The great deal

THE latest Pulse Asia survey on senatorial candidates shows that it will be a tight race for newbies aspiring for the Senate. There are only  four or five slots available for them in next year’s national elections.

The survey shows that incumbent senators already occupy the first to the seventh places with Senator Tito Sotto ranking no. 1 followed by former Senator Ping Lacson, Senator Bongbong Marcos (unless he opts to run for the vice presidency with Vice President Jojo Binay).

In fourth to sixth places were Senate President Franklin Drilon, former Senator Kiko Pangilinan and Senator Ralph Recto. Former Senator Migs Zubiri took seventh to ninth place, followed by boxing champion Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao and Senator Serge Osmeña ranking seventh to 13th place.

Former Senator Dick Gordon and Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar, son of former Senate President Manny Villar, ranked eight to 14th, respectively.

It’s all about name recall. This is particularly true about Pacquiao and former senators like Zubiri and Gordon. And that’s the reason why even former Senator Jamby Madrigal and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima are taking the ninth and 14th places.

In fact, Comelec records show that among the “masa” voters, they vote at the most only six and seven senatorial candidates, unless they are categorized under the so-called command votes relying on sample ballots.

De Lima is the perfect example of name recall. She is included in the Pulse Asia survey because among the Aquino Cabinet members, she is the most exposed to media.

Pacquiao will certainly make it, considering his media exposure here and abroad, and not because he deserves to be senator.

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Speaking of rankings, while Senator Grace Poe is still ahead, with administration candidate Mar Roxas and Vice President Binay statistically tied with 20 and 19 percent, respectively.

Senator Poe’s citizenship is like a Sword of Damocles  hanging over her head. A lot of things can happen with nine months to go until Election Day.

With a dark horse like Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte also likely to run for President, the votes for Mar and Grace, identified with President Aquino and his administration, may go for Duterte. The Palace represents everything that the Aquino administration is not. Strong-willed and hard on criminality, Duterte can certainly change the equation!

Insofar as poll surveys are concerned, they represent the people’s sentiments at a given time. This can still  change. Don’t forget that elections are always local, meaning that sentiments of local voters dominate. They will ask: What’s in it for me? Will this or that candidate improve my family’s life? And in case I need help, can I approach him or her?

Poll surveys are just that, surveys.

I’d rather go for the house-to-house surveys of the Iglesia ni Cristo where the INC deacons or ministers submit their findings in a “samba” three or four days before Election Day.

I know this for a fact when in 2004, the Iglesia went for former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo against the very popular movie icon Fernando Poe Jr. The late Ka Imon Cuevas, a stalwart of the INC told me that the Iglesia went for GMA because its survey nationwide indicated Gloria would win.

We, in The Standard, had wanted to make it a headline two days before election day, but, Gloria pleaded with me not to. The rest is history.

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When a national broadsheet headlined:  “Ongpin et al probed on Meralco sale,” I was surprised because I had been told before that it was a “great deal,” with government earning billions of pesos.

For one thing, the Global 5000 which bought P9 billion of government shares of Meralco was not “an Ongpin company,” but rather an investment vehicle of conglomerate San Miguel Corp. with five directors formed to acquire the Meralco shares held by Government Financial Institutions or GFIs. Global 5000 directors were Ongpin, businessman Iñigo Zobel, condiments king Joselito Campos Jr. and two other San Miguel representatives.

But, Santa Banana, more importantly, as Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin said in a statement from Europe where he is on a business trip, why was he singled out among 20 other individuals by the Office of the Ombudsman?

Ongpin said the market price of Meralco then was P57 per share when the GFIs sold their state to Global 5000 in 2009. Global 5000, however, offered to acquire the shares at P90 apiece, or a 57.8-percent premium over the stock market price at that time.

“Moreover, the cost of acquisition of these shares by the GFIs was less than P20 per share. So they were happy to do this transaction which enabled them quintuple their investments. It was obviously a great deal for the GFIs,” Ongpin said.

Ongpin continued: There is nothing irregular about a company using an acquisition vehicle; it is standard practice. As a matter of fact, the ownership of PLDT (Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company) and MPIC (Metro Pacific Investments Corp.) in Meralco which is now the controlling shareholder group is held by a similar acquisition company called Beacon. Ongpin added that the GFIs did not doubt the financial capabilities of Global 5000 because they knew it was a San Miguel acquisition vehicle.

“At no time did I beneficially own a single share of Meralco. I was only acting on behalf on San Miguel in being a director of Global 5000 as well as Iñigo Zobel, Joselito Campos Jr. and two other San Miguel nominees,” Ongpin continued.

I was surprised when the name of Bobby Ongpin made headlines last week because  six or seven years ago, I knew that the GFIs made a lot of money out of that deal.

My own sources told me that some people close to Malacañang hate the guts of Ongpin, who was also accused of a “behest loan” from the Development Bank of the Philippines, but was soon exonerated.

I’m also told that President Aquino was informed about Ongpin’s association with Vice President Binay and Senator Chiz Escudero (recall that the Chiz and Heart Evangelista had a grand wedding at Balesin Island Club), a friendship that dates back to many years.

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