Philippines' Espenilla: publicly positive appointment, but behind closed doors…


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Reaction to Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s appointment of Nestor Espenilla Jr as the new governor of the central bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), has been publicly positive.

Nestor Espenilla Jr's hamster-cheeked grin masks a tough individual

Nesting, as he is known to his friends, has been with the BSP for 36 years, and is an admired lieutenant of much-loved departing governor Amando Tetangco Jr.

Behind closed doors, however, there are probably a few who aren’t so pleased to see Espenilla in the top job. As deputy governor for banking supervision and regulation, he took on a lot of villains, and his hamster-cheeked grin masks a tough individual.

Among the institutions that might not be raising a glass to his promotion is RCBC, controlled by the powerful Yuchengco family. Espenilla hit the bank with a P1 billion fine over the $81 million Bangladesh bank heist, some of which passed through RCBC accounts.

Another might be Roberto Ongpin – the trade secretary under Ferdinand Marcos – who can’t stand Espenilla after the Anti-Money Laundering Council, under Espenilla’s chairmanship, froze Ongpin and his companies’ bank accounts over irregularities in Ongpin’s purchase of Philex Mining shares in 2009.

A third could be the Aguirre family, whose bank Banco Filipino was closed at Espenilla’s insistence in 2011. A fourth, the Araneta family, which owned LBC Development Bank, also found its bank closed after an Espenilla investigation.

Manila’s finer banks, though, are delighted to see the promotion take place from within. Other public offices face a more uncertain time: Duterte’s new appointment as environment secretary is the former head of the Philippine army, Roy Cimatu.