MAY 11, 2006
 (STAR) By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes - Government is eyeing two of the 13 seats in the board of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) when the country’s biggest telecommunications company holds its board election next month.

Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Commissioner Ricardo Abcede told The STAR that government expects the Supreme Court to have dismissed before the June 13 PLDT board election the motion for reconsideration filed by the family of businessman Antonio ‘Tonyboy’ Cojuangco which has insisted that there is no basis whatsoever in the SC’s findings that their shares in the PLDT are owned by former President Marcos.

The SC earlier ordered the reconveyance in favor of government of 111,145 shares estimated to be worth P20 billion in the Philippine Telecommunications Investments Corp. (PTIC) registered in the name of Prime Holdings Inc. (PHI), a company owned by the Cojuangcos. PTIC, 46 percent of which is held by PHI and the rest by First Pacific and Metro Pacific Holdings, currently has a 14-percent stake in PLDT.

In its Jan. 20, 2006 ruling, the High Tribunal substantially relied on the depositions made by Marcos cronies Jose Yao Campos and Rolando Gapud that they organized PHI in behalf of Marcos in ruling that PHI is owned by the Marcoses.

Abcede said the shares owned by PHI through PTIC in PLDT are enough to get the government two seats in the board of the country’s largest publicly listed company in terms of market capitalization.

However, the PCGG official said in an interview that he has formed a committee to come up with a scheme to dispose of the shares and get the best deal for government. "We have no intention of holding on to these shares for a long time. PCGG’s mandate is to preserve or dispose off assets," he emphasized.

PLDT Group chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan earlier told The STAR that First Pacific will make a bid for these shares. "This makes sense because we control majority of PTIC," he said. First Pacific directly owned more than 24 percent of PLDT’s shareholdings. Together with the 14 percent stake of NTT of Japan with whom the First Pacific has entered into an alliance as well, First Pacific’s seven percent stake in PTIC, the Hong Kong-based conglomerate effectively controls 45 percent of PLDT. PTIC has among the biggest stakes in PLDT.

Abcede expressed confidence that the Supreme Court will continue to rule in favor of government on the ownership of these shares. "Unless the Cojuangcos come up with a new solid argument in their favor, we don’t expect the Supreme Court to reverse itself," he said.

The government’s case against the Cojuangco’s depended on two points: Deeds of assignment over PHI shares made by the incorporators of PHI in favor of Cojuangco and his family; and then deeds transferring Cojuangco’s PTIC shares to PHI. According to the SC, these were indications of Cojuangco being either a nominee or trustee of former President Marcos.

In their motion for reconsideration of the SC decision, PHI and the Cojuangco family noted that the SC disregarded the deeds of assignment of shares in PHI specifically made out to Ramos Cojuangco (the father of Tonyboy) and the members of his family.

These deeds include one executed by banker Rolando Gapud in favor of Cojuangco; one executed by Jose Campos, Jr. in favor of Oscar Africa who in turn made another deed in favor of Cojuangco’s children Miguel and Trinidad; one executed by Renato Lirio in favor of children Antonio and Trinidad; another executed by Gervasio Gaviola in favor of Antonio and Victoria; and one by Ernesto Abalos to Ramon and Miguel.

The government has said that the transferees were merely dummies of Marcos and that the execution of deeds of assignment is the modus operandi of Marcos in acquiring indirectly through dummies different interests in various corporations.

According to the Cojuangco family, since the deeds of assignment to PHI shares to Cojuangco were absolute and unqualified, there would have been no way for President Marcos to recover ownership over said PHI shares assuming the latter did own them.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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