In This Issue
OCT - DEC 2000
VOL. VI   NO. 4

Featured Sections

  S P E C I A L     R E P O R T   —   T H E    C O M P A N Y    H E    K E E P S

  • Dante Tan hails from the same town as Estrada does: He is a long-time resident of A. Lake St. in San Juan. Tan comes from a wealthy family and came into his inheritance, placed at about P20 million, in the late 1960s when he was barely out of his teens. His buddies included George Go of Equitable Bank.

    Dante TanFriends say he was a gambler even in his youth and was a frequent habitué at mah-jongg joints in Ermita.

    Tan became a small-time distributor of auto supplies parts, selling the items mostly to auto supplies stores on Banawe St., Quezon City. In 1992, with financial backing of friends, he formed Right Track Corp., which became the exclusive distributor of Gajah Tunggal radial tires from Malaysia. In the years to follow, he formed First Megatrack Corp. and Rightrack Insurance Agency Inc.

    Right Track Corp. is now under investigation for using tax credit certificates of textile firms to skirt the payment of customs duties of importation of tires worth $3.5 million.

    Tan is also being investigated for insider trading and manipulating the price of BW Resources to surge by more than 4,000 percent to its peak in October 1999. Tan and his partners formed BW Resources Corp. in 1998. The firm won the online bingo franchise from PAGCOR, supposedly upon the intercession of President Estrada, who was later accused by former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chief Perfecto Yasay of unduly intervening in the investigation of BW.

    Tan loves to tell friends that he was one of the first Chinese Filipinos to have bet on Estrada's presidential bid, and had been delivering funds long before May 1998. He was listed as a contributor to Estrada's presidential campaign.

  • Jacinto Ng Sr. is said to be one of the people closest to Estrada, although he is not a member of the Midnight Cabinet. Just like Lucio Tan, Ng's friendship with the President dates back to when Estrada was still mayor of San Juan. But unlike the selectively shy kapitan, Ng was officially listed as one of Estrada's campaign contributors.

    Ng has interests in Asia United Bank, iVantage Corp., Belle Resources Corp., Republic Biscuit Co., Stateline Snack Food Corp., Nutritive Snack Food Corp., Extraordinary Development Corp., Manila Bay Development Corp., Far East Timberland and Plywood Corp., Suncrest Food Corp., and Ciudad Nuevo, among others.

    But more interesting is the fact that he seems to be so trusted by Estrada that he has connections to at least three of the President's households. For instance, Ng has stood as ninong at the wedding of Jinggoy Estrada, the President and First Lady's eldest, and at the baptismal of Jacob Ejercito, the President's son by Laarni Enriquez.

    Ng is also a business partner of JV Ejercito at Foremost Credit Resources Inc.

    In 1993, Ng bought the property at 771 Harvard St. in Wack-Wack, Mandaluyong, where Enriquez moved into in the mid-1990s. He sold the property in 1998 to Co's FVC.

    In 1998, Ng's group bought KB Space Holdings Inc. from the Roxas-Chua family, which held the title to the property at 796-798 Harvard St., also in Wack-Wack. The group then bought the adjoining property at 800 Harvard St. A luxurious mansion, supposedly intended for Enriquez, has since risen on this 5,000-square-meter lot.

    Ng also owns the property in Malabon where the eight-story Star J Mall is located. The mall is managed by Enriquez's Star-J Management Corp.

  • Luis 'Baby' Asistio is now a congressman representing the 2nd district of Caloocan City. But he had first gained notoriety in the 1960s when he was the leader of the "Big Four Gang," a group of young men from Caloocan and Malabon who ended up being charged with various crimes. In their heyday, the Big Four members liked brandishing guns and acting like Mafiosi, and were feared on the nightclub strip in what was then Dewey (now Roxas) Boulevard.

    Asistio was among those accused in the December 1962 kidnapping-for-ransom of a certain Chua Pao. A co-accused, Benigno Urquico, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, but was granted absolute pardon by Estrada in December last year without the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Parole. Urquico applied for pardon on Asistio's advice.

    Asistio belongs to a political clan founded by his father Macario Sr., a well-known athlete and Manila policeman who became mayor of Caloocan from 1951 to 1971. The congressman's brother Macario 'Boy' Jr. was a three-term mayor of the city, while sister Aurora Asistio-Henson represented the 1st district of Caloocan in Congress.

    A partymate of the President and a horseracing aficionado, Asistio is said have been instrumental in getting many people appointed in government, including a special friend, Mariles Cacho Romulo, who was named to the board of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. and Century Bank in California.

    He has also been identified as one of the President's friends who obtained P2 million from the President's Social Fund for two projects in Caloocan City without prior approval of the board of directors of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. Estrada wrote his approval on the margin of Asistio's letter, which was coursed through Leonora Vasquez-De Jesus, then chief of the Presidential Management Staff and a close friend of Asistio.

    Members of Asistio's family have also been busy. Last April, Asistio's son, Luis 'Peting' Asistio III, was charged with drug trafficking and direct assault when he was caught with 106.15 grams of shabu in a drug bust in Caloocan City.

    His brother Macario Asistio, meanwhile, was linked early last year to a syndicate of textbook publishers who tried to corner a P200-million contract and sent one of its agents, Mary Ann Maslog, with a P3 million bribe to the Department of Budget and Management. Laarni Enriquez was also linked to the syndicate. She and Asistio's former live-in partner, singer Djoanna Garcia, are good friends.

  • Mark Jimenez, born Mario B. Crespo, is among the President's more constant goodtime companions. A shadowy businessman who is wanted in the United States for mail fraud, conspiracy, tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions, Jimenez was hailed by Estrada as a "corporate genius," and even became a presidential adviser on Latin American affairs until the United States government sought his extradition. The Supreme Court recently paved the way for extradition proceedings against him to continue.

    Mark JimenezBefore he relocated to the United States in the 1980s, Crespo was among the accused in an estafa case filed by Globe-Mackay Cable and Radio Corp. primarily against his brokerage firm, Atrium Airfreight. Apparently, though, Jimenez made good in many of the businesses he set up abroad, before he ran afoul of the law once more. His companies overseas include Future Tech International, a computer distribution company based in Miami, MarkVision Inc., with headquarters at the British Virgin Islands, and Kalisol, S.A., an Uruguay-based marketing firm.

    Jimenez supported former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa in the 1998 polls but, through businessman Manny Zamora, befriended Estrada when the latter assumed the presidency. Jimenez, a mean karaoke singer, soon moved smoothly into Estrada's inner circle of friends and brokered the sale of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. to the group of Manuel Pangilinan and PCI Bank to Equitable Bank, from which he supposedly turned a neat profit.

    Jimenez is now the publisher of the Manila Times, the paper that had earned Estrada's wrath last year for saying he was an "unwitting ninong" to an "irregular" deal struck by the National Power Corporation with an Argentinian firm. The Times was then owned by the Gokongwei family, which, months later, was apparently forced to sell the paper to people believed to be fronts for Jimenez, who unsurprisingly denied such an arrangement. Today, he also writes a column for his paper thrice a week.

  • Jaime Dichaves, who claims to have known Estrada for at least 10 years, has described himself as one of the President's "errand boys." He is also known as the Chief Executive's red wine buddy (for supplying Estrada with his $1,000-a-bottle Petrus) and advance party at Tagaytay Highlands whenever Estrada goes there (nearly every weekend).

    Along with Ng, the 44-year-old Dichaves is one of the directors of Belle Corp., the publicly listed property and gaming company that owns the members-only Tagaytay Highlands resort where Estrada is said to have at least three vacation houses.

    Dichaves is also a business partner of Laarni Enriquez in Star J Bingo and Star J Games. He is president of the homeowners association at Corinthian Gardens in Quezon City, where presidential daughter Jackie lives with husband Manuel 'Beaver' Lopez in a mansion that the President gifted them during their wedding.

    When he is not attending to the President or members of the extended Estrada family, Dichaves attends to his duties as president of Plasterglass Manufacturing Inc., which makes plasterglass sheets, cornices, moldings and center panels. He is head as well of the Philippine National Basketball Academy and vice president for Luzon of the Basketball Association of the Philippines.

    In September 1999, Dichaves was also dubbed "King of Subic" for allegedly smuggling cigarettes, chicken and other products through the Subic Bay Freeport, purportedly with help from broker Johnny Sy, a partner of Dichaves in Kinetric Realty Inc. and who was ranked second on Malacanang's list of 14 suspected smugglers. He has denied the allegation.

    But that has not been the only controversy Dichaves has found himself in. Recently, Rep. Ernesto Herrera wrote to the Senate blue ribbon committee, naming Dichaves as Estrada's "tong collector" at the National Telecommunication Commission. The businessman is said to have collected millions of pesos in "tong" for giving his imprimatur to applications of telecommunications and television and radio broadcast companies for provisional authority and additional frequencies.

    Dichaves is also suspected of having engineered the ouster of two other Estrada supporters, Ronaldo Salonga and Benito Araneta, from the sequestered Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. and putting his nominee, Pacifico Marcelo III, on the board. Marcelo is consultant of Dialogue Communications, a telecom trading firm owned by Dichaves.

  • Jose Luis 'Sel' Yulo, a member of one of the country's wealthiest landowning families, was a Palace perennial during the first two years of the Estrada administration. But it was not until October last year that Yulo caused controversy after the President named him chair of the Presidential Commission on Mass Housing and presidential adviser on housing—without the courtesy of first notifying Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council head Karina David that she was, essentially, being replaced.

    Yulo's appointment came just two weeks after his newly incorporated firm, St. Peter Holdings Corp., bought a 7,000-square-meter property at 100 11th Street in New Manila, Quezon City from the Madrigals on behalf of Estrada. But he would not last even a month in government. He resigned after the Manila Times, which had by then been acquired by Mark Jimenez, reported that he was facing lawsuits for issuing bouncing checks and not paying credit card bills.

    Known as his family's "black sheep," Yulo was virtually cut off from his father's will (he inherited only some of his father's personal jewelry) and is suing his mother who has been named administrator of the estate. Although he describes himself as a real estate developer, he does not appear to have established any track record in the business.

    What the bearded, avuncular real estate developer became known for within the Estrada circle at least, was his good singing voice. He was a must in Malacañang parties, where he was jokingly referred to as "Pavarotti."

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