GSIS chief threatens to sue Meralco directors

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — State-run Government Service Insurance System yesterday said it will haul directors of Lopez-controlled utility giant Manila Electric Co. to a legal battle if they refuse to divulge information about the company.

GSIS president and general manager Winston Garcia said in a statement that the pension fund manager could go to the Securities and Exchange Commission if the board of directors and officials of Meralco continued to grant access to corporate documents.

“The GSIS only wishes to protect the investment of its members and pensioners in Meralco by demanding full transparency in the company’s operations, transactions and the contracts it enters into with other parties. Accountability is a must at Meralco since as a utility, it is imbued with public interest,” Garcia said.

The GSIS chief wants to take a look at the company’s audited financial statements and commercial transactions to make sure that pensioners of GSIS are not shortchanged with their investments.

GSIS currently holds about 23 percent after acquiring the government’s 10 percent stake for P8.9 billion in January. In all, government entities like Philippine Health Insurance Corp., Land Bank of the Philippines, Social Security System and Pag-Ibig Fund own 33 percent of Meralco.

The Lopez family through First Philippine Holdings Corp. is the single biggest shareholder of Meralco with a 33.4 percent stake after it acquired the stake of Spanish utility giant Union Fenosa Internacional SA for more than P2 billion.

“The GSIS has four seats in Meralco, but such huge stake has not stopped its management from treating GSIS like a dirt rag. Despite repeated requests for access to corporate documents, the people lording it over at Meralco have turned a deaf ear towards the GSIS,” he said.

He said the management of Meralco had been found twice by the Supreme Court of overcharging its customers, including members of GSIS.

He added GSIS was also concerned about Meralco’s acquisition of an insurance company from which it bought insurance coverage under allegedly dubious circumstances.

“The GSIS has no desire to control Meralco, only to protect its members’ investment in this company, while protecting the public from unscrupulous corporate activities that impact negatively,” Garcia said.