Eduardo Conjuangco was a well-known businessman and politician from the Philippines who died in 2020. He was the chairman and CEO of San Miguel Corporation, the Philippines' and Southeast Asia's largest food and beverage corporation. He was also a Philippine ambassador and the governor of Tarlac. He was a close friend of former President Ferdinand Marcos and a participant in the contentious Coco Levy Fund. He was also known as "Danding" and was one of the Philippines' wealthiest people.
Eduardo Cojuangco was born in Paniqui, Tarlac, Philippines, on June 10, 1935. Eduardo C. Cojuangco Sr. and Josephine B. Murphy raised him as their eldest child. His mother was born and raised in Baguio, the daughter of an Irish-Canadian US Army volunteer who married a Filipina woman. Eduardo Sr., the son of Melecio Cojuangco, was of Chinese ancestry.
He grew up in a wealthy and powerful family with vast lands and businesses in Tarlac and other provinces. His father and uncle were prominent politicians who served as governors and congressmen, so he was exposed to politics at a young age. He also became interested in sports, particularly basketball and horse racing.
He attended De La Salle College in Manila for his high school education. He then studied agriculture and engineering at the University of the Philippines Los Baos and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
Cojuangco began his business career in Tarlac, managing his family's sugar plantations and mills. He later broadened his interests to include banking, cement, mining, power, telecommunications, and transportation.
His most notable accomplishment was his leadership of San Miguel Corporation, which he acquired with the assistance of Marcos in 1983. He grew the company from a brewery to a diversified conglomerate that produced food, beverages, packaging, oil, infrastructure, and real estate development. He also helped to establish San Miguel as a global player by investing in countries such as Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and New Zealand.
In 2012, he sold his stake in San Miguel to his protégé Ramon Ang and became the company's chairman emeritus until his death. He also owned a private cement manufacturing company and had investments in Australian orchards, stud farms, and wineries.
Cojuangco first ran for governor of Tarlac under the Nacionalista Party in 1967. He defeated Benigno Aquino Jr., who later became a political rival and critic of his. He served as governor until 1969, when he was elected as Tarlac's first district representative. He held this position until 1972 when Marcos declared martial law.
Cojuangco was one of Marcos' closest associates and a member of the "Rolex 12," a group of men who planned and carried out martial law. In 1975, Marcos appointed him as an ambassador-at-large, and he served as chairman of several government agencies, including the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), Coconut Investment Company (CIC), Philippine Airlines (PAL), and Northern Cement Corporation (NCC).
After the People Power Revolution in 1986, which ousted the dictator and installed Corazon Aquino, the widow of Benigno Aquino Jr., as president, he fled to Hawaii with Marcos. After negotiating immunity with President Corazon Aquino's administration, he returned to the Philippines in 1989. He faced several charges related to his involvement in the Coco Levy Fund controversy, but the Supreme Court cleared him in 2012.
As a breakaway faction from the Nacionalista Party, he founded his own political party, the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), in 1991. In 1992, he ran for president but was defeated by Fidel Ramos. He maintained his political clout in the Philippines by supporting candidates from various parties, including Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Benigno Aquino III, Rodrigo Duterte, and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
He also supported his relatives' political careers, including his son Mark Cojuangco, who served as Pangasinan's fifth district representative from 2001 to 2010, and his nephew Gilbert Teodoro, who served as secretary of national defense from 2007 to 2010 and ran for president in 2010.
Death and Legacy:
Cojuangco died of pneumonia on June 16, 2020, at the age of 85. His wife Soledad "Gretchen" Oppen-Cojuangco and his six children, including two daughters with his partner Aileen Damiles, survive him.
He was widely regarded as one of the most powerful and divisive figures in Philippine history. He was lauded for his business acumen, vision, and philanthropy, but he was also chastised for his ties to Marcos, involvement in the Coco Levy Fund scandal, and political maneuvering.
He left a legacy of wealth, power, and controversy that will shape the Philippines for the foreseeable future.
Eduardo Cojuangco led a life filled with wealth, power, and controversy. He rose from being a provincial landowner to becoming a national tycoon who dominated a variety of industries and markets. He was also a political player who supported various parties and leaders based on his interests and goals. He faced many challenges and criticisms, particularly for his role in the Marcos regime and the Coco Levy Fund scandal, but he also contributed to the Philippines' development and progress. He died in 2020, leaving a legacy that will be remembered and debated for future generations.
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