MVP splits with Ateneo over mining, RH viewsBy Daxim L. Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines–”It’s time to call it a day.”
With these words, businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan ended his long relationship with his alma mater — the Ateneo de Manila University — which he has supported materially and financially for the good part of the last two decades.
In a letter to Ateneo president Jett Villarin S.J., the telecommunications tycoon said the university’s views on the issues of mining and the Reproductive Health Bill are “irreconcilable” with those of the business empire he heads as well as his personal views as a Filipino.
The stand of the university on these issues was contained in a so-called “Jesuit Paper” presented by Fr. Jose “Jojo” Magadia S.J. to Pangilinan over the weekend, he said in his letter.
Magadia is the current Provincial Superior — the head — of the Philippine Jesuits.
“I do not agree with some of the CBCP’s pronouncements, including its recent stance on the RH Bill,” Pangilinan said, explaining the rationale for his decision to part ways with the Ateneo. “At times, I believe the CBCP has taken positions contrary to the interest of our country.”
The Church, he said, “should earn its rightful place in the national debating table by showing tangibly and significantly its concern for the poor and the corrupt, and sharing the burden with business and government the enormous task of nation-building – including the appropriate moral formation of our people and our leaders.”
A copy of his letter to the Ateneo was posted on the online news portal interaksyon.com, which is owned by TV5, a television network controlled by Pangilinan. He chairs the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. which, through one of its units, also holds a minority stake in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Ateneo officials contacted by the Inquirer have yet to issue a statement on the matter. A spokesperson said that a formal response would be issued soon.
In his letter to the school’s president, Pangilinan also pointed out that the value of mining is enshrined in the country’s Constitution, and its value is recognized by the very presence of the Mining Act of 1995.
“For the Church to say otherwise contradicts a very basic document of our people and frustrates the people’s constitutional will, values, and preference – plus the right to improve economic welfare – ‘to use these talents and multiply them, not bury them’ – to use your own words,” he said.
The businessman — whose substantial donations to the university helped its basketball team win several University Athletic Association of the Philippines cage crown as well as put up at several new buildings in its Loyola Heights, Quezon City campus — then cited the biblical story of the “Parable of the Talents” which, he said, calls for people to help improve lives, whether tangibly or intangibly.
“Failure to manage one’s affairs – such as weak institutions, failed regulatory agencies, corrupt enforcements – do not mean a particular business is per se evil, as suggested about mining in that Jesuit Paper,” he said. “It is man’s frailty – Filipino frailty to be exact – that should be blamed, not the business.”
“I’ve already pointed out the examples of good mining practices elsewhere,” he added. “Indeed, the Filipino’s failure to manage well is shown in almost all facets of our lives – poor airports, poor sewerage, unclean air, mediocre economic growth. The list is long. Our preponderant task as a people is simply to do better – to strive for excellence. Isn’t that the Ateneo motto?”
Pangilinan — who had resigned as chairman of Ateneo’s board of trustees in 2010 over a plagiarized speech he delivered to that year’s graduating class — said toward the end of his letter that he was “extremely distressed and saddened by this recent event.”
“And in the context of two other gruesome incidents (i.e., plagiarism and the first mining blow-up) in the recent past, I believe we have come to the irretrievable point where it is best and appropriate to draw the line in the sand, to conclude that we have little or no common interest, and to say that I’d look like a fool helping an institution which opposes my conviction diametrically and unequivocally (‘non-negotiable’),” he said.
“The logical consequences of this are: (i) each of us can pursue our advocacies freely without having to be sensitive with regard each other’s feelings; (ii) my complete and total disengagement from the Ateneo – something which, after reflection, I must confess I welcome with some relief at this stage,” he added.