Money Wins

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By Ray L. Junia, publisher

Binay is aware of MVP’s anti-politics stance, but feels his much-vaunted technocracy is what the country needs in the face of a globalizing economy.

 

Speculations are rife that business mogul Manuel V. Pangilinan (aka MVP) may yet throw his hat in the political arena come 2016.

That depends though on the ongoing talk between the emissaries of Vice President Jojo Binay and MVP for their possible tandem in the next presidential elections.

From the rumor mill, word leaked that Binay personally handpicked his emissaries, some of them MVP’s Ateneo classmates and business leaders, to persuade the tycoon to join politics.

That was the same tact used by then presidential bet Richard Gordon in the last national elections when he wanted to rope in MVP as his running mate, but the tycoon begged off.

Binay is aware of MVP’s anti-politics stance, but feels his much-vaunted technocracy is what the country needs in the face of a globalizing economy.

Capital Market

MVP, an IVY League-trained investment banker, has built a multi-billion peso corporate empire, spanning from Indonesia to Thailand, Hong Kong and the Philippines, under the umbrella of Indonesian conglomerate Salim Group. Their businesses cater to every human need – from womb to tomb.

Some of the MVP-steered companies are among the biggest – in terms of assets and revenues — not only in the Philippines, but even throughout Asia as well.

They include the blue chips Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) and Meralco whose listed shares allow the public to own them via the Philippine bourse.

In more ways than one, PLDT and Meralco help woo foreign investments in the capital market, an integral part of the economy.

Being public utilities, their rising rates may drag down, however, MVP’s popularity come election time.

Campaign Weapon

Most likely, other contenders will associate MVP with a regime of high prices as a campaign weapon against him.

But politics is a game of numbers which often fluctuate depending on prevailing risks and opportunities.

Taking all things equal, MVP may yet emerge as a surprise package, given the rough-and-tumble nature of politics in a country long driven by partisanship.

There’s another hitch to Binay’s likely choice of MVP for the nation’s second highest public office.

The plunder cases notwithstanding, Senator Jinggoy Estrada minced no words in making himself available as Binay’s second in command for the 2016 polls.

Jinggoy’s preference has caught Binay in a bind since they belong to the opposition party UNA along with Jinggoy’s father, Manila Mayor Erap Estrada, and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

Why MVP?

Batangas Governor Vilma Santos, wife of Senator Ralph Recto, and Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto are also being bruited about as Binay’s possible running mate, but both have declined so far.

Reckoned with the credentials of movie actress-cum-politician Santos-Recto and low-cost housing builder Meloto, why MVP?

So far, only Binay has openly declared he’s gunning for the presidency when Aquino’s six-year term ends by 2016.

As if MVP is on top of the heap, so to speak, Binay somehow hinted his bias and preference for the tycoon as his running mate for VP.

“If possible, the person should have a track record that will be of help to us in improving the country. Who can give that but of course an economist,” he said, apparently referring to MVP, himself an economics graduate cum laude from the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila.

No Formal Talk

Citing his experience as a local government executive, Binay recalled the days when he was mayor of Makati city, the country’s financial hub.

“One of my guiding policies when I was a mayor was to run the city government of Makati as if it were a corporate entity, “he said.

In wooing MVP into his fold, Binay believed he could prop up the values of efficiency and effectiveness in governance to get votes once the campaign in the run-up to 2016 heats up.

He noted that MVP’s experience as an investment banker could be an advantage to the new government as funds would be needed to push projects that address poverty, unemployment and other socio-economic ills plaguing the country.

Binay clarified though that he has not had formal talk with MVP who began his career as an investment banker in Makati city in the early ‘60s.

Technocrat

Although they met on several occasions, Binay said, they did not discuss the 2016 polls.

Once rumored eyeing the presidency, MVP stands out as one of the most powerful men in the country, being at the helm of companies that are leaders in industries considered crucial to the Philippine economy.

These include the infrastructure giant Metro Pacific Investments Corp., biggest gold producer Philex, as well as Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., and Maynilad Water Services Inc.

So far, MVP has kept mum on what may be described as a snowballing move to draw him to what could be his unchartered territory – politics.

Last year, some political commentators believed that MVP evoked strong potentials for either as president or vice president, citing his impeccable credentials as a business leader and a technocrat.

They noted how he turned around the once loss-making companies such as PLDT into highly profitable ones because of his management skills and expertise.

Outburst

But MVP, who has long shunned politics, said in a statement that “there is no political blood that runs through my veins… I believe I can serve our people better some other way.” To him, his role as a businessman is enough to help the country’s economy grow.

Nonetheless, the tycoon agreed that elections ‘provide a rare opportunity to define the country’s long-term economic and social priorities, and form a broad consensus around them.”

That sense of optimism is a far cry from what he uttered some two years ago – “kung ako lang,” he was quoted as saying, “I’d pack up and go back to Hong Kong,” headquarters of the Salim-owned flagship First  Pacific Co. Ltd. “Ang gulo-gulo n’yo!” (You are troublesome)

That infamous outburst, which has gone viral on the internet, was an angry reaction to how critics demonized him for kowtowing to Beijing in his bid to form a joint venture with a state-owned Chinese company to explore oil in the Spratlys, claimed by both the Philippines and China.

Likening MVP’s move as “sleeping with enemy,” critics lashed out at him over his plan to allow the Chinese to explore part of the nation’s territory.

MVP may cite one plausible explanation that business is business since his group holds a substantial stake in the exploration rights granted by the Aquino government to an oil field in the Spratlys, also referred to as west Philippine sea.

Whatever it is, the torrent of criticisms could be a litmus test of MVP’s expected transition from a hassle-free corporate milieu to the abominable dog-eat-dog world of politics.

MVP Is The Wrong Leader 

To MVP, abominable is not how he would describe Philippine politics even with his pretensions to be fed up with the dirty ways of our politicians. From all indications he has mastered the art of Philippine politics as he has turned out to be the master of many of the country’s political leaders.

It is common suspicion that many of the country’s political leaders are in the payroll of big business. And MVP is one at the front of big business. This suspicion has earned credence from the favored concessions big business get from the government.

That MVP could be tempted to run for vice president or president is a perception created by MVP himself. That the thought sometimes flirts in his mind could be a product of his experience in making his principals’ money win candidates who don’t deserve to be in office.

Should MVP take the dive into politics, preferring not to be simply the manipulator, there is strong reason he will win. He has command of billions of pesos in money machines and control over national media.

Then we will have placed another wrong person to lead this country from poverty, for while he has been active in corporate social responsibilities and sports, the truth is, he is one of the major reasons the country is very poor and why millions are without jobs and penniless.

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