MANILA - After receiving the backing of President Arroyo, actress Lani Mercado has been elected to the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) board of directors, replacing former board director Silvestre Bello III.
Mercado, wife of administration Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revila Jr., said she received an offer from Malacañang to take over as executive director of the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions last year, which she declined.
She said she accepted the offer to take a seat in the SMC board since she felt she had something to offer to the conglomerate.
"When this opportunity was given to me, sabi ko 'O sige po, sa tingin ko po mas makakakayanan ko itong papel na ito.' Siguro they wanted a woman's touch in the board, a consumer's point of view in the board. Kung titignan niyo, yung mga nakaupo sa San Miguel board ay puro negosyante. Ang puso ng pagiging consumer at ang puso ng pagiging isang nanay, first and foremost, ay wala dito sa bumubuo ng San Miguel Corporation board. So probably they needed someone who had a hand in terms of the buying public," she told radio dzMM.
Mercado said it was President Arroyo who approved the request to submit her name as a possible replacement for Bello whose term as board director expired this year.
She also confirmed a report by an unnamed Presidential Commission on Good Government official that her application for the SMC board seat was approved even without her resume since Malacañang had ordered it.
The government controls about 27 percent of SMC and is authorized to name five nominees to the company's board.
Other SMC offices
Mercado said the SMC board first allowed her to sit in the board of San Miguel's Hong Kong office, then Anchor Insurance and finally, a packaging company, last year before she was nominated to the main board of San Miguel.
According to the SMC website, the other members of the board are Estelito Mendoza, Iñigo Zobel, Winston Garcia, Menardo Jimenez, Leo Alvez, Egmidio de Silva Jose, Pacifico Fajardo, Koichi Matsuzawa, Hirotake Kobayashi, Hector Hofileña, Carmelo Santiago and Keisuke Nishimura. Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr. is listed as Chairman and CEO of SMC while Ramon Ang is listed as SMC President and COO.
Mercado admitted that it is her first time to work in a company as big as San Miguel, adding that she is counting on the more experienced members of the board to help her. She added, however, that she will bring her knowledge in marketing and placement in tri-media to the board as well as give her opinions on SMC's products.
"I myself am overwhelmed by the position being given me. I know that the other members of the board are more experienced. Imagine, we have people like Winston Garcia of GSIS and Menardo Jimenez, my former boss in GMA-7. Ang experiensya nila kumpara sa akin wala po ako sa kalingkingan nila, inaamin po natin yon. Pero sa tiwala na siguro nakita nila noong nagtrabaho ako while I was waiting for the appointment for a year or so, siguro nakita nila yung competence at pagti-tiyaga ko attending the board meetings of the three companies that they gave me as director," she said.
On SMC perks
Asked about the perks that she will receive as a director of one of the biggest companies in the Philippines, Mercado said she has yet to receive any perks from San Miguel. She also said she will not quit showbiz to focus on her new job and hinted that she is considering entering politics in next year's polls.
"Ang nakikita ko dito - it is a title. That's why I still work in show business. This is not work that can sustain someone. I think it's a privilege and I haven't yet felt those perks that you mentioned. Para tilang wala naman hong ganon," she said.
She also assured SMC stockholders that she will work hard in her new position and urged detractors to give her a chance to prove her worth.
"I believe the President will not place me in a position if she did not have faith in my abilities. If you feel that I am not qualified, you are entitled to your opinion. Give me a chance to prove myself," she said.
Acting Executive Secretary Gabriel Claudio has defended Mercado's appointment, saying that SMC stockholders voted her into the position. "I hate to invoke this but really, that's the prerogative of the President," Claudio said about Mercado's appointment.