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Osmeña pins Ongpin 'firm' to $180-M loans, cries plunder

November 14, 2011 6:10pm

(Updated 1:11 a.m., Nov. 15) Controversial businessman Roberto Ongpin and some bank officials may be held liable for plunder in connection with a total of $180-million in loans given by two state banks to one of Ongpin's alleged firms in 2008, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said Monday.

The senator had earlier alleged that the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) in 2008 illegally approved a $90-million loan to Ongpin-controlled Global Air Services (GAS), which was allegedly not licensed to do business in the country and was capitalized at only $2.

But Ongpin belied that GAS was owned by him, pointing out that the company was a special purpose vehicle (SPV) entity owned by the Singaporean fund management company Presidio Capital. The businessman added he “was totally taken aback by [Osmeña’s] incredible statement."

A special purpose vehicle (SPV) entity is a company created solely for a particular financial transaction or series of transactions. On its website, Presidio Capital describes itself as “a private investment group that focuses on the origination and structuring of emerging market and special situations corporate finance transactions."

Osmeña, who chairs the Senate committee on banks and financial institutions, said the DBP approved the loan in December 2008 “despite the absence of a loan application and applicant."

He said GAS used the $90-million fund to buy securities related to the Metro Rail Transit (MRT).

$2 corporation gets $90-M + $90-M

On Monday, Osmeña said another $90 million was loaned by the Land Bank of the Philippines to GAS for the same purpose.

“You know that’s a very complicated deal. I have been studying that for two months already. The way it is done, hindi mo talaga maintindihan," he said.

“They lent money to a $2 corporation, [GAS] of the British Virgin Islands, a corporation that is not licensed to do business in the Philippines. So, paano mo kakasuhan iyan, eh, wala namang address dito? So, pahiramin mo ng $180 million. Kung hindi ka bayaran, paano mo hahabulin iyan?" he explained.

Because of this, he said Ongpin may be held liable for plunder, together with former DBP chair Reynaldo David, Land Bank president Gilda Pico, and the board members of the two banks.

“Can you imagine approving a loan and there’s no borrower? The borrower was named three weeks later? Pero aprubado na ‘yung loan. Tapos dumating ‘yung borrower, ang worth niya $2 lang pala," he said.

“[They could face] plunder. Because there was a spread, too big a spread between... sinabi nila, ‘Eto ang presyo natin.’ Pero hindi naman sinabi sa public. Kanila lang," he added.

Ongpin’s ‘people’ signatories in transactions

Ongpin had already denied owning GAS, saying it belonged to Presidio Capital.

The Singaporean company, on its website, claims to be “a leading provider of capital to enterprises throughout Asia and the Pacific, having invested in excess of $1 billion since 1998."

But Osmeña said that Ongpin’s people — his long-time executive secretary Josephine Manalo and lawyer Rodolfo Ma. Ponferrada — were signatories in several GAS transactions.

“I have a list of all those people who sat on those boards. Huwag niyang sabihin na wala siyang pakialam dito. Bakit nilalagay mo ang mga bata mo diyan?" Osmeña said.

But Ongpin denied lifting a finger in getting loans for GAS. “I wish to stress that I had absolutely nothing to do with obtaining these loans. I might say, however, that the government not only saved substantial amounts of money but in fact earned and continues to earn substantial amounts of interest as a result of these transactions," he said

Ongpin is also the subject of a Senate inquiry by the banks and blue ribbon committees because of the P660-million loan granted to him by the DBP through the company Delta Ventures Resources Inc. (DVRI) in 2009.

Ongpin and 27 former and current DBP officials are also facing criminal and administrative cases before the Ombudsman in connection with the DVRI issue.

Osmeña, meanwhile, said he will also invite former Finance Secretary Margarito Teves to testify before the Senate panels because he was supposedly the one who approved the GAS deal.

“[He] was not only chairman of Land Bank, he was also the secretary of finance. He was the one who approved this," he said. — KBK/MRT/VS, GMA News
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