Last update: June 13 2008, 11:56 PM

The Garcias, the Aboitizes and Meralco

June 03, 2008

This refers to an article written by a Mr. Perry Diaz which came out in Inquirer.net last May 23, 2008. The article refers to an alleged “Arroyo-Lopez War” but contains statements which are completely unfounded insinuations relating the Aboitiz Group of companies as well as the Visayan Electric Co. Inc. (VECO) to the issues involving MERALCO and Mr. Winston Garcia.

All statements in the article related to VECO, the Aboitiz family, the Garcia Family, including but not limited to the alleged planned takeover of control over MERALCO by Aboitiz are completely erroneous and misleading. The Aboitiz group of companies have not considered any takeover arrangement of MERALCO, whether by itself or with other entities.

Please note that VECO is a widely held company with significant shareholders consisting of Aboitiz Power Corporation, Hijos de F. Escaño and Vivant Corporation (the holding company of the Garcia family). The Garcia family of VECO is a different family from that of former Gov. Pablo Garcia, Winston Garcia, incumbent Cebu Governor Gwnedolyn Garcia and Congressman Pablo John Garcia. Messrs. Dennis V.A. Garcia, Ramontito E. Garcia, Gil A. Garcia II, Charles Sylvestre A. Garcia and Antonio V.A. Garcia de Escaño, who are members of the Board of VECO, belong to the Hijos de F. Escaño family.

In addition, VECO is not represented by the firm of Garcia & Garcia Law Offices (with address at 2091 Andres Abellana St., Guadalupe, Cebu City), as Mr. Diaz insinuates. Garcia & Garcia Law Offices are the law offices of Gov. Pablo Garcia and sons, Winston Garcia and Pablo John Garcia. On the other hand, VECO’s Assistant Corporate Secretary and only one of VECO’s many external counsels, Atty. Jess Anthony N. Garcia, is managing partner of J.P. Garcia & Associates Law Offices (with address at 902 Ayala – FGU Tower, Cebu Business Park).

Although Atty. Jess Anthony N. Garcia is related to Mr. Winston Garcia, the Garcia & Garcia Law Offices and J.P. Garcia & Associates Law Offices are two separate and distinct law offices that function independently of each other and do not share the same clients.

The writer may have talked to a source with malicious intent, putting bits and pieces of unrelated information, creating a factually incorrect article. In the interest of fairness and on behalf of VECO, the Aboitiz Group, Vivant Corporation and the numerous shareholders of VECO, we would like to request your paper to correct errors contained in the news article to dispel whatever negative publicity this has generated for VECO, the Aboitizes and the Garcia/Hijos de. F. Escaño family of VECO.

The erroneous article has only served to mislead the public about VECO and its shareholders and dragged innocent individuals, families and corporate entities into a political foray with which they have no involvement.

We take comfort in your paper’s commitment to “Balanced News, Fearless Views” when we call on you for a full investigation and accurate reporting of facts before these are published. We would be happy to assist you in your paper’s mission whenever possible.

Thank you for giving the Aboitiz Group and VECO the opportunity to air our side on the issue.

Very truly yours,
Mr. Jasmine S. Oporto
Corporate Secretary
Visayan Electric Company Inc.

FVP Legal & Corporate Services
Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc.

Jess Anthony N. Garcia
Asst. Corporate Secretary
Visayan Electric Company, Inc.

Managing Partner,
JP Garcia Law & Associates


Perry Diaz replies:

Although there are two blood-unrelated Garcia families, their business interests were joined together in Vivant Corporation. As Vivant's business profile states (see below), its primary shareholdings are in VECO and HDFE. Vivant's Board of Directors shows several members of Winston Garcia's family (i.e., his cousin Jesus B. Garcia and nephew Jess Anthony N. Garcia). As to how much of Vivant is owned by Winston's family, I don't know. But since they're represented by several members of his family, in my opinion, their ownership could be substantial.

Perhaps Ms. M. Jasmine Oporto can tell us who among the Garcias on the VECO board belong to Winston's family. And she might as well disclose what percentage of Vivant is owned by Winston's family. That would clarify some of the issues.

The following are some of the sources for my article. The press releases by a group called "Alliance of Concerned Teachers" (ACT) tell a lot about Winston Garcia's questionable dealings with Aboitiz-owned businesses such as the Union Bank. The press release also mentioned the Aboitizes' closeness to Winston Garcia's family and they challenged Garcia to make a full disclosure of his family's ties to the Aboitizes.

The Aboitiz letter said, "The Aboitiz Group of companies have not considered any takeover arrangement of MERALCO..." I did not accuse Aboitiz of planning to do that. However, I asked in my article, "What would VECO -- and Winston Garcia -- stand to gain if Meralco were broken up into smaller companies?”

It's interesting to note that should Meralco break up, VECO would become the largest electric company in the nation, only because Meralco is the biggest of its kind today. Now, would VECO attempt to buy out any portion of a divested Meralco? Why not? There's nothing wrong with that.

As to Winston Garcia serving VECO as a lawyer on retainer, I was just quoting a news account in one of the Manila dailies. They should question the writer of that story.

Lastly, it would benefit the public if the Aboitiz Group would address the issues raised recently by ACT which were posted in various e-groups and websites. That would certainly clarify a lot of things that have been going around in the news.

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