Biz Buzz: K(im)possibleBy the staff
Philippine Daily Inquirer
As the race to be the country’s next Supreme Court chief justice plays out, two front runners are emerging (among the 27 or so nominees, so far).
One of the front runners is Bureau of Internal Revenue chief Kim Jacinto-Henares, who is a trusted adviser of the president (she is sometimes consulted on issues far beyond her official portfolio, we’re told).
Henares has yet to formally accept her nomination as a candidate to the Judicial and Bar Council (she has until 4:30 p.m. on Monday to decide, and a letter of acceptance can be faxed, we hear).
However, President Aquino has said that he appreciates Henares’ current work as the country’s tax chief, where she is feared by many businessmen, especially those who have become accustomed to dodging taxes.
Thus, given the president’s sentiment on this matter—and the progress she has made at the BIR—it seems unlikely that he will appoint her to head the judiciary.
That leaves the chaotic field of nominees wide open and, according to our sources, boosts the chances of the “incumbent,” acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio of getting President Aquino’s nod.
Carpio’s silent bid for the judiciary’s top spot is, we hear, being backed by one faction of the administration (specifically, Secretary Mar Roxas’ Balay group), while being opposed by the other (the so-called Samar group).—Daxim L. Lucas
Favored contractor’s woes
If recent news reports are to be believed, the Department of Transportation and Communications has ordered a probe into the brouhaha concerning delays in the production of driver’s license cards nationwide.
You see, production of these important IDs, especially the thousands of cards that should be issued for license renewals daily, has ground to a near-standstill due to problems encountered by the Land Transportation Office’s contractor, Amalmagated Motors Philippines Inc. (AMPI).
Last week, the LTO told the press that it was investigating why AMPI unilaterally imposed changes to the ID card production process—including changing the look and materials used for the cards—without consulting the regulator.
Well, here’s the thing: Biz Buzz learned that LTO knew way beforehand that AMPI was going to implement these controversial changes.
Last June 5, AMPI wrote LTO chief, Assistant Secretary Virginia Torres, informing her that it had launched a “nationwide upgrade” of its facilities that would include the “migration” from the old PCVC-type license cards to a “more secure, environment-friendly and better-looking driver’s license card.”
AMPI also warned LTO to “expect a few minor glitches” as it shifted to the new system.
Three days later, the LTO chief wrote AMPI back, acknowledging their letter, and informed the firm that the regulator “appreciates the gesture” to upgrade the system and the drivers’ license. That same day, the LTO also informed the office of Transport Secretary Roxas about AMPI’s systems upgrade—including the changes to be made on the driver’s license format—even stressing that the changes would be made at no cost to the government.
Now, the regulators’ claim that AMPI made the changes without their knowledge does not appear to be accurate.
AMPI cornered the business of producing drivers’ license IDs for the government since the Marcos era—July 1984 to be exact—and has always been the preferred partner of the LTO since then.
Additionally, our sources tell us that AMPI’s new design for the license cards, and the materials used, are of a lower quality, especially since it does not use security paper that makes forgeries difficult.
The use of new materials will supposedly result in higher margins for the firm.
Meanwhile, drivers who need their licenses renewed will have to wait and suffer.—Daxim L. Lucas
At the Philippine Mining Luncheon last Friday, the organizer swung by the media table, asking if everyone was having a good lunch. Those seated, members of various print publications and news wire services, all answered in the affirmative.
“Please don’t forget to mention the Philippine Mining Luncheon,” said the organizer. All seemed reasonable and agreeable at that point, and the guests again answered in the affirmative.
And then the hatchet swung. “That’s the cost of the free lunch,” the host said.
The shocked silence that followed was probably the best answer under the circumstances, given that the guest of honor (a government official who is highly regarded for being, among others, straightforward yet well-mannered) was speaking.
Was that remark on the lunch a joke? We don’t know. If it was, nobody laughed. If there were eggs, they’d be Humpty Dumpty.
Was that code for, “we know each other well enough to kid around”? We don’t know. Given the rare interactions between the host and the media guests, assuming intimacy seems strange. That’s what attendees in separate tables said.
Was that a cultural misunderstanding? We don’t know. Yet another guest noted it’s safe to assume that in any culture, a forum host should err on the side of caution when greeting guests. Yes, even guests invited to a working lunch (which we already know is not really free even when the host says so, thank you very much).
What we do know is this: It takes time and effort to build a good relationship, yet it’s so easy to break it. It doesn’t matter whether one is in Manila, Beijing, New York, Rome, London or Sydney.—Riza T. Olchondra
BSP weighs in
With the House hearings on the investment fiasco between businessman Washington Lou and (depending on whom you believe) either ING Bank Manila or its investment unit in Singapore, bank regulators recently sent in a position paper to help clear the air.
First, the BSP concluded that the contractual obligation was between Lou and ING’s Singapore unit (score one point for ING).
The BSP also said that, based on the circumstances of the deal, Lou appears to be a sophisticated investor rather than a misinformed saver (score another point for ING).
BSP then said that more needs to be done—possibly in the legislative field—to help ensure that investors in the future are better informed about the risks they take on when investing their funds in sophisticated instruments (one point for Lou).
In fact, the BSP is now finalizing a Code of Conduct that will govern how private banking institutions operate. Hopefully, everyone will learn from this experience.—Daxim L. Lucas
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Tags: Amalmagated Motors Philippines , appointments , Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas , chief justice , driver’s license cards , ING Bank , Kim Jacinto-Henares , media relations , Philippine Mining Luncheon , supreme court , Washington Lou