Ongpin reveals reason why he quit PBCom board

Posted at 01/03/13 2:55 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Businessman Roberto Ongpin said he quit the board of his own bank Philippine Bank of Communications because the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas did not approve his election as director.

Ongpin said the BSP cited his getting P660 million of allegedly behest loans from the Development Bank of the Philippines in 2009, which he used to turn a quick profit on Philex Mining shares. 

He said the BSP's action of confirming seven other directors while deferring action on his election is "tantamount" to the BSP saying he is not "fit and proper" to be a director of Philippine Bank of Communications, which he bought in 2011. Eric Recto, Petron president and nephew, is chairman. 

"Because I am undoubtedly the most prominent director of the bank, this decision of the Monetary Board clearly will undermine the operations of the bank and may result in major depositors losing confidence in the bank. Thus I have decided that, with immediate effect, I am resigning as co-chairman and director," Ongpin said, in a letter to the Monetary Board dated December 28.

Ongpin criticized the decision further saying that while the Ombudsman said in September that it would file cases against him, he hasn't been charged in any court in connection with the DBP transactions. He said the BSP should not be taking actions based on allegations. 

He repeated a frequent statement he makes that he paid the DBP loans and that DBP made P1.4 billion in selling him its Philex shares. 

Ongpin also took the occasion to criticize the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which last month got a court order freezing 100 accounts owned by him and companies and persons linked to him. He said the AMLC petition was "irrational."

Ongpin said the AMLC's freeze petition was presented by BSP deputy governor Nestor Espenilla. He said Espenilla told the Senate investigation into the DBP transactions that there was nothing irregular about the loans. 

While the Senate hasn't completed the investigation, Senator Sergio Osmena has alleged that Ongpin got the loans because of his ties with Mike Arroyo, husband of then President Gloria Arroyo.

"My reputation, which I value above all else, has suffered greatly based on innuendos and unproven allegations," he said. 

The former Trade Minister said the AMLC's action, which he described as "despicable", "has now been exacerbated by the deferment of my election to the board of PBCom." 

He ended by saying that, "It should be incumbent on the MB to thoroughly examine all aspects of the situation before taking serious action."

He said he served in the Monetary Board for seven years under President Ferdinand Marcos and that "I daresay that had this case happened at that time, we would have acted with more circumspection and judiciousness."

Sought for comment, BSP says it is prohibited by law from confirming, denying or discussing such inquiries.