POSTSCRIPT / October 4, 2012 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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The people themselves are now the opposition

VALUELESS TAGS: It has become clear to most thinking Filipinos that, unlike in the free market teeming with competing goods, there is no more product differentiation among the politicians offering themselves to the electorate.

Look around for confirmation. Party lines have been so blurred that it has become difficult remembering a politician’s party affiliation. (I am in media but I find it difficult keeping track of party tags of elective officials.)

Party names, like athletic uniforms, are empty labels since the organizations claiming accreditation have no ideological substance to live by and serve in the first place.

The confusion – which I suspect is intentional — is worsened by the proliferation of political dynasties and the unmitigated marriages of political convenience entered into solely in pursuit of power and wealth.

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THE OPPOSITION: So now people are asking who the authentic political opposition is.

With the opposition having died by default, the time has come for the people themselves to rise together and take their place as the genuine opposition. Let us be the opposition — if only to protect ourselves from the politicians!

To validate this message, look around. Look at the faces of the dirty politicos on the front page, the TV screen, the street tarpaulins. Di ba parepareho lang silang lahat? They are all the same.

What then can we, individually and in concert with like-minded neighbors, do as the core of the genuine opposition?

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FAMILY BRAND: For one, we can be more discerning in assessing those who presume to ask for our votes. And we should be more demanding on those already in office and pretending to govern and run (ruin?) our lives.

For another, let us – once and for all — reject candidates whose only qualification is their family name. In a country of some 100 million and a literacy rate of 90 percent, why should our fate be left in the hands of just two dozen politically incestuous families?

One generation, or 25 years, after the Constitution commanded the banishing of political dynasties, the landscape is still dominated by clans who regard public office, plus all appurtenances thereto, as a family heirloom to be passed on to their children.

The key selling point of most of the candidates of the administration and of the outside coalitions is their family name, borrowed from a forebear who somehow is still remembered. By themselves, however, they actually have nothing much to offer.

There are many others who are just stepping into the shoes of their politico parents, or their spouses or siblings whose names by dint of exposure still have recall value.

It is high time we stopped voting for a family brand and started to look deeper or elsewhere.

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PLUNDER CASE: Lack of space forced us to cut our last column on the filing with the Ombudsman of a plunder complaint against several big businessmen in connection with the sale of government-held shares representing at least 10 percent of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

The complainant, Emilio Aguinaldo Suntay, alleges that the respondents conspired in 2008 to corner the shares – pivotal in a fight to gain control of Meralco — at an unrealistically low price resulting in gross disadvantage of the government to the extent of P8 billion.

Among the respondents named were businessmen Roberto Ongpin and Ramon Ang, lawyer Estelito Mendoza and Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin who allegedly penned decisions that overturned en banc Supreme Court decisions.

Suntay said the Meralco shares then held by state-run firms were allowed to be bought by units of San Miguel Corp and Ongpin-led firms at a price that was lower than that offered by another serious buyer.

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QUESTIONS: Suntay asked the Ombudsman to investigate, among other things, a contract involving SMC Global and the Land Bank of the Philippines. Ongpin founded SMC Global, which is now owned by San Miguel Corp. whose major owner/stockholder is a company belonging to him.

The complainant raised these questions and concerns:

* Why did the Land Bank as well as the Government Service Insurance System, the Social Security System, and other government financial institutions under then finance secretary Margarito Teves (now a director with Ongpin in Alphaland and SMC) allow SMC Global to sell more than P20 billion worth of Meralco shares to Ongpin’s company that was allegedly undercapitalized and had no track record, without the benefit of public bidding and due diligence?

(In a disclosure last June, San Miguel Corp. said that with their acquisition of the shares held by the SSS and the GSIS in addition to the 3.7 percent bought from the Land Bank, they have increased their Meralco holdings to 32.39 percent.)

* Who is the real party behind and ultimate owner that Ongpin represents in SMC Global, Alphaland, Top Frontier, and the subfund he manages under Ashmore Funds for whom then secretary Teves, Gilda Pico (current Land Bank president), and other presidents of GFIs sold all their Meralco shares in apparent haste?

* Investigate what appeared to be behest loans granted to Ongpin by GFIs and the possible use of public and government funds to finance their corporations including San Miguel Global Power Holdings, SMC, Top Frontier and Alphaland.

* Look into the apparent conspiracy involving Ongpin, Teves, Ang, Mendoza and members of the judiciary starting (for purposes of filing an impeachment case) with Justice Bersamin who the complainant said almost always favors the businessmen cited.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 4, 2012)

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