MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte stepped into the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) for the first time in his presidency, all for his friend and top campaign donor Dennis Uy.
All smartphones were turned towards the PSE trading hall entrance as Duterte arrived. He strode in past 4:30 pm by which time traders and businessmen had been waiting for him for more than an hour.
Because he was late, he missed the 3:30 pm bell-ringing to close the stock market.
After the speeches, Duterte was given the chance to ring the PSE bell even after the stock market had closed.
The President appeared hesitant on his first try but apparently got the hang of it since he began ringing it more times than necessary, to the amusement of traders and businessmen.
WATCH: #PresidentDuterte ringing PSE bell. @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/XqDx0QPdPh — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) July 11, 2017
Moment of pride
On stage, Duterte sat beside Dennis Uy, the Davaoeño CEO of Phoenix Petroleum. It was a moment of pride for the baby-faced businessman, the first in recent memory to have convinced no less than the President to attend the anniversary of his company's initial public offering.
The feeling of being out of place in a room full of businessmen and traders was obviously top of mind for Duterte. He opened his speech by recalling how, as a presidential candidate, he had disappointed Makati Business Club members in a forum where he had been asked to discuss his economic platform.
Calling such fora a meeting of "illustrious idiots," Duterte advised the group's leaders, "Alam mo, kung niyaya mo ako (You know, if you invited me), do not comment."
After his snide remarks, Duterte spoke of his history with Uy, whose family began as copra traders in Davao City.
Phoenix Petroleum had been accused of smuggling oil. Uy approached Duterte, then Davao City mayor, for help.
"Pumunta siya sa akin, sabi ko, 'Ito ba katotohanan? Tell me the truth. Ikaw ba dito may sabit?'" recalled Duterte. (He went to me. I said, "Is this true? Tell me the truth. Are you involved?")
Uy supposedly gave his assurances that everything in his company was "aboveboard."
Duterte then said he called up the Bureau of Customs to warn them not to harass Uy.
"Tinawagan ko 'yung Customs, sabi ko na, 'Yung mga taga-Davao na maliliit, ito kakaumpisa lang huwag mo nang – kundi mumurahin ko kayong lahat. I'll go to Manila, I'll go to your office, I'll bullshit you in front of the public,'" said Duterte.
(I called Customs, I said, "The Davao companies which are small-time, this one is just starting, don't – or else I'll curse you all. I'll go to Manila, I'll go to your office, I'll bullshit you in front of the public.)
Eventually, Duterte told them to file a case against Uy but not to ask him for money.
"In the fullness of God's time, it was decided in his (Uy's) favor," said Duterte, concluding his story.
Uy ended up donating P30 million for Duterte's presidential campaign in 2016. Duterte has shown appreciation for the gesture by appointing him Presidential Adviser on Sports. In this capacity, Uy has joined some of Duterte's official foreign trips.
Uy, in his speech, thanked Duterte for helping Davao businessmen like him.
"He encouraged entrepreneurs by making it easy to do business by removing the bureaucracy. This is how we were able to build stations in less than 3 months compared to over 6 months in other parts of the country," said the CEO.
Today, from an oil company that started with one gas station in Davao City, Phoenix Petroleum now has over 500 gas stations nationwide.
From a less than 1% market share in the competitive oil industry in 2007, the company now has almost 6% of market share and is close to being the industry's 3rd top player.
"Our story is a testament that businesses in the province can compete well on the national stage," said Uy. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.