The mysteries of money & politics

Top bets for president grow
wealth despite poll expenses

A BILLIONAIRE and four other millionaires lead the pack of those who want to serve as the15th president of the Philippines, all invariably swearing by an anti-poverty platform, and with some purposely harking on their poverty roots to spin and curry favor with majority of voters who are poor.

The costs and benefits of running and serving as president are a skewed equation. Various election and policy experts say that to run a decent campaign and win, a presidential candidate might have to fork out sums running from P2 billion to P6 billion. And yet the new president, if he keeps honest, would earn only P60,000 a month or at most P4.68 million in six years, before tax. The total six-year income for the new president would add up to just P3.18 million, after tax.

It is a big mystery why these candidates are committing financial suicide by deciding to spend so much money for so little in lawful income they could receive once in office.

But the PCIJ’s database of the statements of assets and liabilities and net worth (SALNs) filed by the five presidential candidates who have served in public office point to a bigger mystery: Rather than sliding to poverty because of fortunes they might have lost on elections, these candidates in fact managed to grow their wealth and net worth by small to phenomenal amounts over the years.

And the biggest mystery of all: The spike in these candidates’ declared net worth typically came after an election year – while they were serving in office and should not have benefited from other business or financial transactions. Too, the spike in their net worth even defied the slump in the local and global economy because of the financial crisis that visited in 1997 and again in 2008.

Indeed, the PCIJ’s extensive inquiry into the wealth of Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, Jose Marcelo Ejercito (Joseph Estrada), Richard Juico Gordon, Gilberto Cojuangco Teodoro Jr., and Manuel Bamba Villar Jr. yielded curious results.

By all indications, expensive election campaigns had not made a serious dent on the personal wealth of these candidates.

For sure, their declarations suggest a tendency by some for token compliance with the law on SALNs, a serious obligation of good governance on those who will serve as President. They enrolled only minimal data on their assets and stocks, some reported the same amounts to the last centavo for years, or did not disclose other assets and business and financial interests in their name or that of their spouse and family members that are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

A separate set of reports on campaign spending and contributions they filed with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) showed a consistent tendency by these candidates to understate their campaign expenses and shield the identities of their major campaign donors.

Net worth

According to their SALNs, the five candidates for president all belong to the country’s affluent minority, and have built their wealth on real estate, stocks, and inherited assets.

Aquino (member of House of Representatives, 1998-2005, senator since 2007) started with a net worth of P8.70 million in 1998, grew his wealth to P11.98 million in 2002, raised it further to P13.46 million in 2005, and ended 2007 with P13.94 million.

Estrada (movie actor, mayor of San Juan in Metro Manila 1968-88, vice president 1992-98, president 1998-January 2001) reported a net worth of P1.18 million in 1985, grew this to P3.41 million in 1992, and filed his last SALN in 1999 before his ouster from Malacanang at P35.86 million.

A PCIJ investigation in 2000 showed that Estrada, his spouses, and children were listed as board members and beneficial owners of 66 corporations, mostly formed after he became vice president, including a dozen established during his 18-month stint as president. The recorded assets of 14 companies alone total more than P600 million as of the year 2000.

As well, since 1998, individuals or companies appearing to be fronting for Estrada or his family members acquired 17 properties in swanky subdivisions in Metro Manila, Tagaytay City and Baguio City. According to official zonal values and PCIJ’s estimates, these properties added up to about P2 billion by 2000.

Gordon (mayor of Olongapo City 1992-95, 1998-99 and 2004-07, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority administrator 1995-98, Tourism secretary 2001-03, and senator since 2004) started with a net worth of P8.3 million in 1992, grew it to P11.87 million in 1995, P22.38 million in 2002, P24.92 million in 2005, and ended it at P26.52 million in 2007.

Teodoro (member of the House of Representatives 1998-2006, staff in the Office of the President in 2007, and defense secretary from 2008 to 2009) started with a net worth of P80.17 million in 1998, slid to P74.54 million in 2001, grew it to P102.62 million in 2005, and closed it at P232.43 million in 2008 owing to a surge in the value of interest in real estate “inheritance” in Sampaloc, Manila. In 1998, Teodoro reported having “interest in 11 lots” in Sampaloc, Manila.

Villar (member of the House of Representatives 1992-96, 1998-2003, and senator since 2004) started with a net worth of P75.43 million in 1992, grew it to PP319.92 million in 1996, P481.5 million in 2002, P759.82 million in 2005, and closed it at P1.05 billion in 2008.

Real assets

By the declarations in their SALNs, all five candidates for president own several big pieces of real estate and landholdings.

Aquino reported owning shares of stocks in the Cojuangco family-owned Hacienda Luisita that he said were worth an unchanging P718,430 from June 1998 to June 2007, but which rose in value to P761,144 in December 2007.

While his son, reelectionist Senator Jose ‘Jinggoy’ Estrada, reported owning 12 real properties (a house and lot, four residential lots, a farmlot, a townhouse, and five condominium units) over the years, Joseph Estrada had been consistently paltry with details of his real property assets. The vast real estate holdings of Estrada have had to be uncovered by the PCIJ in 2000.

Gordon was the most detailed about the type, value, and nature of his real property holdings. In his SALNs he reported that these were worth P6.89 million in 1992, rose to P12.40 million in 1995, P34.2 million in 2002, P35.48 million in 2006, and ended at P45.43 million in 2007.

In 1998, Teodoro declared three real properties: a condominium unit in Makati that he said he purchased for P30 million, a residential house in Makati that he said he built for P10 million, and “interest in 11 lots” in Sampaloc, Manila that he valued at P14 million. His total real assets as of 1998 was P54 million.

Until 2004 or for six years’ running, Teodoro enrolled the same unchanged values for his real assets in his SALNs. But in 2005, he upped the values of the same three real properties thus: Makati condominium, P32.5 million; “interest in real estate” in Sampaloc, Manila, P26 million; Makati residential lot, P25 million, for a total of P83.5 million.

In 2007, his mathematics failed. Teodoro enrolled the total for the value of the same real assets at P100.97 million, even as he reported only the following details: Makati condominium, P32.5 million; interest in real estate in Sampaloc, Manila, P26 million; Makati residential lot, P25 million. (Note:  In his 2007 SALN, Teodoro followed the new SALN form, which lists motor vehicles under “Real Properties and Vehicles,” thus the higher sum of P100,970, but he did not explain the difference.)

A big surprise came in 2008, when Teodoro suddenly racked up the values of the same three real properties, albeit with still an erroneous total value. He reported this time that his Makati condominum unit was worth P39.98 million; interest in real estate in Sampaloc, Manila, P125.74 million; and the Makati residential lot, still P25 million. Teodoro’s SALN in 2008 reported a total value of the assets at P205.04 million.

Villar disclosed the following real assets in his SALNs from 1993 to 1995: residential property in BF Resort Village in Las Pinas that he said he “purchased” for P3.18 million, residential property in BF Vista Grande purchased for P115,000; residential property in BF International, Las Pinas, purchased for P50,000; residential property in Putatan, Muntinlupa, purchased for P446,370;  an agricultural property in San Nicolas in Bacoor,  Cavite purchased for P337,360.

The total value of the real assets Villar declared from 1993 to July 1995 add up to just P4,094,819. In 1998, Villar reported acquiring a residential property on Naga Road in Las Pinas for P800,000.

From June 1998 to December 2001, Villar enrolled the same unchanged value for his real properties, minus the details: P4.59 million.

In December 2007, Villar said his real assets have grown in value to P19.52 million. He reported the same unchanged amount as the value of his real assets in December 2008.

Villar did not list among his real assets the vast residential estate on Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City of the late senator Salvador ‘Doy’ Laurel, the last of the Laurels to preside over the Nacionalista Party.

According to Villar’s staff themselves, the house, which now serves as NP headquarters, was acquired by Villar at about the same time that he inherited the mantle of the NP from Laurel in 2003.

Cars, cash, stocks

In terms of other properties, stocks top the list for most of the five candidates. In addition, they reported variably small to fabulous amounts of cars, jewelry, books, and art works that they own.

Aquino reported only in December 2007 that he had jewelry worth P300,000. It was only in 2001 that he declared owning a car worth P850,000. In 2004, his motor vehicles assets grew to P2.05 million, rose to P5.05 million in June 2007, and slid to P3.95 million in December 2008 because he said he “acquired (a) 650I Coupe for P4.8 million” but sold his Isuzu Trooper for P850,000.

Aquino reported that his stock investments’ value was static at P5.05 million from June 1998 to December 2002, slid to P4.96 million the next year, grew again in December 2007 when he reported “money market placements” of P2 million, on top of his stock portfolio of P4.77 million.

Aquino’s “cash on hand and in bank” declarations showed very little progress. In June 1998, he declared having cash on hand worth P523,918 and cash in bank of P1,838,150. Six months later, he grew these amounts to P823,918 and P2,147.996, respectively.

Curiously, his cash on hand stood at the same amount of P823,918 until June 2007, even as his cash in bank peaked at P6,149,408 in December 2004, before dipping again to P2,910,827 in June 2007. Aquino reported in December 2008 that he had “receivables” of P323,918, cash on hand and in bank of P2,910,163, including P400,000 worth of “firearms.”

Gordon reported owning jewelry and books worth P200,000 in 1998, and grew this to P500,000 by December 2007, apart from P555,000 more in appliances and home furnishings.

The various motor vehicles that Gordon declared he owned from 1992 to 2007 fluctuated in value from P2.38 million at the start, rose to P4.35 million in 1997, slid to P1.77 million in 2001, and further down to P839,000, and finally P120,000 in 2007, apparently because of imputed depreciation costs.

In 2007, Gordon said his motor vehicles had risen to P1.32 million, the combined value of a 1987 Mustang that he bought in 1992 and a 2005 Fortuner.

The same roller-coaster swing marked Gordon’s cash on hand values: From P1.02 million in 1992, these dipped to P655,137 in 1994, climbed to P1.8 million in 1995, dipped again to P1.06 million in 1998, soared again to P4.9 million in 2000, slipped again to P1.02 million in 2003, and closed 2007 at P1.36 million.

The stock investments Gordon declared tracked an up-down movement. He began with only P52,768 in 1992 (he said these were stocks in Philex Mining, First Philippine Holdings, Atlas Consolidated Mining, and San Miguel Corp.). This swelled to P2.65 million in December 1995, and jumped to P5.77 million in December 1999. He reported the unchanged value for his stocks portfolio in the next six years or until December 2005. In 2006 and 2007, Gordon said his stocks had thinned slightly to P5.77 million.

Most transparent

Of the five candidates, Gordon is the most detailed and forthcoming in his SALN declarations.

He has disclosed over the years that his stock investments include the following:

Philex Mining Corp 1973 P 36, 652
First Phil Holdings, Inc 1973 8, 778
Atlas Consolidated Mining Co. 1973 3, 543
San Miguel Corp. 1973-1999 910, 139
Lepanto Consolidated (P34.00 per share)
Central Azucarera de Don Pedro P405, 000
Jollibee Foods Corp. 2, 659, 604
Aboitiz Equity Ventures 31, 200
Pilipino Telephone Corp 1, 014, 000
Petron Corp 23, 000
Meralco 116, 250
Filinvest 371, 250
C & P Homes 111, 250
Kepphil Shipyard, Inc. 75, 978

Teodoro, meanwhile, owned the biggest amount of jewelry, staring with P10 million in 1992 and closing at P11.9 million in 2008.

The value of motor vehicles he owned charted a rise-fall path: from P3 million (same amount from 1998 to 2002), it tripled to P10.35 million in 2004, dipped by half to P4.3 million in 2005, quadrupled to P17.47 million in 2007, and rose further to P19.55 million in 2008.

As strange is the sudden surge in Teodoro’s stocks portfolio since 2007. In 1998, he first declared owning stocks valued at P5.20 million. He enrolled the same amount, to the last centavo, in the next seven years, or until 2005.

In 2007, though, Teodoro’s SALNs enrolled a bigger entry for “stocks (equity paid)” of P11.70 million. The next year, 2008, this grew further to P23.95 million.

The amount increased slightly to P9.9 million in 2002, but dipped sharply to P5.70 million in 2004, and on to P5.36 million in 2005. Curiously, again in 2007, Teodoro’s cash pile doubled to P10.06 million, before sliding back to P8.5 million in 2008.

Stingy with data

Villar, the wealthiest of the five candidates, is the stingiest with details offered in his SALNs.

For instance, in December 1992, he offered a general entry of P122.27 million to represent the value of his stocks, and P715.9 million, “other assets.”

In 1993, he reported having “cash on hand and in bank” of P4.16 million, and in 1994, P2.54 million.

The Villars are known to have a number of family-owned corporations in the real estate sector, including Vista Land and Lifescapes Inc. that raised several billion pesos at its initial public offering in 2007.

Villar, however, does not list Vista Land in his SALNs among his business and financial interests. What he had disclosed are shares in companies with controlling interests in Vista Land, notably Fine Properties, Inc. (since 1982) and Adelfa Properties (since 1986).

Villar has also declared his interests in M.B.Villar Co. Inc. (since 1989), Macys, Inc. (since 1989), Mooncrest Property Development, Inc. (since 1991), and C&P Homes (since 1994).

Fine Properties and Adelfa Properties are majority shareholders of Vista Land that counts Villar’s sons Manuel Paolo Aguilar Villar, 34, and Mark Aguilar Villar, 32, among seven board directors. Manuel Paolo is also treasurer of Vista Land.

A huge, publicly listed homebuilder, Vista Land had posted a core net income of P3.015 billion for 2008, up by 42 percent from previous year’s P2.123 billion. In disclosure reports to the stock exchange, Vista Land reported revenues from real estate sales of P10.436 billion in 2008 or 27 percent more than the P8.224 billion it earned in 2007.

By 2008, the firm’s total consolidated assets stood at P52.252 billion, up from P44.44 billion in 2007.

Peso values only

All that Villar offered in his SALNs over the years are the peso values of his stocks. For instance, he reported stocks worth P153.85 million in 1995 and P190.3 million in 1996.

For five years from 1998 to 2003, he declared the same amount, to the last centavo, of the stocks he said he owned: P200,837,890. Again in 2007 and 2008, Villar reported the same amount, to the last centavo, of his stocks: P208,684,740.

What has fattened enormously is Villar’s cash pile. The “cash on hand and in bank” of Villar tripled from P33.6 million in 1995 to P125.5 million the next year. The 1996 total doubled to P274.9 million in 2002.

Also, the “other personal properties” of Villar doubled from P125.5 million in 1996 to P274.9 million in 2002.

Villar gave no details of his cash on hand and in bank from 2003 to June 2007.

Six months later in December 2008, he reported that his “total other properties” was about three times more than his 2002 disclosure: P818.45 million, or about 80 percent of his total net worth of P1.05 billion in 2008.

The big strides in Villar’s net worth occurred even as he said he did not incur a single centavo of liabilities or loans from 1996 to 2008. However. in July 1995, his SALN listed mortgages and loans worth P40.59 million.


Unlike Villar, the four other candidates for president reported liabilities.

Aquino listed his income tax payments as his liabilities starting 1998, and in 2005 incurred a loan of P5.1 million from an unnamed agency. His liabilities increased to P2.37 million in 2007.

Estrada reported zero liabilities in 1987 but every year thereafter increased it from P5.95 million in 1987 to a peak of P22.07 million in 1993, and in his last SALN in 1999 reported it at P12.95 million.

Gordon disclosed his liabilities at P2.46 million in 1992; soared to P23.10 million in 2002; dipped to P19.20 million in 2006; and peaked at P29.29 million in 2007.

Teodoro reported no liabilities in 1998-99 but from 2000 to 2002, placed his liabilities at the same amount of P7 million. In 2004, his liabilities rose to P9.4 million, dipped to P6.1 million in 2005, peaked to P24 million in 2007, and declined to P17 million in 2008.

PCIJ requested copies of his 2003 and 2006 SALNs four months ago. Teodoro had not replied since. – Based on PCIJ Elections 2010 Database compiled by Tita Valderama, Karol Anne Ilagan, Aura Marie Dagcutan, and Rowena C. Paraan, PCIJ February 2010