Who is Bitanga: the magnate behind Ressa -Tiglao

Photos courtesy of the Manila Times and Rappler

Veteran columnist Rigoberto Tiglao wrote in his Manila Times column dated June 26, an in-depth look who is the big man behind Rappler’s Maria Ressa.

Tiglao said his friend and fellow columnist Ramon Tulfo reported yesterday that Wilfredo Keng, the businessman libeled by Rappler told him that it was the tycoon Benjamin Bitanga who invited him to invest P100 million in the internet-only news site now is also known as the controversial media company, Rappler.

In other words, Bitanga is behind Rappler, and without Rappler, there wouldn’t be a Ressa. He is therefore the tycoon behind Ressa.

Bitanga is the financier of Ressa without his money, Ressa would not be able to spread lies that President Rodrigo Duterte is suppressing those media that are critical to him.

And even Rappler’s editor-at-large Marites Vitug wrote in a Japanese publication, “the rule of law is broken in the Philippines” would be out of job until now.

Tiglao added that when he talked to Bitanga in 2017 though, he claimed that he had not invested any new, new money in the company since 2014.

It was the same year that Keng claimed Bitanga invited him to invest P100 million in Rappler. And a year later, in 2015, the two CIA-linked US entities, the Vitug first published an article on Dec. 22, 2011, in Rappler’s Facebook prototype and obviously republished it Jan. 1, 2012, as the  banner story in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. 

The article falsely and libelously alleged that the chief justice broke the rules to get his PhD from the University of Santo Tomas. That was a total lie.

Rappler had been hugely supportive of Aquino. It has not in fact published a single article critical of him and his mother Cory. It has been with the same energy that it supported Aquino that it has bashed Duterte. 

Think of any issue the Yellows and even the Reds have raised since 2016, Rappler has vigorously promoted it.

Talk about press freedom in the country. Rappler has been, next to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the shrillest black propagandist against President Duterte and his government.

But who is Bitanga? He is a billionaire who has expanded his conglomerate under the Duterte administration. Bitanga says though that he doesn’t have any control over Rappler’s editorial content. That’s total BS.

Bitanga is well-known among Manila’s and Cebu’s business elite, with Lucio Tan Sr. and Cebu magnate and former Ramos-era politician Emilio “Lito” Osmeña had been his biggest business partners in the past.

The well-known businessman, who also owns MRC’s 123-hectare Cebu Techno Park/New Cebu Township in Naga City, Cebu was initially Osmeña’s project, which was given exclusive economic zone status during the Fidel Ramos administration. Its operations as an economic zone is under the supervision of the Philippines Export Processing Zone Authority.

Bitanga even dreams of bringing out the country’s “third telco,” having bought with Salvador Zamora (the brother of mining tycoon Manuel and congressman Ronaldo) the old telecom firm PT&T, which had its 25-year franchise renewed by a Duterte-dominated Congress in 2017.

While so low-key that it is difficult to find a photo of him in the media, Bitanga is well-known among Manila’s and Cebu’s business elite, with  Lucio Tan Sr. and Cebu magnate and former Ramos-era politician Emilio “Lito” Osmeña having been his biggest business partners in the past.

Bitanga also ventured in Menlo Renewable Energy Corp. got a P3-billion service contract from the energy department for a 60-megawatt solar power plant in Naga City, Cebu.

In 2017, it got a P12-billion contract, in partnership with a firm of Salvador Zamora, to build a solar energy plant in Clark City.

As Rappler’s biggest stockholder, he could have simply dissolved Rappler as early as 2017 so as to dismantle the vehicle by which the lies have been spread. 

Bitanga could have fired Ressa and replaced her with a more competent, less profligate CEO and with an objective and experienced editor.

Didn’t it even bother him that Rappler helped politically and literally kill Corona, a fellow Atenean whom we both knew from our college days and whom he knew was a man of integrity?

And I don’t think even the Inquirer would have taken in Ressa as a columnist, and I don’t think she can really write. Without Rappler, Ressa would have been as obscure and ignored as the anti-Duterte  Inquirer columnists.

Now Ressa is the most awarded Filipino-American “journalist” ever, not for excellence in journalism, but solely because she has succeeded in convincing US media outfits that she is being suppressed by an “authoritarian.”

However, Bitanga could reveal that there is really a bigger, secret Yellow stockholder of Rappler, that he hasn’t been really in control of it, which would explain his nonchalance over the damage to the country Ressa has wrought.

There is a basis for that probability: I don’t think two diehard Coryistas, Solita Monsod and Fulgencio Factoran (who died last April), who have been in Rappler’s board of directors represent Bitanga.

I told Bitanga back in 2017, that Ressa was implicitly saying that journalists like me who are questioning her false, exaggerated casualty figures of the drug war and Duterte’s alleged suppression of the press, weren’t doing their jobs. That only she is the champion of press freedom in this country.

Bitanga did nothing.  Ressa is the Frankenstein monster he created. He should be accountable, as much as Ressa is, for the lies, she and Rappler have spread about Duterte and the Philippines around the world.

*I wrote my first article on Bitanga on May 15, 2017, “Bitanga: The property and mining magnate behind Rappler.”


Post a Comment