By Perry Diaz
Who Owns the Glass Mansion?
In his February 23, 2011 column in the Philippine Star, Boo Chanco wrote: “No one is safe from crime, not even residents of gated communities. In Quezon City, White Plains residents were surprised to read a circular from their homeowners association about how a resident was robbed just about a week ago. The victims live in a house just a corner away from a new gleaming glass mansion said to belong to the current Executive Secretary.”
Readers didn’t pay too much attention to Boo’s piece on the crime circular until he mentioned “the current Executive Secretary.” Suddenly the media was buzzing about the “glass mansion” belonging to the “current Executive Secretary” – also known as the “Little President” -- Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa Jr.
So what, people? Can’t Ochoa build a mansion customized to his specifications? What’s wrong with living in a glass mansion as long as he doesn’t run around naked in full view of his neighbors? Perhaps, he loves to gaze at the stars in the sky at night as well as the earthly “stars” in the neighborhood.
Power and influence
A lot of people are concerned about the lifestyle of their Little President who is the alter ego of President Benigno Aquino III. Aquino encourages his subordinates to follow a “daang matuwid” (straight path) in the performance of their job.
Little President Ochoa is arguably the second most powerful official in the country. More so that he is the only official – and first in history -- other than the President who is authorized to sign disbursements from the President’s multi-billion pork barrel funds. Indeed, with that kind of “power of the purse,” the Little President wields power and influence surpassed only by the President.
It did not come as a surprise then when people started searching for information about the mysterious “glass mansion,” which is not yet finished.
ABS-CBN News followed the paper trail and found out that the “owner of record” was Hedgerow Retain Holdings Inc., which is owned by the following:
1) Joseph Tan (Corporate Treasurer) owns 5,000 shares
2) Benedict Amponin Reyes owns 2,498 shares
3) Ma. Theresa O. Acuzar owns 2,500 shares
4) Paolo Teston (President) owns 1 share
5) Karl Steven Co (Corporate Secretary) owns 1 share
What’s wrong with the picture? Isn’t it quite odd that the two most important corporate officers – President and Secretary – only own one share each?
Would it be fair to presume that Teston and Co were included as incorporators only because Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations require a minimum of five incorporators? Although they’re President and Secretary, respectively, they have virtually zero corporate power since they only own 0.01% each.
It was also revealed that Tan, Teston and Co are lawyers working for Marcos Ochoa Serapio Tan Law Firm (MOST). Tan was a founding member together with now-Little President Ochoa. Teston and Co, however, are junior lawyers of MOST.
Incorporated on December 5, 2008, Hedgerow has been inactive until now. It has the same address as MOST at 30th Floor, Tycoon Center, Pearl Drive, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. Hedgerow also uses the same contact number.
And who is Ma. Theresa O. Acuzar? It turned out that she is Tess Ochoa-Acuzar, the sister of Little President Ochoa and the wife of construction magnate Jose “Jerry” Acuzar who is one of the biggest – if not the biggest – contributors to Aquino’s presidential campaign in 2010. It’s well-known in the media that the house –- dubbed the “Samar” house because it’s located on Samar Avenue -- used by Aquino as his campaign headquarters was owned by Acuzar. Acuzar is the Chairman of the giant New San Jose Builders Inc., a real estate company that builds residential and commercial properties, and roads.
But what is interesting – and quite intriguing – is the person who is listed as the contact person in the directory of the homeowners’ association was Pinky Ochoa. Pinky is the wife of the Little President who explained, “Sometimes when she (Ochoa-Acuzar) was out of the country, she would ask my wife, Pinky, to monitor the construction.” That seems to be a lame excuse. Anybody can take calls for Ochoa-Acuzar and forward the calls wherever she may be. In today’s technology, any person is just a phone call away.
And Little President Ochoa – a smart and politically savvy lawyer as he is – should know better than to put his wife linked and connected directly to the construction of the “glass mansion.”
But I can see why Pinky would be involved directly at the finishing stage of the of the P40-million bullet-proof “glass mansion.” If Pinky was the owner, then she would want to have total control of the selection and delivery of finishing materials, which would include the selection of plumbing and electrical fixtures, tile and marble design and color, color and style of floor carpeting, color of finishing paint, etc. This is a crucial phase of the construction work where the owner is required to actively participate because the selection of finishing materials is a matter of aesthetic taste. And, yes, as the homeowners’ association directory suggests, she is the owner.
But in an attempt to hide the obvious, the Little President said, “I do not own the said house. It is owned by my brother-in-law, Jerry L. Acuzar and his wife, Tess Ochoa-Acuzar. I don't intend to live in it.” Whoa! Was it necessary for him to say, “I don’t intend to live in it”? Or was it a Freudian slip?
However, there is one thing for sure: Jojo and Pinky Ochoa would never live in the “glass mansion” or even go near it. And neither would Jerry and Tess Acuzar. Heck, with the kind of money they have, the Acuzars are probably living in a glitzy mansion much bigger than the “glass mansion.”
The “glass mansion” would most likely remain vacant until a homebuyer comes along who loves to gaze at the stars in the sky at night as well as the earthly “stars” in the neighborhood.
But Little President Ochoa couldn’t escape the scrutiny of the people. From now on, he is like a fish in a glass fishbowl for everybody to watch to make sure that he swims in a “straight path,” the way the President wants him to. That’s hard to do but it’s doable. That is his “glass mansion.”
In : Perry Diaz