Duterte vows to remove oligarchs from government influence, and singles out the head of PhilWeb, further damaging the company's share price
New Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has already shown that he pays little heed to diplomatic or politically correct language; lashing out at corruption and publicly declaring his desire to do away with online gambling in comments that have hammered the share price of companies involved in the vertical like Philweb.
Philweb, or more specifically its chairman Roberto Ongpin, was again the target of Duterte's wrath Wednesday when the president addressed a meeting of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, railing against oligarchs whom he characterised as individuals who accrue vast rewards without working hard.
He went further, naming Ongpin as a typical example of those who sit in 'private aircraft and mansions' whilst their wealth mounts.
Local media quoted Duterte's no-holds-barred comments as:
"I'll give you an example, publicly, Ongpin, Roberto. He had been a crony of Marcos before. Trade Minister, I think. He's influential and successful. He was a hanger on and even during the time of President Gloria Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III. Now he owns online gambling. These are the guys who just sits in their private airplanes, who sit in their mansions where the money will drop, like a taxi meter."
Ongpin was Secretary for Trade in the corrupt Marcos administration, and Duterte claims that he used this political power and influence to build his private business, becoming one of the wealthiest men in the Philippines with a fortune estimated at $900 million through his companies PhilWeb Corporation and Atok Big Wedge Incorporated.
Ongpin has been barred by Securities and Exchange Commission from serving on the board of any publicly listed company following allegations in 2009 that he indulged in insider trading involving mining shares, although the Philippine Court of Appeals has blocked the enforcement of the ban in an en banc decision last month.
Philweb's share price took another hammering following reports of the president's comments, diving to P7.1… the biggest intraday drop since 1991 and the lowest level since December 2014.
Duterte appears on the surface at least to be taking scant regard of the contribution to national employment and state taxes that companies like Philweb and PAGCOR deliver from online gambling related activity; in PAGCOR's case this amounts to around P9 billion annually – the biggest state-owned contributor to the government coffers.
Reporting on Duterte's latest attack, the Bloomberg business news service said that the Philweb share price has now plunged a record 50 percent since the induction of the new president.
The report notes Duterte's plan to "destroy the oligarchs that are embedded in government," although it does observe that the president did not specify any actions he planned to take on Ongpin.
Bloomberg quotes local analyst Astro del Castillo, who said: "Duterte is known to walk the talk and always hits the bull's-eye. Ongpin has a problem."
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