Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao made a statement on April 2 what many readers have speculated on for many years. Tiglao wrote in his column that Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) is “the surrogate in the Philippines of Anthony Salim, whose family’s wealth grew during Indonesian President Suharto’s 31-year rule, mainly because the patriarch was the dictator’s biggest crony.”
The columnist also wrote about Victorino “Ricky” Vargas, who is in turn a surrogate of MVP in the Philippine Olympic Committee. “If ‘surrogate’ is too obscure a word, Pangilinan and Vargas are merely executives—employees, minions and lackeys though are valid synonyms—in the companies that Salim tightly controls: PLDT and the Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co., Ltd., the latter being the holding company for the Metro Pacific conglomerate in the country.” ━Tiglao added.
Pangilinan is a respected alumnus of Ateneo de Manila University and was granted a Lifetime Achievement Award during a Golden Jubilee celebration that he attended on December 2016 at the school’s compound in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Another awardee of the same honour was Senator Richard Gordon, a classmate of MVP. The awards ceremony was attended by this writer.
Pangilinan is Salim’s top executive at Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Metro Pacific, Manila Electric Company (Meralco), Television Channel 5 and over three dozen Philippine companies the Indonesian tycoon allegedly controls — in a smart organisational structure that evades the Constitution’s limit on foreign ownership of public utilities.
Through First Pacific Bank’s subsidiaries, Salim is the biggest stockholder of PLDT, holding 26 percent of its shares. Pangilinan owns a minuscule 1.6 percent of First Pacific and 0.1 percent of PLDT.
Ricky Vargas was a Citibank Bangkok human resources executive—an expertise that very rarely takes one to the top posts in the corporate world—until Pangilinan recruited him into PLDT in 2007 as its personnel management head.
The firm Vargas was assigned to handle where he stayed for five years, Maynilad Water, had not been a profit centre. First Pacific Bank has never reported any income from it. Vargas had hardly a track record that would catapult him in 2016 to being one of only three Filipinos with the assistant-director rank in Salim’s holding and command-centre firm.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s article on Vargas’ election as POC president read: “Vargas got a big morale boost from the presence of PLDT/Smart CEO Manny V. Pangilinan, who immediately pledged P20 million as seed money for the POC.” It reported nothing more though on Pangilinan’s role.
Pangilinan was even awarded “Sports Patron of the Year” in 2010 by a sports writers’ association. In 2011, he set up his “Manuel V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation,” which he says supports basketball, boxing, cycling, taekwondo, badminton, tennis, running and football. At its launch, he gave a huge replica of a check for P80 million payable to the Philippine Football Federation, as the conglomerate’s 10-year funding commitment to it.
Pangilinan has also portrayed himself as a patron of the most popular sport in the country, basketball. Three First Pacific companies have teams in the Philippine Basketball Association. Will the companies headed by MVP suffer a similar fate like Rappler? Tough question that only Du30 can answer.