Potential conflict of interest seen in Koko Pimentel’s barrage against Angkas

January 23, 2020 - 6:24 PM
Angkas driver
An Angkas driver wearing a helmet. (The STAR/Edd Gumban)

Sen. Koko Pimentel’s petition to declare Angkas CEO Angeline Tham a “persona non grata” could present a conflict of interest since he was the one who endorsed Angkas’ competitor JoyRide to the Department of Transportation.

Pimentel, who introduced JoyRide in 2019, claimed that Tham was “misleading” government agencies on Angkas’ operations and staging an “indignation” rally which paralyzed traffic in Metro Manila.

The senator was referring to the large-scale rally on Dec. 22, 2019 to protest against the biker cap the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) imposed on motorcycle taxi providers such as Angkas. This cap or limit would have reduced its 27,000 members to 10,000.

The senator also further accused Tham, a Singaporean businesswoman, of starting a social media campaign “to shame and bully government agencies who merely implemented the law.”

Pimentel’s hand in JoyRide’s recognition

When JoyRide was first introduced as a competitor to Angkas, its officials claimed they were not backed by any politician.

They then later admitted that their request to participate in the motorcycle taxi pilot program was endorsed by Pimentel.

This letter dated September 2, 2019 was addressed to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade. JoyRide’s entry to the pilot run was approved in December of that year.

Pimentel, meanwhile, reasoned that he endorsed JoyRide because he wanted to end Angkas’ monopoly in the motorcycle ride-hailing business.

An official from the transport agency also asserted that the letter has no impact on selecting Angkas’ competitors for the extended pilot run.

“The letter does not mean anything. That is not the basis of who will join the pilot study. All the players have undergone deliberation. The TWG (technical working group) has examined the training facilities of each of the players,” Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran said.

JoyRide officials also denied online rumors that Senator Christopher “Bong” Go had stakes in the company. Go himself also denied the claims.\

Pimentel and JoyRide

The current headquarters of JoyRide Philippines (formerly We Move Philippines) along Marcos Highway used to have a tarpaulin of Pimentel used during the election campaign earlier last year.

Noli Eala, a former news anchor and commissioner of the Philippine Basketball Association, admitted this when reporters were given a tour inside their facilities.

A quick search on Google Maps also showed the huge tarpaulin showing a Happy New Year greeting from the Pimentel family on the venue’s entrance.

JoyRide headquarters along Marcos highway
Screenshot by Interaksyon

Twitter user @maroontito claimed that this place used to be the headquarters of Pimentel. This is difficult to verify.

Some of the people running JoyRide also have connections with Pimentel and the ruling PDP-Laban party, where the senator currently sits as president.

JoyRide chief business advisor Edwin Rodriguez is PDP-Laban’s Quezon City secretary-general.

Rodriguez, however, maintained that he did not ask the political party for help.

PDP-Laban spokesperson Ron Munsayac also concurred with  Rodriguez. The latter did not approach the party’s national leaders to support the firm, he said.

Some Twitter users noticed these connections before sharing screenshots of Rodriguez promoting JoyRide on his Facebook account.

“This PDP-Laban secretary-general is very busy ha,” one Twitter user said.

Eala also said that Pimentel is a “family friend” of JoyRide’s main owners Bea Chua and Ralph Nubla Jr.

He, however, noted that no business is involved in this friendship.

“The businessmen behind this are all reputable, who just want to help the Philippine riding community. We will clearly say that. These are families who are very close to one another and they decided to venture into another industry,” he said.