MANILA - Former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada is set to file a libel case against tycoon Alfonso Yuchengco on Thursday, following the latter's claim that he was forced to sell his stake in a company that had shares in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT).
"Former President Joseph Estrada, through his lawyers, will be filing a libel case against Mr. Alfonso Yuchengco tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. at the San Juan Prosecutor's Office," Margaux Salcedo, Estrada's spokesperson, said in a message to the media on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Alfonso confirmed that he was pressured to sign conveyance of his shares in Philippine Telecommunications Investment Corp. (PTIC) to Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), the local unit of Hong Kong's First Pacific Co. Ltd.
Manuel V. Pangilinan, now one of the most influential businessmen in the country, represented the foreign buyers in the deal.
"I confirm the statements made by Senator Panfilo Lacson in his privilege speech relating to my 7.75% (stake in) PTIC holdings, equivalent to 2,017,650 PLDT common shares. These shares were taken from me in 1998 through sheer intimidation and serious threat to my businesses, myself and my family," Yuchengco said in a statement.
In a privilege speech on Monday, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Estrada used the Philippine National Police to "harrass" Yuchengco by threatening to arrest his youngest son and namesake, Alfonso "Tito" Yuchengco III.
Lacson mentioned the PLDT-related transaction in 1998 in his speech to highlight how Estrada allegedly used the police for private gain back when he was president.
"The bigger and more important question remains: What was the deal in pesos and centavos between Mr. Estrada and Mr. Pangilinan, if any? Or should we rather ask, how much was involved?" Lacson said.
In a phone interview with ANC’s Top Story, Pangilinan’s counsel Rey Espinosa said the transaction with the Yuchengcos in 1998 was above board and was “commercially negotiated.”
President Estrada has also denied any involvement in the deal.
In a separate statement released Wednesday, Estrada's son and San Juan City Mayor Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito defended his father, saying that Yuchengco is merely "playing politics" so he can "get a graceful exit from millions of pesos in obligations to insurance policy holders."
"He (Yuchengco) is doing this because he wants to clear himself of liability in the insurance policy orders which the Yuchengco Group of Companies failed to honor," Ejercito said.
In 2005, a coalition of plan holders from Yuchengco's pre-need firm Pacific Plans Inc. waged an all-out war against him and his family. (Read: When Good Plans Go Bad and Lessons from the Fall). The coalition has a pending syndicated estafa case against the firm, its officials, and members of the Yuchengco family for failing to meet financial obligations to the clients.
Ejercito reiterated that Yuchengco was not coerced in giving up his interest in PLDT in favor of Pangilinan. "How can the Yuchengcos have been coerced? The truth is a premium price had been paid by Pangilinan, and PLDT was even required to maintain accounts in RCBC," he said.
"Also, if the allegations said by Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Yuchengco are true, why only now? They have had 8 years to file charges," he added.
Another Estrada son has earlier branded Lacson's allegations about his father as lies. In a privilege speech on Tuesday, Sen. Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada said Lacson is a person "who, without any qualms or any sense of decency, would smear the very person who helped him not only in his professional career, but in his own political ambitions."
The younger Estrada also scored Yuchengco for making such a claim, saying that the Senate cannot trust the word of "someone who has betrayed the trust of thousands of Pacific Plans planholders."