Biz Buzz: ‘Lawyering up’

/ 12:48 AM April 27, 2016

Business people who have gotten used to the habit of watching the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings on the $81-million money laundering scam will have to wait a few weeks to get their weekly fix of sordid financial transaction details.

Given the looming national and local elections, the Senate has announced that the televised public hearings would resume on May 12, three days after the polls.


So while the personalities involved will have a brief respite from sitting on the proverbial hot seat, their lawyers are expected to continue working double time to make sure their clients aren’t left “holding the bag” when the music stops playing.

Everyone knows the lawyers involved, among them Ferdinand Topacio, who is representing former Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Jupiter branch manager Maia Deguito, as well as Victor Fernandez, Inocencio Ferrer Jr. and Toby Purisima who represent casino junket operator Kim Wong (who doesn’t look like he needs legal counsel at all, given the speedy answers he gives to senators’ queries). Then there’s Howard Calleja, whose lawyering services are being used to the hilt, no thanks to the heat being applied by lawmakers on his clients, Michael and Salud (excuse us, “Concon” and Sheba”) Bautista, as well as Ramon Esguerra, who represents businessman William Go (whose involvement in the issue remains somewhat of a curious mystery).


But the most “lawyered” party involved in the situation has to be RCBC itself along with its president-on-leave Lorenzo Tan. RCBC is, of course, being principally represented by its bar topnotcher chief counsel Ma. Celia Fernandez-Estavillo, but she cannot do everything herself. As such, she is being aided by the Accra law firm (to which she previously had ties), as well as the Villaraza & Angangco Law Office (aka “The Firm”), which is handling RCBC’s issues with the courts.

Then there’s Lorenzo Tan himself, who is being represented by former Accra managing partner Francis Lim, who also acts as his spokesperson vis-a-vis the press.

And there’s this clincher: During the recent Senate hearings, members of the press noted the presence of specialist defense counsel Sigfrid Fortun—a lawyer known for taking on tough defense cases that other legal practitioners would cower from.

Biz Buzz asked around and learned that Fortun has come on board to represent Lorenzo Tan on any issues involving the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Anti-Money Laundering Council. He is expected to focus on this aspect alone, and Accra’s Lim will not be involved here “to avoid any appearance of impropriety,” we’re told.

Now that’s what you call lawyering up.  Daxim L. Lucas

Mock polls at Pardo’s party

FORMER Philippine Stock Exchange chair and former Finance Secretary Jose “Titoy” Pardo makes it a point to throw birthday parties on the day of his birthday itself (as opposed to adjusting the party date, or venue, according to his guests’ schedules).


And so it happened that his birthday this year fell on a Sunday (April 24), when everyone was expected to stay glued to their television sets to watch the last presidential debate before the May 9 polls. His solution? Easy. Make his birthday party a debate-viewing party.

So Pardo set up two viewing areas in his Ayala Alabang home for his guests. One large TV was set up in his huge home theater, while another one was set up in the garden where a feast was laid out for well wishers.

And well wishers came in droves, including former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and his former Cabinet secretaries, colleagues from the PSE, former and current business partners, some friends in media and even San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang (despite feeling a bit under the weather due to his recent back-and-forth trips to Houston, Texas, to accompany Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. on the latter’s heart surgery).

But the highlight of the evening’s festivities was the mock presidential elections conducted among guests who were torn between listening to the lounge singer’s performance and watching the debate.

At the end of the evening, the votes were tallied and the results were somewhat of a surprise: Vice President Jejomar Binay got 23 votes; those who were undecided came in at 18; Sen. Grace Poe had 10; former Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas had 10; Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte had a surprisingly low number with 8, while Sen. Miriam Santiago had 2 votes (one of which was cast by San Miguel’s Ang).

Not a few eyebrows were raised after the results were announced, prompting some to ask: Do they know something that the public doesn’t?  Daxim L. Lucas

Guide for voters

THE ELECTION season is always a fiesta in the Philippines, and this time is no different. But beyond the drama, from hilarious name-calling to truly horrible jokes, there isn’t a whole lot of information on how each candidate   would address certain business issues.

The Fitch Group’s BMI Research came out with a series of reports that can probably serve as a guide on which presidential candidate you should consider, depending on the business issues that matter to you most.

Needless to say, there are some surprising and not so surprising results here.

According to BMI, if slow Internet bothers you the most, you should look no further than Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as the man to put powerful telco players in line. If it’s infrastructure, you should consider Mar Roxas, Grace Poe or even Miriam Defensor-Santiago. For the power sector, your best bet is still Poe.

BMI looked into past statements made by each candidate, while combining these with its own research.

For the telecoms sector, Poe was also a viable candidate, but BMI said a Duterte presidency would boost regulatory reform here. BMI looked into Duterte’s hard-line stance against corruption, his anti-crime track record and a “lower assurance of policy continuity,” which would have a larger impact on telecoms here.

“The duopoly’s market power needs to be reduced for foreign competition to be effective,” BMI said. It noted that corruption in the industry exists, as seen in the failed 2007 National Broadband Network.

“We are therefore more convinced that Duterte, who has a higher likelihood of tackling these pressing issues, will be the better candidate for encouraging further development in the telecoms sector,” BMI said.

While Duterte would be good for telcos, he would be at the other end of the spectrum, along with Vice President Jejomar Binay, in terms of continuing reforms in infrastructure development.

BMI said the election season already “poses a downside risk” in its infrastructure outlook, seen to grow an average of 8.1 percent annually between 2016 and 2020. BMI said the impact on construction growth was tied to the election’s outcome. A win for Roxas, the administration’s bet, was considered “most positive” for the construction sector and a vote for ongoing public private partnership (PPP) projects. Poe and Santiago have also voiced support for PPPs.

On the other hand, a Duterte administration “would most likely cause significant project delays as he said that he would not focus on big infrastructure projects in the near term,” given his inclination to fighting crime and corruption first, BMI said. Binay has also expressed commitment to pursing infrastructure development, but a policy shakeup was likely due to his criticism of the Aquino administration.

Poe’s pro-investment stance was also good for the Philippine’s energy industry, which BMI said would see a 5 percent average annual growth in consumption from 2016 and 2025.

“After some potential near-term volatility, Poe poses the least risk of policy discontinuity,” BMI said. “This bodes particularly well for the country’s expanding renewables sector, which has benefited from the implementation of attractive regulations over the past couple of years and a pickup in investor interest as a result,” it added.  Miguel R. Camus

E-mail us at Get business alerts and a preview of Biz Buzz the evening before it comes out. Text ON INQ BUSINESS to 4467 (P2.50/alert).

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