Who is the businessmen's choice for president?
() - August 27, 2009 - 12:00am

A leader in the business community called me up the other night to tell me about the informal survey he made from top businessmen he knew, many of whom are usually tapped as contributors to politicians from senator up.

The most resounding choice from that informal survey turned out to be Manny Villar and Mar Roxas, and the main reason is because both don’t have to rely on very big contributions since both of them have sufficient financial resources to sustain their presidential campaigns.

Manny and his wife Cynthia are the wealthiest among all legislators in the country, with a net worth of P1.046 billion in 2008. He is also number 11 on Forbes magazine’s list of the “Philippines’ 40 Richest” released in October last year. The Villars’ net worth dramatically increased after the initial public offering on their company Vista Land and Lifescapes.

Mar, on the other hand, is also very liquid with the “Cubao” empire of the Aranetas behind him. He also has a reputation for being “business-friendly” while enjoying significant support from small-income earners and the lower segment. The only problem, though, is that he continues to trail in surveys, seesawing at number four-number five, although this could change over the next couple of weeks, even months with his upcoming wedding with Korina Sanchez and if and when Noynoy Aquino finally decides whether he will be Mar’s running mate in 2010.

Manny Villar on the other hand has been quite consistent in the surveys, landing at the top spot in Pulse Asia’s latest survey, getting the nod of 25 percent of respondents, followed by former president Joseph Estrada and vice president Noli de Castro. Despite the C5 insertion controversy that continues to hound him, Villar emerged as the top choice among people in Metro Manila, Luzon and Visayas. He also came out as the frontrunner among the D and E classes, getting 25 and 23 percent, respectively.

No doubt his “infomercials” have helped him connect with the lower classes, particularly the OFWs. Aside from that, his rags-to-riches story strikes a chord among many Filipinos, having come from very humble beginnings as a squatter in Moriones, Tondo, helping his mother sell fish and shrimp in Divisoria to add to the family income. He then put himself through college in UP Diliman, where he met his wife Cynthia.

After a brief stint with SGV and the Private Development Corp., he quit to start his own gravel and sand business with an initial capital of P10,000 which he obtained from a loan. As his favorite motto goes, he developed his business with “sipag at tiyaga” and turned it into Camella and Palmera Homes, one of the biggest development corporations in Southeast Asia.

Of course, there’s no denying that his wife Cynthia has been a major factor in his success, helping him in every business venture he took on. She comes from one of the wealthiest and politically powerful families in Las Piñas – the Aguilars. Obviously, the couple has carefully planned Manny’s political future. According to a source close to the family, the Aguilars have never lost an election, and they are not about to lose this one.

As Cynthia herself had admitted, there is “no turning back for Manny” – something that even Erap Estrada, in a radio interview early yesterday, understood since Villar has already spent a lot with his infomercials. One must admit, too, that Villar is running his campaign with the same creativity he showed during his much younger days when he had a small business delivering seafood to restaurants. When the owner failed to pay, he printed out meal stubs which he sold at discounted rates to employees after persuading the owner to honor them to offset his collectibles.

This time in his official website, Villar has launched an online contest called “BDABOSS” where budding entrepreneurs are encouraged to submit a business idea with the winner given P25,000 as start-up capital. Aside from that, there are also housing and OFW helplines – but naturally, one has to register first and fill in a form with contact details. No doubt this could come in handy as a valuable and useful database for any politician.

Yesterday, Brother Mike Velarde was invited by the Management Association of the Philippines to speak on who should be the next leader of this country. Brother Mike is himself being urged by many of his followers to run, and he has indicated he might do so if certain conditions that he has previously set are met.

According to the El Shaddai leader, he wants to see a leader who would be able to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. As the lower sector of society continues to grow, the tax base especially from this sector must also be expanded because it would be difficult for government to deliver basic social services if the tax base continues to be very small – while the population from the lower sector keeps ballooning. After all, government can’t keep on relying on just a few taxpayers the whole time.

If businessmen don’t want to be squeezed for more and more taxes to support government initiatives, then they must choose a candidate who would be able to empower the poor financially and turn them into productive, tax-paying members of society.

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Email: babe_tcb@yahoo.com

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