Bobby Ongpin dropped by to say he was innocent.
In the Philex case he told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, more or less, that he does not need Super Heroes nor his friend Mike Arroyo to do his deals; that he was not an insider trader, just smart; that the P660 million he borrowed from DBP was inconsequential, was repaid and therefore not behest; and that he had otherwise “never” borrowed from Government financial institutions and, too bad for them, would never again do so. He said he loves this country.
I hope, for his sake, he is right.
Because Senator Osmeña (why does he always have to do his homework?) reminded him, for one, SSS/DBP had extended him a P6 billion credit on the Meralco deal and DBP and Landbank have outstanding loans to Alphaland, an Ongpin company, of P2.2 billion and P1.4 billion respectively. Perhaps these are too insignificant for him to recall.
Ongpin said under an FVR Memorandum Order behest applies only to unpaid loans. Enrile clarified an MO is not a law. Osmeña said that a thief who returns a stolen car is still a thief.
If one is prepared to slog through the din, Senate hearings can have their moments.
As the sharpest legal mind in the room, Enrile does not suffer having his intelligence insulted. He knows a rat when he sees one. He was particularly peeved at past DBP President, Rey David, who was doing his best to snow the Senators with technicalities.
JPE was only somewhat kinder to “Bobby” whom he “would prove” stock market manipulation. To the accused he warned: “ I just want to clarify that all of you here must be very careful”, stern words from a man who does not speak lightly.
Osmeña is the point guard, the only one seemingly with the full narrative in his head. He knows where the bodies are buried. He only asked questions the answers to which he already knew, allowing the accused to hang themselves. The other side knows this which explains the recent media attacks on the Lopez Group, an Osmena supporter, to get it to lean on him.
Does the investigation have legs?
The outline is there but the dots have to be connected. The hearings will be expanded to cover the MRT, Meralco, Petron and possibly the Lehman transactions; so the story has still to unfold. The narrative: That a select few, exploiting power, privileged information and the public purse, repeatedly conspired to plunder our patrimony.
A majority of its 17 members is needed to send the Committee report to the Ombudsman (The latter could also move independently). The Committee is divided between Team Ongpin (Angara, the Cayetanos, Legarda, Marcos and Escudero) and the Rest of the World (ROW led by Enrile, Osmeña and Lacson). Team O is seeking to limit the proceedings to the Pinpin suicide while ROW wants to investigate the broader issue of corporate malfeasance. With the present Senate schedule, the report will probably not see daylight before spring of 2012.
Who, if any, is likely to go down?
Ongpin has the fewest tracks and the most smarts and resources. The ROW believes they have the numbers and the goods on him (some of which I have seen) but that is before money has spoken. Malacanang will feature prominently and right now it is in no mood for nonsense.
Ongpin has other vulnerabilities: His Philweb gaming franchise could be questioned, the business has a tie-up with PAGCOR and he has loans with DBP and LBP. I would stay away from his stock.
Legal professionals say Rey David is the most at risk. He is an amateur playing major league ball. Ongpin, Enrile, Osmeña and Malacanang, they do not get any smarter nor their offices any bigger. As JPE admonished him: “ You may be a good banker but I can crack your head.”
Rey is the low-lying fruit and the obvious fall guy. Ongpin says he loves him (“Rey is one of the smartest bankers in the country”, from Ongpin the ultimate profession of endearment) but he has also said this of his partner of 50 years and of his country of 70. I am told Ongpin has already approached the Solicitor General for a deal but the Palace is not buying.
Rey needs to lawyer up but not with anyone recommended nor, worse, paid for by his buddies. At some point -which may have already been reached- his interest and that of his associates will diverge. He should consider all, and I mean all, his options. He will always have to look behind his back but at least not from the confines of a windowless room.
He is not the ultimate target of the investigations but he will go down if that is what it takes to get to the next level or to satisfy the public’s clamor for blood.