Jaime Ongpin, or Jimmy, took his first step from being a business executive to joining the opposition to then President Ferdinand Marcos when he wrote a simple letter to the editor for the Asian Wall Street Journal in 1981. The letter was sharply critical of government bailouts and “crony capitalism,” a phrase he had coined and made popular as a ringing indictment of the Marcos administration.
Before this, Jimmy studiously avoided politics up to that time when the domestic money market collapsed and the government, using public funds, resorted to bailing out the Marcos cronies.
The action was personally difficult because his older brother Roberto was then Marcos’ trade and industry minister and mainly responsible for carrying out the bailout policies.
Because until then businessmen did not speak against the Marcos regime, Ongpin’s letter created a furor. Friends called him crazy and stupid, even suicidal. Ongpin merely said that “if we kept on looking the other way, things would only get much worse.” Later friends started approaching him to say they supported his views but they themselves could not come out publicly. They also warned Jimmy against “going too far.”
From that first letter, Ongpin went on to write more letters, deliver speeches and give interviews. He became an increasingly prominent voice of the opposition. He began to be referred to in the international press as “the leader of the business opposition to Marcos.”
In March 1983, Jimmy wrote a paper signaling unequivocally his condemnation of the regime’s policies. In a satiric take‑off on the “Eleven Major Industrial Projects” initiated by his brother the minister, which Jimmy felt was a misguided allocation of government resources, he entitled his paper “The Eleven MIP’s (a.k.a. The Eleven Major Infuriating Problems).” Here he questioned the manner in which government lending institutions bailed out a distressed crony corporation called the Construction Development Company of the Philippines (CDCP). He presented the paper before the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, and later before the Harvard Club of the Philippines and Phi Delta Kappa‑Manila RP Chapter. The paper gave a stinging criticism of government policies and ended with a challenge to the private sector to “lift a finger” to help solve the country’s most serious financial problems.”
After the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983, Jimmy became more open about his commitment to the removal of the Marcos dictatorship. He became an active supporter of Manindigan (Take a Stand!), a cause‑oriented group of businessman and professionals. He opened the facilities of his company, the Benguet Corporation, to the activist organization.
He helped raise funds for Veritas, an independent weekly that took up a crusade against the dictatorship while most of the mainstream media was bowed in passivity and submission.
In December 1984, Corazon Aquino, former Senator Lorenzo Tañada and Jimmy Ongpin created a Convenor Group to unite the forces opposed to Marcos.
When Corazon Aquino launched her bid for the presidency, Ongpin’s solid business reputation helped generate funds for the campaign. Friends and business leaders disgusted with the regime donated generously.
Ongpin readily put his life on the line during the 1986 people power revolution. Corazon Aquino later appointed Jimmy her finance minister.
Parents : Luis R. Ongpin and Lourdes M. Velayo Morales
Education : Ateneo de Manila
Harvard Business School
Spouse : Maria Isabel Ongpin
Children : 5