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(Update) Meralco chairman denies allegations of bribery

August 1, 2008 10:26pm

Tags: Meralco
MANILA, Philippines - Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) chairman Manolo Lopez denied allegations that he was involved in the bribery of Justice Jose Sabio, who is handling the Meralco case against the pension fund corporation, Government Services Insurance System (GSIS).

On Wednesday, Mr. Sabio revealed that he was being bribed by a certain Francis de Borja for P10 million to rule in favor of Meralco.

Mr. de Borja meanwhile said that Mr. Sabio told him that he was being bribed with a very good position in the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the GSIS. Mr. de Borja also said that Mr. Sabio was asking for P50 million so he could inhibit himself from the case.

In a press briefing with reporters Friday, Mr. Lopez denied that he was waiting in the car for Mr. de Borja on July 1 in Rockwell while Mr. de Borja was talking with Mr. Sabio.

"I categorically and vehemently deny the allegations of Justice Jose Sabio that I was waiting in the car while he was allegedly meeting with Francis de Borja on July 1, 2008 at the Ateneo Law School in Rockwell. Mind you, I do not have the habit of waiting in the car for anybody except for my wife. The allegation is malicious and pure fabrication," Mr. Lopez said.

He also said that he was out of the country when the incident happened.

"I was out of the country when the alleged meeting between Francis and Justice Sabio took place. I was in the United States for a medical check up and returned on July 13." Mr. Lopez said.

As proof, he presented tickets of his departure dated June 27, and his arrival dated July 13.

He admitted however that he knew Mr. de Borja but said that Mr. de Borja was not a counsel for Meralco.

"Francis is a friend but he is not in any way connected with any of the family businesses especially with Meralco. Clearly, the matter is between Francis and Justice Sabio. It is lamentable that my name was dragged into this." Mr. Lopez added.

The case sparked from allegations of GSIS that the current Meralco management is conducting business malpractice causing high power rates for consumers.

The Court of Appeals (CA) on Thursday effectively declined to overturn a division ruling that stymied the GSIS bid to wrest management control of Lopez-led Meralco. The CA announced that they would let the two parties settle the matter following normal legal procedures.

The bribery claim, meanwhile, will be referred to the Supreme Court.

The Lopez group headed by First Philippine Holdings Corp. has a 33.47% stake in Meralco while government financial institutions own 33.32%. Other shareholders hold 34.21%.

The government stake is broken down as follows, according to Meralco: GSIS, 22.05%; Social Security System, 5.52%; Land Bank of the Philippines, 4.41%; Philippine Health Insurance Corp., 0.17%; and the Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG, 0.17%. - BusinessWorld
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Tags: Meralco