First of 2 parts
PRESIDENT Duterte, in going against what he calls the oligarchs exploiting the masses of metropolitan Manila through their water monopoly’s onerous rates, will be battling one of the most powerful magnates in our country — although he has remarkably succeeded in hiding from public view in the past 38 years.
This is the Indonesian Anthoni Salim who, through many corporate layers, controls through his Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the Metro Pacific Investments conglomerate, one of whose firms — not the largest largest in the group* — is Maynilad Water Services Inc. This is the monopoly distributor of water in the metropolitan Manila’s so-called West Sector as well as parts of Cavite, which made an astonishing P65 billion in the past 10 years.
Salim though has been so clever as to have brainwashed most people in this country that his top executive Manuel V. Pangilinan owns the conglomerate. A brilliant executive Pangilinan has been indeed that he has led the Metro Pacific through nearly four decades to become one of the country’s biggest conglomerates.
Yet, Salim for some reason has allowed Pangilinan to own only 1.6 percent of First Pacific and less than 2 percent of the conglomerate’s firms here, according to the company’s public records which anybody can access through the internet.
What makes Salim a dangerous foe is that unlike other oligarchs, he controls what could be the biggest media conglomerate in the country, the only entity that is both in print and broadcast media — the Philippine Star-TV5 Group.
Indeed, since Duterte publicly went against Maynilad, conspicuous has been the fact that columnists from the two Salim-controlled newspapers Philippine Star and BusinessWorld have been solely the water monopoly’s de facto spokesmen. Romeo Bernardo, a board director of 15 Ayala companies, including Globe Telecom Inc. — who pretends to be an objective economist that he has carefully not disclosed his intimate links with the Ayalas in his columns — has been able to get his boss’ propaganda-through-jargon out solely through his column in BusinessWorld.
There is no doubt that newspapers and broadcast media play a dominant role in forming public opinion in the modern era, and one of the major forces in politics. Media outfits have the power to demonize or sanctify a political official, such that politicians have made it a policy to cultivate the friendship and support of the newspaper owners, its editors, and reporters.
A clear case of this has been the success of the Philippine Daily Inquirer — in tandem with the ABS-CBN broadcast network — in creating, starting in 1986, the myths of the Yellow Cult, that the Aquinos have been the country’s savior. Another recent demonstration of media power has been the non-stop demonization of China, and the propagation of the lie that the arbitration suit against China was a victory for us by the Philippine Star. The stridently anti-China former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario has been a longtime board director in Salim’s holding company First Pacific. Del Rosario in fact was chairman of a pension fund, as will be explained in part 2 of this series, that financed the establishment of Salim’s media empire here.
With that kind of weapon — media — under their control, no wonder Salim’s Pangilinan at the Maynilad Christmas party defiantly said of Duterte’s move against the firm: “We will not stand down.”
If unstopped, the Salim media empire could deal powerful blows against Duterte, and even torpedo his plans for the continuity of his regime when he steps down in 2022.
In the hope of enlightening more of our people what this hidden media empire is, I am reprinting here a slightly abridged version of the chapter titled, “Salim’s media empire: Ultimate transgression of RP sovereignty,” from my 2016 book, Colossal Deception: How Foreigners Control Our Telecom Sector. Neither Salim nor Pangilinan nor any of their executives have challenged any data and conclusion in this book. I am publishing it here especially since the book is currently out of print, and sold only in Amazon (including a Kindle edition and Barnes and Noble.)
Chapter from Colossal Deception book:
“That we have lost our sense of nationalism and respect for the rule of law is most clearly demonstrated by the nonchalance over the establishment by an Indonesian tycoon, Anthoni Salim, of what is now the biggest multi-media conglomerate in the country.
“This is despite the clear directive by the Constitution (Article 16, Section 11) that ‘the ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines.’ It is Salim’s ultimate transgression on our sovereignty, never before done to us as a sovereign nation.
Salim through intermediary outfits is now the biggest media mogul in the country.
“In March 2014 through corporate layers, mainly through Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), he became the controlling stockholder with 51 percent shares, of the Philippine Star, which claims to be the largest newspaper in the country with a circulation of 2.7 million — together with its printing presses and six other smaller publications, including the Cebu-based Freeman, one of the biggest newspapers in Cebu City.
“Salim’s intermediary entities paid at least P4 billion — there were reports that it was really P6 billion — for the shares to the owner, the family of Feliciano Belmonte, the Speaker of the House of Representatives during President Aquino’s regime. It is certainly sad that an Indonesian has taken over the Philippine Star, which had been set up and owned in 1986 by one of the best corps of anti-dictatorship, anti-crony and nationalist journalists the country has ever seen.
“With a 70 percent stake, the Indonesian also controls the business paper BusinessWorld, which was absorbed in July 2015 into the Philippine Star Printing Company, Inc., the corporate owner of the Philippine Star companies. An Indonesian magnate in effect put an end to its five decades of corporate and editorial independence maintained even through Martial Law, since BusinessWorld was before the highly respected BusinessDay.
“Ray Espinosa, Salim’s chief Philippine lawyer and the only Filipino director in First Pacific other than Panglinan, was appointed chairman of both entities.
“Salim is the only media mogul today whose empire consists both of print and broadcast media.
“He controls ABC Development Corp., formerly Associated Broadcasting Network, founded in 1960 by a legend of Philippine journalism, Joaquin ‘Chino’ Roces, and taken over in 2003 by a group led by Antonio Cojuangco, who had sold his family’s controlling stakes in PLDT in 1998. Salim through a PLDT entity acquired it in 2010.
“The media firm’s flagship is TV5, the third biggest network in the country, after ABS-CBN and GMA 7, both owned by the country’s oldest political-economic elites.
Other than the main TV5 in metropolitan Manila, the network has stations in the cities of Laoag, Baguio, Bacolod, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, and General Santos. It has also 20 affiliate or relay stations in smaller cities all over the country.
“TV5 Network’s subsidiary, Nation Broadcasting Corp., which had been established way back in 1963, manages its AksyonTV stations in Manila (TV-41), Cebu (TV-49), and Davao (TV-29) as well as seven FM stations in the metropolis and in six main cities of the country.
“TV5 has a news website, interaksyon.com, which converts the broadcast entity’s content, including its news videos, to be accessed in cyberspace.
“Salim, through intermediary firms, also owns Cignal TV, now the country’s largest satellite-to-home TV company with 1 million subscribers as of September 2015. One of its latest moves in partnership with TV5 was the establishment of the business news channel Bloomberg Philippines.”
How has Salim been able to defy the constitutional ban on foreign ownership in media? Through an entity under PLDT, a firm he controls as its biggest single stockholder, again through several corporate layers.
That will be for Monday.
*Among the biggest Salim firms are PLDT Inc., Smart Communications Inc., Manila Electric Co. or Meralco, Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., Light Rail Manila Corp. and Philex Mining Corp.