MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Sergio Osmeña is “110%” confident that former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo had a hand in the over P660 million loans reportedly granted illegally by state-run bank to businessman Roberto V. Ongpin.
Arroyo harked back and said Osmeña should apologize and “also resign for maligning me.” The senator replied that he is willing to resign since, even if there are no proof yet on paper, there are witnesses willing to prove the link between the personalities and the transactions.
At the press conference after the 9th hearing on the loans that Development Bank of the Philippines extended to Ongpin’s firms in 2009, Osmeña said there are at least two “very serious” witnesses who could testify in future hearings. He did not provide clues to their identities.
“You want also to protect your witnesses. You don’t want them to be harassed. You don’t want them to be threatened,” Osmena explained when asked why the hearings, which started in 2011, have dragged on.
“There’s a powerful official outside or a powerful person who has extreme influence over a DBP officer,” he explained further. “This loan could have been done at the best of (former DBP President Reynaldo) David. But of course David takes his orders from somebody.”
“I am 110% that FG (First Gentleman Mike Arroyo) controlled Rey David,” Osmeña said.
The loans were used by the Ongpin group to purchase DBP’s shares in Philex Mining Corp. The loan processing was reportedly rushed had about a dozen irregularities that did not meet the bank’s own standards.
The Senate hearings are investigating if public funds in DBP were put at risk when these financed Ongpin’s strategy to buy low and sell high to a willing buyer, businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan. Osmeña was also pursuing the line that the hefty trading profits benefited Ongpin instead of DBP.
Osmeña is the chair of the Senate banks committee.
Former DBP officials led by David stressed again that the deal was aboveboard, that the loan was paid early and the bank even earned from it.
Former Labor Secretary and DBP director Patricia Sto. Tomas also said she did not find anything disturbing when David presented and the board discussed the loan in their November 2009 meetings.
“I was not shocked…These are the kinds of things that you learn about during the actual meeting itself. It’s not as if you see something and you’re upset about it,” she said.
Alex Magno, another former board director, said, “I think what was predominant in our bank was we had a deadline of getting rid of the shares. Part of the regulations of the Central Bank is we could hold shares for 6 to 9 months.”
He said that if proven guilty, former DBP officials could be slapped with administrative charges. Arroyo, on the other hand, may be liable for graft and corruption for granting “unwarranted” benefits to Ongpin, Osmena added.
Osmeña remained unconvinced. Aside from the DBP transactions, he said more hearings will be called soon to pore over the transactions involving Ongpin in the re-financing of Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT Corp), as well as Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and Petron Corp.
Ongpin has stakes in both the power distributor and oil firm.
He has also set his sights on Philex Mining transactions, involving state-run pension fund Social Security System (SSS).
The tax bureau has previously filed a tax case against former SSS chief Romulo Neri, an ally of former President Gloria Arroyo, over his and SSS’s trades of shares in the mining firm. – Rappler.com