08 April 2009

Lolo Montano

The Senator Justiniano Montano Monument

THE RAGING controversy involving the Gucci Gang and Australian landscape designer Brian Gorrell continues to draw spectators from all walks of life. The personalities involved in this online drama are too sensational to be ignored. High-society devotees and lifestyle observers are glued to this hullabaloo minute by minute. As gleaned from the now very popular blog, the main target of the tirade is Delfin Justiniano “DJ” Montano II, whom Gorrell alleged to have duped him of US$70,000. Caught in the crossfire is Philippine Star lifestyle editor Celine Lopez, whom Gorrell accused of not only allowing her best friend to commit the rip-off but supporting him as well by covering up the con and striking back at him.

The accusations against Montano and Lopez are simply sidelights to the intriguing story of their equally controversial families, which have become subjects of case studies on political bossism and the practice of rent-seeking – phenemenons which are watermarked all over the Gucci Gang controversy. Blog fanatics will surely be amazed over the titles of two chapters – Chapters 3 and 9 – in the book An Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines edited by noted American historian Alfred McCoy. The book, which was conferred the 1995 National Book Award, examines how some families in the Philippines were able build their political and business empires in a manner replete with fraud, deceptions, trickery and violence.

A now very familiar name is bannered in Chapter 3, Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man: Justiniano Montano and Failed Dynasty Building in Cavite, 1935-1972 by British scholar John Sidel (who wrote another book Capital, Coercion and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines that also has an interesting chapter on the Montanos and on politics in Cavite). Chapter 9, Rent-Seeking Families and the Philippine State: A History of the Lopez Family was written by McCoy and is a must-read for those who everyday turn on their TV (ABS-CBN and SkyCable), drink water (Maynilad), use electricity (FirstGen and Meralco), or make a call and surf the Internet (BayanTel), among other daily consumer activities.

The rise and fall of former Congressman and Senator Justianiano Montano (DJ’s great grandfather) is a story of political murders, warlordism, criminal activities, corruption and his “skillful exploitation and manipulation of the law.” Sidel described Montano as “a fearsome pugilist and an aggressive interloper who depended for his success not only on bluster, bravado and bullying but on the persistent threat and use of violence.” Montano, according to the author, made headlines by brawling with his rivals on the stairs of Cavite’s Capitol Building and whipping out his .45 caliber revolver before fellow congressmen on the floor of the House of Representatives.

To perpetuate himself in power, Montano endeared himself with political patrons in Manila, installed his sons in positions of political and economic prominence, and delegated powers to his municipal wards. He was alleged to have enlisted the services Cavite’s most famous criminal, Leonardo Manecio alias Nardong Putik (remember the Ramon Revilla movie?) as his political assassin. Among the quotable quotes attributed to Montano include “I have no tact!” and “I’ll kill you, damn you!” Montano also managed to have his sons Delfin elected as governor of Cavite and Justiniano Jr. appointed as chair of the Games and Amusement Board (who was later implicated in match rigging, race fixing, toleration of illegal betting and the management of boxers through dummies for his personal profit). His other son, Ciriaco, was tasked to manage the family’s expanding real estate and construction investments, cornering juicy infrastructure contracts.

But the rise of Ferdinand Marcos signaled the downfall of Montano, who was an ally of Diosdado Macapagal, the late dictator’s political nemesis. Montano himself got the ire of Marcos when the Cavite kingpin was tagged as mastermind in the smuggling of blue-seal cigarettes, thus threatening the Ilocos-based tobacco industry, the lifeblood of politicians in the north. When Marcos became president, he engineered the ouster of Montano from political power, which eventually led to his self-exile in the United States when Martial Law was declared. After the 1986 EDSA Revolution, Montano already found himself old, and his former grip of Cavite now in the hands of the Remullas, a Marcos crony who had switched to the camp of Cory Aquino shortly after the people power revolt.


original article

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