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Game of the oligarchs

He likely owed something to one or the other or both and issuing a statement may have offended one or the other.




In several instances, the oligarchs that Rody wanted demolished have shown their vicious side in the quest for more profit, as proven by an expose of the Daily Tribune in 2011 in which Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala lobbied with then President Noynoy Aquino to secure radio frequencies for 3G technology.

The Tribune blew the lid off a letter of the top Ayala honcho asking for accommodation on the award of scarce radio frequencies that could be used for fast Internet applicable on the booming business process outsourcing centers and smartphones.

Globe through Ayala was complaining against the emergence of an unequal playing field after the merger between another phone firm, Digitel and PLDT. Digitel had then eaten into the subscribers share of both PLDT and Globe with its budget mobile phone service. The combined Digitel and PLDT market share and resources would have dominated the lucrative mobile phone market.

Thus, Zobel de Ayala in a panicky tone sought from Noynoy the assignment of the remaining slot for 3G frequencies to his company, Globe, since the merger between PLDT and Digitel would have given the Pangilinan group that was backing the merger about four times more bandwidth than what Globe currently owned.

At a Senate hearing then, it was revealed by the top man of Digitel Lance Gokongwei that Globe also approached them for a possible merger that made then Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile wonder whether or not a similar complaint of unfair competition would have been raised had Globe succeeded in buying off Digitel.

“This is a situation where a loser is complaining against the winner,” was how Enrile described the current friction between Globe and PLDT.

Globe, meanwhile, used the strong influence of its owners in wrangling from Noynoy the 3G frequencies apparently without going through an auction and to have them free if possible.

The going estimate for the remaining 3G spectrum was about P100 million in yearly fees and with the other requirements that came with the last auction where four companies — PLDT, Globe, Digitel and Connectivity Unlimited Resource Enterprise, which used to be Bobby Ongpin’s but was later acquired by PLDT — won the bid, some P1 billion was needed to acquire the slot.

By going direct to Noynoy, Zobel appears to be sending a message that what he wanted was non-negotiable. The demand was apparently a payback on the likely huge contributions of the Ayalas during Noynoy’s campaign in 2010 for the presidency.

Manuel Pangilinan, top man at PLDT and now Digitel, and also a big campaign supporter of Noynoy, appeared to be ruffling feathers among the business associates of Noynoy with his aggressive business style.

In the mining sector, another rabid Aquino supporter, the Lopezes, were waging a war against Pangilinan’s Philex mining that was stepping up operations as the country’s biggest mining company.

Pangilinan shares the Pacman tag with people’s champ Manny Pacquiao not because of his skills inside the ring, but the way he gobbled up companies, if not a whole business sector, that he set his sight on.

The Ayalas feared this, and were then tugging on the strings of its political network to get even.

Shortly after JAZA sent the letter on 4 April 2011, the Palace ordered an investigation into the PLDT-Digitel merger, apparently in another accommodation for the Ayalas.

Noynoy, thus far, noticeably had been trying to keep silent himself about the whole fracas and for a good reason.

He likely owed something to one or the other or both and issuing a statement may have offended one or the other.

All of Noy’s big business backers were tearing at each other then, which was amusing since now President Rody Duterte is hellbent on ending their reign of greed.

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