POSTSCRIPT / January 14, 2007 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Mike's attack dog can sniff around in China

ATTACK DOG: I learned belatedly that a business columnist of a major paper had attacked me for being “ungrateful” when I wrote last Nov. 2 about my brush with First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo during President Gloria Arroyo’s last trip to China.

As I do not read his column, I only learned of that columnist’s canine defense of Mr. Mike Arroyo (who is known in the media to be that columnist’s client) from Roy Acosta, former managing editor in that paper.

The attack dog of Mr. Arroyo reportedly said in so many words that having been invited to cover the President’s trip, I should not have written anything critical of the First Gentleman.

If he had the chance, I suppose that that devoted defender of Mr. Arroyo would have splashed my face with a glass of water, as he is wont to do whenever his hormones run amuck.

* * *

PAID MY BILLS: Maybe Mr. Arroyo should take his columnist-friend to the same places in Southeast China that we visited on that presidential trip. That way, his lapdog would have the chance to sniff around the hotels, restaurants and shops on our itinerary.

He would discover that in all the hotels and outlets we had been to, I always paid my own bills. When checking out of a hotel where we members of the presidential delegation were billeted, I always paid my own. I have my credit card receipts, if anybody is interested.

The only things I did not pay (because I was not billed, otherwise I would have paid) were the fare on the chartered Philippine Airlines Airbus 330 used as presidential plane as well as on the buses and boats ferrying us guests.

* * *

DID THEY PAY?: While this plain citizen paid his hotel and related bills from personal funds, I wonder if Mr. Arroyo and his wife, as well as the rest of their extended family who had tagged along, also paid for theirs out of pocket.

Listed on that trip aside from the First Couple were presidential sons Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo and Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo (2nd Dist., Pampanga), Dato’s wife Victoria Celina, Mikey’s wife Angela, presidential daughter Evangelina Lourdes M. Arroyo (although I did not spot her), granddaughters Mikaela Gloria and Marie Angelique (plus their nannies and nurses), and presidential brother-in-law Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo of Negros Occidental.

In addition, they had their usual hangers-on and staff.

Did all those people, like me, pay for their hotel bills? (Actually I do not want discussing money matters of this sort, but Mr. Arroyo’s columnist-friend went out of bounds defending him.)

* * *

TWISTED ETHICS: Now, following the ethics of that inquiring columnist in the service of Mr. Arroyo, just because I was allowed to cover the President’s trip I should not have written anything critical of his Palace client? Ano bang journalism yan?

As I said in my Postscript of Nov. 2, 2006, about that brush with Mr. Arroyo, “I am grateful for that incident. At least, it confirmed my impression of this juvenile who wields awesome powers by the accident of his being married to the President of the Republic.

“It also explains why Mr. Arroyo turns off many Capampangans. A number of the President’s cabalen see him as a burden to the presidency. ‘Hindi na nga nakatutulong, nakasisira pa,’  is a common comment.”

The Postscript I am citing is archived in my ManilaMail website. The exact location is: https://www.manilamail.com/archive/2006nov/06nov02/.

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TRANSPARENT: Selling the government’s P25-billion stake in the Philippine Telecommunication Investment Corp. makes sense, because (1) the government should get out of private business, (2) the proceeds will help shave the budget deficit, and (3) the fund transfusion will help some important programs to move forward.

The only good reason for objecting to the sale of the PTIC shares, representing seven percent of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., is if there is likelihood that the bidding is being manipulated for favored bidders.

But the bidding looks transparent enough. The Department of Finance published an invitation to bid on Nov. 13, 2006, in three newspapers, and republished the invitation 15 more times in seven newspapers Nov. 13-24.

The terms of reference setting the detailed rules for the bidding were made available to all interested parties, free of charge. Eleven individuals or institutions asked for and received copies of the ToR.

To give interested parties more time to prepare, the finance department extended the bid deadline from Dec. 4 to Dec. 8.

* * *

WHY ONLY 2?: Why are there are only two serious bidders at this point? Finance officials said this might be because the government’s PTIC shares were offered as one block, rather than as several blocks.

They added that there are not that many entities, local or foreign, that have the financial capability to throw P25 billion in one bid.

Also, the fact that First Pacific, the other major shareholder of PTIC, had made known its intention to exercise its right to match whatever offer is made for the government’s stake may have deterred some interested parties.

* * *

SEQUESTERED: Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said the proceeds of the sale will enable the government to shave the budget deficit this year and balance the budget two years from now.

The shares in question were the sequestered shares of Prime Holdings Inc. that the Sandiganbayan said were illegally acquired during the Marcos regime.

The finance department, which wants to close the sale in the first quarter, lost no time in bidding out the P25-billion equity after the Sandiganbayan ordered the PTIC to turn over the sequestered shares to the government.

To facilitate the sale, the government priced the shares with a 15-percent discount based on the average trading price of PLDT shares during the 10 heaviest trading days between Nov. 13 and Dec. 4.

* * *

15% DISCOUNT: The Development Bank of the Philippines, which the finance department consulted in setting the minimum price, recommended the 15-percent discount in its valuation report.

The DBP said the discount had to be offered as the PTIC shares are illiquid and non-listed unlike PLDT shares, which are easily traded in the stock market and whose price are easier to determine.

Selling PTIC shares involves the tedious process of a selling shareholder looking for a buyer, establishing the price, then offering the same shares to other PTIC stockholders, and then to PTIC itself.

The finance department and the DBP cited the standard operating procedure of giving discounts in the large-block sale of shares, such as those of Metrobank, Universal Robina and Megaworld.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 14, 2007)

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