Old oligarch fared worse than others

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Part two

AT the end of the nine-year martial law in January 1981, the oligarchy was no longer as omnipotent as it traditionally was.

Historians Salvador Escalante and J. Augustus Y. de la Paz of the Truth and Justice Foundation said: “Today, the oligarchs have lost effective control of our society. If they continued to pursue legitimate economic undertakings, they do so within the purview of the broader goals of democratization set by the New Society.”

According to them, some members of the old oligarchy fared worse than others, and were more resentful of the Marcos administration and of the new elite that had emerged. One attempt, they said, to compose a panoramic picture of the changes in the domains of the rich was made in 1982 by the Jesuit priest Fr. John F. Doherty, based on a study of 453 companies covering the period 1977 to 1979. He wrote:

“Not all 81 individuals listed in this study are equally favored by the Marcos-Romualdez administration. This is seen in the fact that, since martial law, certain individuals have expanded their corporate empires at a fantastic rate, while the empires of others have either remained stationary or contracted. We have been able to divide the 81 individuals into three groups.

“The first group includes the Marcoses and the Romualdezes themselves, the Martels and Disini [their in-laws], Velayo, Benedicto, Cuenca, Silverio, Abello, Tanseco, Tantoco, Ozaeta and Floirendo. The rise to power of this group seems to be related to their connections to the First Couple. Before martial law, few, if any, of them were well known, and none of them were among the traditional elite. Most accumulated their fortunes under martial law.

“The second group, also favored by the administration, comes from the ranks of the premartial law elite. The business interests of this group have also grown significantly since martial law was declared, though they had substantial resources to begin with. This group includes the Sycip-Yuchengco family, the Yulos, Elizaldes, Aboitizes, Alcantaras, J.B. Fernandez, Nubla, Palanca, Concepcion and Siguion-Reyna.

“The third group, like the second, is part of the premartial law elite. However, this group is not clearly and strongly identified with the First Family. They are not in the inner circle, so to speak. They have managed to hold their own under martial law, but they have to endure periodic harassments and threats to their business interests. They appear to go along, to keep the semblance of loyalty because, if they do not, they realize they could get the way of the Lopezes, Jacintos and Todas, who lost their empires. This group would include the Zobel-Ayala family, the Sorianos, Madrigals, Olondrizes, Ortigas, Laurels and the sugar bloc in general. Perhaps this segment of the old elite is too powerful for the Marcos regime to take on directly…”

The separation between these groups was not that pronounced. As Doherty himself noted, there were many interlocks among them in the directorates of various companies. Those who were outside the “inner circle” had links, one way or another, to those within.

One example: in Filipinas Synthetic Fiber Corp., established in 1968 by Patricio L. Lim, among the directors in 1984 were Jose Yulo Jr. and Carlos Palanca Jr., whom Doherty placed in the “second group.” Their codirectors included Pacifico Marcos and Rolando C. Gapud, who would belong to the “first group.”

Several “anti-Marcos” figures were also directors or officers of companies associated with Marcos “cronies.” A prominent example was the late lawyer (later senator) Raul S. Roco, who was a director of industrialist Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco’s United Coconut Planters Bank.

More pronounced was the line between the old rich and the nouveaux riche. This counted in social circles. The old elite must have looked down in contempt at the less-cultured newcomers, as if wealth was made more legitimately in the good old days of smuggling, tax evasion, land grabbing, graft and corruption, illegal logging and labor exploitation. Those among the traditional elite who fared badly during the Marcos years bided their time and sharpened their knives.

Interestingly, Doherty excluded from his study one of history’s most enduring business empires, the Roman Catholic Church, which remained tax-exempt throughout and beyond the martial-law period.

To be continued

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