Aquino doubts Ramon Ang will destroy Inquirer's image

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno Aquino III aired his views on Tuesday, July 18, about businessman Ramon Ang's plan to buy the country's leading broadsheet, the Philippine Daily Inquirer. 

In an exclusive interview with Rappler's Maria Ressa, Aquino said he doubts that Ang will destroy the Inquirer's image, a brand of fearless reportage.

"Mr Ang will probably look at it as a business venture," Aquino said.

"And when you look at it," he continued, "the Inquirer will have a certain brand image, that if you want to make it viable, and that has been successful, and I assume he bought the brand or will be buying the brand, because it's a successful brand. If he changes it, he destroys its potential to be a viable business for him. That doesn't make sense."

Close to President Rodrigo Duterte, Ang, who heads San Miguel Corporation, is planning to buy a majority stake in the Inquirer from the Prietos, who have owned the newspaper for 25 years. 

The business tycoon also used to be friends with the former president. Aquino, in fact, once called him "idol." (READ: Aquino thanks 'idol' Ramon Ang for TPLex)

When it was born in December 1985, the Inquirer was known for its critical coverage of the Marcos regime. Two months later, dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted, and Mr Aquino's mother, Corazon, became Philippine president. 

Aquino was close to the Inquirer's late editor in chief, Letty Jimenez Magsanoc, whom he considered his mentor. (READ: Aquino on 'Tita Letty': Her look turned blood into ice)

On Tuesday, Aquino also said that in the case of Inquirer chair Marixi Rufino Prieto and president and CEO Alexandra Prieto Romualdez, the public has seen "the pressures that were raised upon them at various points in our history, and how they withstood all of this."

"Does anybody have the right to say, 'No, you should continue?'" he said. "I don’t know how to phrase it better but the Americans would probably say, 'Better you than me.'" 

On the future of the Inquirer, Aquino said: "Perhaps let's see what happens to it after the purchase rather than complain about it – it might be this, it might be that. Because I keep saying to them, when you say, it might turn into this, it might also not turn into that." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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