Thursday, October 1, 2015

2016 is proxy war of Filipino billionaires

Since the proclamation of Senator Grace Poe as a presidential contender in the 2016 elections, there has been persistent talk about the involvement of Ramon S. Ang, chairman of San Miguel Corporation as one of several financiers of Poe’s election machinery. For me, this is expected since Grace Poe’s husband is one of San Miguel’s advisors and the company has been supportive of Poe’s late adopting father, Fernando Poe Jr. Aside from Poe, there has been talk of the involvement of the Zamora brothers, specifically Manny, Ronnie and . This explains why the Makabayan Bloc is now supporting the candidacy of Poe. It is well-known that the Zamoras have been supporting the Left since Congressman Ronnie Zamora entered into a tactical alliance with them during the

To be fair, it is not only Poe that has several names in the Big Business department as financiers or election supporters. Liberal party presidential bet Mar Roxas is reputedly being supported by the Ayala-Zobel-Araneta group. Roxas’ mother Julie is an Araneta, and as they say, blood is thicker than water.

Vice president Jejomar Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) is not spared from this talk. During the Makati building overpricing probe of the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee, Binay’s links with several big-named Chinese businessmen were exposed, with most of them meted arrest warrants due to their alleged collusion with the Vice president in those reported graft scandals. Early last year, PLDT chairman Manny Pangilinan’s name cropped up as a possible running mate of the beleaguered presidential contender.  Talks ended when Pangilinan categorically denied ever planning to enter Philippine local politics.

It is not known who supports Davao Mayor Rody Duterte, but several businessmen reportedly grouped themselves together to raise 2 billion pesos to fund the presidential run of the hesitant Duterte. Last September 2015, Duterte already publicly announced that he is not running for the presidency.

Involvement of Big Business in National and Local Politics

Analysing the elections post-EDSA uno, we find that this phenomena is not at all surprising to say the least. In the elections of 1992, Fidel Valdez Ramos is said to be supported by several big named businessmen, including the supposed Ilustrado-Cono bloc of the Ayalas.

In 1998, presidential contender Joseph Estrada was said to have been supported by several billionaires, including Lucio Tan, the Gokongweis, David Consunji and George Ty.

In the 2010 elections, big named businessmen supported the presidential campaign of Benigno S. Aquino III. Some of them, specifically Air21 owner Bert Lina, is now the Customs chief.

Private-Public Partnerships

We ask ourselves—what is at stake here? Why are these businessmen now actively supporting “winnable” candidates especially in the presidential and the vice presidential derbies?

In the thirteen big ticket projects being undertaken by the Government, San Miguel Corporation (SMC) is involved as a bidder in twelve of them, which includes the controversial 24.4 billion peso Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project, Laguna Lakeshore Expressway-Dike Project (122.8 billion), Davao Sasa Port Modernization Project worth 18.99 billion and development, operations and maintenance of four provincial airports. Aside from the Bulacan Bulk Water supply project, SMC is likewise involved in the 18.72 billion New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project as well as the development of the 170.7 billion peso North-South Railway project (South Line) of which San Miguel Corporation competes directly with Metro Pacific of Manny Pangilinan.

All in all, these PPP projects amount to more than a trillion pesos!

Ayala Land Incorporated is one of the bidders for the 122.8 billion peso Laguna Lakeshore Expressway-Dike project, under Team Trident which is composed of companies such as Megaworld, Aboitiz Equity Ventures and SM Prime Holdings Incoporated. Team Trident is competing with San Miguel Hodlings Crorp, Alloy Pavi Hanshin LLEDP Consortium.

Aside from this, Ayala is likewise involved in bidding for the operation ad maintenance of LRT line 2, under the Light Rail Mainla Holdings 2, Incorporated. If you review most of these PPP, Ayala is involved one way or another, as a competitor of San Miguel Corporation.

So, you ask what is at stake in 2016? The answer is more than a trillion pesos.  And if I am a billionaire, what is 1 billion pesos in exchange for a trillion?

Call-to-Action

Let’s ask those who are running for elective posts, specifically the Presidency and the Vice presidency to expose their big business financiers. If any one of their financiers is involved in a current bidding for government projects, then, it is prudent to ask the funder to back away. We should devise a law that prohibits individuals with pending or future engagement or involvement in government contracts never to involve themselves in election funding.