MANILA, Philippines - A plunder complaint before the Ombudsman has been lodged against businessmen Roberto Ongpin and Ramon Ang, as well as legal hotshot Estelito Mendoza and Supreme Court Justice Lucas Bersamin over alleged irregularities and losses incurred by the government in a 2008 deal that involved the shares of the country's biggest power firm.
On Monday, September 24, complainant Emilio Aguinaldo Suntay alleged that the share purchase agreement between the business groups led by Ongpin and Ang of diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp., and government-run financial institutions, including Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), was disadvantageous to the state.
The Ombudsman will have to weigh the merits of the complaint and decide whether or not to file it in court. SC justices can only be removed through impeachment; in his complaint, Suntay asked the Ombudsman to still investigate Bersamin as possible basis for an impeachment case against him.
The deal involved the purchase of the state-run firms' shares in Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) by units of San Miguel Corp and Ongpin-led firms. At the time, Meralco was controlled by the Lopez family and the target of a brewing battle for control by major business groups, including that of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan.
The minority Meralco shares held by the state-run pension funds and banks -- equivalent to about 10% of Meralco -- were then part of perceived swing votes that could potentially determine which business group could control the giant power retailer.
The complainant alleged that when the state-run firms acepted the offer of corporate units San Miguel Corp Global Power Holdings Corp, Ongpin-led Global Air Services and Global 5,000 Investment Corp, the government was disadvantaged because there was a better offer from the Pangilinan-led group.
The deal that pushed through involved a P90-per-share valuation payable over 3 years. Pangilinan's group offered to pay the same in cash.
Other respondents in the plunder case include former Finance Secretary Margarito Teves and Landbank president Glida Pico, vice president Reynauld Villafuerte, SMC Global Power Holdings Corp.treasurer and Top Frontier Investment Holdings Inc. president Rhogel Gandingco in his complaint filed at the Office of the Ombudsman.
Private companies San Miguel Corp., its subsidiary SMC Global and public corporation Landbank were also named respondents.
Suntay accused the above of the following:
a. Pico and Teves "steered" Landbank, GSIS, the Social Security System, and DBP into accepting SMC Global's term and price without the benefit of a public bidding and without conducting due diligence, as raised in an article of former ABS-CBN editor (now Rappler business editor) Lala Rimando.
b. Landbank entered into a share purchase agreement with SMC Global even if there was a "better" deal from Metro Pacific Investment Corp (MPIC), allegedly costing the government P157 million in revenues. MPIC made an offer of P90 per share, in cash, for the government's shares in Meralco, while SMC Global made an offer of P90 per share payable in 3 years.
c. SMC Global and Ongpin lacked the financial capacity to enter the said share price agreement. The Commission on Audit found out that SMC Global only had a paid-up capitalization of less than P63 million. Despite this, SMC GLobal was allowed to purchase P10 billion worth of Meralco shares from government agencies SSS, Landbank and GSIS.
Another one of Ongpin's companies - Global Air Services (GAS) - was able to secure a loan worth $180 million despite having only a paid-up capitalization of $2. This is the subject of a Senate investigation.
Suntay alleged that Ongpin and Ang are involved in a money laundering scheme and that they used SMC, GAS and SMC Global as "corporate vehicles" for the said activity.
"Respondent Roberto Ongpin mutually benefits from his partnership and relationship with Ramon Ang highlighted by the frequent absurd or redundant disposition and acquisition or exchange of stocks, funds and wealth among themselves," he wrote in the complaint.
Suntay also sounded the alarm over Ongpin, Ang and Mendoza's alleged "ties" with the judiciary, saying they "rely on an intricate and nurtured relationship with many government officials, including the judiciary."
Suntay said Mendoza, counsel of Ongpin and SMC Global, has been "actively pursuing the subject contract and case" before the High Court, the way he allegedly lobbied before for the dismissal of the labor case involving Philippine Airlines (the case is still pending in the SC).
He added that Mendoza's cases have always been decided by Justice Lucas Bersamin.
Bersamin decided in favor of the parties that Mendoza have represented in the following cases:
a. The labor dispute between the Flight Attendants and of the Philippines and the Philippine Airlines (Mendoza, Ang and Ongpin are directors and stakeholders in PAL)
b. The constitutionality of 16 cityhood bills. Mendoza is the lawyer of the municipalities whose transformation into cities is being questioned
c. The coco levy case, where the Court ruled that the 20% shares of SMC chairman Eduardo 'Danding' Cojuangco were not bought using coco levy funds
Suntay added that Bersamin should be probed by the Office of the Ombudsman for "serious misconduct" and that this investigation be done for the possible filing of an impeachment complaint against him.
SC justices can only be removed through impeachment.
Below is a copy of the complaint.
Below is a copy of the share purchase agreement.
. - Rappler.com