The saga of Ted Borlongan
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas () - May 21, 2005 - 12:00am
Forty-one days ago, Ted Borlongan shot himself at the Loyola Memorial Park in Quezon City. His death caused no small amount of wonderment and regret among his friends and admirers. His family – wife Dolly and four children – Jonathan, Christopher, Kathy and Stephie – were shocked, were inconsolable.

What a waste that a bright young man – he was going to turn 50 just days after his death – would put an end to his life. He was an Outstanding Young Men Awardee in banking in 1995, and had attended Ateneo de Manila from prep to college as an honor student, and had finished AB, major in economics, cum laude. He was quiet and unassuming, and valued integrity and a good name, virtues that he had hoped he would leave as a legacy to his children.

At Ted’s necrological services, Dolly related the events that led to Ted’s decision to end his life. Never did she believe that Ted would leave this world in such a manner. "I wish I could have done something to prevent it," she said.

Ted had been president of Urban Bank, Inc. (UBI) which was closed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas on April 26, 2000. From my reading of a decision of the Court of Appeals pertaining to UBI’s closure, interbank lendings had taken place between UBI and the Lank Bank of the Philippines, and promissory notes which were in the possession of UBI were delivered by the National Food Authority to the Land Bank of the Philippines; Ted complained that the delivery of the promissory notes was irregular and unduly favored LBP over other UBI creditors. Ted filed cases against persons involved in the transaction, but the courts denied all of these.

Life was never the same again for the Borlongan family since UBI’s closure. "Our world turned upside down. Ted was stripped of honor, his name badly maligned. The negative publicity further dampened his spirit." BSP Governor Rafael Buenaventura promised him the bank would reopen in 30 days. "Ted trusted his word." But Urban Bank was never reopened.

"Thus started Ted’s struggle to defend the bank, to defend the Urban Bank family, to defend his honor and to defend his name," said Dolly. No one among UBI’s directors came forward to help him in the struggle. Dolly said, "Ted stood alone. He approached politicians, wanting to be heard, but he was ignored. We were like a plague avoided, crucified, and wrongly judged by others. Three days after the bank was closed, someone even returned an Urban bank check issued by Ted as a gift in January 2000 with a request for a replacement check."

Ted told Dolly "to take charge of our children because he would be busy fighting. He had to defend his name for it (would be) the only legacy he can now leave our children.

"Our children were devastated. They too lost their name. They were bullied in school, told that their father would die since the penalty for economic sabotage was death."

The couple moved Jonathan to Ateneo Cagayan de Oro at the opening of the school year to live with a foster family Dolly never even knew till then "to protect him from the negative effects of the bank closure." Christopher was moved to La Salle Greenhills.

The separation of the two brothers "wreaked havoc on their lives. At a young age of 15, Jonathan got separated from us, traumatized at being left alone in Cagayan de Oro, so far from home."

After high school, Kathy was the recipient of a youth foreign exchange scholarship program in Japan. But four months later, in June 2001, Kathy returned home and did not finish her program. At the same time, Jonathan threatened to kill himself if Dolly did not bring him back home. So both Kathy and Jon came home at the same time.

Ted did not approve of Jon’s decision, and took him back to Cagayan de Oro to study there for the next two years to finish his high school.

Kathy studied in Ateneo de Manila, taking up interdisciplinary studies. In July 2003, against Ted’s wishes, she ran away to Paris, having been accepted at Sorbonne University. A friend paid for her ticket, but to augment her parent’s financial support, she worked part-time as a waitress and bartender from 6 at night to 3 in the morning. She came home for her father’s funeral. She is back in Paris, studying at Bordeaux University, where expenses are lower, and does part-time modeling jobs.

Stephie is under the gentle guidance of a counselor at Poveda. She struggled with her emotions, Dolly said, and barely passed the school year.

Ted filed a case with the Ombudsman against Governor Rafael Buenaventura "for wrongful closure of Urban Bank." Ted and the ten other officials accused of economic sabotage were threatened with imprisonment if Ted did not drop the case he filed. "Ted stood his ground and refused to be coerced, telling his 10 co-accused to go into hiding, but he will be the one to go to prison. Not even the help of Dolly’s uncle, Sen. Fred Lim, who was then secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, got Ted out of his fix. Families of the ten other accused bank officers, as well as Dolly, begged Ted to drop the cases. But Ted remained steadfast, until the decision of the Supreme Court – the last stop in Ted’s struggle to clear his name.

Case after case was filed against Ted – single borrower’s limit, estafa, economic sabotage and various others – for the persons responsible for UBI’s closure to be proven right in closing the bank.

On March 4, 2005, at 12:15 p.m., Dolly recalled, Ted received an e-mail, which said, "Ted, please stop sending the egroup updates of your personal crap. A majority of us know you’re guilty as sin. Don’t bother salvaging your honor because you never had any to start with. Just return the billions you stole.’

"This aggravated Ted’s already broken spirit. From the time Urban Bank reopened as Export Bank, the depositors were given a three-year payment scheme and the depositors received the last payment last September 2004, which only proves that the charge that billions had been stolen is not true.

"Ted told me that if the last case, the 5th case, which he filed in the Supreme Court was again dismissed, then the battle was over. All would be lost. He said, ‘they will not stop until they put me in prison to cover up the wrongdoing they did in closing the bank. It will be a free-for-all, they will take away everything.’ He shivered, and said it was scary.

"True enough, the fifth case was again dismissed by the Supreme Court. Ted filed his memorandum appealing for reconsideration, but he lost all hope of ever winning it."

For the past five years since the bank closed, the fear of Ted taking his own life loomed over the family’s heads, said Dolly. "Seeing him depressed was a common scene in our home. We became the brunt of his frustrations. Each of us sought our own shelters, trying not to aggravate our already tense relations. Ted was a loving and caring husband, but beset by so many problems. He was eaten up by the financial crisis we were facing as a result of the bank closure, and his not having been able to work for the past five years.

"The legal fees and day-to-day expenses were eating up our savings. He was afraid that eventually, he would not be able to provide for us. We were not equipped to handle this crises in our lives."

Ted and Dolly were married in 1981. Dolly is a marketing graduate of St. Paul’s College. Both of them have Chinese ancestry.

For some time before his death, Ted prepared his family for a future without him. He prepared the family budget and expenses, organized Dolly’s kitchen, cleared his things, disposed of trash and gave away some things. He even gave their pet dog a bath. The day before he went, he took his family to a lunch and a movie.

Looking back, Dolly realized that Ted took his life "not because he was depressed or frustrated. He didn’t take his life to save himself, but to protect us from his losing battle in the Supreme Court… Our only consolation is that Ted did it because he loved our children, and he loved me so much."
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