Philippine beer tycoon allied with late dictator dies
MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Filipino tycoon Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr., a key ally of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and a reluctant businessman who led a food and beverage empire that made San Miguel beer, has died. He was 85 years old.
San Miguel Corp. said Cojuangco, who had served as chairman and managing director for decades, died Tuesday night without further details. Salvador Panelo, president's legal adviser, said Cojuangco died of pneumonia and heart failure in a hospital in Manila.
Cojuangco had a net worth of $ 1.1 billion, according to Forbes' list of billionaires in the world, and besides San Miguel was also interested in cement production, orchards, a stud farm, and Australian wineries. San Miguel, one of the largest conglomerates in Southeast Asia with more than 28,000 employees, has ventured into the areas of fuel and oil, electricity and infrastructure.
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Aside from the economy, Cojuangco was involved in politics and sports and had three teams in the Filipino basketball association, Panelo said.
"Its impact on many other areas of Filipino life - sports, philanthropy - contribute to its rich and lasting legacy," said San Miguel in a statement.
President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, expressed deep sadness at Cojuangco's death, citing San Miguel's contribution to the economy and his help in dealing with the country's coronavirus pandemic.
But Cojuangco was also caught up in controversy.
He fled the Philippines when Marcos was overthrown in 1986 by an army-backed "People's Power" uprising. During his years in exile it was known that he had traveled to the USA and Australia, where he bred pure-bred racing horses.
Cojuangco had been linked to the murder of a major anti-Marcos politician, former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., in 1983, but the allegation was never proven and Aquino's family later said he was not involved. The brazen assassination of Aquino during military detention at Manila International Airport sparked massive street protests that culminated in a failed coup d'état and the 1986 uprising that overturned Marcos, his family, and friends, including Cojuangco.
Aquino's wife, Corazon Aquino, who was Cojuangco's estranged cousin, was hailed as an icon of democracy amid the anti-Marcos protests and succeeded Marcos.
Cojuangco had also been accused of being involved in the abuse of large amounts of coconut taxes during the Marcos years that were to develop the country's coconut industry. He has denied any wrongdoing and has never been convicted of allegedly illegally accumulating wealth during the Marcos era.
In the 1960s, Cojuangco was governor of the northern Philippine province of Tarlac, the base of the Cojuangco clan, which is interested in sugar cane plantations. After returning to the Philippines after Marcos' fall, he ran for president under the Nationalist People's Coalition in 1992, but lost despite the fact that the political party he founded has remained an influential political bloc.
Cojuangco supported Joseph Estrada's successful presidential bid in 1998, the year he regained San Miguel presidency. Estrada was violently removed during massive protests in the middle of his six-year term and sentenced years later for looting.
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