February 2014

By Jose Ma. Montelibano

(File Photo)

(File Photo)

I had always believed that people power meant less about the people in power than the power of the people. 28 years ago is a long time, but not long enough to get confused about the essence of EDSA I to me. I have not forgotten how we stood before the gates of Channel 7 while Marcos troops were manning the TV station, cajoling them to join us on the other side of the gate. I have not forgotten how people rushed towards the directions, instead of away, where tanks were supposed to be coming from to rescue the take over of Channel 4 by the people’s rebels. I remember the snipers in the TV towers and how a helicopter gunship was neutralizing them. I can remember these but cannot remember that we were exposing ourselves to risks for Cory Aquino, for Cardinal Sin, for Gen. Ramos, for Enrile or whoever else. I remember we just had enough of a dictator and a thief. I remember we just wanted our freedom back, wanted democracy back.

Maybe, because this is how I remember EDSA People Power 28 years ago, I kept focusing on how I could contribute to that freedom I wanted for myself and my family. Of course, I could not but help know about what else was going on, the dynamics of divisive power play between our national and local leaders. How could anyone when all sorts of media kept screaming with a newly found freedom? But the noise was not louder than my understanding that EDSA I was for me, for my family, and for all other Filipinos who wanted freedom from a dictatorship and a clique of thieves. Therefore, as I was forced to notice what was going on among our leaders, I refused to let go of the more important reason why I became part of EDSA I. For several years, then, despite coups and attempted coups, I tried to contribute my share as a citizen of the Philippines. I kept reminding myself that the revolution was less about the leaders and more about the people.

When the thievery was beginning to re-established its dominance in the Estrada presidency, I went to the streets again. Some of us tried to promote the idea of asking all government officials to resign instead of just Erap. But our influence was simply not enough, our group too small, and the spirit of the people unwilling to be radical enough to bypass a constitutional successor whom Cardinal Sin preferred to be installed. The weakness was that the people kept looking at leaders and, consequently, did not demand of themselves a greater personal accountability and intolerance to corruption and poverty. Again and again, I joined others who wanted to exert pressure on another president who seemed bent on becoming the biggest thief yet in Philippine history. We did not succeed despite the risks we took, but people were just not ready to be the active backbone of both freedom and independence.

Today, though, there seems to be a marked difference. President Noynoy Aquino has become a symbol for change, focusing on going against the corruption embedded in government. Almost 32 years of Marcos (1966-1986), Estrada (1998-2000) and Gloria (2000-2010) with Marcos and Estrada making it to the top ten of the World’s Most Corrupt Leaders and Gloria a strong contender to barge into that elite class of plunderers, was a long, long time to embed a culture of wanton corruption, not just corruption. I wonder how many honest presidents and how many decades this corruption culture can be dismantled and reversed. So many think a culture can be done away just like that without realizing that it is not a culture in the first place if it is easy to change. And it will not change soon if we do not begin to change ourselves, if we just point to others to do so.

There are major events, though, that trigger rare opportunities for radical change. Dramatic changes around the world remind us how powerful People Power can still be. Yolanda and its aftermath, too, is another. The great need to help devastated parts of the Philippines allows another occasion for People Power to express itself in the most noble way, the bayanihan way. We witnessed and participated in the most awesome, the most emotional, the most generous response to calamity and tragedy in our history. If we can sustain that spirit of bayanihan, the dark culture of corruption is confronted by a more powerful and noble force. The truism, then, that only by doing good can evil be defeated will come into play.

There are other ways, as well, that we can push the change of culture faster, and modern communications technology will be a most effective tool. The advent of whistleblowers is not exactly new, but previous cases did not allow the vast majority to become players, too. Last year, though, courtesy of the Napoles scam as described by her former employees and a growing number of whistleblowers, major changes were forced on the pork barrel system and the way projects are funded, approved and implemented. Social media became the way that tens of millions of Filipinos participated in demanding for change, peacefully but with great impact.

Indeed, there is a convergence, one that is unplanned but all moving towards one direction, one that our youth are being a part of. This is the one ingredient that is the most promising, because a culture cannot continue its dominance if the younger generations do not perpetuate it. We must find ways to encourage our youth to become the warriors of change, not necessarily by fighting evil, but more importantly, by doing good. They can drive social media to push change, and they can help rebuild from the destruction of Yolanda, the Bohol earthquake, and the Zamboanga siege. By doing good. By being the new heroes Rizal was waiting for.

GMA News

Scarborough-Shoal-aerial-view.2(Updated 12:05 p.m.) The Philippine Coast Guard on Thursday said it will be up to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Malacañang to decide whether to allow the deployment of Coast Guard personnel to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

In a phone interview with GMA News Online, Coast Guard spokesperson Armand Balilo said due to political implications, they cannot decide on the matter.

Balilo said this after ACT-Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio proposed that Coast Guard personnel should be deployed to Panatag Shoal after the Chinese Coast Guard fired water cannons at some Filipino fishermen on January 27, 2014.

Tinio said the Coast Guard’s presence at the shoal might deter Chinese authorities from harassing Filipino fishermen in the disputed waters.

However, Balilo assured that the Coast Guard is on standby or “all the time ready” for any instructions from the Palace or the DFA.

For his part, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez said the order would have to come from Malacañang.

“Each agency has its own mandate. Each gets its orders from the Palace. Maritime surveillance and law enforcement activities are undertaken by security agencies,” Hernandez said in a text message to GMA News Online.

‘Deliberate provocations’

On Monday, Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista revealed that a Chinese coast guard vessel drove away two Filipino fishing vessels from the area last January 27 by firing water cannons at them.

President Benigno Aquino III has demanded an explanation from China regarding the incident and directed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a “diplomatic message.”

The Chinese Embassy in Manila, however, rejected the Philippine protest and declared it has “indisputable sovereignty” over the waters where the incident occurred.

Meanwhile, a Reuters report said China has accused the Philippines of “deliberate provocations” over the incident.

China’s foreign ministry, which has already rejected the complaint, said its boats had every right to respond to “provocative” acts in its territory.

China suspected the aims and identities of several Philippine fishing boats that recently appeared in the waters around the disputed shoal, as some of them appeared to just “hang around,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

The Philippine boats ignored calls from the Chinese ships to leave, with some aboard even adopting a “provocative posture of appearing to spoil for a fight” in activities showing “a strong level of organization and confrontation,” Hua said.

“In the face of this seriously provocative behavior, China maintained utmost restraint, and as multiple warnings failed, could not but take the minimum measures to carry out expulsions, which caused no harm to the Philippine fishing boats or personnel,” she told a daily news briefing.

PHL exclusive economic zone

The Philippine government has declared that the shoal, which is facing the South China Sea, is within the country’s exclusive economic zone as mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – an agreement signed by 163 nations, including China.

Scarborough, located 124 nautical miles from Masinloc town in Zambales and 472 nautical miles from China’s nearest coastal province of Hainan, is called Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc by the Philippines and referred to as Huangyan Island by the Chinese. —KG/RSJ, GMA News


By InterAksyon.com 
The online news portal of TV5

Teofisto-Guingona-III.3MANILA, Philippines – The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) on Friday accused the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee of playing blind to the controversies surrounding the Aquino administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) which has been assailed not only as unconstitutional, but as an alleged tool for bribing lawmakers for the Executive’s political agenda.

The BMP claimed that members of the blue ribbon panel under the leadership of Senator Teofisto Guingona III are “playing blind, deaf and mute to the clamor of the people to reveal and investigate the DAP.” The labour group noted that the personalities involved in questioned DAP transactions belong to the ruling Liberal Party, including President Noynoy Aquino.

Congress precisely is “given oversight powers and the Blue Ribbon Committee’s mandate is to scrutinize government personalities, mechanisms and operations for the purpose of enacting laws that will address certain loopholes in the system,” said Gie Relova, Secretary-General of BMP in Metro Manila and Rizal.

“Everyone knows that Senator Guingona is a partymate of the President; even ordinary folks can easily view this prejudice”, favoring members of the Liberal Party in the Executive branch, Relova said.

Earlier this week, United Nationalist Alliance secretary general Rep. Toby Tiangco, assailed the continuing silence of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad over a clamor for his department to produce a simple, two-column report on where all the DAP funds – as supposed “savings” – were sourced, and where they were applied. The Supreme Court, which is hearing petitions to strike down DAP, also directed the DBM to submit such a report.


By Charlie V. Manalo
The Daily Tribune

Janet-Lim-Napoles.25House members who are mostly allies of President Aquino have expressed support to clamor, particularly in social media sites, for the transfer of alleged pork barrel scam brains Janet Lim-Napoles to a regular jail and have her shoulder her own expenses for medical examination and treatment.

According to Representatives Rudy Fariñas (Ilocos Norte), Sherwin Tugna (CIBAC Partylist), Ben Evardone (Eastern Samar), Elpidio Barzaga (Cavite) and Silvestre Bello (1-BAP), it’s time for the government to stop the seemingly VIP (very important person) treatment accorded to Napoles and have her transferred from Fort Sto. Domingo in Laguna where she is currently detained to a regular jail where she will join regular inmates.

“She should!” Fariñas said when asked if he believes Napoles should be transferred to a regular detention cell. “The authorities should explain why she is being treated unlike all other detention prisoners. Every inmate is a security concern. She claims innocence on all allegations against her. So where is the threat coming from?,” Fariñas stressed.

In case there is a negotiation with her to turn state witness so that she could avail of the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP), Fariñas said the concerned authorities should immediately decide whether she could qualify under the program.

“The authorities should decide immediately whether or not she will be a state witness. If so, put her under WPP, if not, she should be detained with all other persons denied bail during the trial of their cases. She’s neither here nor there, like in limbo,” said the Ilocos Norte solon.

For his part, Tugna said that while he supports the call to transfer Napoles to a regular jail, he said she should still be accorded additional security.

“The concern of the government should be to secure her while detained in a regular jail since she still holds key information about the PDAF (priority development assistance fund) scam,” Tugna said.

Evardone also expressed support to calls for a regular detention cell for the alleged pork barrel scam queen but added it would have to depend on the decision of the court.

“I believe she should be sent to a regular jail but then, it all depends on the decision of the court,” Evardone said.

Bello also questioned the government’s need to spend for Napoles medical examinations when she reportedly has more than enough money to spend for her own medical expenses.

“Why should our government spend for an accused? Beside Ms. Napoles can afford to pay for her own medical needs,” Bello said.

According to reports, the government spent no less than P123,000 the other day for Napoles’ medical examination conducted at Camp Crame.

Barzaga said Napoles should not be given any special treatment and should be treated like any other person accused of a wrongdoing.

“Napoles should be treated as an ordinary accused and therefore, should not be given special accommodations nor it would be legally or morally right for the government to incur additional expenses during her detention,” Barzaga said.

“Besides, the alleged threat to her life has already disappeared and therefore she should be treated as an ordinary accused,” he stressed.


By Erick San Juan

TPP-mapAfter the meeting of Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministers in Singapore in December 2013, the parties have not advanced significantly in working out the agreement on TPP. The US delegation doesn’t seem or intend to make concessions while many countries participating in negotiations like Malaysia and Vietnam are going to be firm in their positions on a set of fundamental issues most of which have rather socio-politcal than economic meaning.

The parties concerned have not managed to break a deadlock on several disputed issues. Among these are : 1) the US has not agreed to open sugar and milk markets to their partners and it actually undermines the idea of comprehensiveness of TPP. 2) A number of problems associated with getting access to goods markets remain unresolved. For example, if Malaysia provides zero export duty on palm oil, as it is demanded by the US, it will result in its national budget loss around $600 million. And the US refuses to discuss a possibility of any exceptions. 3) There are no rules agreed for producing goods. 4) There are no regulations agreed for state-owned companies. 5) Negotiations on drug patents and drug pricing are hardly progressing. 6) Controversial issue was proposed by the US scheme of settlement of investment disputes which gives a company the right to claim government’s compensation for its loss profit caused by the government agencies action. 7) A number of problems are connected to Japan’s accession to TPP. There is still no bilateral cars and other manufactured products trade treaty signed between the US and Japan. And even the US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg is not impressed with the Philippines entry to TPP.

US Congress is dissatisfied with the fact that only a few negotiators and registered corporate lobbyists have direct access to the text of the agreement to be worked out while US representatives can only get second-hand information regarding the issue. This has forced 150 members from the US Congress to declare their refusal to ensure the White House Trade Promotion Authority. And if the Authority is ensured, the White House in turn will have its own obligation to the majority of Democrats and part of the Republicans.

These conditions will narrow the opportunity for the Obama Administration’s domestic political maneuver. But not ensuring the authority will give rise to necessity of detailed discussion in the US Congress of each of the 29 chapters of the agreement. This could postpone the ratification of the treaty indefinitely.

In such situation, one can’t exclude some ASEAN countries and Japan will continue to stubbornly defend their national interests. Some of them like Malaysia are considering the option of output from the negotiations on TPP in 2014. The US aspires to end the talks before summer because of the Congressional elections that will be held in November. That is why in the near future, the US will intensify its efforts to achieve its goals by all means. And one shouldn’t expect any exceptions for ASEAN countries.

In such conditions, the countries that have doubts about whether to accede to TPP treaty or not should postpone making a final decision until the post-election period in the US to look closely into the advantages and disadvantages of future agreements.

Remember when the US government announced its ‘pivot to Asia’, the major element in this strategy is the TPP. A good copy for the big brother’s intrusion in the lives of sovereign states in the region. The mere fact that history of alliances and coalition among nations all boils down to economics under the umbrella of security through military partnership, the strategy for military modernization of small nations is actually under the auspices of economic survival, not for the small nations but for the big nation’s military-industrial-complex and similar corporations.

The bottomline is, who will benefit in such partnership like the TPP when right from the start secrecy is the name of the game. It is good that when ‘wikileaks’ exposed the true picture that shrouds the TPP, nations took a second look of the said agreement. It is only through transparency and honest to goodness partnership can nations be willing to bring their whole citizenry into such undertaking. As for us Filipinos, the talk over changing the constitution in its economic provisions and the law on the use of the internet are all heading towards the possible integration of the country in this economic farce that will shortchange us in the process.

The Day (Connecticut)

Two inescapable aspects of life in China's cities: construction cranes and smog. AP PHOTO

Two inescapable aspects of life in China’s cities: construction cranes and smog. AP PHOTO

China’s president, Xi Jinping, uses the phrase “China Dream” to describe his nation’s aspirations for world leadership and prosperity. Last spring, I visited China for several weeks and had the opportunity to observe some of the challenges the dream faces.

I came away deeply impressed with the perseverance and accomplishments of the Chinese people. In the locations I visited, China has modernized its infrastructure dramatically in only three decades, lifting several hundred million people out of subsistence living into modest comfort.

Yet structural flaws threaten China’s institutions, as do the tragic compromises China’s leaders have made to pursue growth.

China’s economic bubble

China’s policies have created an economic bubble that may burst. Government owned banks provided easy credit to local governments, state-owned enterprises and private companies for commercial ventures and construction projects. As a result of these lending policies, total outstanding debt in China reached 182 percent of GDP in 2012, and is projected to rise to 275 percent by 2016. In comparison, the ratio in the United States is now 73 percent.

Excess debt will be a difficult problem to solve in China. Lending standards and repayment terms on new loans are lax, and state-owned enterprises have virtual monopolies over key industries. Meanwhile, some Chinese firms use questionable accounting practices and provide incomplete disclosures to securities investors that fall short of international standards.

There is an imminent sense of insecurity about the future among the Chinese people. During my recent visit, malls in Beijing were full of luxury retail stores but few shoppers. In Hong Kong, however, jewelry stores were full of locals and visiting Chinese converting their cash into gold. Chinese investors have purchased over $500 billion of property and other assets outside of the country, and many working people I spoke with said their “dream” would be for their child to go to college in the United States.

Environmental damage

China’s leaders must also confront the environmental practices that threaten to make their cities unlivable. Whatever you have seen or read about pollution in China, the reality is much worse. Beijing car owners are restricted to driving on alternate days of the week on crowded highways because of smog. I was stunned to see apartment complexes being built a stone’s throw from billowing power plants at several locations, while traveling on the high-speed train between Xi’an and Luoyang.

A recent study forecast that emissions from autos and coal will make air pollution 70 percent worse by 2025. Urban Chinese families are reacting to dangerous pollution levels by keeping their children indoors, while some western executives are now turning down assignments there or receiving hazard pay.

Water pollution and food quality also compromise public health. The food safety practices I saw throughout China in outdoor food markets resembled those that shocked American author Upton Sinclair a century ago. It was widely reported in China last spring that more than 20,000 dead and diseased pigs were dumped into the Huangpu River north of Shanghai. The incident was attributed to black market meat traders.

Limited resources

The third problem faced by Chinese leaders is the lack of critical resources that are essential to continued economic growth. Energy is one key deficiency. While the United States is finally heading towards energy independence, about 50 percent of China’s oil is imported from unstable countries in the Middle East or Africa. Similarly, liquefied natural gas sells for $15 in China, compared to $4 to $5 in this country. Despite efforts to expand trade with energy exporting nations and claim oil deposits in waters controlled by other countries, China is in an unsustainable position.

China also faces a pressing water shortage that could lead to conflict with India and other neighbors. Asia has 60 percent of the world’s population and only 35 percent of the fresh water. Canals and dam projects have diverted rivers to serve China’s cities, leaving local farmers and fishermen stranded.


China suffers from widespread corruption and the restraints placed on its citizens by the Communist Party. After 65 years there is little ideological fervor left. Instead, the hard working middle-class waits for its share of the China boom and seems to be increasingly frustrated by the favoritism that protects party elites.

The extent of state control is striking. On a May day in 2013, while out for a walk in Beijing, I noticed many people looking at their cell phones, shaking them and talking excitedly. I found out several hours later that a crowd of 1,000 workers had begun a spontaneous demonstration at a wholesale mall nearby, protesting the alleged police cover up of the murder of a young female clerk there. When the demonstrators proposed marching towards Tiananmen Square, 3,000 police and several cannon were deployed to block their path. Equally important, cell phone service and some websites were temporarily blocked that afternoon.

The architect of China’s economic rise was Deng Xiaoping. He rose to power after vanquishing the infamous “Gang of Four” that opposed his reforms. It is unlikely that Xi Jingping will be able to so easily conquer the forces that confront China’s aspirations of greatness.

Attorney Glenn Carberry of Norwich, an attorney practicing in New London, frequently travels and periodically contributes commentaries on international affairs.


Ukraine has called for Britain and the United States to intervene in its rapidly-escalating conflict, as the interior minister accuses Russian forces of staging an “armed invasion” in Crimea

By Harriet Alexander
The Telegraph (UK)

Russian President Boris Yeltsin, left, American President Bill Clinton, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, and British Prime Minister John Major, extreme right, sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty during the CSCE summit in Budapest, Hungary Photo: AP

Russian President Boris Yeltsin, left, American President Bill Clinton, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, and British Prime Minister John Major, extreme right, sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty during the CSCE summit in Budapest, Hungary Photo: AP

Deeply worried politicians inside Ukraine’s parliament have pleaded with Britain and the United States to come to their rescue, after Russia was accused of launching a series of raids in the Crimea region.

The two Western powers signed an agreement with Ukraine in 1994, which Kiev’s parliament wants enforcing now. The Budapest Memorandum, signed by Bill Clinton, John Major, Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma – the then-rulers of the USA, UK, Russia and Ukraine – promises to uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine, in return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons.

Article one reads: “The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine … to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”

And Kiev is now claiming that their country’s borders are not being respected.

Oleksandr Turchynov, the interim president, also told agitated MPs on Friday morning that he was convening the country’s security and defence chiefs for an emergency meeting over the unfolding crisis.

Arsen Avakov, who was named interior minister on Thursday, said that the international airport in Sebastopol had been blocked by Russian forces. Sebastopol has for the past 230 years been home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet – a key strategic hub for Moscow, as ships and submarines based there are just north of Turkey and can reach the Mediterranean to influence the Middle East and the Balkans.

Mr Avakov said Russia’s actions amounted to “a military invasion and occupation”.

He wrote on Facebook: “It is a direct provocation of armed bloodshed in the territory of a sovereign State.”

A day earlier, pro-Russian gunmen had seized control of Crimea’s regional parliament and government building, and Crimea’s regional assembly voted to hold a referendum on May 25 to expand the region’s autonomy from Kiev and replaced the local government with a pro-Moscow official.

Crimea has for centuries been a prize much sought-after by competing empires. The Greeks, Ottomans, Venetians and Mongols have all controlled the territory throughout its history.

It was seized by Russian forces in the 18th century under Catherine the Great, and was once the crown jewel in Russian and then Soviet empires.

It became part of Ukraine in 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred jurisdiction from Russia – a move that was a mere formality until the 1991 Soviet collapse meant Crimea landed in an independent Ukraine.

This week the age-old tug of war between East and West resurfaced again, with rival demonstrators chanting “Crimea is Russia” and “Crimea is not Russia” back and forth at each other.

Moscow has not commented on the accusations that it is fomenting the rising tensions in Crimea.


The Manila Times

First of a Series on the Salim Empire in the Philippines

Through several corporate layers, the 65-year-old Indonesian Anthoni Salim who owns Indonesia’s biggest conglomerate controls Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the Philippines’ biggest private corporation and the monopoly in electricity distribution in Metropolitan Manila, according to publicly-available corporate information.

I asked two people close to Salim’s conglomerate in the country two months ago for its top official in the country to comment on this column’s topic. They replied that he didn’t want to.

It is probably the country’s most successful case of corporate imaging that the Indonesian tycoon’s control of Meralco—as well as Philippine Long Distance and several other huge firms—has been hidden from public consciousness.

Meralco Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, Mr. Salim’s point-man and top executive in the Philippines, has been been portrayed as the face of the Indonesian’s empire in the Philippines, that it is casually referred to as the “MVP Group of Companies.”

However, Mr. Pangilinan owns only token shares (25,000 out of the firm’s 1.2 million shares) in Meralco and less than two percent in Meralco’s ultimate mother companies, the Hong Kong based First Pacific Co., Ltd. and the Philippine-incorporated Metro Pacific Investments.

Salim’s control of Meralco starts with his 45 percent control of the firm which is, as it were, the “mother ship” of his empire in Asia, the Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., listed in that China special region’s stock market.



Salim’s 45 percent holdings in First Pacific are through three offshore-firms, created in secretive, tax haven countries. He is the sole owner of Salerni International Ltd., organized in the British Virgin Islands.

Salerni in turn is the sole stockholder of First Pacific Investments (BVI) Ltd. also incorporated in that tax haven, and 57-percent owner of a similarly named corporation, but incorporated in another tax haven, Liberia.

The shares of the two First Pacific Investments and those directly held by Salim compose 45 percent of First Pacific’s (HK) total shares. (Anthoni in 2002 for some reason bought off shares in the two First Pacific investments from his brothers, therefore becoming the undisputed sole biggest owner of the First Pacific conglomerate.)

That Salim’s 45 percent shares in First Pacific means total control is obvious in that the next biggest stockholder are fund managers, who represent thousands of portfolio investors around the world: Lazard Asset Management with 7 percent and Marathon Asset Management with 4.4 percent. Some two dozen-fund managers own less than 1 percent. Pangilinan holds 1.4 percent shares.

The Metro Pacific layer

The next corporate layer for the control of Meralco is the Philippine-incorporated Metro Pacific Investments, which is, as it were, Salim’s command ship in the country.

A Salim holding firm called “Metro Pacific Holdings” has 56 percent ownership of Metro Pacific. (Salim’s control of the holding firm for some reason is through three other firms with interlocking ownership: the Amsterdam-based Intalink, B.V, Enterprise Holdings Corp., and First Pacific International.)

As in the First Pacific layer, that Salim’s firms’ 56 percent holdings in Metro Pacific represent complete control of the firm is beyond any doubt, for the remaining shares are distributed among nearly 40 fund managers, most of which hold less than 1 percent stocks.

The two biggest of these are T. Rowe Price International (UK) Ltd. and Morgan Stanley Investment Management, which hold, respectively, 1.6 percent and 1 percent of the firm’s stocks. Pangilinan has 0.09 percent of the shares, the minimum for him to have to be in its board.

Salim’s third corporate layer—or his third step—for his control of Meralco is a firm incorporated in 2010, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings. The firm is effectively 100 percent controlled by Salim, through Metro Pacific Investments, which has 50 percent shares, and a 100 percent PLDT subsidiary, PLDT Communications and Energy Ventures, which has the other 50 percent.

Salim controls 27 percent of PLDT. That holding may seem small, but that makes up the indisputable controlling bloc in PLDT, which has thousands of shareholders. Its next biggest shareholder with 15 percent shares is the Japanese NTT group. How Salim got to control the country’s biggest telephone firm is yet another story.

And at the end of the corporate layers: Beacon Electric Holdings has 50 percent control of Meralco. The next biggest shareholder is the San Miguel Corp. and its subsidiaries, which together have 27-percent holdings.

Lopez clan gone

Whatever happened to the old-elite Lopez clan, whose name had been synonymous with Meralco? After the Lopezes bought Meralco from its US owners in 1962, after they lost Meralco to Marcos’ brother-in-law Kokoy Romualdez, and then, after the EDSA revolution, President Cory handed back Meralco to them. The Lopez clan then, in 2009, sold most of the Meralco shares to the Indonesian Salim’s firms. The Lopezes now hold only 4 percent of Meralco.

One of course could believe that Mr. Pangilinan has full autonomy in running the First Pacific empire, and that he is of course the most patriotic of Filipinos. That would be supremely naive, unless one is in a socialist system.

But most of the Meralco and PLDT profits flow not to Pangilinan through his 1 percent or token shares in those firms, but to their owners. The lion’s share would be claimed by Salim, and the rest by the thousand or so US and European portfolio investors in First Pacific.

Pangilinan may be the most patriotic of Filipinos, but what happens if one morning, Salim wakes up deciding to replace him with the best executive the world can offer? He can even just pick from the list of the best CEOs in the world the Harvard Business Review annual determines.

And of course, what if, God forbid, Salim passes away, and we learn that the Indonesians had found a way for Salim’s holdings to be turned over to the state of Indonesia, which may have a policy of cut-throat competition with its neighbors?

There are important reasons why nearly all countries in the world have restrictions—not necessarily through their constitutions but through laws and regulations—on foreign ownership of strategic industries, especially utility companies. (That topic for a coming installment of this series.)

And who is Anthoni Salim? Forbes magazine ranked him as the third richest Indonesian last year. He is the youngest of the four sons of ethnic Chinese Liem Sioe Liong, who took the Indonesian name of Sudono Salim, and who had been for decades that country’s richest magnate.

Liem had been Indonesia’s most controversial magnate. He had been viewed as the former strongman Suharto’s most successful crony so much so that he and even Anthoni had to flee Indonesia during the anti-government, anti-Chinese May 1998 riots that eventually led to Suharto’s fall. Sources say that because of that harrowing experience, Anthoni lives mostly in Los Angeles.

The Salim conglomerate includes Indofood, the world’s biggest noodle factory and about 500 firms in diverse industries all over Asia. In Indonesia alone the Salim firms have a workforce of 200,000.

Quite significant though is that according to First Pacific’s 2012 annual report, its profits from its Philippine operations have outstripped those from its Indonesian operations starting in 2011, by about $200 billion in 2012.

Take it the way you want it.

Two interpretations

Salim’s control of Meralco and PLDT—both utility firms—is a mockery of our constitutional and legal restrictions on foreign control of strategic industries. And these are not only strategic industries: Salim controls a monopoly in electricity distribution in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces and one member of the duopoly in mobile telecommunications (Smart Communications).

Or the other interpretation: the restrictions imposed by the constitution and our laws are so full of legal loopholes that all that a foreign investor wishing to invest in the Philippines has to do is to contract a good lawyer, or, as some say, a lawyer or law firm with strong political connections.

Sadly, the issue of Salim’s empire in the Philippines would muddle the debate over amending the constitution.

I have heard a conspiracy theory that with the weak legal basis for Salim’s control of utility and mining firms in the country, the solution would be to lobby for amending the constitution so that its existing restrictions on foreign ownership in these industries would be lifted, and the issue becomes moot.

What kind of country have we become?

A magnate in a foreign country which is in our level of development—Indonesia with a GDP per capita of $1.731 just a bit bigger than our $1,501—takes control of what are not only the prized gems of our corporate world, but also the most strategic of our industries.

We are the only country in the world in which a foreigner controls the biggest power company and the biggest telecommunications firm.

What an irony: Our restrictions on foreign investments have turned off global investors so much, that it explains partly why we are the smallest recipient of foreign capital in Asia, barring, of course Cambodia and Laos. Yet an Indonesian magnate of Chinese ethnicity—reputed to have ties with certain leaders of China has businesses in the mainland—controls our strategic industries.

The need to keep out of the public mind such obvious anomaly is probably what has prodded Salim to go into an industry that controls public opinion: Media. That topic in coming parts of this series.

Other parts of these series:

• Foreign ownership by Salim still a legal issue.

• So what if foreign owned? How the Salim conglomerate mobilizes Philippine savings to fund the empire. How its Philippine firms’ profits flow to Hong Kong, Indonesia, and ultimately to Salim’s tax-haven firms.

• The Salim Empire in the Philippines: From telecommunications to toll roads, electricity to the press, mining to medical center.

www.trigger.ph and www.rigobertotiglao.com


‘This is not Rocky IV’: Kerry tells Russia to be ‘very careful’ as Putin puts country on war footing

By Kashmira Gander
The Independent (UK)

His comments come after Russian announced it will be carrying out drill tests

His comments come after Russian announced it will be carrying out drill tests

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that Russia must be “very careful” in the decisions it makes on Ukraine, and that the country’s President should remember “this is not Rocky IV”.

“I think Russia needs to be very careful in the judgments that it makes going forward here,” he told US TV network NBC News.

“We are not looking for confrontation. But we are making it clear that every country should respect the territorial integrity here, the sovereignty of Ukraine.

“Russia has said it would do that and we think it’s important that Russia keeps its word,” he added.

Mr Kerry said that Russian President Vladimir Putin should “ listen carefully to Ukrainians who have voiced their desire for change,” and reiterated that the US does not view its relationship with Russia as a “sort of continuation of the Cold War.”

“This is not Rocky IV,” he said, referring to the 1990 film depicting a battle between East and West, in which Rocky Balboa fights then-Soviet Union boxer Ivan Drago.

Demonstration in Crimea

Demonstration in Crimea

“Believe me. We don’t see it that way”, he added.

His comments come after Mr Putin ordered an urgent drill to test the combat readiness of its military forces amid tensions with the West over Ukraine.

According to the Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the manoeuvres commencing on Friday will last four days.

He added the exercise will involve ships of the Baltic and the Northern Fleets and the air force.

Shoigu’s statement made no reference to Ukraine, where tensions remain high following the ousting of Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.

Mr Kerry said he would “decline to speculate” on the whereabouts of Mr Yanukovych or whether he should be prosecuted for war crimes.

“We need to work together in what does not have to be a zero sum game to provide the capacity of the people of Ukraine to choose their future,” Kerry said. “That’s all that’s at stake.”


Inside Congress
By Charlie V. Manalo
The Daily Tribune 

Florencio-Abad-and-Noynoy.2Yesterday, one of the country’s daily ran a story quoting sources in Congress that the Aquino administration disbursed at least P6.5 billion from the president’s pork, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) before, during and after the impeachment trial of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

According to the story, P5 billion of the amount was given to members of the House of Representatives while the remaining P1.5 billion was shared by some members of the Senate.

The story further validates earlier statements made by Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla that Noynoy Aquino, using government funds, bribed the lawmakers into ousting the former Chief Justice.

In his privilege speech several weeks ago, Revilla quoted Noynoy telling him, “Pare, ibalato mo nasa kin yan. Kailangan talagang ma-impeach si Corona.”

That incident, Revilla said, occurred when he was invited (or picked up by Secretary Mar Roxas) to a breakfast at the Bahay Pangarap and ended up having a meeting with Noynoy.

To further substantiate his claim, Revilla added that Budget Secretary Butch Abad, the brains behind the DAP, was there to support Noynoy to convince him into convicting Corona, telling him, “Magtulungan tayo,” which could insinuate there would be a “give and take” situation should Revilla agree to vote for conviction. Bong gives in his guilty vote, and he takes home additional multi-million peso pork.

So now, we have the self-proclaimed anti-corruption champion turned himself into the chief corruptor.

But what baffles me is that despite these lawmakers coming out in the open, exposing Noynoy’s role in the Corona impeachment, bribing the members of both house of Congress just to oust Corona whom he disliked so much having been appointed by his predecessor, is that they always come up short of manifesting their talks into concrete actions.

It very clear Noynoy had bribed his way in violating the principles of the separation of powers among the branches of the government, to bribe the members of the legislative branch into removing Corona from office.

Even United Nationalist Alliance secretary general, Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco pointed out that the DAP was “actually invented to accelerate the Aquino Administration’s political agenda, and to establish their control over other co-equal branches of government, and had a very special purpose other than buoying up the economy.”

And yet, it always stops there. As if the lawmakers, after baring how Noynoy abused his office just to remove a perceived enemy, would always hit a roadblock.

We have to remember former President, now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is under hospital arrest for simply allowing former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office general manager Rosario Uriarte to use P366 million of the agency’s intelligence fund for blood money for convicted OFWs languishing in the death row in other countries.

For that noble act, for saving the lives of the convicted OFWs, Mrs. Arroyo was charged with plunder. And that involved only P366 million.

In Noynoy’s case, we are talking of billions of pesos of people’s money spent just to satisfy his whims!
And we are not even talking here of the billions of pesos which could have been lost to corruption in the ongoing rehabilitation effort for the victims of super typhoon “Yolanda,” the hundreds of billions of pesos lost in smuggling particularly rice, etc.

This is only for one particular issue — the Corona impeachment. Spending over P6.5 billion just because Noynoy doesn’t like him? What an expensive caprice!

I think it’s time these lawmakers walk the talk. Take their pronouncements to the next level. Of course, given Noynoy’s abuses of public fund, the next logical move here is to impeach him.

To hell with the questionable survey results showing Noynoy still enjoys popularity and high trust rating. It’s highly questionable anyway.

What is important here is that these public officials have a sworn responsibility to the people, to serve them.

The people need you now. The people’s fight against corruption leads to Noynoy himself having emerged as the Chief Corruptor of the land. It’s time for you to make your next move.