‘Ilonggoligarchs’ 

“Democracy should be more than an argument among the rich.”

That HBO documentary on campaign contributions and political influence says it all.

Indeed, history is not just “a succession of elites,” an alternation of political parties.

People make a nation, and they should be the ones plotting the course of its destiny, its fortune path.

But socio-economic inequality has been around since the crudest organized government came into being.

Having been around for the longest time, it is likely to stay with us probably far longer.

So, how do we deal with it – a society of teeming poor – The Great Unwashed --at the bottom and just a sprinkling of the very filthy rich at the top?

We cannot duck this issue because the concentration of economic wealth to few also limits participation in the political process to a select clique motivated only by self-preservation.

Let’s admit it: Corporations are formed to advance their own interests -- and their interests only.

Corporate social responsibility is just a token expression of social conscience.  

Ped Xing is not making this up as it goes along.

Political analysts and social scientists agree that oligarchs would always exist in any society because they have self-seeking members bent on influencing decision makers and policy enforcers to protect their businesses and finances from competition and state intervention.

On the other hand, the people distrust these oligarchs because of perceptions that their wealth and political influence allow them to put their subalterns in power.

This is among the issues that catapulted Rodrigo R. Duterte to Malacañang, and his public declarations always reflected the masses’ resentment and suspicion of oligarchs out to leverage their political clout  to amass even more wealth.

Thus, the fall of a media pioneer and giant whose critical reportage of the Duterte presidency never wavered was not entirely unexpected.

Another Ilonggo oligarch never caught the radar of DU30.

The  Cacho family lost a major business it held for almost a century -- distributing electricity in Iloilo City -- when Congress did not even act on its  application for the renewal of the 25-year franchise of Panay Electric Co.

The Cachos have been in the news recently when an Ilonggo public- interest lawyer announced he would pursue an investigation into information allegedly showing that the family and the utility firm itself put up three paper companies in the Bahamas where the world’s rich stash their money in exotic tax havens like the British Virgin Islands.

Lawyer Zafiro Lauron said he found the information on following up a tip that the Cachos, specifically Luis Miguel Cacho, president and chief executive officer of PECO, had allegedly been a client of Singapore investment firm Portcullis Services Ltd. which has a subsidiary, Portcullis Trustnet (BVI) specializing on setting up companies with only a P.O. box as an address in the Bahamas, in particular the British Virgin Islands.

Of course, the Cachos and PECO vehemently denied the claim.

The family and the company insisted that “(n)either PECO nor the Cacho family has any current BVI (British Virgin Islands) investments,” saying that Lauron should seek “appropriate remedies with the appropriate forum rather than issue libelous statements to the media”.

“This is a rehashed issue that had long been disproven.  Neither PECO nor the Cacho family has any current BVI investments.  The financial records of the company and the Cacho family are open for scrutiny by the appropriate authorities.  Whatever investments the Company or family may have are all above-board and compliant with law,” the family said in a statement.

PECO lawyer Estrella Elamparo, not content with the denial, threatened Lauron with a disbarment case if he would not desist from pursuing the issue in public.

But Lauron, a 1983 law graduate of San Beda College, said he sees the frantic attempt by the Cachos to silence him as an encouragement to pursue the allegation they put up offshore accounts in the Bahamas.

He also insisted that because PECO was a company with a franchise to perform a vital public service when the offshore accounts were allegedly set up in the Bahamas tax haven, “the case is imbued with public interest which I have to follow up as part of my civic duty to always uphold the interests of my fellow Ilonggos”.

The intrepid Ilonggo lawyer found the information allegedly involving the Cachos and PECO by checking the troves of names of companies and individuals listed in documents found by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a group pursuing corruption in governments and business circles around the world.

The ICIJ is the same group that made public the so-called Panama Papers that revealed that world leaders, politicians, billionaire magnates, crime lords and embezzlers shared the same business address in the Bahamas.

Information about PECO and the Cachos, however, allegedly come from an earlier batch of documents leaked to the ICIJ contained in a computer drive that arrived in the group’s headquarters in London in 2013 called the Offshore Leaks Papers, which included details of more than 122,000 offshore companies or trusts, nearly 12,000 intermediaries (agents or “introducers”), and about 130,000 records on the people and agents who run, own, benefit from or hide behind offshore companies.

In the so-called Offshore Leaks Papers (https://offshoreleaks.icij.org/) were thousands of documents listing the paper companies that were registered in the BVI in Bahamas by the Portcullis TrustNet Fund Services Ltd., a company owned by Singapore-based Portcullis Services Pte. Limited.

The documents from the ICIJ (https://offshoreleaks.icij.org/nodes/293428) showed that Luis Miguel Cacho, the patriarch of the clan and currently PECO chief executive officer, allegedly  registered a company called the Costa Group Investments Ltd on April 11, 2000, with an address listed as Portcullis Trustnet Chambers, PO Box 3444 Road Town Tortola, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS.

Lauron claims Portcullis helped PECO, Luis Miguel, and his father, the late Jose Maria E. Cacho, register two more offshore companies in September and October 2000. These are the Prime Rose Technology (https://offshoreleaks.icij.org/nodes/132989) and Mega International Services.

The lawyer said  he is asking the Anti-Money Laundering Council to look into the matter.

The ball is in your court, AMLC. Astonish us!

Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.

Pause and pray, people.