[PHOTO AT LEFT -Insurance and banking magnate Alfonso Yuchengco]

MANILA, September 16, 2009 (STAR)  By Zinnia Dela Peña -Insurance and banking magnate Alfonso Yuchengco confirmed yesterday he was coerced to sell his stake in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., bolstering Senator Panfilo Lacson’s claim that government pressure played a major role in the entry of a Hong Kong-based group into the country’s largest telecommunications firm in 1998.

Yuchengco issued a statement a day after Lacson exposed the arm-twisting tactics allegedly resorted to by then President Joseph Estrada that allowed First Pacific Co. Ltd. to take control of PLDT through the acquisition of Yuchengco’s 7.75 percent interest in Philippine Telecommunications Investment Corp. (PTIC) 11 years ago.

Controlled by the Cojuangco and Yuchengco camps, PTIC was the single largest shareholder of PLDT then, owning about 28 percent of the firm.

“I confirm the statements made by Senator Panfilo Lacson

in his privilege speech relating to my 7.75 percent holdings, equivalent to 2,017,650 PLDT common shares. These shares were taken from me in 1998 through sheer intimidation and serious threat to my businesses, myself and my family,” Yuchengco said in a statement issued through his

lawyers from the Villaraza, Cruz, Marcelo and Angcangco Law Office. The lawyers told The STAR that Yuchengco is currently in the United States and is expected to be back in the country in two weeks.

PLDT, however, insisted that the company’s chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) and the entire PLDT group “have maintained very good relations with the Yuchengco family and their various businesses,” citing that Yuchengco’s daughter Helen Y. Dee had been part of the company’s board of directors for 11 years now.

Yuchengco’s lawyers declined to comment on this, saying that the Yuchengcos have not authorized anyone to speak on that matter yet.

Lacson claimed last Monday that Estrada pressured Yuchengco to sell his stake in PTIC to Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), the local flagship of First Pacific.

He alleged that Estrada used the Philippine National Police to harass Yuchengco’s son Tito “with threat of arrest on some trumped-up drug charges, to force his father to sell.”

The local stock market fell 32.37 points or 1.15 percent yesterday to close at 2,789.36 as foreign investors unloaded their shares in PLDT following Lacson’s exposé and Yuchengco’s confirmation of the senator’s claim.

PLDT was the top foreign-sold issue, with foreign investors having a net selling position of P174 million.

Yuchengco, former ambassador to China, Japan, and the United Nations, heads the Yuchengco Group of Companies which encompasses 60 corporations in banking, education, construction, and health care.

Yuchengco single-handedly built the Malayan Group of Companies into the largest general insurance group in the Philippines the 1940s and 1950s.

He formed Great Pacific Life Assurance Corp., one of the largest in the country, and subsequently went on to make important contributions in political, diplomatic and general business areas.

He also helped build other sectors of the financial services industry in the Philippines, making contributions in developing the banking and capital markets.

'PLDT, Yuchengcos maintain good ties' (The Philippine Star) Updated September 16, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The legal counsel of Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., clarified yesterday that the PLDT group has maintained very good relations with the family and businesses of former Ambassador Alfonso Yuchengco.

Ray Espinosa, Pangilinan’s counsel, said that as part of the terms of the purchase of the Philippine Telecommunications Investment Corp. (PTIC) shares of the Yuchengco group, “PLDT, for the last 11 years, has been using Malayan Insurance, an insurance company owned and controlled by the Yuchengco group, to insure the properties of the entire PLDT group.”

PLDT insisted that the company’s chairman Pangilinan and the entire PLDT group “have maintained very good relations with the Yuchengco family and their various businesses,” citing that Yuchengco’s daughter Helen Y. Dee had been part of the company’s board of directors for 11 years now.

“Helen has been part of the slate of directors nominated and fully supported by the MVP group,” PLDT said.

Espinosa said Yuchengco’s banking arm, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), continues to service the banking needs of PLDT and MPIC.

“RCBC, apart from being a major lender to the PLDT group, acts as the dividend paying agent and stock transfer agent for PLDT’s preferred shares of stocks,” Espinosa added.

He reiterated that the PLDT Group’s acquisition of the PITC shares was “fully commercial and aboveboard,” saying that the purchase price had even been amended because PLDT’s share price had increased since the start of their negotiations.

“It involved detailed negotiation and agreement as to price and other commercial considerations. The price for the PTIC shares was fixed at substantial premium over the stock market price of the underlying PLDT shares at that time and was fully paid on Nov. 24, 1998,” Espinosa said.

First Pacific, through MPIC, acquired a 17.5 percent stake (which included Yuchengco’s holdings) for approximately P29.7 billion.

“The other commercial considerations involving major banking and insurance transactions between the Yuchengco group and the PLDT group continue up to the present time,” Espinosa clarified.

Meanwhile, former President Joseph Estrada reiterated that he did not use his powers while in Malacañang to coerce Yuchengco to give up his interest in PLDT in favor of Pangilinan.

Estrada expressed exasperation over why Yuchengco would make such a confirmation of the allegations of Sen.Panfilo Lacson in his privilege speech last Monday at the Senate.

Estrada took exception anew to Lacson’s claims about the coercion brought to bear upon Yuchengco by Estrada to sell his family’s business interest at PLDT in favor of Pangilinan.

“Why would I intervene? That’s a private business. What will I gain there?” Estrada fumed.

“That was already denied by the PLDT,” he pointed out.

Estrada quoted the official statements made by the PLDT lawyer who prepared and completed the commercial transaction between the Yuchengco group and the group of Pangilinan in PLDT.

“Everything was above board and the (purchase) price given to Yuchengco was, in fact, even higher. So what’s the coercion there?” Estrada said.

Estrada pointed out it is Yuchengco who must answer a lot to the Filipino people for his company’s participation in the scandalous transactions involving the so-called “Peace Bonds” that are still being paid for by taxpayers.

Likewise, Estrada noted Yuchengco must answer for his company’s failure to pay Pacific Plans’ educational planholders who have yet to receive payment for their children’s tuition. – Zinnia de la Peña, Marichu Villanueva

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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