The re-electionist senators

SALNs bare some, mask other details

First of Four Parts

IT MIGHT well be because he has had to fill out only two of them, compared to his colleagues who have already collected quite a pile. Whatever the reason, Aquilino Martin ‘Koko’ L. Pimentel III emerged as having the most detailed Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) among the six senators who are running for re-election this Monday. Indeed, almost all of the columns in his forms are filled out — from his assets and liabilities to his business interests and relatives in government.

Details — or the lack thereof — in their SALNs have lately been tripping up politicians and landing them in trouble. Just last year, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona fell from power after the impeachment court found him guilty of failing to declare all of his assets in his SALNs. More recently, Senator Loren Legarda, who is looking for another term in the legislature, has found herself being accused of not disclosing in her SALNs a $700,000 condominium unit in New York. This has led to a graft case being filed against her before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Unlike Pimentel, who assumed his seat in the Senate only in 2011, Legarda has been filing SALNs since 1998, when she first won a six-year term in the Upper House. She made a bid to become vice president in 2004, but lost. She returned to the Senate for another six-year run in 2007.

Loren bares less

Interestingly, though, Legarda’s SALNs since 2007 have contained less detail than the statements she filed from 1998 to 2003 when she was still together with then husband Jose Antonio C. Leviste.

For example, her 2002 SALN presented complete details of her real properties such as the location, year acquired, mode of acquisition, assessed value, fair market value, and acquisition cost. She also included notes on the basis used for the fair market value of her properties.

But from 2007 until 2011, Legarda presented her assets — real, personal, and other property — in just one table with only two major columns: year acquired and acquisition cost. This is a deviation from the original SALN form that requires at least seven key information for a real property.

Legarda did not declare any real property in her June 2007 SALN. Media reports, however, quote Legarda as saying that the controversial New York condominium unit is the property being referred to as “Other Investments” worth P8.98 million in her June 2007 SALN. This entry, though, was under “Personal and Other Property.” The year when it was acquired was also not provided in the SALN she filed.

In her Dec. 2007 SALN that followed the baseline declaration format, she declared an “Equity in Real Property (Co-owned with brothers, etc)” worth P7.2 million that was acquired in 2006. This is said to be the NY condo unit.

Legarda made the same declaration of the property in her Dec. 2008 SALN, which followed the annual declaration format.

In 2009, when the old SALN form was used again, Legarda did not fill out the Real Properties section in the form, although she did include the same “equity in real property co-owned with brothers, etc” worth P7.2 million. The same declaration was made in 2010. Legarda’s net worth of P45,545,565 in 2009 remained as is in 2010.

Finally, in 2011, the same equity in property was reported. Legarda’s net worth increased a bit to P45.68 million in 2011, the latest filing that PCIJ has on file.

Legarda’s net worth has not gone over P46 million from Dec. 2007 to Dec. 2011. Yet she is still the wealthiest among the six senators who are now eyeing a comeback to the Upper House.

Legarda’s net worth actually plunged after she finished her first term in the Senate. From P104.91 million in 2003, the senator’s wealth dropped to P41.44 million in 2007, presumably because of her separation from her husband. Although her net worth has risen since, the increase is only slight compared to the net worth growth enjoyed by four of her fellow senator-candidates.

Gringo’s rising net

Among these four, Senator Gregorio ‘Gringo’ B. Honasan II posted the highest increase in his net worth between 2007 to 2011: from P12 million to P20.8 million, or an increase of 73 percent. This was due largely to new entries in his assets such as two properties in Marikina that he declared to have current fair market values of P2.47 million and P1.77 million, and a P2.8-million personal property tagged as “AFSLAI” or Armed Forces and Police Savings & Loan Association, Inc.

When he first became senator in 1995, Honasan’s declared net worth barely grazed the P1-million mark. But his wealth has increased nearly every year since, according to the SALNs he filed from 1995 to 2002, and then from 2007 to 2011. His last recorded liability was in June 2001. Since December 2001, he has not declared any loan, even as the value of his personal properties has kept rising — from P3.7 million to P8.2 million in June 2007 (when he was re-elected senator) then to P15.5 million in 2010. The figure dipped a little to P14 million in 2011. His real properties, however, grew in value from P3.9 million in 2010 to P6.7 million in 2011.

In his Dec. 1995 SALN, Honasan reported that he was a consultant at Toyota-Alabang Inc. Since then, he did not declare any business interest or financial connection. Since 1998, he has reported an annual salary of P420,000 as senator until 2011, the latest filing that PCIJ has on file.

Sonny and Alan Peter

In comparison, the wealth of Antonio ‘Sonny’ F. Trillanes IV and Alan Peter S. Cayetano shot up by nearly half between 2007 and 2011; Trillanes’s grew from P2.6 million in 2008 to P3.9 million in 2011, and Cayetano, from P16.1 million in 2007 to P23.2 million in 2011.

Cayetano — the second wealthiest among the six senator-candidates — has reported slight increases and decreases in his net worth since 2004. It was only recently that his wealth rose by nearly 50 percent, from P15.9 million in 2010 to P23.2 million in 2011. According to his 2011 SALN, the uptick in his wealth was due largely to “profit (both paper and actual) in stocks listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange.”

Notably, while Cayetano has declared investment in stocks since 1998, he has never gone into specifics. In 2010, he declared P3.3 million in “investment in stocks/club shares” and P2.96 million in “other investments.” These two items rose to P10.5 million and P3.5 million, respectively, in 2011.

Cayetano declared a piece of real property (condominium unit in Batasan Hills) for the first time in his June 2004 SALN. It was also the same year he included his wife’s name in his statement.

Since 2004, Cayetano has listed only the acquisition cost of the property. The assessed value and current fair market value are not filled out. As of 2011, the property is still included in this SALN but it bears the note: “Condominium project not completed/defective.” In 2011, the housing loan that he previously reported bears the note “Loan payments stopped because project was not completed/defective.”

Cayetano, however, is among the three senator-candidates who filled up the business interests and financial connections columns. The remaining three left these blank. Cayetano declared interests in various holding companies.

Meantime, Trillanes’s net worth recorded a gain of P1.3 million — from P2.6 million in 2007 to P3.9 million in 2011. Since 2009, he has been acquiring new properties (a lot, a condo unit, and two cars) through PAG-IBIG and bank loans. Yet while the value of his assets has risen (from P2.6 million in 2007 to P10.7 million in 2011), this is set off by his liabilities (from zero in 2007 to P6.8 million in 2011).

A reverse search conducted by PCIJ at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also revealed an Antonio F. Trillanes IV listed in at least three non-stock corporations. This Trillanes is connected to the Magdalo Para sa Pagbabago Movement, Inc. according to its 2010 and 2012 general information sheets (GIS), and the Samahang Magdalo Inc. and the Basketball Association of the Philippines, Inc. in their respective 2011 GIS.

The documents bear the same tax identification number that Senator Trillanes provided in his SALNs. These three entities, however, were not declared in the senator’s 2010 and 2011 SALNs.

Chiz: Loans, uptick

As for Francis Joseph ‘Chiz’ Escudero, records show that the senator-candidate has declared moderate gains in his wealth every year since 2000. As of 2011, his net worth stood at P9.9 million, which is about 33 percent more of his wealth when he first entered the Senate in 2007 (P7.4 million). This is primarily because of the decrease in his liabilities from P10 million in 2010 to just P1.5 million in 2011.

Escudero has put down loans in his SALNs since 1998. From P2.5 million in 1998, his debts jumped to P7.4 million in 2002, P6 million in 2008 (when he acquired a second property in Quezon City), then to P10 million in 2010 (when he listed shares of stock worth P5 million).

In 2011, his loans dropped to P1.5 million. But his personal properties dropped in value as well that year, from P11.4 million in 2010 to P4.8 million, as did that of his jewelry. The P5-million shares of stock are also no longer in his 2011 SALN. Known to be a car enthusiast, Escudero though bought three cars in 2011: a 1995 Range Rover Classic, a “1969 BMW 2002,” and a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser, all worth a total of P1.98 million.

Escudero declared business interests in a law firm in his SALNs. SEC documents, meanwhile, show a Francis Joseph G. Escudero listed as trustee and member of The Fernando Poe Jr. Foundation, Inc. The senator did not declare this foundation in his 2010 SALN.

Koko’s wealth dips

Then there is Pimentel, whose net worth stood at P17.67 million in August 2011, which decreased to P17.08 million as of Dec. 2011. In other words, in his brief time at the Senate, Pimentel saw his net worth drop by a little over three percent.

Among other things, Pimentel declared interests in his former wife’s businesses, La Joya Travel Services and Goddess and Jewels, described as offering “nail and boutique services.”

SALNs aside, it would be interesting to see how much these six candidates spent in the 2013 election campaign. Six years ago, Legarda and Escudero — the top two candidates who got the most number of votes in the 2007 elections — also incurred the highest in campaign expenditures.

Legarda received P86.5 million in contributions and spent P86.2 million, leaving excess donations of P307,331. Escudero received P64.8 million in donations and incurred 64.9 million in expenditures, which means that he paid P195,668 out of his personal funds.

Legarda and Escudero, along with Cayetano and Honasan, have participated in at least three elections. Pimentel and Trillanes ran for public office for the first time in May 2007.

Pork spending

Another “money behavior” worth looking at is how these six senators spent their pork barrel. Of the six, Legarda, Honasan, and Escudero got the highest Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) releases with P576.8 million, P554 million, and P542 million, respectively, from June 2010 to March 2013.

According to the Department of Budget and Management, a total of P468 million was released to Trillanes, and P430.5 million to Cayetano as of March 2013. Pimentel, meanwhile, received the least amount at P267.3 million in 19 months.

Each of the senators turned out to have his or her own pet projects. From June 2010 to June 2012, both Trillanes and Pimentel assigned the bulk of their PDAF to financial assistance to indigent patients (P112.7 million and P29.8 million, respectively).

Honasan’s went to road repairs (P153.5 million), Cayetano to the construction of multi-purpose buildings (P65 million), Legarda to the construction of classrooms (P143.7 million), and Escudero to the construction of public markets (P289 million). — PCIJ, May 2013