Calling a spade
Business World, 13 June 2012


There is universal outrage that Manny Pacquiao was robbed of his boxing championship. Even his opponent reportedly expressed surprise when he was declared the winner of the match. The promotor of the match, who apparently manages both Pacquiao and Bradley, wants the decision investigated by the Nevada Attorney General, just to make sure there was no hanky panky as far as the judges were concerned. US Senator Harry Reid also is backing an investigation (although it is not clear whether he is referring to the US Senate or to Nevada). The only (tiny) consolation in the whole episode was that at least it was a split, rather than a unanimous decision of the three judges.

Well, I’ve got news for you, folks. The Filipino people have just been robbed of something on the order of P200 billion, with not even the consolation of a split decision by the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division, headed by Justice Roland Jurado. Jurado and his colleagues Teresita Diaz-Baldos and Alex Quiroz threw out the more than 20-year-old case — Civil Case 0005 — against Lucio Tan, et al (the et al including 28 individuals and 40 corporations and including the heirs of Ferdinand Marcos). On what grounds? Lack of evidence.

Which means that Lucio Tan acquired what is now Allied Bank, as well as husbanded several other corporations to great financial success without any help from Ferdinand Marcos, or at least there is no evidence showing the connection between the two.

Lack of evidence, my sainted foot. The Sandiganbayan must be deaf, dumb and blind to have ignored the following:

• The claim of Imelda Marcos in 2001 (“Amended Answer with Counterclaim and Compulsory Cross Claim”) where she went into the details of the extent of the Marcos holdings in the Tan companies;

• Certified copies of blank deeds of assignment and deeds of sale executed by the nominal owners of 60% of the Tan holding companies as presented by Bongbong Marcos to the Sandiganbayan (Bongbong was a hostile witness for the prosecution). In other words, the written and oral testimony of Imelda and Bongbong Marcos was to the effect that Ferdinand Marcos owned 60% of Tan’s companies.

3. It gets better, with documentary evidence showing the really close relationship between Tan and Marcos:

a) A letter, dated March 26, 1977 (a Saturday), from Tan to FM, regarding the purchase of General Bank and Trust Co (now Allied Bank). In it, Tan asks for FM to “persuade” the PNB to commit to issue a P310-million standby letter of credit in favor of the Central Bank (CB) as required by the latter as part of the bid requirements for GenBank. The bids for GenBank were to be opened the following Monday, and without that issuance, Tan would be disqualified. It is noteworthy that in that letter, Tan also mentioned how much his bid would be (whatever for, unless FM was part of it?). It is also noteworthy that on Monday, March 28, PNB president P. O. Domingo sent a letter to the CB signifying that PNB was prepared to issue the letter of credit in favor of the CB to secure Tan’s commitment. A P310-million decision (present-day equivalent: P6 billion) made by the PNB in less than one-half of a working day. It casts the alleged Bobby Ongpin-DBP deal in the shade.

b) Then there is a letter to FM on Jan. 4, 1982,asking for exemption from duty and taxes for the importation of 100 million bottles by Asia Brewery, endorsed by FM to then Trade Minister Bobby Ongpin; and a letter the following week directly to Ongpin (this time for 60 million bottles), with a marginal note from FM addressed to CB Governor Jaime Laya and Customs chief Ramon Farolan, to the effect that the request could be approved.

c) And how about a letter dated May 9, 1984 (when the Philippines was in debt crisis) from Allied Bank, asking that the CB deposit $50 million with it, so that it could pay its Middle Eastern creditors. The letter has a notation from FM on May 10 addressed to CB Governor Jobo Fernandez — “I believe the proposal is acceptable.”

4. Further there is the memorandum to then Central Bank Governor Gregorio Licaros — signed by all his deputies (including Jimmy Laya and Gabby Singson)and every member of his senior staff — which in effect lists down the irregularities attendant to the bidding for what is now Allied Bank. These included the fact that not only was PNB’s commitment to issue the P310-million letter of credit in favor of Tan beyond its limit, but also that the requirements for such issuance were not even met by Tan. How was this resolved? The CB monetary board later — after Tan won the bid for what is now Allied Bank — waived all these requirements.

5. Add to that the testimony of Rolando Gapud, the financial counselor of Ferdinand Marcos, who made the categorical statement that, indeed, Lucio Tan was FM’s (junior) partner, who regularly paid into FM accounts what presumably were his dividends, and even tried to reduce the sharing system from 60-40 in favor of FM to 50-50 (Gapud recounts that he told Tan to take the matter up with FM himself).

So let’s sum it up: The heirs of Ferdinand Marcos (co-accused of Tan) have averred that Marcos and Tan had a business relationship. The letters from Tan to Marcos with regard to business acquisitions and or accommodations corroborate what Imelda and Bongbong alleged. Documents from Central Bank further corroborate the favored treatment that Tan got. With Tan’s financial counselor again giving specific details about the financial relationship and the payments.

And the Sandiganbayan says there is lack of evidence. One guesses that the only way they will rule against Tan is if Ferdinand Marcos comes back from the dead and testifies. And maybe not even then.

If we are outraged about Pacquiao being cheated of victory, if we are outraged about Corona having a $2.4-million and P80-million bank deposit, where is our — and the President’s — outrage at the Sandiganbayan’s robbing us of at least P200 billion?