POSTSCRIPT / April 29, 2007 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Can't GMA stop her arrogant errand boys?

GRAVE ABUSE: Arrogance of power, best exemplified by the public extra-judicial execution of opposition leader Ninoy Aquino in August 1983, led to the rapid collapse of the Marcos dictatorship.

Extra-judicial executions, the type perpetrated nowadays by suspected government agents, are simply the same bloody arrogance of power resurrected.

Left unchecked, this systematic assassination of perceived “enemies of the state” could also bring down a smug Arroyo administration.

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STREET MADNESS: There is another manifestation of official arrogance – this time on street level — that has many more victims screaming for corrective or punitive action.

I am referring to the DAILY display of (undeserved) power and privilege by officials who assume, like a fly alighting atop a carabao, that they are big shots who must be given priority everywhere every time.

Whatever the traffic condition, we plain folk are expected to pull over and give way as the high and mighty zip by with their intimidating sirens, blinkers and armed thugs.

I drive a lot and encounter almost daily — like again on EDSA yesterday — these swellheads who barrel down the road in heavily tinted and unmarked vehicles escorted by canine motor-cops and a fleet of security guards.

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IF SHE CAN’T DO IT…: Sobra na talaga. This is grave abuse of misplaced authority and misappropriation of public funds. This is lunacy. This is blatant arrogance of power.

President Gloria Arroyo is on her final term, but if she still cares about what people think of her administration, she better put an instant stop to this madness out there in the streets outside her Palace.

If GMA cannot curb this abuse of power and privilege, if she cannot tell her arrogant errand boys to stop throwing their imagined weight around, she has no business sitting as president. She better resign.

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GREEN CROSS: It seems that popular Green Cross alcohol is indeed, as its ads say, “pangpamilya” (for the family).

The corporation making Green Cross (and Zonrox bleach), with annual sales running in the billions, is going through the throes of a family feud that threatens its dominant position in the market.

The eldest son Co It (better known by his Filipino name Gonzalo Co) is embroiled in a fight with his four siblings for control of the firm that he said he founded in 1952 as a single proprietorship.

It was then called Gonzalo Laboratories but restructured and registered in 1970 as Green Cross Inc.

After a series of stock transfers, Gonzalo saw his shares shrink, then vanish. As his siblings came of age, they took active part in running the business and sent Gonzalo to pasture.

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CHARGES FILED: Now Gonzalo, 86, wants to regain control of the booming business and get paid for the shares he had lost to his siblings as well as for the use of the “Green Cross” and “Zonrox” trademarks that he said he owned.

He complained to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, who then directed the National Bureau of Investigation under him to look into the case. Why he went to Gonzalez and not to the prosecutor’s office or the Securities and Exchange Commission is not clear to me.

It is also not clear why Gonzalo filed tax evasion charges against his siblings and not some action for recovery of his shares or maybe fraud.

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TWO VERSIONS: When Green Cross was incorporated in 1970, 33.4 percent of equity was listed as owned by Gonzalo’s father Co Ay Tian and mother Ang Si. His siblings Anthony, Joseph, Peter and Mary got 15.6 percent.

But this redistribution of shares, Gonzalo said, was just an internal arrangement based on an “implied trust” and that his siblings’ shares were “in name” only and were not paid for.

His siblings tell a different story. They said that it was their father, and not Gonzalo, who started the business, funding it with P15,000 from his life-savings. Gonzalo’s version was that he founded and financed it with P3,300 from his savings.

Gonzalo said that was the reason why the original firm was called Gonzalo Laboratories. His siblings countered that their father just named it after Gonzalo, as it was the Chinese custom to name such ventures after the first-born son.

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STOCK TRANSFERS: Gonzalo’s detractors who now control the business said their present holdings have legal basis, including several public documents that Gonzalo himself signed about 20-30 years ago.

From its incorporation until Gonzalo sold his remaining shares, the children and their parents had been issuing or transferring shares of stock among themselves.

The last transfer was in 1986. Documents showed that Gonzalo was a signatory to the documents pertaining to these issuances and transfers. He was the company’s president during that time.

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WHY ONLY NOW?: It is not clear to me why Gonzalo did not speak up early on about the “implied trust” that he said was the basis of the transfers and about which he is now complaining.

It is also puzzling why he is claiming only now, after two decades, that he gave up his shares in the corporation under “moral duress.” What is “moral duress”?

This is not a complicated case. The conflicting claims can be checked since the entire controversy boils down to a matter of evidence. Whoever will decide the case can just ask for the documents and the evidence will speak for itself.

The family feud need not be argued by the siblings in the press, which is the wrong venue.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 29, 2007)

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