Taint in the DOF | Inquirer Business
BIZ BUZZ

Taint in the DOF

/ 02:00 AM November 11, 2022

Corrupt government officials are dime a dozen, but the Department of Finance (DOF) has always seemed impervious to this issue all these years. Or so we thought.

In an office filled with technocrats, Biz Buzz was shocked to hear of a ranking DOF executive who has a laundry list of allegations of abuse and corruption leveled against her.

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Biz Buzz heard that this DOF official has a pending case against her lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman. What case? Well, this official allegedly tried to exert influence over another government agency to waive a P1-million penalty as a favor to a friend.

Other documented allegations of corruption have also cropped up, including the hiring of ghost employees, withholding of ATM cards of employees, shady dealings with congressmen, and the list goes on.

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Several employees, we are told, have come forward with claims of abuse, both physical and mental. In fact, one former staffer filed a complaint with the police after this DOF official tracked the said staffer to her residence to threaten her family, and force her to retract her allegations.

With all this baggage, one cannot help but wonder why the new Secretary of Finance is still keeping this DOF official in his circle.

Well, sources say this controversial DOF executive is cousin to one of the President’s Cabinet officials, and rather close to some key players in the President’s inner circle. Yikes!

Of course, all eyes are on Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno. With the holdover period expiring on December 31st, will he reappoint this problematic DOF official? Abangan! —Daxim L. Lucas

Kevin Tan to do more for Bacolod

Megaworld Corp. chief strategy officer Kevin Tan was over the moon when he was declared last month an adopted son of Bacolod City. It did not take long for him to realize, however, that the honor came with very expensive strings attached.

Tan, who is also CEO and vice chair of Alliance Global Inc., is not complaining though.

He is in fact only too happy to eventually put in more money in the vibrant city where Megaworld is already investing P45 billion, of which P38 billion will go to the development of The Upper East, which is being positioned as Bacolod’s new central business district.

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No less than President Marcos jokingly told Tan and the other guests during the inauguration of Megaworld’s 34-hectare The Upper East and unveiling of the township market that the distinction given by the Bacolod City government led by Mayor Albee Benitez was not free and would, in fact, cost him “a lot of money.”

“But I think he has already spent that money. The numbers that you were talking about are fairly significant, are substantial. Mayor Albee is saying it’s still not enough. It looks like he plans to collect more from you,” Mr. Marcos said during the event.

Judging from the group’s optimism about the prospects of the capital city of Negros Occidental, the additional funds may indeed come in sooner rather than later. —Tina Arceo-Dumlao

iPhone 14 craze

Some people who wanted to buy the latest iPhone 14 from Apple retailers PowerMac and The Loop last October could not find any.

That’s because of a blockbuster Citi credit card (temporarily licensed to UnionBank) offering that gave as much as an 8.5-percent discount to buyers. Plus, it’s payable interest-free for 24 months.

That means instead of forking out P81,990 for an iPhone 14 512 gigabyte, the discounted price at 24-month installment was P75,020.85 for a monthly payment of P3,125.87.

The most expensive variant, iPhone 14 Pro Max 1 terabyte, was sold for P107,960 instead of P117,990 at a P4.498.37 monthly installment.

On the sidelines of the recent Singapore Fintech Festival, which UnionBank again joined with a big bang (with a large two-story booth that showcased latest technologies and milestones), bank president Edwin Bautista shared that Apple stores had run out of products because of this landmark promo—and that 80 percent of all iPhone 14 units sold had been paid through Citi (soon to be rebranded to UnionBank) credit cards.

“The good thing is because of 8.5-percent [discount], people who went to the stores to buy iPhone 14 and ran out of stock [to buy], they instead bought watches or iPads,” Bautista said, benefiting the merchants. Buyers included those preparing gift items for Christmas.

But the stores will replenish inventory, he added. After all, the bank extended but tweaked the promo, now offering an 8-percent discount through Nov. 21. The original promo ended on Oct. 31.

In a year’s time, UnionBank vows that only the brand on the plastic will change (from Citi), while all the exciting features will be kept.

The Aboitiz-led bank initially expected that the portfolio acquired by UnionBank from Citi would have an attrition rate of 10 percent upon turnover. The local bank is happy to note that only 1 percent of accounts had chosen to leave. Thus, the integration of Citi’s consumer and banking assets into UnionBank is seen off to a good start. —Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Not personal, just business

While PLDT Inc. and DITO Telecommunity are in the middle of a commercial dispute, both parties remain on good terms, according to an official of the Pangilinan-led company.

“We are cordial to each other. We are not enemies,” Marilyn Aquino, PLDT chief legal counsel, said on the sidelines of their latest press briefing.

Last month, PLDT issued a notice of material breach and demand for payment against the company owned by Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy. It was compelling DITO to pay P430 million for the alleged unpaid debt for the services related to provisioning of transmission facility, which allows their users to call and send messages to each other.

DITO chief administrative officer Adel Tamano previously said this was not “an issue of money” but “an issue of interconnection.”

To recall, DITO flagged PLDT’s wireless unit Smart and Globe Telecom Inc. in August for lack of interconnection capacity that was limiting DITO users’ calls to the subscribers of the two bigger players.

Aquino said that PLDT going after the payment was nothing personal.

“This is purely business. But, of course, we need to assert our rights and they understand that,” she explained.

“We continue to coordinate and we continue to talk to each other,” she added.

Also, Aquino said they were working together with DITO, as well as with Globe, in preparing the implementing rules and regulation of the recently signed SIM (subscriber identity module) registration measure.

But the payment of the P430-million debt was due on Nov. 4, as per PLDT’s directive. Aquino said that DITO was set to send a counter proposal on or before the deadline.

Inquirer reached out to PLDT to confirm if such a proposal was sent and their reply was: “PLDT has nothing to confirm at this time.”

This newspaper also asked for a statement from DITO, but they said there was none yet.

The Pangilinan-owned company previously said they would suspend or terminate their services with DITO should the latter fail to remedy the material breach on deadline. “Hopefully, we can resolve this quickly. We are in the business of running a business, not in the business of suing some people, right?” Aquino said.

Now, the question is: Did the parties settle their dispute last week? Let’s find out! —Tyrone Jasper C. Piad INQ

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TAGS: Biz Buzz, DITO, DoF, PLDT
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