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Biz Buzz: ‘Ahit Rubie’ man gets seat in the Monetary Board

/ 12:22 AM June 28, 2017

A former commercial endorser of a popular shaving razor brand may soon be helping determine the economic fate of the country.

Biz Buzz learned that a former image model of the 1970s- and 1980s-era “Ahit Rubie, Ahit Pogi” ad campaign of Gillette razor blades for men might soon be appointed by President Duterte to the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

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For those who don’t remember, Gillette ran popular tri-media commercials a few decades ago depicting a cleanly shaven male as the epitome of the Filipino man, winning over many customers with a catchy jingle that dominated TV and radio airwaves for many years.

One of its image models who figured prominently in print and streamer ads was a certain “Tony Abacan,” or more formally known as Antonio Abacan Jr.—and he may soon be one of the seven people who will determine the purchasing power of the peso of everyone in the Philippines. Imagine that!

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Levity aside, Abacan is the former chair and (previous to that) president of Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co., before stepping aside in 2012 to run other companies owned by tycoon George Ty. And though he was always media shy and humble about his achievements—including his stint as a popular image model in his youth—Abacan is no slouch when it comes to banking. In fact, Metrobank was the biggest bank in the country during most of his tenure at the helm, surrendering the top spot only a few years later to the more aggressive BDO Unibank of the Sy family.

Biz Buzz also learned that former Economic Planning Secretary Felipe Medalla would be reappointed to a second six-year term in the Monetary Board, to provide robust macroeconomic guidance to the group.

Also set to be appointed to a fresh six-year Monetary Board stint is former trade secretary Peter Favila, who returns to the policymaking body after a three-year hiatus. Favila (whom friends call ‘Fabulous’) was first appointed to the board by President Arroyo in 2010 but—despite heavy lobbying by BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. for his reappointment, due to his key backdoor negotiating skills with the rest of the banking community—was passed over by the administration of President Aquino.

The outgoing Monetary Board members are Alfredo Antonio and Armando Suratos whom, we assume, will be enjoying prosperous retirements courtesy of their long years of service in the private sector and government, respectively, (and the MB retirement package is generous).

So going forward, the fate of the Philippine economy will be in the hands of these seven men: BSP Governor Nestor “Nesting” Espenilla Jr., Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez III, Juan “Jun” de Zuñiga Jr., Valentin “Val” Araneta, Felipe “Philip” Medalla, Peter “Fabulous” Favila and Antonio “Ahit Rubie” Abacan. Just kidding. The latter’s nickname is “Tony.” —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Second lightning strike

Lightning striking the same place—or person, in this case —twice is statistically improbable, but not impossible.

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That’s apparently what happened to Japanese gaming tycoon Kazuo Okada when he was ousted from the board of the eponymous Okada Manila casino resort in Pagcor Entertainment City last week after some of his allegedly anomalous dealings were discovered.

This marks the second time that Okada became embroiled in a boardroom ejection, following his fight with former business partner Steve Wynn over their Las Vegas joint venture in 2010 that resulted in the former being forcibly bought out of the company.

So what exactly happened this time around?

According to a company insider, Okada’s own company Universal Entertainment Corp. recently uncovered financial anomalies dating all the way back to 2015 that “severely violated” the firm’s code of ethics and corporate governance code.

Now this would’ve been easier to gloss over had Universal Entertainment been a privately held corporation. But no. It’s a publicly listed firm in Japan where regulators have been clamping down on opaque business practices in recent years.

Reports peg the monetary value of the anomaly anywhere between $17 million and $20 million mainly in the form of company funds that were allegedly transferred by Okada to his personal firm.

According to our source, the discovery of this transaction led Universal Entertainment to oust him as the chair of its wholly owned Hong Kong-based holding firm.

And since the gleaming Okada Manila operation reports to Universal Entertainment as well, it was inevitable that the Japanese businessman would be sacked from his local chairmanship as well.

But we haven’t heard the last of this scandal. According to our source, the ongoing internal probe continues to uncover anomalies in the company that was, until recently, run completely by Okada and Okada alone.

“A lot of things are coming out now,” the official said. “We’re seeing anomalies emerge from Japan and even in Hong Kong and Korea.”

Insiders now believe that Okada— who built the gaming firm from his humble beginnings as a pachinko operator in Japan—abused the firm, using his power as an owner to take advantage of Universal Entertainment.

Unfortunately for him, the company is a publicly listed entity that reports to shareholders other than himself.

“We expect to uncover more anomalies,” the official said, adding that Okada Manila has taken measures to preserve financial records that may reveal even more malfeasance than what was already reported.

“Okada is banned from coming to the office,” he said.

Expect formal charges to follow once investigators wrap up their probe in the next few days. Also, expect the gleaming casino resort to change its business name soon. After all, if they’re accusing the businessman of defrauding the company, they can’t keep his name over the door, right? —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Globe sues village resident

Be wary of spreading “fake news” in your village. It could earn you a lawsuit.

This is precisely what happened to a certain Betty Aw, a resident of the upscale Dasmariñas Village in Makati, who was apparently not a fan of Globe Telecom’s plan to place its outdoor distributed antenna system, or Odas, within the community’s premises.
Based on Globe’s recollection of events, it first wrote the village homeowners’ association to inform them of the telco’s plan to install the Odas facilities, which would bolster its mobile network signal in the area. But when the association called for referendum on the matter, Globe alleged that Aw “with manifest intention to prevent the referendum from taking place, started to spread rumors in the neighborhood, making unsubstantiated statements about the health risk brought about by the radiation emitted by telecommunications antennas.”

These health rumors are old and have been debunked by modern science. Still, the belief is prevalent. Another fear is that because these beliefs are accepted by some, it can hurt property prices, hence, the general resistance.

In any case, Globe did not take this sitting down.

It filed a civil suit against Aw at the Regional Trial Court of Makati, claiming moral damages of P5 million. Moreover, Globe sought exemplary damages amounting to P500,000 plus lawyer’s fees.

Among Globe’s allegations: Aw also distributed materials with false information against the village association’s leaders and “coaxed” homeowners to stage rallies against the installation of Globe’s Odas.

Disagreements on building cell sites between the telcos and some two dozen villages around Metro Manila is not new. But this latest event—the first legal action of its kind by a telco—marks a sort of escalation in the issue and perhaps a warning to others.

It is likewise tied to calls by Globe and PLDT Inc. for less bottlenecks in the permitting process.

The environment is more favorable for the telcos these days, with the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s first secretary openly agreeing with these views. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS

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TAGS: Ahit Rubie, Antonio Abacan Jr., Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Biz Buzz, monetary board, Tony Abacan
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