Of senators and bilyonaryos

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

The buzz among some of the country’s billionaires these days is how Senator Raffy Tulfo called out tycoon Isidro “Sid” Consunji, chairman and CEO of DMCI Holdings Inc., for supposedly dozing off during a Senate hearing last week.

In a gathering attended by prominent businessmen on Friday night, Sid’s fellow bilyonaryos came to his defense, saying that Senator Tulfo was wrong to do that to a senior citizen like Consunji who is 75 years old.

Sharing their thoughts to reporters, some billionaires said that Sid’s dozing off – if true – had nothing to do with him being a billionaire but had to do with the fact that he is old.

One billionaire, also a senior citizen, for instance said that what the senator did tarnishes the integrity of the Senate as an institution. This is aside from the fact that Congress now has been infiltrated by ex-convicts, court jesters and wannabe lawmakers.

“If it were me, I would have said to the senator: You know, speaking to you as a senior citizen, I’d rather you ask me if I’m feeling well or how I am rather than saying something disrespectful to a senior citizen... And then to address your bilyonaryo (issue), I think you might want to consider the taxes we pay,” said the billionaire.

Consunji, in response to the senator during the hearing, said he was not sleeping, to which Senator Tulfo replied that indeed he was.

I was not at the hearing and the videos didn’t show what was happening before and after Senator Tulfo’s moment in the spotlight, but I know for sure that senior citizens get tired easily and yes, they do have to close their weary eyes, perhaps even doze off at times.

I know because my parents are seniors in their mid 70s.

But Senator Tulfo of course would deliberately choose to ignore this reality, having anointed himself as the supposed hero of this nation’s poor and oppressed.

Surely, lashing out at billionaires makes for very good copy. He chose the wrong billionaire though. Those who know Sid know that he isn’t the kind who looks down on people. Some of his employees and his executives have been with him for decades.

I am not saying that government officials or billionaires should be exempt from public scrutiny. They aren’t and they shouldn’t be, but our lawmakers must always remember to uphold the stature of the institutions they represent by treating citizens – rich or poor – with respect even as they have every right to conduct hearings in aid of legislation.

I write this piece not to defend billionaires but to point out that Filipinos, especially senior citizens – prince or pauper – must be treated with dignity and respect, even by people in power and especially by lawmakers who are supposed to represent us and whose salaries are paid by us, the taxpayers.

I am consistent in my defense of seniors. I have written numerous articles about them, especially the marginalized and how society should treat them better. I owe it to the seniors before me, including my loving and kind grandfather who was by my side when I was growing up.

In the case of DMCI versus workers of Liberty Transport Corp. – the subject of last week’s Senate hearing by the committee on labor, employment and human resources development – that’s another story but I hope justice would prevail in favor of the party that deserves it.

As for Sid Consunji, perhaps it’s all part of running a mammoth conglomerate. I can’t help but wonder though – who do people turn to if they encounter a discourteous lawmaker or government official?

#IsumbongMoKayTulfo surely won’t apply in this case. Pun intended of course.

New Finex president

Augusto Bengzon, CFO and treasurer of sprawling property company Ayala Land Inc. (ALI), is a busy man. Every economic journalist covering ALI wants a minute of his time but it’s not always easy. We usually have to contend with quick ambush interviews with him.

Which is why I am glad that despite his busy schedule, he has accepted the huge task of being the 52nd president of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX).

CFOs play an important role in their company’s future but more than that, they also keep the private sector’s integrity in check. They make sure that owners and shareholders do not steal the company’s money.

As the new FINEX head, Bengzon is advocating for “transformational growth,” amid a changing world.

“How do we make it happen? Allow me to propose three components that I believe drive transformational growth – Sustainability, Diversity and Digitalization.

“Why do Sustainability, Diversity and Digitalization lead to transformational growth? The answer lies in recognizing that these are not isolated endeavors; they are interwoven threads shaping the fabric of a future-ready organization. Sustainability guarantees our longevity and adaptability. Diversity brings depth to our perspectives, fostering innovation and resilience. Digitalization, the backbone of modern enterprises, allows us to efficiently deliver new products and services, find new ways to engage customers and turn them into lifelong partners,” Bengzon said during his inaugural speech at FINEX’s meeting last week.

FINEX will also strive to help in resolving national issues and uphold professional development of its members, he said.

This is good to hear, especially amid the growing number of scams and frauds in the corporate world.

With Bengzon at its helm, FINEX, I am sure, is in good hands.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen on FB.

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