Udenna’s Dennis Uy files 2 libel complaints vs Manila Bulletin, editor-in-chief, reporter

Office of the City Prosecutor, Davao City

The Office of the City Prosecutor (OCP) of Davao City has subpoenaed Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation, its editor-in-chief, and a reporter to answer in 10 days from receipt of notice the two counts of libel complaint filed by billionaire businessman Dennis Ang Uy.

Uy charged Manila Bulletin, its editor-in chief Loreto D. Cabañes, and reporter Jel Santos with two counts of libel under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) in relation to Section 4 (c)(4) of Republic Act No. 10175, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

He sought damages, cost of suit, and attorney’s fees amounting to P200 million.

His complaint arose from the publication on Oct 19, 2021, both in Manila Bulletin’s online website and its FaceBook account, of an article entitled “Graft charges involving ‘P21-B in gov’t losses’ filed vs DOE Sec. Cusi, Udenna’s Uy, others.”

The news article was based on a complaint filed by Balgamel de Belen Domingo, Rodel Rodis and Loida Nicolas Lewis before the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB).

The complainants alleged that Cusi, Uy, and several others reportedly violated Republic Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for allegedly conspiring “to give unwarranted benefits and advantage” to Uy’s Udenna Corporation and its subsidiary, UC Malampaya, in the sale of Chevron’s share and transfer of rights in the Malampaya Project, a deep-water gas-to-power project in Palawan.

In his complaint, Uy said “the article published online at Manila Bulletin’ website and uploaded on its official Facebook page is defamatory and injurious to my reputation.”

He said that “respondents (Manila Bulletin and its staff) claim I committed graft; that the government will suffer significant losses from the share purchase; and that Udenna did not spend a single centavo in the transaction.”

Uy pointed out in his libel complaint that he did not violate RA 3019.

He said:

“The share purchase was a strictly private transaction between Udenna and Chevron. The government was not affected in any way.

“The only tangential interest the government had in the transaction was PNOC-EC’s right to match Udenna’s offer so that it may acquire Chevron’s 45% instead.

“I did not persuade, induce, or influence Sec. Alfonso Cusi, as energy secretary, or any other government officer for that matter, to act one way of another as regards the SPA (Share Purchase Agreement) or PNOC-EC’s right to match.

“Neither did I persuade, induce, or influence Sec. Cusi, or any other government officer, to cause any party, including the government, undue injury.

“And I certainly did nothing to gain any unwarranted benefit, advantage, or preference over anyone.

“I cannot understand how the government suffered any loss. It had no property rights over Chevron’s 45 percent shareholding in the Malampaya Project.

“If the respondents are alluding to the potential earnings of Chevron’s shares, they are abysmally guided.

“Future earnings cannot be subject of a criminal accusation for the simple reason that they are speculative.

“No one, not even respondents, can claim to divine what anyone’s future earnings will be, especially in the energy industry, which is volatile in nature.

“The government is already entitled to 60 percent of the gross earnings of the consortium under SC (Service Contract) 38. Then it gets an additional 10 percent from the net earnings of Chevron.

“So, if the respondents are claiming that the government ‘lost’ the Chevron earnings, they refer to the remainder of Chevron’s share which, again, is not pre-determined.

“And this is the linchpin: it is not as if the government would get Chevron’s share for free. It would have to part with money.

“It is maliciously false to claim that I did not put in a ‘single centavo’ to acquire Chevron’s share in Malampaya. That was a private sale. The purchase price and the payment mechanism were matters between Udenna and Chevron. The financing and security, on the other hand, was a matter between Udenna and its bankers.”

“I suffered damages to my reputation and my good standing in the business community here and abroad, which I built through many years of effort and expense. It will take years for me to recover from that reputational damage.”

Citing his background, Uy said he started in business early. In his childhood, he said, he sold books, office and sports supplies to his classmates.

After his 1993 graduation with a degree in business management, Uy said he started managing family business like prawn farm, real estate and mining companies.

In 1998, he said, he set up his first independent business -- Dencio’s Kamayan – from money he realized from his trading in the stock market.

Later in 2002, he said, he set up Phoenix Petroleum. By 2019, Phoenix had opened up 650 gas stations nationwide, he said.

He said his Udenna group has diversified since then into food, real estate, infrastructure development, hospitality, gaming, telecommunications, education, media and entertainment through more than 50 corporations.

His desire to expand his petroleum business led him to Northwest Palawan Service Contract No. 38 entered into in 1990 between Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and Occidental Philippines, Inc. with the Philippine government through the then Office of Energy Affairs, now Department of Energy, he said.

“Udenna first met with Chevron in December 2018. In early 2019, the Udenna group offered to purchase Chevron’s 45 percent shareholdings in Malampaya,” Uy said.

“As with any share purchase agreement of significant value, Chevron conducted its due diligence research as well. Investment bankers, financial analysts and other technical experts were commissioned to ensure that Udenna was a serious and viable purchaser,” he said.

On Oct. 25, 2019, he said, Chevron and an Udenna subsidiary signed the share purchase agreement (SPA) over the former’s 45 per cent shareholdings in the Malampaya consortium.

He pointed out that the SPA was submitted to the Philippine Competition Commission for approval, and to Chevron and PNOC-EC to given them the chance to match Udenna’s offer.

On March 11, 2020, the SPA was consummated and Udenna acquired Chevron’s shares, he added.