2022 Philippine Elections

CEOs ready for Marcos Jr., but anxious who ‘next Sonny Dominguez’ will be

Ralf Rivas
CEOs ready for Marcos Jr., but anxious who ‘next Sonny Dominguez’ will be
Elites view Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s economics skills as dismal, but they hope he would make up for it if he wins by appointing someone very much like President Rodrigo Duterte's finance secretary

Like many Filipinos, the country’s 1% – or at least the wealthy who have little or no hand in choosing the next president – dread the elections.

For them, the political circus “distracts us” from the job that needs to be done.

“I can’t wait for this to be over, it’s stressing everyone out! I’m more interested really in who the ‘next Sonny Dominguez’ will be. Candidates should drop us a hint to calm the markets down,” said an influential real estate executive.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s finance secretary is the darling of tycoons and C-level executives.

While Duterte was deemed as populist, Dominguez’s actions were perceived as opposite of the strongman’s. Red-tagger Duterte, who once called himself a communist and socialist, chose a finance chief who pushed for policies welcomed by capitalists.

During the pandemic, Dominguez was prudent (stingy for critics) in spending and pushed for infrastructure amid the health crisis.

He even backed cutting taxes amid the pandemic, asserting that companies would reinvest the savings to create more jobs. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Why Duterte’s corporate tax cuts won’t save PH economy)

Dominguez is the classic “trickle-down economics” believer.

“I seldom watch Duterte’s ramblings on TV, but when I do, he mentions Dominguez. Dominguez is the one truly running the country – he dictates where the money will go, which bridges will be built. So I hope that the candidates will give us a hint already,” the real estate executive said.

So far, only Senator Manny Pacquiao has given a glimpse of who would comprise his Cabinet or at least his interim team, should he become president.

In December 2021, Pacquiao said his interim economic team would be led by business magnate Salvador “Buddy” Zamora II, his campaign manager.

Zamora is one of the founders of Nickel Asia Corporation and former chairman of Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corporation.

Aside from Zamora, Mimo Osmeña (former president and chief executive officer of listed MRC Allied), Toti Cariño (president of the Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations, founder of Fil-Estate Group), Gary Vasquez (pioneer of prefabricated homes), and Luis Benitez (former vice chair of SyCip, Gorres, Velayo & Co.) would also join Pacquiao’s interim economic team if the boxing champ-turned-politician wins.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the frontrunner in surveys, has not given clues about who his finance secretary would be, but talks in business circles say this person would come from the ranks of a publicly listed bank that has ties with the former senator’s father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

A CEO of a financial institution said this somewhat gives assurances that a “sound mind” would “counter” whatever Marcos has in mind.

“I recently read that Marcos wants to put a cap on rice prices. Price caps don’t and will never work. This shows how he knows so little of economics. But should he [appoint] one of us, that person will steer Marcos in the right direction,” the CEO said.

The late former president Benigno Aquino III’s finance secretary, Cesar Purisima, is also rumored to make a comeback under a Marcos Cabinet.

Purisima was also part of the Hyatt 10, the group of Cabinet secretaries of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who resigned amid the “Hello Garci” scandal.

“I think this is why the business community is somewhat okay with a Marcos presidency, because of the rumor that Purisima is on the list. We miss the economy under Aquino. He reminds people of that. But I won’t believe the talks unless Marcos or Purisima drops hints,” the CEO said.

Meanwhile, another banking executive cautioned that a Marcos presidency might spell trouble for the banking industry.

“His sister (Senator Imee Marcos) has been peddling fake news in the Senate…saying Masagana 99 was a success story. It was not. I was a new manager banker at that time. My bank went bankrupt. I’m sure Mr. Marcos has the same logic as his sister, and we clearly have a different recollection of events,” the C-level executive said.

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“It’s unlikely that Marcos will reappoint Dominguez, and I think he doesn’t want anything to do with him, but if Marcos will appoint somebody from the banking industry, that person might work like Dominguez, keeping business and politics separate.”

Did Dominguez really separate politics and business? The C-level executive would like to believe so, but noted that Duterte’s “rowdy” behavior is a cautionary tale to not “truly” believe such simplistic takes.

He added that the conglomerate he is with is “predominantly pink,” but wants a hint of who Vice President Leni Robredo’s finance chief would be.

Robredo has declined to name who would be heading the Department of Finance should she be elected, but promised that her Cabinet would be made up of competent individuals.

“She has the most backing from the most respected economists. That’s a big assurance already…. I’m just sad that there’s a huge possibility that she might not catch up. The surveys barely moved, so I think we’re just bracing for impact,” the banking executive said. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.