MANILA, MARCH 25, 2007 (STAR) HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes - A few weeks back, we wrote a column about Tessie Aquino-Oreta to echo the surprise and wonder with which her current image and projection in the senatorial campaign has been greeted by many, including our coffee shop colleagues.

We also got mixed reactions from Tessie’s apparent admirers who viewed our piece from very subjective perspectives.

Here’s one from Rosario Diwa of Pilar, Bataan:

"Your column tried to be kind to Senator Oreta but ended up somewhat unfair to her. Your premise is that we will vote for her simply because she has a different aura and is now a devout Christian. Wrong, Mary Ann. Our support for her is based on her accomplishments as a legislator. We go by the track record, not the image."

Ms. Diwa has a point. But we hasten to assure her and other readers that our coffee shop clique’s attempt at an analysis of the new Tessie Oreta was not in any way meant to diminish her legislative track record — which unfortunately may not have been given the proper prominence it deserves because Tessie was buried in the maelstrom of political controversies.

Here’s another from Mariz Inlong of Antipolo City:

"Maybe you shortchanged your readers by talking only about Senator Oreta’s new look. Why not about what she has done for us, women. A positive aura is fine but we need to see the substance behind the looks."

So what has she done? Our coffee shop colleagues told us it was Tessie who actually insisted — by way of legislation — that teachers be given a pay slip. Prior to the pay slip initiative, the teachers were a badly battered kind. Multiple deductions without itemizing them were the order of the day. Thing of the past now.

Talking about battering, our colleagues told us that the law on Violence Against Women was principally authored by Tessie Oreta. She made the physical, emotional and psychological battering of women, particularly wives, a crime.

But our colleagues say what touched them most among Tessie’s pieces of legislative work is that which pertains to solo parents. Prior to Tessie’s Solo Parent Act, there was a silent discrimination against single parents, felt especially in the work place. A single mother is not given a leave or excuse to attend a parents-teachers meeting. This was a privilege previously reserved for women whose marital status says "married".

Now focusing on education and children, Tessie unfortunately does not seem to be generating enough excitement for her agenda. Maybe it is because of the Dancing Queen issue. This could be something that she needs to face squarely once and for all. This could be an extremely difficult and painful task.

We hope feisty Tessie lives up to her reputation as one brave woman and settles the issue once and for all. It just might give the education agenda a big boost.

A welcome problem

Lorenzo Tan has a very welcome problem. The so-called "Miracle Man" of Philippine banking has supposedly done a very good job selling RCBC shares to the investing public that he has now created tremendous market demand for them. And why not? Even foreign analyst groups are looking forward to how Lorenzo’s new management team will turn their investments into gold. Now, the country’s premiere turn-around artist is said to be scrambling for what’s left of the shares to give to friends who are knocking at his door and asking for whatever "allocation" he can spare.

Well, the mad dash for shares is easily explainable. A recent article in Finance Asia said even the recent declines in global markets failed to discourage buying on RCBC. It said: "The first day of the roadshow on March 5 coincided with a broad sell-off in Asian equity markets which may have caused some jitters among potential investors. However, its international tranche, which accounted for 146.1 million shares — or 80 percent of the base offering of 182.6 million shares — was almost two times covered with 40 investors in the book. Some 60 percent of the demand came from Asia, 30 percent from the US and 10 percent from the UK, while a breakdown on the type of investors revealed 60 percent as being long-term funds and 40 percent hedge funds."

Now where is the investor confidence all coming from? The same report attributed it largely to the Lorenzo factor: "good quality investors were buying into the company amid a belief that its new CEO Lorenzo Tan, will be able to improve RCBC’s performance. Tan, who was brought in by the controlling Yuchengco family just four weeks before the start of the roadshow, has established a reputation of being something of a star banker in the Philippines after turning around two other banks — Philippines National Bank and the United Coconut Planters Bank.

The Philippines is also perceived as a great macro economic story at the moment with falling interest rates and a recovering property market. CLSA, which was the sole international bookrunner for the RCBC offering, is four times overweight equities in the Philippines relative to the MSCI index."

Initially offered at P27 per share, RCBC is said to be doing P29.50 over the counter. Now if that trend continues, the bank will surely be making a lot of its investors very happy come listing time. The RCBC re-IPO is expected to raise some P5 Billion of additional capital for the company. Adding such amount to its equity portfolio will allow it to enter the country’s list of top five banks, edging out PNB for fourth place.

While optimism on the shares, as well as on the bank, rests mostly on its new management team, I’d say its owners — led by chairperson Helen Yuchengco should also be credited. Her choice of a new team to bring RCBC to a new and higher level is impeccable and entrusting the bank to a group that can manage it really well is surely a big step towards achieving her bigger business goals.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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