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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
by Al Labita
HE has long shunned politics.
But like a ghost, his name haunts the political landscape now abuzz with rumors in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
From obscurity, Manuel V. Pangilinan, aka MVP, suddenly shot to prominence, being bruited about as a potential “dark horse” in the next presidential race. What props up MVP’s stock is his technocratic skill that transformed the once struggling Hong Kong-based First Pacific Company Ltd. into one of Asia’s profitable corporate titans. He may not have any political affiliation, but he has the money. The self-made billionaire sportsman has made it to the elite list of US-based Forbes Magazine as one of the Philippines’ richest men, joining the ranks of taipans Henry Sy, Lucio Tan and the Ayalas. He was listed as the Philippines’ 50th wealthiest with an estimated net worth of P4.5 billion as of July 2013.
Undoubtedly, MVP boasts impeccable credentials. As the top honcho of First Pacific, he steered its phenomenal growth over the past decades. From selling Indonesian noodles, the company diversified into banking, finance and property, mainly in Hong Kong and Jakarta, the headquarters of parent Salim Group. In mid ‘90s, MVP saw an opportunity to return to his country where he learned the ropes of the trade, so to speak, as an investment banker.
At the time, the telecom industry was liberalized, enabling him and his group to launch a bid to take over the then financially ailing Philippines Long Distance Telephone (PLDT). With PLDT as flagship, there was no stopping him from venturing into other profit centers — ranging from power to mining, toll roads, media, water and related utilities – all under a listed holding firm, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) chaired by MVP.
Today, the Philippines accounts for 70 percent of First Pacific’s offshore forays, a sign of his abiding faith and confidence in his country’s business potentials.
The Miracle Man
MVP has earned the trust of the very rich, with track record in making sure stakeholders in companies he runs get back their money’s worth. That kind of character is what the Philippines needs now. One who takes care of the trust given him by stockholders. One who has not and will not betray his bosses, the investors.
Our publication, OpinYon, is of the thought that the Philippines if run like a corporation could get out from the economic hole it is drowning in and bring real prosperity to this country. And who could run giant companies and turn around losses better than the proven miracle man himself – MVP.
Given the chance to run the Philippines like those giant companies he has turned around to make profits, MVP could serve his “bosses”, the Filipinos, like he is serving those who trust him with their money.
Given a change of heart in the people towards trapos, MVP has better than fair chance of earning the trust of the people and win the election for President.
After Pres. Benigno S. Aquino has been stripped of his mask and now earning public ridicule, most Filipinos are asking: who should lead this country?
MVP has the campaign infrastructure to win in a political contest. He has good grip of respected media in, print and broadcast. His business interests are almost everywhere in communications and utilities. He has an army of loyal workers, satisfied in their pay like at PLDT, Meralco and other MVP firms which are among blue chips traded on the Philippine bourse and are the usual top picks by both foreign and local investors.
Credit also goes to MVP for laying the foundation – in terms of infrastructure –of what is now known as “Global City,” a former Army Camp, in Taguig City after winning its public bidding. Amid public outrage over the “pork barrel” scandal, the tycoon appears to be a logical choice as an alternative to dyed-in-the-wool trapos in a rapidly shifting political milieu.
Should he throw his hat in the political arena, it’s likely the media outfits – TV 5, Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star and the Business World – under his corporate umbrella would come in handy in a political campaign.
But in his media comments, MVP has thumbed down any ambition to seek a public office.
‘There is no political blood that runs through my veins. I believe I can serve our people better some other way.”
He reacted to rumors that, on the prodding of friends and business associates, he would seek an elective position in the 2016 elections. Pundits believe he would make a great president, given his “technocratic skills.” At a recent forum on the 2016 presidential elections, organized by the Center for Philippine Futuristics Studies and Management Inc., political analyst Antonio Gatmaitan said Pangilinan “could bring his technocratic skills to address the complicated economic issues that will confront the nation and help address a few selective social issues.”
Gatmaitan knows whereof he speaks as he is the executive director of the Political Economic Applied Research Foundation. In case Pangilinan decides to run for the country’s top post in May 2016, Gatmaitan said: “Imagine the excitement it can create.” Ramon Casiple, the executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, said it is clear that Pangilinan has a political agenda in buying stakes in a diversified mix of financially distressed companies and turning them around as money spinners. He also believes Pangilinan would be the dark horse candidate in the 2016 presidential elections. “I agree there is a dark horse. And that’s MVP,” Casiple said.
Apolitical he may be, MVP’s thoughts – often expressed in media interviews – betray what could be his hidden political agenda. In not a few instances that he articulated his own vision for the country favoring investments in such critical businesses as tourism, mining, utilities and information and communications technology.
To him, investments in infrastructure such as power plants, toll roads, seaports and airports are vital to lower the cost of domestic production – ideas that would serve as dividends or profit-sharing with Filipinos should the government turn corporate-oriented and business-like under the banner of what would become the Philippines, Inc and with him as a prospective CEO.
Pangilinan believed that the country’s leaders should be more involved in coming up with long-term solutions and move beyond short-term crisis management if they aspire for the country to grow and move forward.
On election, his view is that it should provide a rare opportunity to define the country’s long-term economic and social priorities, and form a broad consensus around them.
He noted that the private sector should take the lead in mobilizing and directing infrastructure spending, adding the government’s assistance is needed as well.
“The private sector cannot operate on its own. It must seek government help and assistance. In infrastructure, public-private-sector partnership will be critical—the private sector being the moving force and the government providing the relevant incentives, support and enabling regulatory framework.” In more ways than one, MVP is also a philanthropist through his Kapatid Foundation.
In Bacolod city, the City Council approved a resolution declaring MVP an adopted son, noting that his life’s success story is an inspiration that is worth emulating by all Filipinos.
During his years in Hong Kong, he founded and chaired the Bayanihan Center that provided cultural and vocational activities for Filipino domestic workers there. In December 2012, he mobilized his telecommunication companies in a national telethon that raised millions of pesos to aid the victims of typhoon Pablo.
“This simple and hearty resolution is a manifestation that the city government of Bacolod truly recognizes the services and contributions of Pangilinan in the different sectors or our community,” the resolution reads.
Talk about MVP running for president is not new. In 2010, media placements launching the “Ako Mismo” advocacy movement fueled speculations that he was keen in the country’s plum post. Public perception then was that the movement was meant to be MVP’s platform had he decided to throw his hat in the political arena.
“If given the chance and if there is a possibility of winning, MVP will run for president,” a businessman said.
But, in a statement, MVP clarified that the movement was intended to awaken and spread the Filipinos’ sense of responsibility as an individual. “Our legacy is that reliance on community, government and family must be balanced by strong personal accountability,” he says.
“As for myself, I am not running for any political office. I am truly at home running a business,” a statement viewed with skepticism by doubting Thomases among eagle-eyed political watchers.
- A Worm’s-Eye View of the Current State of the Philippines (grbusinessonline.wordpress.com)
- Claim letter (innieyyyy.wordpress.com)
- Estrada: Why single us out? (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Savills Expands in Asia with New Philippines Associate (savills.co.uk)
- Candy Pangilinan not jealous over Eugene Domingo (entertainment.inquirer.net)
- Top PH firms help quake victims (rappler.com)
- From Pastor Leovin Pangilinan (happybirthdaypastorronald.wordpress.com)
- Nearly 100 Philippine rebels killed or captured (bigstory.ap.org)
- San Miguel to Raise $2 Billion Selling Stake in Manila Electric (bloomberg.com)
- Adjustment letter (innieyyyy.wordpress.com)