Who’s the ‘Happiest Pinoy’?

SPYBITS - The Philippine Star

Our good friend, Philippine Ambassador to Portugal Philippe Lhuillier, sent us an invitation for the awarding ceremonies of Cebuana Lhuillier’s “2015 Search for the Happiest Pinoy” to be held this Thursday at the Grand Ballroom of Solaire Resort and Casino. According to Ambassador Lhuillier, the search is a nationwide campaign that was launched back in 2009 to encourage Filipinos to look at life with optimism, as well as rekindle the value of resilience and spark hope even in the midst of crisis.

The search generated over 280,000 nominees from which 10 finalists were selected, and the winner – who will be announced during the ceremonies on Thursday – will definitely be the happiest with the P1 million cash prize to be given. It must have been tough for the judges to select because all of the finalists have gone through daunting experiences, and yet they managed to maintain a positive outlook and rise above the challenges that life threw their way – even positively impacting the lives of fellow Filipinos.

Among the nominees is a cellphone repair technician from Batangas who could not walk since he was a child, but he did not let it stop him from earning a living – eventually enrolling in a vocational school where he learned how to repair cellphones and even sent some siblings to school. Another is a 78-year-old retired teacher who has been fending for herself since she was 11, working as a helper and vendor to put herself through school. Then there’s an “architect on wheels” – who suffered from an accident when he was five years old that left him unable to walk. Undaunted, he pursued his dream of building houses and even obtained a master’s degree in architecture, and he now uses his education and talent to help build permanent homes for the displaced victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

Those who know Ambassador Lhuillier are not really surprised why the “Search for the Happiest Pinoy” was launched by Cebuana Lhuillier because the 70-year-old diplomat, who serves as chairman of the country’s largest pawnshop chain, is known to have a soft spot for ordinary Filipinos, especially overseas Filipino workers. When he became ambassador to Italy – where he served for 11 years from 1999 to 2010 – he was well-loved and respected by the Filipino community.

He is known as a very hands-on diplomat who would have a list of to-do items on the board for the embassy staff to see and accomplish. During his stint in Italy, he received numerous awards and accolades for his excellent work in fostering closer ties between the Philippines and Italy, even receiving the Ordine Della Stella Solidarieta Italiana award by the Italian government which I’m told is the highest award given to foreigners.

Although the Filipino community in Portugal is small compared to other countries, Ambassador Lhuillier took it as a challenge to increase the awareness of the Portuguese about the Philippines. In fact, he lost no time in proposing a sister city agreement between Cebu and Sabrosa, the city where Ferdinand Magellan was born.

The Cebu-Sabrosa sister city pact – signed in November last year – is part of a bigger project called the “Magellan cities” that will trace the route of the Portuguese explorer during his circumnavigation of the globe, whose 500th anniversary will be commemorated in 2021. 

Toshiba rocked by accounting scandal

Toshiba Corp. was one of the biggest suppliers of TV equipment such as cameras and switchers and was a big competitor of such companies as RCA. Over the years, it became a household name for electronic appliances and office equipment and grew into one of Japan’s biggest conglomerates with diverse interests in almost everything from laptops and iPhone parts to power line installations down to nuclear reactors.

Last May, Toshiba became embroiled in what is now being described as the biggest accounting scandal in the last four years by inflating its profits by at least $1.2 billion primarily for its semiconductor and nuclear divisions.  (In 2011, Olympus was found to have committed accounting fraud for over a decade by padding the salaries of consultants and jacking up the amounts for corporate takeovers to hide its losses).

Apparently, Toshiba has been playing with the figures for seven years, with the top executives reportedly putting excessive pressure on underlings to meet unachievable sales targets in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008. The discovery resulted in the resignation of the company president as well as several directors. Interestingly, two of the executives who resigned were known for their active dislike of each other, and apparently, their respective divisions have been pushing employees to “advance” sales or postpone the recording of losses.

A corresponding slump in shares came in the wake of the scandal, while international credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s also downgraded its BBB stable bond rating for Toshiba to negative – the second lowest investment grade – following the revelation of the accounting irregularities. Those in the know also point to failure (if not sloppy work) in internal auditing practices as a reason why the inflated profits were not detected earlier.  According to reports, the internal auditors were neither capable nor independent – which puts focus on the problem of getting competent auditors because of the relatively low pay from publicly listed Japanese companies.

In any case, Toshiba’s interim CEO has apologized for the company and it looks like the storm is passing judging from reports the company’s share prices have jumped to over four percent, and a buy recommendation has been issued on Toshiba’s bonds. According to analysts, the company will probably try to recoup its $318 million losses from last year till March by selling some assets and concentrating on its nuclear reactor business.


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