DNX Focus: Private wealth, public attention or the all-day dramarama

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BACOLOD CITY – The conflict between two major factions of the wealthy Yanson clan – one led by the first-born, the other by the youngest and the matriarch – has attracted public attention to the point that everyone it seems has their own “inside information.”

Buses of the Ceres Liner, the source of wealth of the Yanson empire on wheels. | Photo by Jose Aaron C. Abinosa
Buses of the Ceres Liner, the source of wealth of the Yanson empire on wheels. | Photo by Jose Aaron C. Abinosa

“Ang matuod sina, partner amo sini… (The truth about it partner is this…)” a former high school classmate of Leo Rey and of this reporter said, as he presented his “analysis” of the events that unfolded following the July 7 board meeting of the Vallacar Transit, Inc.

That meeting in a plush hotel in Bacolod City ousted Leo Rey, the youngest in a brood of seven, all heirs to a multi-billion empire on wheels, one of the first business conglomerates headquartered in Negros island.

Passengers make their way to parked buses of the Ceres Liner at the southern terminal in Bacolod City. | Photo by Jose Aaron C. Abinosa
Passengers make their way to parked buses of the Ceres Liner at the southern terminal in Bacolod City. | Photo by Jose Aaron C. Abinosa

This reporter was a high school classmate of Leo Rey at the University of St. La Salle in the 80s when it was still La Salle College-Bacolod.

Over the past weeks, as we prepared for our series of articles on what legal minds call as an “intra-corporate dispute,” this reporter talked to former high school classmates and to those who claimed to be either friends or business associates of Leo Rey and Roy.

In some cases I sought these people out but most asked to see me.

For coffee.

All of them knew I was working on stories related to the Ceres controversy. All started our conversations with “Juls/Pare indi mo lang ko pag quote, ha (Juls/Friend don’t quote me).”

These private conversations could not be quoted for obvious reasons but the arcs of their stories pointed to several common threads so far: a dispute over control of finances and the company (an obvious one), alleged mismanagement of finances, resentments that go way back to childhood, and the participation of individuals other than family.

The last one, some of those who identified themselves as “with RSY” stoked what can only be described as a family feud that was waiting to happen, fuelled by decades of perceived unequal treatment of siblings by their mother.

Two sources gave two names – one belonged to a woman, the other that of a man.

The details were sparse, the basis for the supposed “labugay” or meddling by these people impossible to verify.

The reason: the suspicions these people were involved were purely speculative with no documentary or testimonial proof that could be offered.

At least thus far.

RSY used to be an in-company code that stands for Roy and Susan (his wife) Yanson and refers to Roy.

Stories (which we classify as just rumors for the lack of probative value) abound. Among them, for example, is the “unequal” number of expensive motorcycles between two Yanson sons.

On the corporate side, they claim to have uncovered “questionable” withdrawals from the main treasury in Mansilingan, withdrawals that reached several tens of millions in only a day. Thirty-two was mentioned but the source could not confirm how much exactly.

Those who claim to be “close” to LRY or Leo Rey, on the other hand, hinge their stories on the supposed “disinherited” daughters, and the alleged oppression of Olivia Yanson by her children.

Both sides were asked by DNX to participate in this story and to answer questions not just on the intra-corporate feud but on issues that the DNX editors think are more relevant to the reading public.

Issues beyond the exchange of accusations between the two factions.

DNX sent a letter on 14 August 2019 to Jade Marquez, legal and media affairs officer of Vallacar Transit, Inc. under the Leo Rey faction detailing questions related to basic data about the Ceres routes, and other baseline information about their operations.

Marquez said on August 17 in a text message to this reporter that she will send the answers “before 10 am” on that day but yesterday she relented, saying their vice president for legal has yet to approve the answers.

Publicists of the RSY camp, meanwhile, have yet to decide if they can furnish DNX documents on their claims of financial mismanagement.

As it stands, the public is limited to a glimpse into the intra corporate dispute, a view framed by the press releases of publicists and the media events staged by spin doctors.

On both sides.

And they all start their stories with “ang matuod sini.”

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