Dirty politics mars the PCCI

THE CORNER ORACLE - Andrew J. Masigan - The Philippine Star

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) is the country’s biggest business organization with some 1,900 members across the archipelago. Its members are comprised of small, medium and large corporations, the majority of whom represent the key industries of the country. So influential is the PCCI that it is referred to by government when contemplating new laws and/or shifts in policies. Among business organizations, the PCCI wields the most gravitas as far as policy formation is concerned.

Former Ambassador Benedicto Yujuico was PCCI’s president from 2019 to 2021 and under his baton, the PCCI participated in the formulation of E.O. 127 which allows internet connectivity without a congressional franchise, the TRAIN and CREATE Laws, the Retail Liberalization Act, the Public Service Act and many more. The PCCI collaborates with the Department of Finance for its Sulong Pilipinas Program and cooperates with foreign embassies to foster trade links and ease in investment entry.

Ambassador Yujuico’s enduring legacy, however, is a state of the art Innovation Center which he built in 2019. Located in the MOA district, the 1,000-square meter Innovation Center functions as a   training facility for next generation technologies including artificial intelligence, robotics and digital design. It is a fully equipped center-of-excellence with equipment provided by Huawei. Training courses are provided free of charge, the goal of which is to better capacitate Filipino IT professionals.

But there are problems within the hallowed walls of the PCCI. Although the organization boasts of 1,900 members, only 181 are in good standing. Worse, only 60 members participate on a regular basis. It has been the same people controlling the organization for years, including its powerful industry committees. Industry committees represent the various sectors of the economy including agriculture, manufacturing, electronics and mining, among others. They are whom government confers with in the formulation of policies.

The younger members of the organization and those based outside the power cradle of Metro Manila are left out and demanding greater participation. They want the cabal of old, tenured members to relinquish their stronghold over the organization and give others a chance to lead both the organization itself and the industry committees.

Ambassador Yujuico proposed several reforms including a one-term limit for the president, secretary general and treasurer and two-term limit for the directors. This was meant to diffuse the concentration of power among the old guards. He also moved to increase membership participation across regions. Unfortunately, the implementation of these reforms was interrupted by Ambassador Yujuico’s own term limit. It was hoped that the next board would carry out these reforms.

But in a manner that mirrors the filth of Philippine politics, the old tenured members are hanging on to power by ensuring that they and their appointees retain their key positions for yet another fiscal year.

The following is a narration of events based public record, the complaint filed by Ambassador Yujuico and member Jesus Varela before the regional trial court of Taguig.

In a meeting last September at the Club Filipino, a particular tenured member declared that George Barcelon will surely be the next PCCI president and it would be good for the members to refrain from opposing him. He alluded that those who oppose him will be stripped of their chairmanship of industry committees. He asked the attendees to refrain from submitting other nominees to the board so that those nominated by his group would be assured of victory.

The elections took place last Dec. 3 True enough, the nominees of this tenured member emerged the victors. Ambassador Yujuico requested a copy of the proxies and recording of the election proceedings. The recordings were provided by the secretary general but not the proxies. The proxies were said to be in the custody of the Comelec chair. The Comelec chair ignored the written request for the proxy forms and subsequently advised Ambassador Yujuico that if he intends to inspect the proxy forms, he must first file and win a case in court.

Important to note that the members of the Comelec were personally appointed by the tenured member.

The refusal of the current board to provide the proxy forms raises questions. It suggests the railroading of elections and a deliberate attempt to manipulate the results. This prompted Ambassador Yujuico to heed the advise of the Comelec chair and file a case before the court of Taguig.

Ambassador Yujuico offered to resign as he refused to play a part in a highly suspect election proceeding. He also found it untenable that reforms towards greater membership participation were being undermined.

Ambassador Yujuico petitioned the court to declare null and void the results of the election of the Board of Directors during the Dec. 3, 2021 annual meeting. He asserts that the proceedings were in violation of the Revised Corporation Code, PCCI’s By-laws and Omnibus Election Code. It was further alleged that PPCI’s Comelec failed to validate the proxies during the 2021 general meeting, thereby disenfranchising the members who wished to be represented by proxy.

The legal squabble among the higher-ups of the PCCI underscores the need for new blood in the organization. The PCCI has lost its way. From an organization whose mandate is to be the sounding board of government in policy formation, it has morphed into an organization whose members use the organization for relevance, power and influence peddling.

It’s a shame that such an embarrassing row has besmirched the reputation of the prestigious PCCI. It just proves that the organization needs new blood to re-institute professionalism and greater participation among members. We all have a stake in this PCCI row since a strong PCCI translates to better policy advise for government.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook @Andrew J. Masigan and Twitter @aj_masigan


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