Victims cry foul
HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes (The Philippine Star) - May 31, 2020 - 12:00am

Last year, officers of brokerage firm DW Capital Inc. (DWCI) were charged before the Cebu Regional Trial Court of syndicated estafa for conspiring to defraud several individuals and inducing them to invest in the buying and selling of shares of stocks in various corporations under the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Included in the charge are DWCI chief financial officer Wong Chung Yin aka David Wong, who is said to be the patriarch of the Wong family, his son Davidson Wong, Derick Wong, Derwin Wong, Dianne Wong, several other officials or employees of DWCI, and four other John Does.

Davidson, treasurer and stockholder of DWCI, was caught in Madrid, Spain last January while his brother Derwin have been arrested April last year. The others are still at large. Authorities believe that David Wong is hiding in Taiwan.

The syndicated estafa case was filed by Valerie Gaisano-Sebastian, daughter of business tycoon Edmund Gaisano Sr., over alleged unauthorized sale of shares of stocks that she owns valued at P24 million. According to reports, DWCI also managed to swindle other clients for amounts totaling as much as P3.2 billion.

News reports quoted Valerie as stating in her complaint that after her sister Eda married Derwin, the stock trader encouraged the Cebu-based Gaisano family members to invest in stocks. Valerie said they entrusted their shares to Derwin and then later found out that her shares of stocks were sold by DWCI without her knowledge and consent.

In 2017, the Philippine Stock Exchange suspended the trading activities of DWCI for unauthorized trading of securities worth P2.6 billion.

Meanwhile, the victims are now complaining that the Wong family wants the cases transferred from Cebu to Metro Manila and they fear that the money that have been stolen from them might be used by the accused to buy their way out of jail.

Stern warning

The Philippines may learn a lesson or two from Italy in so far as dealing with China is concerned.

There is no doubt that China’s presence in major aspects of Philippine business has grown by leaps and bounds during the Duterte administration, not to mention China’s reported encroachment into Philippine territory specifically in the West Philippine Sea.

Whether it be via the increasing number of Chinese-owned offshore gaming operations in the Philippines, or as partner in the country’s power grid and in the third telecommunications company allowed to operate here, China’s increasing presence here has become a cause for concern for many, including a number of our legislators.

And then there is this matter of the Philippine government refusing to stop flights from China from coming in when all other countries have banned flights from the source of the coronavirus until it was too late. And for what? Because China is our friend?

According to press reports, one year after Italy signed up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative which promised huge benefits for those who would join, these promises have yet to materialize. And because of this, relations between Italy and China have started to sour.

Trade deficit with China has widened for Italy last year to as much as $20 billion while Italian exports to China dropped 6.1 percent last year alone.

An article published online in The Diplomat noted that in March last year, Italy became an official member of the Belt and Road Initiative and was the first G-7 country to join the Chinese program. It noted that “Italy represents one of the most important countries for China’s geo-economic interests in Europe, being a source of strategic assets both in advanced and traditional industries and internationally recognized brands and technology. Getting access to Italy’s port infrastructure is a priority for China as it seeks to expand its trading routes from the Mediterranean to northern Europe.”

Unfortunately, the anticipated economic boost for Italy has yet to materialize.

It noted that Italy was hoping that membership in the BRI would open new opportunities in trade and investment. However, overall trade levels between Italy and China have barely changed since 2010 and the bad news is that the trade deficit for Italy has been continuously increasing. In 2019, China was the third largest import partner for Italy, providing more than seven percent of its imports, and the ninth biggest export partner, while receiving just 2.9 percent of Italian exports, mainly in electronic equipment and machinery.

However, in recent years, investment has been disappointing. The article mentioned that Italy has failed to attract many projects last year, although 29 deals were signed amounting to $2.8 billion. And while Huawei had announced in July 2019 a $3.1 billion investment plan over the next three years, the article said that the Italian government has since hardened its stance on China’s human rights records and on restricting Huawei technology access to 5G data networks. The intelligence and security committee of the Italian parliament recommended that the government “very seriously” consider banning Huawei and other Chinese equipment suppliers from Italy’s 5G mobile networks.

In another article, Italian author Giacomino Nicolazzo said former prime minister Matteo Renzi’s government has allowed China to get away with purchases and acquisitions in violation of Italian laws and European Union trade agreements with the United States and the United Kingdom. By the time Renzi left office in 2016, Chinese acquisitions had exceeded €52 billion and China owned more than 300 companies representing 27 percent of the major Italian firms.

Nicolazzo also revealed that the Bank of China now owns five major banks in Italy, all of which had been secretly and illegally propped up by Renzi using pilfered pension funds. He claimed soon after, the China Milan Equity Exchange was opened and much of Italy’s wealth was being funneled back to the Chinese mainland.

He added that Chinese state entities own Italy’s major telecommunication corporation (Telecom Italia) as well as its major utilities (ENI and ENEL) and national power grid. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Nicolazzo emphasized that this should be a warning to the world that “while we work to rid ourselves of the virus, we should just as vehemently endeavor to rid ourselves of any government that circumvents the Constitution and ignores the laws of the land.”

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who chairs the Senate committee on national defense and security, earlier said he received unverified information that 2,000 to 3,000 members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army are in the country on immersion missions and other unknown purposes. Some published reports say they have entered either as tourists or POGO workers.

Italy’s opposition leader Matteo Salvini, who has accused Chinese authorities of engineering new viruses in their laboratories to spring on the world, has warned that while trade agreements, friendship and cultural relations are fine, handing over the keys of our home to Chinese companies, which depend on the state is not.

For his part, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas cautioned that if some countries “think they can do clever deals with the Chinese, they will come down to earth with a bump.”

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