at stake. If things continue to go the way they are going, the government and the Filipino people stand to lose an amount conservatively estimated at between P220 billion and P330 billion.

Those figures represent the government’s 60-percent share of Lucio Tan’s share of around 300 companies which Tan reputedly controls, according to the Global Business Leaders website. The total value of this “empire,” says the website, would not be less than $20 billion (as of 2005, mind you), and Tan controls 40 to 60 percent of this. The math is easy: Tan’s share is between 40 percent and 60 percent of $20 billion, which comes to between $8 billion and $12 billion respectively. The government’s share is 60 percent of Tan’s share, which comes to between $4.8 billion and $7.2 billion. At P46 to the dollar, the government’s share therefore amounts to between P220.8 billion and P331.2 billion.

And why should government have a 60-percent share of Tan’s share? The logic is again simple: Ferdinand Marcos gave Tan his start, and was instrumental in the success of the existing businesses (Fortune Tobacco and Asia Brewery were given all kinds of tax breaks and accommodations) and the acquisition of new businesses (Tan conveniently ended up the only bidder for what is now Allied Bank, and got it for a song). But Marcos wasn’t doing this out of the goodness of his heart. The quid pro quo was that Marcos was to own 60 percent of the businesses (as testified to by his wife Imelda and his son Bongbong, and as finalized by his financial consultant Rolando Gapud—who recounts that Tan tried, in vain, to negotiate the sharing to 50-50).

Unfortunately for Marcos (aside from the Edsa Revolution and his death), the Supreme Court ruled that his accumulated official income during his government tenure was a tiny, negligible fraction of the money required to acquire such wealth. Ergo, such wealth was unexplained. Ergo, it was improperly acquired. Ergo, it belongs to the government.

Unfortunately for the Filipino people, the government’s efforts to get that 60-percent share of the Tan empire was moving, if at all, at a snail’s pace—for a variety of reasons: at best “benign” neglect on the part of the government itself, and Tan’s excellent legal team (read Estelito Mendoza).

And then came a major break in the case, in the form of Catalino Generillo, a PCGG lawyer hired by Haydee Yorac in 2001, who was assigned to the Tan case in early 1997. For what has to be the first time in 20 years, it seems, there was pro-activeness on the part of government—Generillo got witnesses like Bongbong Marcos (hostile) and Jovito Salonga to testify, subpoenaed documents right and left (Malacañang Museum, Bangko Sentral) and rediscovered valuable documents which had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle. For the first time, it looked like the government had a strong chance of winning the case.

Yet another break in the case occurred last year: Lucio Tan and his brother Mariano Tanenglian had a nasty and apparently irremediable falling out. And Generillo pursued the possibility of having Tanenglian, who was the treasurer of all the Tan companies, become a government witness in exchange for immunity.

But then, Generillo was fired from the PCGG. At the instigation, no less, of Tan’s lawyer, Mendoza. On the recommendation, subsequently, of Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera. Which the PCGG promptly accepted and implemented.

Subsequently, the very same Devanadera who recommended that Generillo be fired also recommended to the PCGG that it not grant immunity to Tanenglian, and not use him as a government witness.

In other words, the government, through Devanadera and the PCGG, shot its case against Tan in the foot—twice. Worse, the PCGG is making it appear as if Generillo and Tanenglian are the bad guys. In that, it is in complete accord with Tan, who wants both out of the case. Which leads one to wonder which side the PCGG and the solicitor general are on in the first place.

Now the reader knows what I mean when I say that if things continue the way they are going, we stand to lose from P220 billion to P330 billion.

If we don’t want that to happen, folks, we have our New Year’s Resolution for 2010: to exert pressure on the PCGG to use both Generillo and Tanenglian. Generillo because he not only has done his homework, but is not open to transactional justice. Tanenglian, because they have everything to gain and nothing to lose if they use him—assuming of course that the PCGG officials have the country’s financial interests, and not their own, at heart.


Anonymous said...

To date, there are 16 civil and criminal cases filed against Jun Lozada and members of his family. These are in various stages of resolution. All of these charges were filed soon after he testified at senate hearings in February 2008. In contrast, the Ombudsman has yet to file cases against Benjamin Abalos and Jocjoc Bolante despite a preponderance of evidence.

Anonymous said...

“Crusaders of truth are hunted down, made to suffer while those that play the Gloria game enjoy high paying government positions, perks, and most of all, freedom”, says BnW Executive Director Leah Navarro, “Jun Lozada has been persecuted more than enough. He hasn’t been able to return home in over a year, work a decent job, or visit a mall with his family. Sure, he travels around the country doing speaking engagements, but he does this to stay alive. Jun hides in plain sight and is always in the company of the religious and armed bodyguards. That is not living.”

Anonymous said...

Heroes are treated the same way in the Philippines. Evil powerful people abuse good Filipinos.

“As we all know somebody is trying to stop our client from testifying at the Sandiganbayan,” he added, apparently referring to the case against Tan where Tanenglian is reportedly planning to testify for the prosecution.

Anonymous said...

Talo ka na Ms. Solita!!

Wala na ang witness mo.