IT is sickening and the height of irresponsibility for the Makati Business Club (MBC) — or perhaps a cabal there that dupes its members — to have issued statements against the Ant-Terrorism Act, against Rappler head Maria Ressa’s conviction for cyberlibel and for the Congress’ refusal (so far) to grant ABS-CBN Corp. another 25-year broadcast franchise.
Or has the MBC finally shed its true nature as the big-business propaganda arm of the dying Yellow Cult that it so willing to bash anything identified with the Duterte government?
How in the world can MBC’s 11-man board of trustees and its members — whose expertise is making money — presume to be experts in terrorism, in libel law and in the powers of Congress? I can understand why Red organizations pretend to be experts in all fields, but a business organization?
Was issuing those statements in line with MBC’s objective of functioning, as its website declares, as “a Forum for Constructive Ideas [sic]… and to foster and promote the role of the business sector in national development efforts?”
Commenting on political issues is not MBC’s business. If its co-chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala thinks it is, and is intent on saving his and his wife’s close friend Ressa from jail, then he should declare so as an individual, maybe even set up “Ayala Foundation to Free Ressa,” or bankroll an expensive but more competent defense lawyer for her — rather than using MBC as his mouthpiece.
Are the trustees and members aware of the fact that those three statements mean that they are claiming that there is no rule of law in this country, and that they are being quoted as saying so in the media overseas? Then why bother to do business if there is no rule of law?
In the Ressa case, they are in fact saying that Judge Rainelda H. Estacio-Montesa, whose expertise is cybercrime, is violating her oath of office as lawyer and judge, and becoming a tool of President Duterte.
In the case of the Anti-Terrorism Act, the MBC is in effect claiming that the 173 legislators (or 86 percent of the 204 who voted) are stupid or unaware that, as the MBC statement claims, “threats to national security are well addressed by existing laws.” Do they know that most of the 36 who voted against the bill represented communist fronts?
Are the MBC members aware of the fact that out of 24 senators, 22 voted for the bill, including opposition senators Franklin Drilon and Mary Grace Poe — who they are saying in effect didn’t know what bill they were voting for?
Do they think that Senators Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros know the law and terrorism more than the 22, including Senators Panfilo Lacson and Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa who spent most of their police careers risking their lives fighting terrorism?
Can the MBC chairman Edgar O. Chua and vice chairman Zobel de Ayala tell the principal author of the bill, Senator Lacson, to his face: “You don’t know how to address terrorism, and you’re just Duterte’s puppet.” That is essentially what the MBC is saying.
It gets worse. When I asked a trustee why MBC would issue those three statements, he sheepishly said: “I didn’t even know we were issuing them. I never saw the memo. But don’t quote me, I don’t want to rock the boat here. I didn’t even want to be here. My boss ordered me.”
It is so irresponsible for the MBC, or its board, to issue those statements on the burning issues facing the country without studying them. In other nations, associations of businessmen or professionals, when asked to participate in a national debate on an issue, contract a think-tank or a team of experts to study the issue in detail, and for the report to be distributed to its members, who are asked if they would like the association to take a stand.
In the very dire situation of the United States, where its president is practically leading the nation to mass suicide, has there been any association publicly claiming that Donald Trump should do this or that?
Did the MBC board call for a meeting of its members or of its general membership in which the Anti-Terrorism Act’s author Lacson could have briefed them on the law, and why it’s needed? Did they call for instance Sagip party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta to brief them on the many violations of ABS-CBN’s franchise that he had uncovered, proving that the authority shouldn’t be renewed?
Did the MBC ask to be briefed by former chief justice Arturo Panganiban, who wrote in his Philippine Daily Inquirer column that Ressa’s conviction “is not baseless or capricious” and that her Rappler article was vicious against an innocent businessman?
C’mon do you really think that chairman Chua and co-chairman Zobel de Ayala — and the other board members — really took the time to read the actual Anti-Terrorism Act, the decision on the libel case, and the accounts of ABS-CBN’s many violations of its franchise? Did they even bother to get a staff to submit to them a briefer on both sides of these issues?
What’s so detestable is that the MBC issued those statements that in effect condemned the nation and the government, in a very cavalier manner — each having only three sentences — and not even explaining the other side of the issue. Is that a responsible way to contribute to the debate on crucial issues the nation faces?
MBC trustees are there not on an individual basis, but were assigned by their companies, as its website explains: “The MBC is composed of the largest and most dynamic corporations in the Philippines represented by their senior executives.”
Two trustees represent totally foreign companies: Manolito Tayag, country managing director of the Dublin-domiciled (for tax advantages) Accenture, and Rizalina G. Mantaring, chairman of the Canadian firm Sun Life Financial Philippine Holding Company Inc.
Did they get clearances form their headquarters to sign statements that there is no rule of law in the Philippines. If they did, why do we allow these two foreign firms to claim that Philippine democracy is broken?
(MBC co-vice chairman Roberto F. de Ocampo is chairman of the Philippine Veterans Bank. While the bank is officially owned by World War 2 veterans, it is the government that supervises it and designates its officers. If de Ocampo does not agree with government’s policy in pushing for the Anti Terrorism Act, he should have some decency to resign from that government-supervised bank.)
Included there as representing a foreign firm, MBC chairman Edgar O. Chua, president of Cavitex Holdings Philippines Corp. As I showed in my book Colossal Deception, using Philippine and Hong Kong SEC documents, Cavitex is part of the conglomerate portrayed as owned by its chief executive officer Manuel Pangilinan but in reality is majority-owned and tightly controlled by the Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim. Chua obviously likes working for foreign bosses, having worked at the Dutch-owned Shell for four decades, or most of his working life.
That brings us to an intriguing question: Have the oligarchs Ayala and Salim-Pangilinan teamed up to go against Duterte and made all these MBC members their stooges?
Other than those mentioned above, the other current MBC trustees are Jose L. Cuisia Jr., Covenant Car Company Inc; Ramon R. del Rosario Jr.; Philippine Investment Management Inc.: Jose Carlitos G. Cruz, SGV & Co.; Doris Magsaysay Ho, Magsaysay Group of Companies; Guillermo D. Luchangco, Investment and Capital Corp. of the Philippines; and Jose Victor P. Paterno, Philippine Seven Corp.
Ask them if they have read the Anti-Terrorism Act that they are bashing.
The Institute of Corporate Directors and the Institute for Solidarity in Asia chaired by Jesus Estanislao and Francisco del Rosario respectively also signed the MBC statement on the Ressa case. These two “institutes” and a number of business organizations affiliated with the better known Financial Executives Institute and the Management Association of the Philippines also signed the statement on the Anti-Terrorism Act. This column, including its insults, is also for them.
In the case of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia, how could it oppose the Anti-Terrorism Act when one of its trustees is former Armed Forces chief of staff Emmanuel T. Bautista, who is currently executive director of the Cabinet cluster on security that provided inputs to the law?