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MANILA, Philippines – Josephine Manalo, the long-time personal secretary of Roberto V. Ongpin, admitted to senators in a closed-door session that she signed documents when the billionaire businessman told her to.
This is an admission that Ongpin used her as a dummy, said Sen. Serge Osmena, who chairs the bank and financial institution committee that is conducting a legislative inquiry on some loan and stock transactions involving Ongpin and state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines.
“She’s merely the signatory, and when she is asked to sign something, she signs it,” Osmena told reporters on Dec 12, after the closed-door session with Manalo.
Manalo also confirmed holding majority shares in “practically 50%” of Ongpin’s companies, added Osmena.
Senators had noted in previous hearings that Ongpin is not a stockholder in companies that borrowed money from government-owned banks. Senators noted that Ongpin traded the shares of the companies he bought using the bank loans.
Osmena and other senators are probing Ongpin’s transactions with DBP, focusing on possible behest loans and insider trading. Both are illegal.
Since October, the senators have conducted four hearings. The fifth, and the last for the year, will be on Dec. 13.
Ongpin has attended only one hearing in November. He denied any wrongdoing.
Manalo, 68, failed to attend the previous hearings, citing health issues. She was reportedly brought to Makati Medical Center when senators threatened to cite her in contempt.
The senators also requested the justice department to bar her from leaving the country. Fortunately for Manalo, the Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order that, in effect, does not allow the justice secretary to issue watchlist orders against anyone. The court’s TRO came after the justice department put former president Gloria Arroyo on the watchlist.
Manalo has been working for Ongpin since the 70’s.
Manalo’s name appears as one of the incorporators of Ongpin-led companies that have been cited during the Senate hearings. She also signed documents for and in behalf of these companies.
These include Delta Ventures Resources Inc, which borrowed P660 million from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) in 2009 to buy the bank’s shares in Philex Mining Corp.
Manalo also signed the loan papers of Global Air Services (GAS) when it borrowed $180 million from the DBP and the Land Bank of the Philippines in 2008. Osmena said GAS used the loan to buy stocks and bonds related to the Metro Rail Transit Corp.
Ongpin had denied that he owns GAS.
Ongpin controls or represents London-based Ashmore investment fund in some of the Philippine’s largest companies, including oil retailer and refiner Petron Corp., conglomerate San Miguel Corporation, mining firm Atok-Big Wedge, online gaming firm PhilWeb Corp, and PBCom Bank.
He was a former trade secretary of the late strongman and former president Ferdinand Marcos.