Danding Cojuangco, tycoon and political kingpin, dies at 85

Rappler.com
(UPDATED) The businessman built food and beverage giant San Miguel Corporation and was a key ally of Ferdinand Marcos

BOSS DANDING. Eduardo Cojuangco Jr had headed San Miguel Corporation, considered the largest food and beverage corporation in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, since 1998. Photo courtesy of Edwin Tuyay

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr, chairman and chief executive officer of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) whose empire grew under the Marcos years, died of a lingering illness on Tuesday, June 16. He was 85.

SMC confirmed Cojuangco’s death in a statement on Wednesday, June 17.

His vision for the company, said SMC, was “to be a beacon of hope for the Philippines and a partner in nation-building.”

“For decades, ECJ guided the San Miguel Group, making a difference in the lives of so many of our employees, past and present. Values he lived by – malasakit (compassion), and sama-sama (unity), the idea that we either make it together or not at all – are at the heart of what it means to be San Miguel,” SMC said.

“His contributions to our company’s history are numerous and indelible. An agriculturalist at heart, he championed the development of rural Philippines and the setting up of our agro-industrial operations…. His impact on many other areas of Philippine life – sports, philanthropy – add to his rich and enduring legacy.”

Cojuangco had a kidney transplant in 2013 but battled other illnesses as well. Radio station DZRH said he died of lung cancer.

He was married to Soledad “Gretchen” Oppen Cojuangco of Negros Occidental, with whom he had 4 children. His sons Charlie and Mark dabbled in politics – Charlie is current representative of Tarlac’s 1st District, while Mark once served as Pangasinan congressman.

Cojuangco also had two children with his longtime partner, beauty queen Aileen “Leng” Damiles. 

While a staunch ally of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, Cojuangco was the first cousin of the late former president Corazon Aquino and uncle of former president Benigno Aquino III. Cory Aquino’s husband and prominent anti-Marcos leader, Ninoy Aquino, was assassinated in 1983.

Business, politics, sports

Cojuangco had headed SMC, considered the largest food and beverage corporation in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, since 1998. (READ: Danding builds an empire)

He founded and chaired political party Nationalist People’s Coalition in 1992. He then ran for president that same year but lost to retired general Fidel V. Ramos. He came in third behind late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. 

He was also governor of his home province Tarlac in the late 1960s. (READ: Senators mourn death of ‘NPC big boss’ Danding Cojuangco)

Cojuangco was also a staunch supporter of basketball in the Philippines, and owned 3 teams in the Philippine Basketball Association: San Miguel Beermen, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, and Star Hotshots. 

He was also a key benefactor of the La Salle Green Archers men’s basketball team. 

Coco levy controversy

Cojuangco faced several cases of ill-gotten wealth. 

The original civil case was filed in 1987, and was split into 8 in 1995 because of the different transactions involved. The court dismissed in 2008 civil case number 0033-C, which involves P998 million worth of damages to agriculture stakeholders.

The civil suits are concerned with how Cojuangco allegedly manipulated coco levy funds to benefit him and other Marcos cronies. None of the 7 remaining cases are on trial.

Taken together, the government, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government, is going after more than P8 billion in alleged ill-gotten wealth amassed by Cojuangco with the help of Marcos. – Rappler.com