MANILA, January 23, 2006
 (MANILA TIMES) By Darwin G. Amojelar, Reporter - First Pacific Co. Ltd., the Hong Kong-based conglomerate that holds a controlling stake in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., has the option to acquire the ill-gotten shares in the country’s leading telephone carrier that were awarded to government recently, a PLDT official said.

First Pacific owns an estimated 23 percent stake in PLDT.

In a telephone interview, Ramon Isberto, PLDT spokesperson said First Pacific’s acquisition of the said shares would depend on the government’s plan for the same.

“It’s premature to say,” Isberto said.

“As far as PLDT is concerned, the case involves the government and competing shareholders over the block of shares. As a company, PLDT is not involved in this matter,” he added.

In this regard, the Supreme Court’s decision last week awarding the contested shares to the government is unlikely to affect in any way the telco’s operations, Isberto said.

As for the composition of PLDT’s board, “its early to say [if there is any change],” he added.

On January 20, the government won control of a large block of shares that holds a substantial stake in PLDT.

The disputed shares in Philippine Telecommunication Investment Corp. (PTIC) was alleged to be part of the estate of former president Ferdinand Marcos, who was deposed in a bloodless popular revolt in 1986.

He died in exile in Hawaii three years later.

A Supreme Court spokesman said a tribunal declared the government the rightful owner of the disputed 111,415 PTIC shares that were registered in the name of Prime Holdings Inc. (PHI).

The government had asked the Supreme Court to forfeit the PHI holdings in PTIC in its favor.

In a 35-page decision penned by Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, the High Tribunal held that the government had established by the required preponderance of evidence the Mar­coses’ ownership of PHI. “Thus, the 111,415 shares in PTIC, and necessarily the corresponding shares in PLDT, held by PHI must be reconveyed to the Republic as part of the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth,” the ruling said.

The Supreme Court thus reversed the May 6, 2002, ruling of the Sandiganbayan dismissing the complaint for reconveyance for lack of merit. The Sandiganbayan had ruled that the government failed to prove its case since “almost all the documents offered by the Republic are photocopies.”

The SC, however, said that the Sandiganbayan failed to appreciate the testimonies of Jose Yao Campos Jr., PHI incorporator and former PHI President Rolando C. Gapud, and former PHI Corporate Secretary Atty. Francisco de Guzman showing that President Marcos is the beneficial owner of PHI. --With AFP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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