POSTSCRIPT / July 17, 2005 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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GSIS, SSS want 7 of 15 seats on EPCIBank board

GOS’ CONTROL: It seems that the control of the Go family over the Equitable PCI Bank, the country’s third largest bank, is about to crumble based on recent developments.

By allegedly refusing seats to bigger stockholders and putting in allies as “independent” members of the 15-member board, the Go family had cornered a majority despite its holding only 25 percent of equity.

With the stockholders meeting set next Tuesday, July 19, a mini-revolt among major shareholders has erupted led by GSIS President and General Manager Winston Garcia who is claiming back two government seats taken by the Go family.

Garcia and SSS President Corazon dela Paz have served notice that based on their combined 41 percent share of ownership in the bank they would insist on seven out of the 15 seats in the board — two for GSIS and five for SSS.

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GSIS, SSS MOVE: The GSIS owns more than 12 percent of EPCIB shares equivalent to two seats, but has been given only one seat. The SSS is entitled to five seats (like the Go family) but was allowed only four. Now the two state firms are insisting on getting their full representation.

While the GSIS and the SSS contributed P16 billion out of the P32 billion used to buy PCIBank in 1999, the Gos reportedly did not put in a single centavo. The other P16 billion was funded by Equitable, including funds of the acquired PCIBank, for which all the shareholders (including GSIS and SSS members) pay interest expenses proportionately.

Acting on a petition by the group of retail magnate Henry Sy (which has a 2.5 percent stake), the Court of Appeals issued last July 13 a temporary restraining order barring the board from using the bank’s amended by-laws to process nominees to the board. Said by-laws were earlier nullified by the SEC in November 2004.

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ROMULO DISQUALIFIED: In a related development, the Monetary Board has disqualified Go-nominated Roberto Romulo as an “independent director.”

In a resolution dated July 14, 2005, the Monetary Board “has determined that Mr. Roberto R. Romulo does not possess the qualification of an independent director of Equitable PCI Bank.” Such advice was contained in a July 15 letter of Leny Silvestre, acting Central Bank director, in a letter to Rene J. Buenaventura, EPCIB president and chief executive officer.

The Monetary Board found that Romulo has been chairman of the board of Equitable Card Network Inc. (ECNI) from 1997 up to 2004, and is also concurrently chairman of the Equicom Systems Management, Inc. (ESMI), both controlled by the Go family.

In disqualifying Romulo as independent director of EPCIB, the Monetary Board ruled that he “is considered to be acting as representative of the Go family, a substantial shareholder of EPCIB.”

Earlier, the Securities and Exchange Commission also declared Romulo “disqualified” as EPCIB director basically on the same ground used by the Central Bank.

The BSP and SEC actions were prompted by a complaint of the GSIS president who accused the Go family, represented by chairman Antonio Go, of packing the board with “dummies” to be able to control the bank operations and management.

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WHAT’S YOUR CHOICE?: We asked readers last time to tell us their preference among different scenarios suggested by various groups pushing different post-Arroyo agenda:

Option #1: President Arroyo resigns. Vice President Noli de Castro becomes president.

Option #2: Both Ms Arroyo and Mr. De Castro resign or are forced out. The Senate President shall act as president until the replacement president and vice president are chosen in special elections.

Option #3: All elective posts from the president down to local executives are declared vacant. A transition president backed by a council takes over the reins of what would be an authoritarian setup while a new Constitution is being written.

Option #4: A junta dominated by military types grabs power. The junta lays down all the pertinent rules until it decides that the nation is ready for a return to civilian rule.

Option #5: NOTA – None of the Above. Could mean settling for your Option #6 below or the status quo (which will have President Arroyo staying on).

Option #6: Your own Option or suggestion.

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GMA STAY FAVORED: As of 5 p.m. yesterday, Option #5 (None of the Above) garnered 40 percent of responses. Basically this means that the respondent wants President Arroyo to stay since all the options were based on her resigning or being removed.

The other options got: Option #1 (GMA resigns and Vice President Noli de Castro becomes president), 16 percent; Option #4 (Military junta takes over), 13 percent; Option #6 (the respondent has his own suggestion), 12 percent; and Options #2 and #3, each 6 percent.

The survey is far from scientific. It does not plumb the opinion of a cross-section of the population. The respondents are mainly our readers who have emailing capability, a sector that comprises a tiny part of the adult population.

(We are still accepting responses at fdp333@info.com.ph. Please append a 50-word explanation for your choice.)

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WHAT THEY SAID: Samples of the earliest responses (edited to fit the cramped space):

Rodel C. Gatpayatrcgatpayat@devbankphil.com.ph : NOTA. Any of those options will forever trap us to the vicious cycle chaos and division besieging our country at present. Therefore, the President must stand her ground and not yield to the pressures, no matter how extreme, being applied to her by the political opposition to leave office. Only the President can hold the center.

Ed Quimpo, equimpo@ultimate.info.com.ph: I will go for Noli as replacement, despite his having a near-zero executive experience. Many of us took the risk of voting for a non-politician FPJ in the last election, in the hope of a new face for new kind of politics. FPJ had leadership quality, but experience-wise, whatever Noli has will be more than FPJ.

Jimmy Munar, Toronto, Canada: Option #1 – GMA resign (or kicked out) and Noli takes over. For a liar, cheater, corrupt, schemer, etc. and putting the country into eternal indebtedness Gloria Makapidal Arroyo should pronto vacate the presidency. It is preferred to tread the unknown than going ahead into sure hell.

Ferd O. Vinluan, a merchandising manager: Our country needs someone who has no guilt or utang na loob to anyone, who can implement laws and can amend laws to adapt to situation or time, who can make decisions without the need of approval of supporters or non-supporters, as long as this will be for the sake of the country or the majority.

Donald Nunag, Toronto, Canada: There is no Post-GMA. It is a ridiculous idea to have her ousted. She deserves a second chance. To err is human, to forgive divine….

Jun B. Lintag, San Francisco, CA: A military junta will be the best choice at this juncture if President Arroyo decides to resign. PMA graduates are among the better disciplined and educated citizens. We can adopt a guided democracy patterned after Singapore that can be implemented only by the military.

Edgardo Gutierrez, gutierrez@mindoroprovince.com: I prefer a military junta — anyone but Noli de Castro. Ask him about the budget deficit and he would not have a clue about what is being asked. His economic and political knowhow borders on zero. I still have to hear his opinion about current issues that is specific and that makes sense.

Vee Solatorre, Vee.Solatorre@cbhk.com: Option #2. This is more legitimate than having the Vice President considering that he is just acting as Arroyo’s tail. Filipinos are not stupid nor ignorant. Everybody knows Arroyo never won the presidential election (she stole it, not once but twice).

Mario T. Ramos, Fremont, CA: NOTA. The presidential election was more than one year ago. If there was cheating, it should have been resolved during the counting. All the energies of the press, officials and the public are being wasted on non productive exercises. If blame is to be shared, the media should take the bigger slice.

Carlos Torres, ccnctorres@comcast.net: I want Gloria to stay. Any of the alternatives are worse. We have too many power-hungry politicians and so-called civil society. Give our children a chance to have a future still in the Philippines. Let Gloria govern without interruption. If only our crab-mentality politicians would shape up.

Czarina Abuanczarinaabuan20002000@yahoo.com: Mrs. Arroyo should not resign. The mess is a conspiracy of the usual panggulo opposition and position-seeking former allies of the president. They just picked an opportune time to strike when her ratings are low. The key players are the usual clowns who have been asking GMA to resign since Day One.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 17, 2005)

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