Replacement assassins
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - June 24, 2019 - 12:00am

During my training courses for media engagement, communications, or crisis management, one topic I always introduce is the one on “REPLACEMENT ASSASSINS.” If you cannot directly expose, criticize or even attack an individual then you tap the Replacement Assassin.

This is a tool I teach the good guys: people in business and especially those in government who have critics or enemies or culprits they would like to expose but cannot by virtue of their position or sensitive situation. By “Replacement Assassin,” I mean going to someone in media whom you completely trust, who has integrity, and shares your concerns about a situation or character and is willing to take up the cudgels for you.

Unfortunately for every morally upright or “good” Replacement Assassin there are many more “Hit Men” or public relations operators with a stable of AC/DC (attack and collect/ defend and collect) agents. The only good bone in these hired guns is that they observe “Professional Courtesy.” Some give a head’s up or indirectly confirm that they have been engaged or contacted by a PR operator. Some turn down the request by saying “they already have a commitment”. Once in a while the more ethical ones actually cross-check or verify if the attack is justifiable, valid or not. If they discover that the job is “wicked” or “evil” they even share the information to the clueless target or their staff.

This recently happened when columnists checked out a story they were being fed by a PR or public relations operator. The job was to dish out stories suggesting that San Miguel Corp. was a delinquent business partner of the PSALM or the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. because SMC continues to refuse or recognize an assessment of the DOF/PSALM that has been legally contested by SMC and is being heard by the courts. In much the same style, a couple of columnists and PR operators have shared with industry associates that there is a move from a certain group to link businessman Ramon Ang of SMC with the Speakership race by suggesting that he is funding the bidding war for Speaker by proxy in order to control Congress by “owning” the future Speaker. From the looks and sound of it, the intention is to ruin the image of SMC and Ramon Ang or demonize both, the same way Lucio Tan and another newspaper group were.

The intrigue or insinuation is clearly meant to create political enemies for Ramon Ang and to paint him out as a lobbyist or influencer in order to get him into trouble with the current administration, perhaps even with President Duterte. Unfortunately, politics has never been Ang’s cup of tea even during the time when SMC chairman Danding Cojuangco was actively at the helm of his own political party the NPC or Nationalist People’s Coalition. Politics has never been part of the formula that made Ramon Ang one of the country’s top CEOs. Instead, he has relied on solid research and investigation, pioneering and unsolicited ventures with government and always using the “Tsinoy” style of business. A high ranking government official recently told me: “The difference with RSA is that he builds a lot of business units and charges the public much cheaper rates than the other conglomerates or corporations. His profit margins are small but he makes a lot of money through sheer volume.”

But why target Ang and San Miguel Corp.? Is it possible that their business competitors are now seriously feeling the threat that Ang and SMC pose as the proposed San Miguel Bulacan Airport nears the end of its Swiss Challenge and begins construction?  The NAIA consortium has yet to see daylight with their NAIA renovation project and could end up being outpaced by San Miguel. Ramon Ang could complete the ideal world-class international airport in six years while the consortium plods slowly trying to acquire hundreds of Rights of Way at NAIA that could take a total of 10 years. As far as politics and government projects are concerned it is possible that investors in Clark are no longer so sure about their advantage and head-start in spite of efforts to challenge or oppose the construction of the SMC Bulacan Airport. Having failed to shoot down the SMC proposal early on, are there now other efforts being undertaken to block San Miguel by demonizing the corporation and Ramon Ang? It certainly looks like it.

The minute investors and business groups get confirmation that the SMC Bulacan airport project is a definite go, the momentum of business and investment in Clark and around it will surely slow down and those who have not gone to Clark might all end up going to Bulacan for obvious reasons. The SMC Bulacan project is more than just an airport, it is designed to be the future Metropolis of the Philippines more modern than BGC and Makati put together featuring the best in terms of infrastructure, townships, business centers, centers of education and probably government. Remember that many international bodies and urban architects as well as the President have said that Metro Manila is a dying city and that is what San Miguel Corp. is preparing for, something modern, something world class! When that happens “The old has gone, the new is here” (2Corinthians 5:17). That is what mercenaries are trying to prevent.

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