Garcia kin are stakeholders in 2nd largest electric utility
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers today scored Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) President and General Manager Winston Garcia for failing to publicly disclose his family’s involvement in the Visayan Electric Company (VECO), the second largest private electric utility in the country.
Garcia is leading what many see as a government bid to take control of Meralco, the country’s largest private electric utility. GSIS holds a 22 percent stake in the company, which is owned by the Lopez family.
“While Winston Garcia has been gaining media mileage by criticizing the lack of transparency in the management of Meralco, he himself is guilty of the same,” said ACT chairperson Antonio Tinio. “Worse, he’s deceiving the public by presenting himself as a disinterested party whose only concern is to lower Meralco’s power rates when, in fact, his family has a vested interest in VECO, whose owners could stand to gain if the Meralco franchise is broken up. His populist rhetoric is a mere cover-up for corporate raiding for the benefit of the Arroyo administration’ s allies and cronies.”
“What we find unacceptable is that he’s using the pension funds of state workers to do it,” added Tinio. Public school teachers make up one-third of GSIS’s 1.6 million members. Since 2003, there has been widespread disgruntlement among GSIS members sparked by new policies introduced by Garcia, such as the premium-based policy. According to ACT, such policies unlawfully deprive members of their full benefits.
Tinio disclosed that prominent members of the Garcia clan are closely linked to the Aboitiz-owned VECO, which holds the franchise to distribute electricity in the Metro Cebu area. “Garcia’s uncle, Jesus Garcia, Sr., used to be the legal counsel of VECO. Then Jesus Garcia, Jr., Winston’s cousin took his turn. Currently, Jesus Garcia, Jr.’s nephew, Jess Anthony N. Garcia, serves as VECO’s legal counsel.”
“More importantly, these Garcias have held at least one seat on the Board of Directors of Vivant Corporation, listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange as a holding company for VECO. Jess Anthony N. Garcia currently serves as the Corporate Investment Officer and Secretary of Vivant.”
Tinio clarified that there are two sets of Garcias in the Vivant board. “Winston and his kin are not related to the Garcias of Spanish descent who dominate the Vivant board.”
“It’s highly improper for Winston Garcia to be using our pension funds to advance the vested interests of his own family as well as those of his business and political allies,” said Tinio. “But he’s done it before.”
He noted that in 2004, Garcia withdrew the GSIS’s multibillion peso accounts from the state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines and designated Union Bank as its depository bank. Soon after, Garcia awarded the multimillion peso contract for the GSIS E-Card project to Union Bank as well. The Commission on Audit has declared the awarding of the E-Card contract to be “illegal and violative of law.” Union Bank is also owned by the Aboitiz family.
“Clearly, Winston Garcia has a track record of using his position in GSIS to serve the interests of the Aboitiz group,” said Tinio. “His current moves regarding Meralco should be seen in this light.” The Aboitizes own extensive interests in power generation and distribution, banking, and shipping, and are known to be staunch supporters of the Arroyo administration. #
ALLIANCE OF CONCERNED TEACHERS
2/F Teachers’ Center, Mines St. cor. Dipolog St. , Bgy. VASRA, Quezon City , Philippines
Telefax 453-9116 Mobile 0920-9220817 Email act_philippines@ yahoo.com Website http://www.actphils. com
Member, Education International
May 15, 2008
Reference: Antonio L. Tinio (0920-9220817)