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Senate bet points to evidence that crony capitalism is back

Press Release
07 March 2019

Senate bet points to evidence that crony capitalism is back

“Is crony capitalism back in the Philippines?” Partido Lakas ng Masa senatoriable Leody De Guzman asked this question following reports from Forbes that former senate president and one time presidentiable Manny Villar is now the richest person in the Philippines, with his net worth ballooning from $1.8 billion in August 2016 to $5.5 billion in 2019.

Villar is a known ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, who appointed his son, Mark Villar, as secretary of the powerful public works department.

“Rentier crony capitalism is back under Duterte’s watch. Manny Villar has outpaced SM Investment Corporation, a real estate and retail giant who benefited from a consumption-driven economy fuelled by remittances of migrant Filipinos. The aggressive construction of national roads did not only land values of the Villar real estate empire. Moreover, stock analysts and speculators also anticipated the boom of publicly-listed companies owned by the Villars,” he said.

De Guzman remarked that Villar’s “ridiculous rise from 12th to 1st place while multiplying his wealth five-fold in a span of three years" shows that "being close to Duterte can take you places, even the top of the Forbes list.”

He explained that rise in property values is illusory and is only real to bourgeois economists who gives importance to economic growth but not to statistics that measure human development - such as income, employment, living standards, access to social services, etc. ‘

”Yan ay kapitalistang pag-unlad na hindi totoong progresong panlipunan. Pero ang mas masakit, hindi lamang mga kapitalista ang yumayaman ngayon kundi ang mga klase ng negosyanteng malapit sa kawali ng administrasyon,” he added.

De Guzman, a labor leader who became an activist after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, asked, “Naalala ko tuloy na ang mga kroni ni Marcos ang nakinabang sa diktadura. Si Villar ba ang Danding Cojuangco ni Rodrigo Duterte?”

Rise of the New Cronies

De Guzman also noted that Davao businessman Dennis Uy, who contributed P30 million to Duterte's campaign kitty managed to own 36 companies in the span of 24 months under Duterte's term.

With Uy's buying spree of companies, however, his holdings company Udenna Corporation saw its debt grow by over 200% to P104 billion in 2017.

“But even with his huge debt, Uy is far from financial distress. As revealed recently by Senator Trillanes, his company Mislatel will benefit from the ‘common tower policy’ of the new DICT (Department of Information and Communication)”, De Guzman said.

“Crony corporations deplete the national coffers because they are being subsidized by the government even if they are losing or are inefficient. In this case, it appears the Mislatel will subsidize the debts of Udenna,” he explained

Crony Capitalism: One step further into the depths of hell

De Guzman expounded that crony capitalism will worsen the poverty and misery of the people as it favors corporations that are close to the administration. He explained, “Impyerno na nga ang buhay ng manggagawa sa ilalim ng neoliberal na patakarang liberalisasyon, deregulasyon, pribatisasyon at kontraktwalisasyon, para pa tayong bumagsak sa mas malalim na bahagi ng impyerno kapag nangibabaw pa ang mga korporasyong malapit sa Palasyo”.

He said the corporations that are favored by Malacanang will have “no fear in violating labor rights and standards even as they enjoy the protection of the state through securing legislative franchises and capturing regulatory mechanisms. Worse, they would resort to coercion and violence against unionists who are fighting for their rights, consumer groups who oppose monopolies and unfair competition, and to the poor who demand state funds for services”.

The irony, the labor leader exclaimed, is that “cronies would all proclaim of removing state intervention in a market economy but are using government resources to rake in more profit for themselves”. De Guzman feared that the free rein of Duterte’s cronies would be brought about by the planned change in the Charter after the May 2019 elections.

De Guzman also noted that despite the expansion of the mandate of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission through Executive Order No. 73 which authorized the commission to file charges. It also allowed the president to assume jurisdiction at any stage of the process. The PACC has yet to file its first case against any erring any public official or employee.

“If this is not collusion between cronies and the PACC, then I don’t know what is,” he ended.###

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