No announcement yet.

Philippine Elections, June 7, 2013 – Part 3

This is a sticky topic.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Philippine Elections, June 7, 2013 – Part 3

    Professor Gill H. Boehringer

    Report on Philippine Elections – Part 3

    Gill H. Boehringer, Metro Manila, Philippines
    June 7, 2013

    However you look at it, wealth remains the dominant factor in Philippine elections. In this report, I look at the wealth of those who govern the country through the Senate and House of Representatives, the Cabinet and the Supreme Court. It will surprise no one familiar with what I have elsewhere called “faux democracy” in the Philippines (others have used the felicitous term “mirage democracy”) that the poor and exploited masses are governed by very wealthy people. And those people care naught for democracy should it stand in the way of their profit accumulation. Recently the Pope spoke out about “savage capitalism” which “has caught the logic of profit at any cost, of giving in order to get, of exploitation without thinking of people…and we see the results in the crisis we are experiencing.” (“Pontiff denounces savage capitalism,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 24, 2013). Philippine elections do little to mitigate the continuing social crisis in the country.

    To simply report on the “electoral process” would be to present an abstract picture of the elections, removed from the deeper structures and networks of wealth and power.
    As Adam Smith wrote: “Civil government, as far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”

    A discussion of the drama of elections would be to do what the media does. That is, to make it seem that the electoral process puts power into the hands of those who are competing for political office – according to liberal democratic theory – and so the important focus for analysis is the spectacle of the moment – dynasties, fraud and violence, PCOS failures, Comelec irrationality (fraud and corruption?), glitches here and there – and always “questions to be asked” (without much hope they will be answered), and, finally, the RESULTS. But don’t hold your breath, as there are always complaints to be sorted out, slowly.

    For a number of reasons, it is important to remember that those who govern are not always the same as those who rule. With all the attention paid by the media to easily publicized issues such as political dynasties (e.g. the Constitution opposes them but leaves it to Congress as to how to prevent them: should we pass a law? etc.), the more fundamental role played by the non-politicians who have powerful economic interests to protect is hardly considered. A thorough examination of the difference between the two groups (between which there is some overlap) is beyond the scope of this paper. Suffice to say that the rulers are in the background where the money – the BIG money – is, and where powerful people make the decisions about how best to protect and utilize it.

    How does it work?
    “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
    ~ Adam Smith, ”The Wealth of Nations”
    The rich and powerful elite, with their competing but essentially similar interests, are influenced and coordinated by such organizations as the Makati Business Club; the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry; the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (a high percentage of hugely wealthy business tycoons – the “taipans” as they are sometimes called here – are Filipinos of Chinese descent, popularly called Chinoys. They do not sit in legislatures. See “AVA to honor 26 business tycoons,” The Philippine Star, June 3, 2013. Of the honorees, 15 are Chinoys. For the history of their experience in the Philippines, see e.g. Richard T. Chu, Chinese and Chinese Mestizos of Manila: Family, Identity and Culture, 1860s-1930s (2010).

    Other organizations which play a role in the system include the Asian Institute of Management (Makati City, Metro Manila), and the Asian Development Bank (Ortigas, Metro Manila, a financial center beginning to rival Makati).

    The major media, owned by tycoons and dynasties, send out the messages. (See e. g. Louella Desiderio, “Businessmen seek passage of economic bills,” The Philippine Star, June 1, 2013; and Priscilla Tacujan, Ph. D. “Protectionist clauses in the Philippine Constitution restrict the flow of foreign direct investment,” The Philippine Star, June 3, 2013).
    “(T)he end of every private merchant is not the common good but his particular profit.”
    ~ Lord Chief Baron Sir Thomas Fleming in Bates’ case, 1606
    Unlike the Lord Chief Justice’s hard-nosed view of capitalist greed, in the Philippines the interests of the wealthy and powerful are protected by the judiciary, in particular the Court of Appeal and, finally, by the Supreme Court. (See for example, Marites D. Vitug, Shadow of Doubt (2010); and see an “insider’s” novel on the administration of justice, Blighted (2009), by former Solicitor General Frank Chavez.).

    Of course there is no reason to doubt that the “co-ordination” mentioned above occurs on a casual, sometimes intimate, social and/or friendship basis, as Adam Smith realized. Even religious networks operate, e.g. the Catholic Church should be included in any such consideration. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines is a well known political actor, and there are others.

    In the Philippines, University fraternities operate as networks of influence and support for the largely wealthy and powerful who have attended elite universities (especially in Manila). Also significant are alumni associations of schools (of particular importance are the Catholic elite privates in Metro Manila), perhaps especially for the young women who will participate in the affairs of the elite with vigor, and of universities (probably less important).

    And from the knowledge we have about the importance of his support for erring or embarrassing gun-shooting pals, President Aquino reminds us that sporting clubs – and other social clubs – are places where the powerful relax and exchange views with like minded people.

    Sometimes we get a glimpse of one level of the informal activity which is important for influencing the direction of the development of policy and strategy. I want to discuss one such gathering which caught my attention. It is, I believe, typical of social gatherings which occur frequently throughout the year. See e.g. the full page spread in The Philippine Star (June 3, 2013), story by Johnny Litton, “Business CHIC: Bobby and his friends.” There are 25 photographs taken at a dinner hosted by Ambassador “Bobby” Romulo and wife Olivia for “their good friend, the international jetsetter and philanthropist, Nene “Lady Q” Quimson.” “Bobby” is the son of Carlos P. Romulo, soldier, diplomat, journalist, buddy of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and former President of the United Nations. According to the introductory sketch, the guests included “(M)embers of the diplomatic corps, Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario [The richest man in the Cabinet – GB], Senator Frank Drilon [A powerful political ally of President Aquino, soon to be president of the Senate for the second time, former Cabinet member with portfolios relating to labor and industry, never far from the action – GB]; retired Chief Justice Art Panganiban, ambassador and Planters Development Bank president Jesus Tambunting, ambassador Lani Bernardo, and their respective spouses.”

    Others present: Nationwide Development Corp. Chairman, Conrado Calalang and wife Cynthia (high end travel agent in Makati City); Manila Polo Club president Roman Azanza, Jr. and his wife Amalie, a “socialite and heiress” who is the sister of Chari Aboitiz of the mega wealthy clan; founder of the leading accountancy firm SGV and Co., Washington SyCip (also a Chinoy); Toby Gan, investment banker; president and CEO Kevin Belmonte; Bridgebury Realty Corp. director Daniel Zuellig; IBM Philippines president Mariela Winhoffer; Bambi Harper, socialite and cultural writer for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, former President of the Heritage Preservation Society, and Administrator of historic Manila: Intramuros; two more Chinoys:Tony Go of the Equicon Group; Josie Sy, a Board member of the Asian Institute of Marketing. Missing from the gathering was her elderly husband Ramon, former President of the Bankers Association of the Philippines, president and CEO of the United Coconut Planters Bank, president and CEO of the International Exchange Bank, Director of Salcon Power Corp., and former vice president of Metrobank, owned by his fellow Chinoy taipan, George Ty. According to Bloomberg Businessweek Online (June 7, 2013) he “is connected to 4 Board Members in 4 different organizations across 4 different industries.”

    Further guests: from Alsons Consolidated Resources, came O. V. Espiritu, and chair and president Tomas Alcantara. Also pictured were PETNET president and CEO Larry Ocampo; Second Generation author Gretchen Ocampo Recto and businessman husband Sito from a major clan; Architect Willy Coscolluela, with wife Marion, an interior designer; Paul Zaldarriaga, president and managing director of IBM Solutions Delivery, Inc., VP for Information Management, Jollibee, a fast food chain giant, and personal consultant/special assistant to the president of De La Salle University, Manila; Lorna Lopez, who writes for Billionaires Magazine, is a graduate of the Asian Institute of Management and Head of Market Research and Business Development for First Carbon Solutions, as she was formerly at ADEC Group; Ana Ortigas de Olondriz, a top shareholder in Concrete Aggregates Corp, from one of the most important old families; socialite Patricia Ottiger and her sports champion “Iron(wo)man” daughter Fiona, a teacher at the British school, and a competitor for the Manila Polo Club Tri-Team. Not in attendance was husband and father Carl Ottiger, who may have been attending to business as president and director of the California branch of the Manila-based mega conglomerate San Miguel Corporation, of which he is also a Board member. The cultural sector was represented by the New Zealand photographer, David Wall, apparently in town for the exhibition of his work at the New Zealand Embassy. South African born Australian mining engineer, Anton du Plessis, was also pictured.

    One of the guests who is most interesting is Investment and Capital Corporation of the Philippines chair and CEO, Guilly Luchangco (like others with a “co” at the end of their name, a Chinoy. President Cory Cojuangco Aquino was a Chinoy also). He is a successful venture capitalist, an investment banker, and co-chair of the Philippine Singapore Business Council. He sits on a number of corporate boards, including PHINMA (Philippine Investment Management Consultants Inc.) which was founded by Ambassador Ramon V. del Rosario, Sr., and represents one of the most interesting business stories in the country. PHINMA evolved over nearly 60 years from a steel (galvanized iron sheets), concrete, pulp and paper, realty, coal and oil, energy generating conglomerate into a modern service sector giant, with a diversified portfolio including education (4 universities and public school support initiatives), animation services and other business processing centers, business intelligence gathering, and the commercial Asian Bank.

    At PHINMA Board meetings Guilly would sit with, among others, Ramon del Rosario Jr., president and vice chair of the company, president of the powerhouse Makati Business Club, former national Secretary of Finance in the 1990’s, and the leading actor in the education initiatives of the company, including the Philippine Business for Education project to improve public school standards. Also, at Board meetings, he could chat with another former national Secretary of Finance, Roberto F. de Ocampo, now Chair and CEO of the Development Bank of the Philippines.

    Absent from our gathering, but represented by his wife Nancy, and surely there in spirit with old friends, was the recently deceased Rizalino “Boy” Navarro (who is the archetype of the “co-ordinators” needed for keeping the political economy of the country on an even keel, heading for smooth waters). Navarro was Chair of EEI, the largest industrial construction company in the country. He also chaired the National Steel Corp., Great Pacific Life Assurance Corp., and Philippine Fuji Xerox. He was Chair and CEO of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. He headed Bankcard Corp. and the oil exploration firm Petroenergy Corp., and was former Chair and CEO of House of Investments (consumer finance and construction). “Boy” was for decades Chair and Managing Partner of the leading accounting firm, SGV and Co., and served for many years on the Board of Governors of the Asian Institute of Management.

    Under President Ramos, he served as Secretary of Trade and industry, and was Ramos’ special adviser on APEC.

    Sally Navarro was tapped by PHINMA President Rosario to join the special committee which set up PHINMA’s PBED project. Circles within circles.

    Ambassadors from the European Union, France, Switzerland and Canada were also in attendance, along with a number of Philippine ambassadors. Various Filipino socialites, young and old, also graced the room.

    Of course, the elephant always in the Filipino room is the United States. The neo-colonial relationship of the two countries has been extensively written about, so I simply mention it, and emphasize its significance (which perhaps cannot be over-emphasized!). As far as the elections are concerned, the USA always compliments the GRP on the “orderly and peaceful elections,” and the “marvelous demonstration of democracy in action.” Always. No matter how fraudulent and tragic for the masses. Of course their boy is Pnoy, as were his mother and father before him, so they must have been chuffed to see his neoliberal team in control of both houses of the congress as a result of the elections.


    As figures are not available for the newly elected (May 2013) Senators and Representatives, I will examine the present Senate and House elected to represent the people in the elections of 2007/2010. With regard to the upper house, every three years half the Senate is up for election. The material I am drawing on therefore covers the 24 senators elected in those two election years. All but five of them, who retired, will take their seats in the next Senate which opens in July with 12 newly elected (or re-elected) senators. Those five – Panfilo Lacson, Joker Arroyo, Francis Pangiliban, Manny Villar and Edgardo Angara will be replaced by – the President’s nephew, Bam Aquino; the Vice President’s daughter, Nancy Binay; Grace Poe, the daughter of a former presidential contender and film star, Fernando Poe Jr.; Cynthia Villar, wife of outgoing Senator Manuel Villar; San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito Estrada, son of the former president, Joseph Estrada (the net worth of “JV” in 2012 was P72,628 million); and Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, the son of Senator Edgardo Angara, dynasty leader from the east coast province, Aurora (his net worth when a Rep. in 2012 was P99,486 million). Tweedledum and tweedledee!

    As far as the House of Representatives is concerned, all positions, including party-lists, were up for grabs, in theory. But very few incumbents are turned out, and as we have seen in earlier Reports, the dynasties have strengthened, and even seriously invaded the party-list territory, so we can be assured that the new House of Reps. will not be less loaded up with wealthy legislators. (See Maven Jaymalin, “Party-list representatives told: no political dynasties,” The Philippine Star, May 31, 2013).

    Thus the election of 2013 has not changed the familiar pattern. A commentator said, resignedly “One analyst is probably correct in describing the last elections as having returned us to the depths of traditional politics. The rule of dynasties tightened. Political parties decayed….It is bad enough that our political party system is seriously deteriorated. It is worse that our elections degraded into a mere parlor game for the political clans to play” (Alex Magno, “Unimportant,” The Philippine Star, May 16, 2013). Another columnist lamented that “(T)he signs of the times do not look good for our country especially in politics and governance. It seems that we will have more of the same kind of traditional politicians and political dynasties running the affairs of government who have been alternately taking over the reins of power in this hapless land that continues to be mired in poverty,” in Jose C. Sison, “A Law Each Day (Keeps Trouble Away): Wrong Road,” The Philippine Star, May 24, 2013. See also the “swingeing” attack on dynasties and Filipino election culture not only in Maguindanao, site of the dreadful massacre in 2009, but across the country generally, by Ana Marie Pamintuan: “As we are seeing in the depressing election results, we have once again sent a large band of crooks to feed from the public trough, allowing elections to wash away the most atrocious offenses. [She is referring to the election victories (about 20) of the Amputuan clan which was responsible for the massacre – GB]. When will people feel outraged that public funds will go to the maintenance and operating expenses of such lowlifes?...With the just concluded elections, it looks like the system, in several respects, is even becoming worse…We’ve sent convicted child rapists, murderers and human rights violators to Congress and local governments.” (In “Sketches: Medieval democracy” The Philippine Star, May 20, 2013).

    For a pronouncement on dynasties from the most prominent current product of a dynasty, President Aquino, see Aurea Calica, “Noy on dynasties: some are good, some bad” The Philippine Star, June 3, 2013, in which he refers to “abusive” dynasties, presumably not including his own, though the aggrieved farmers at the Aquino ‘owned” Hacienda Luisita would certainly disagree. The fact is that Filipinos suffer greatly from the undemocratic and anti-people control which is exercised by the dynasties. The country is at their mercy. Listen again to Ana Marie Pamintuan as she discusses dynasties and poverty in her column ‘Sketches: Shared prosperity”: “The World Bank estimates that about 40 percent of Filipinos live below the poverty line, with about 20 percent considered to be living in extreme poverty.”

    After discussing Aquino’s program for reform – such as it is – she continues: “For the typical Pinoy politician, prosperity is shared with relatives and cronies. Constituents get the crumbs every three years during the campaign season. In the last elections, we saw the brazen perpetuation of political dynasties, in some areas with the use of armed threats to prevent the entry of alternatives to entrenched families.

    The expansion of the dynasties, so that a single family (and not even the extended one) controls almost every elected position in the turf, ensures the perpetuation of our feudal political system. It’s bad news for inclusive growth and for an even playing field for job-generating investment. It also further weakens the system of checks and balances in local government, promoting corruption….what we have seen is unmitigated greed for power among many families. They want the entire bibingka for themselves, with the hoi polloi scraping and sharing what’s left sticking to the banana leaf.

    The first elections under P-Noy will be remembered for this.”

    See an analysis of the impact of the elections on the urban poor, by Denis Murphy (of Urban Poor Associates) “The poor didn’t benefit,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 24, 2013. And “the more things change, the more they stay the same”: see Jose Rodel Clapano, “Elections showed ‘trapos’ still shackle Phl-UNA,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 23, 2013. The UNA is the political vehicle of Vice President Binay, who is positioning himself to run for the presidency in 2016, and will be arguing he is the new broom which will sweep away the old and bring in the new as he did in making Makati City a showcase for social reform and economic development while accruing millions of pesos, and forging his own dynasty, of course. (See their spiel about doing for the entire nation what they have done in Makati, and a denial of a dynasty! (Mike Frialde, “Binays deny building a political dynasty” The Philippine Star, April 4. 2013.) The latter is hard to swallow. The Vice President was mayor of Makati as was his wife and now his son. Daughter Mar-Len “Abigail” Binay-Campos is the Representative of Makati 2nd district in Congress, and of course daughter Nancy is a newly elected senator. The propaganda is already flowing: See the 3 page spread lauding Makati City “Special Report: City for the People” (The Philippine Star, June 3, 2013. And see Boo Chanco “Jo Jo Binay is the big winner,” The Philippine Star, May 22, 2013; see also Marichu A. Villanueva, “ Elections over but battles just starting for 2016,” The Philippine Star, May 27, 2013).


    This is not a comprehensive study, but I aim to provide a snapshot of the “peoples’ representatives” and their personal wealth as reported in the media. What is revealed is a legislature filled with very wealthy people, mostly from political families (clans or dynasties as they are referred to by Filipinos). Of course, this is not a new phenomenon. University of Wisconsin Professor Al McCoy edited an extensive study of these formidable families twenty years ago. (A. W. McCoy (ed.), An Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines, 1993.) As a veteran columnist put it “(T)he Filipino still elected into office many public officials whom we know still dare to flaunt their wealth, taken from monies while they were in power,…that’s money they got from taxpayers.” (See Bobit S. Avila, “The Corona Impeachment: A year later,” The Philippine Star, May 30, 2013)

    One of the ways in which legislators are able to increase their net worth is what the Filipinos, following American usage, call “pork.” There is an annual “pork barrel” of 25 billion pesos, P200 million for each Senator and 70 million for each Representative. Its official name is the Priority Development Assistance Fund, and it is discretionary money made available, after application and scrutiny by the administration, for local projects which the legislator wishes to fund. It is said that in many cases contractors are “favored” (family, friends, political allies, etc), over-price the project, and make substantial kickbacks to the legislator. It is thought – with very good reason – to be a major source of political corruption, and one which the dynasties feed on.

    The pork barrel is also a very important disciplinary weapon, used by administrations to punish those who are in serious opposition, or seen as potential challengers to the political regime, or as “generosity” to potential allies. Thus the former president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (now under detention and charged with plunder during her 9 year tenure, itself a result of massive vote manipulation and electoral fraud) starved her opponents of their ‘pork,” including then Senator Aquino (now the President), and his political adviser and running mate in the 2010 Presidential election, Senator Mar Roxas. On the other hand, she ensured that the pork was lavished on potential trouble-makers, oppositionists and dynasty heads e.g. in 2009 when she was under immense and continuous pressure to resign or be impeached for a policy of brutal repression and neoliberal political-economic policies, the biggest pork outlays went to Senate President, J. P. Enrile (P727 million); Senator Edgardo Angara (P405 million); Senator Ramon Revilla, Jr. (P266 million); Jinggoy Estrada (P191 million); Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago (P150 million). At the moment, the Aquino administration has not released any pork to the two congressional sons of Mrs. Arroyo nor to two of their close allies. (See Jess Diaz, “GMA sons, 2 allies remain ‘pork-less’,” The Philippine Star, June 1, 2013.)


    Based on their 2012 Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (summarized in Christina Mendez, “Villars richest, Chiz poorest senator,” The Philippine Star, May 22, 2013)
    SENATORS’ NET WORTH (in Philippine pesos which convert to US and Australian dollars at 42-45 to 1; a school teacher earns P18,000 per month; a provincial “house-help” P1200).

    Manuel Villar, Jr. – 1,452,615,408 (Joint return of outgoing Senator Manny and incoming Senator Cynthia his wife; they control a real estate conglomerate. The senator seems to have topped the national list of taxpayers, with P72.2 million paid, according to his 2012 return; this means he replaces Kris Aquino, the president’s sister, see Christina Mendez, “Villar overtakes Kris as top taxpayer,” The Philippine Star, May 27, 2013).

    Ralph Recto – 468, 467, 036 (Joint return of Senator Recto and his wife, former movie queen Vilma Santos, now Governor of Batangas province. The senator is from a significant political family).

    Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. – 437, 238, 356 (Son of former dictator President Ferdinand Marcos, who robbed the country of billions, much of which has never been recovered by the state agencies responsible for doing so; his mother Imelda is the second richest Representative in Congress: See below. Sister Imee has been re-elected Governor of Ilocos Norte))

    Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada – 193, 580, 510 (Senator Estrada was a former film star, like his father, former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada who was elected Mayor of Manila in the 2013 elections. He is the half-brother of newly elected Senator J. V. Ejercito Estrada. Jinggoy is an early favourite to win the vice-presidency in 2016. There are Estrada family members in a number of elected positions including the mayoral office of the wealthy city of San Juan, part of Metro Manila, now occupied by Guia Gomez, mother of J. V. Ejercito Estrada).

    Ramon Revilla, Jr. – 169, 141, 387 (Joint return of Senator Revilla and his wife, former actress now Cavite Congresswoman Lani Mercado; the Senator was also a film star).

    Edgardo Angara – 159,092,565 (Senator Angara, who heads a powerful provincial dynasty in Aurora, is retiring, but will be replaced by his son, Sonny, as a result of the 2013 elections).

    Juan Ponce Enrile – 118,625,639 (Senate President and long time politician who was a key figure in the administration of President Marcos until he “jumped ship” and helped bring the dictator down; joint return with wife Cristina; they have significant property/business interests in Metro Manila).

    Sergio Osmena III – 111,775,000 (One of the leaders of the Osmena dynasty from Cebu which has a lineage back to early USA colonial days, and which features prominently in McCoy’s book, see above).

    Miriam Defensor Santiago – 77,694,821 (Long serving outspoken and rather iconoclastic politician, a lawyer and a former candidate for the Presidency. Soon to take up a position on an international court).

    Pia Cayetano – 72,958,612 (Senator Cayetano hails from an up and coming urban dynasty – her brother Alan Peter Cayetano is also a senator and his wife lani the Mayor of the important metro Manila city of Taguig. Pia was recently given one of two “Rising Star Awards” at the3rd Women Deliver forum held in Kuala Lumpur, for her work in securing rights for women; her sponsorship and advocacy of the Reproductive Health Bill – now Act – was vigorously opposed by the Catholic Church and its political machinery).

    Vicente Sotto III – 62,220,571 (Senator Sotto is a man of many talents – actor, TV host, singer, composer, champion bowler and plagiarist, having copied from a handful of bloggers in his infamous speech condemning the Reproductive Health Bill (later he plagiarized a speech by Bobby Kennedy). Married to former beauty queen, actress and singer Helen Gamboa, he is a leading congressional spokesperson for the Catholic Church hierarchy. He topped the Senate voting in 1992 with 12 million votes; re-elected in 1998, he was defeated in 2007 when running with Team Unity, supporting the darling of the church, President Arroyo. Re-elected in 2010 when he joined up with the NPC).

    Franklin Drilon – P51,754,364 (A lawyer with one of the most powerful law firms in the country (ACCRALAW), and a third term Senator with two terms as Senate president, and close ally of President Aquino, he was campaign manager for the Aquino Liberal party in 2013 elections. Drilon has been involved in many historical moments in Philippine history. He was a protégé of Presidents Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos. Though supportive of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and one of those who voted to “open the envelope” in the impeachment of President Estrada, he fell out with GMA and sought her resignation after the cheating-secured victory she achieved in 2004. Has close links to the business world, having served as the vice-president and governor of the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and vice president, board member and treasurer of the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP). Interestingly he served as Secretary of the Department of labor and Employment, as well as chair of the National Labor Relations Commission and chair of the National Wages Council. He was also chair of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights).

    Loren Legarda – P45,956,803 (Senator Legarda, a former celebrated national TV journalist, was a candidate for vice president in 2004 when President Arroyo stole the election; she has had to face questions recently about her failure to properly declare an expensive condo in New York City, and whether she actually owns a mansion in Forbes Park, a former colonial enclave and still a wealthy area of Metro Manila – she claims it is owned by a family corporation (of which she owns almost all of the shares).

    Teofisto Guingona III – P43,496,472 (Senator Guingona’s grandfather was Governor of Mindanao in the 1930s; his father was a senator and then vice president. His mother was Governor of Misamis Oriental, and then mayor of Googing City. Along with his mother and father he was jailed by the Marcos regime (presumably the arrest documents were signed by the then Defence Secretary J. P. Enrile his fellow Senator). A law graduate of Ateneo de Manila, he has been involved with human rights protection and against the impunity for extra-judicial killings. A major interest is fighting graft and corruption in government, leading him to assist in uncovering numerous scams such as the Fertilizer Fund caper (part of the Arroyo cheating scheme in the 2004 elections.)

    Panfilo Lacson – P28,856,647 (A former aspirant to the presidency, a traditional politician, and a former head of the Philippine National Police under President Estrada at a time when the illegal numbers game jueteng was rampant; a fugitive of justice under the Arroyo regime – charged, along with several police officers, with a double murder (a highly publicized “rub-out” allegedly ordered by President Estrada), allegations he always denied. Subsequently, the “political attack-dog” for those who wanted Senator Villar out of the Presidential race in 2010.)

    Manuel Lapid – P26.000,000 (The senator is another former film star. His wife was arrested and convicted for entering the USA with a large amount of undeclared cash in 2010. She pleaded guilty to “bulk smuggling and conspiracy to structure transactions with intent to evade reporting requirements.” See Joseph lariosa, “Lapid’s wife allowed to visit ailing father in Phl” The Philippine Star, May 26, 2013.)

    Alan Peter Cayetano – P23,308,333 (Brother of Senator Pia Cayetano. See above).

    Gregorio Honasan – P21,087,050 (A former Army colonel who played a leading role in the mutiny against then President Marcos which led to the people power demonstrations at EDSA which brought about the downfall of the dictator. Although given a high position in the Defense ministry by President Cory Aquino, he plotted against her and led several unsuccessful coup attempts, causing a number of civilian deaths. Given Amnesty in 1992, Honasan subsequently was elected to the Senate as an independent-the first in history. Has always been close to Senator Enrille, to whom he was aide-de-camp in the EDSA days.)

    Aquillino Martin Pimentel III – P16,989,625 (A member of a provincial political dynasty, his father, an opponent of President Marcos, served 17 years in the Senate before him. A lawyer, he graduated from the Ateneo de manila law college and was the bar exam “top-notcher” in 1990. In 2007 he was beaten to the 12th senatorial position through vote manipulation in Maguindanao. Although poll watch dogs NAMFREL supported his claim, Comelec refused to proclaim his election. The Supreme Court was tied at 7-7 therefore he lost his appeal. But he was finally vindicated through a Senate supervised re-count, and 4 years after the election, he was proclaimed the winner.)

    Francis Pangilinan – P14,375,209 (A retiring senator, married to showbiz “megastar” Sharon Cuneta, he was chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He has set up a “demonstration farm” near Cavite, and must expect to do better than the average farmer who earns about P23,000 per year. Presumably he will not lose his farm and join the 2 million landless farmers who work for terribly exploitative incomes. The Philippines IMPORTS agricultural commodities worth a billion US$ per year (Vietnam exports between 5 and 6 US$ billion; Thailand exports about US$ 30 billion). Recently he has been critical of the administration of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) but does not seem to have been able to do much to improve the life of the farmers. He was an early supporter of fellow Liberal NoyNoy – of the hacienda Luisita land owning clan – as a presidential candidate).

    Joker P. Arroyo – P11,050,000 (Another long serving senator, a former human rights lawyer during the Marcos regime, became an apologist for the regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (I believe there is no family connection.)

    Antonio Trillanes lV – P4,432,000 (A mutineer (unsuccessful) against previous much-hated President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the senator was voted into office while held in prison).

    Francis Joseph Escudero – P4,017,082 (Although born in Manila, his roots and political base are in Bicoland, especially the province of Sorsogon where his uncle is Vice-Governor, another is a Vice-Mayor, and two others are Councillors. While in his mid-30s, “Chiz” became spokesperson for presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr., and subsequently was seen as a “presidentiable.” He recently left the Nationalist Peoples’ Coalition party, rumoured because party head and former Marcos crony, Eduardo Cojuango (uncle of President Aquino), refused to fund his presidential aspirations in 2010. Has since declared himself an independent and ran on the Team Pinoy ticket of President Aquino in the 2013 elections. He has, of late, denied presidential aspirations. After a marriage annulment (divorce is illegal in the Philippine Catholic Church dominated culture), he has taken up with celebrity heiress, model, actress and MTV host Heart Evangelista.)

    Some further details of senators’ wealth are available, see Christina Mendez, “Senators bare detailed business interests,” The Philippine Star, May 23, 2013.

    One way to accumulate great wealth is, of course, to be part of a political dynasty. Many senators past and present have belonged to these family-based institutions. See generally, Christina Mendez, “Anti-dynasty? 19 senators have relatives in government,” The Philippine Star, May 27, 2013.

    There have been numerous studies of the relationship between political dynasties, development and poverty in the Philippines. The thrust of some studies is that the dynasties are most often found in the poorer provinces. See e.g. And see on wealth, political success and poverty, Ricky Bautista, “14 Lawmakers from 3rd poorest region multimillionaires,” The Philippine Star, May28, 2013.


    I cannot list the net worth of all 278 Representatives, however some of the wealthiest and some of the least wealthy will be indicated, as well as some startling facts, such as:
    In the 3rd poorest region, the Eastern Visayas (Samar and Leyte) all 14 Congressmen are worth more than a million pesos. They range from:

    Leyte 1st District Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez (with P474,181,703. A powerful Visayan political leader and media columnist, cousin of Imelda Romualdez Marcos, former “First Lady.” He is the 6th most wealthy Rep. in the lower house) to the “poorest,” Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento from Samar 1st District (net worth P3,000,741).

    Two party-list (An Waray) Reps are also millionaires, Neil Benedict Montejo (P17,790,000) and Florencio Noel (P15,005,000).

    (See Ricky Bautista, “14 lawmakers from 3rd poorest region multimillionaires,” The Philippine Star, May 28, 2013.);

    There are 270 Reps. who are worth more than a million pesos. Of these, 217 are worth more than P10 million.

    The top twenty Representatives are:

    Manny Pacquiao, Sarangani, Mindanao (P1,770,000,000, which is about 400 million more than the richest senator, Manny Villar. Pacquiao is a champion boxer who is phenomenally popular; he is looking to build a dynasty it seems, as his wife – a former hair-stylist with no previous experience of public service. was elected Vice Governor in Sarangani province. But brother Rogelio was unsuccessful in a bid for the South Cotabato seat (he has lodged a formal election protest against the winner). The “Pacman” was originally aligned with President Arroyo but is now seen as “independent” but supportive of the Team Pinoy project).

    Imelda Romualdez Marcos, Ilocos Norte (P922,800,000; in addition to her son who is a senator, her daughter Imee is Governor of Ilocos Norte province).

    Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Speaker of the House (P817,600,000; member of the Metro Manila political dynasty who are also publishers of The Philippine Star).

    Alfredo Benitez, Negros Occidental (P702,065,000).

    Julio Ledesma IV, Negros Occidental (P590,577,000).

    Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Leyte 1st District (P474,181,703; he is the cousin of former “First Lady” Imelda Romualdez Marcos).

    Mark Villar, Las Pinas (P361,782,000; he is the son of retiring Senator Manny Villar and Senator-elect Cynthia Villar; according to a report he earned P200 million in 2011, seemingly from the property empire built up by his father).

    Augusto Syjuco, Iloilo (P301,576,000).

    Enrique Cojuangco, Tarlac (P214,837,000; he is a part of the powerful Cojuangco clan to which Cory Aquino also belonged).

    Joel Roy Duavit, Rizal (P195,924,000).

    Rodolfo Antonio, Nueva Ecija (P189,000,000).

    Danilo Suarez, Quezon (P188,700,000).

    Lucy Torrez Gomez, Leyte (P179,600,000).

    Ferjenel Biron, Iloilo (P173,400,000).

    Lani Mercado-Revilla, Cavite (P169,100,000).

    Rodolfo farinas, ilocos Norte (P159,500,000).

    Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Pampanga (P158,300,000).

    Rodolfo Valencia, Misamis oriental (P150,600,000).

    Joseph Gilbert Violago, Nueva Ecija (P121,300,000).

    Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of Pampanga, was 20th richest in the house, with a net worth of P120,513,000. (It is widely assumed that like the Marcoses, she and the “First Gentleman,” lawyer Mike Arroyo (known to Filipinos as “Mr Fifty Percent”) have masses of funds “under wraps”).

    The two sons of the Arroyos are not doing badly:

    Juan Miguel Arroyo of party-list Ang Galang (banned by Comelec from participating in the 2013 elections as not properly considered a “marginalized” sector) admitted to a net worth of P100,600,000; his brother Diosdado Arroyo, representing Camarines Sur, claimed a net worth of P86,200,000.

    Richest amongst the party-list representatives is Catalina Bagasina, of the Association of Laborers and Employees, with P113,770,000.

    The ten least wealthy congressmen are:

    Rafael Mariano, Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) party-list (P92,507).

    Daisy Fuentes, South Cotabato district, Mindanao (P118,000).

    Raymond Palatino, Kabataan (Filipino Youth) party-list (P205,000).

    Kaka Bag-ao, Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party) party-list (P230,789).

    Teddy Casino, Bayan Muna (People First) party-list (P466,390).

    Abigal Faye Ferriol, Kalinga
    (Advocacy for Social Empowerment and Nation Building Through Easing of Poverty) party-list (P501,951).
    Joselito Mendoza, Bulacan district (P850,000).

    Cresente Paez, Cooperative Network party-list (P1,200,000).

    Emmie de Jesus, Gabriela (Gabriela Women’s Party) party-list (P1,200,000).

    Antonio Tinio, ACT Teachers party-list (P1,300,000).
    The above information relating to congressional Representatives was sourced from the following:
    Leila B. Salaverria, “Pacquiao is richest lawmaker, leads 270 House millionaires,” The Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 24, 2013.
    Jess Diaz, “Pacman, Imelda lead richest in House,” The Philippine Star, May 24, 2013.
    Jess Diaz, “GMA poorer by P11 M,” The Philippine Star, May 25, 2013.
    Ricky Bautista, “14 lawmakers from 3rd poorest region multi-millionaires,” The Philippine Star, May 28, 2013.
    Jess Diaz, “31 lawmakers face poll protests,” The Philippine Star, June 5, 2013

    The richest man in the Cabinet, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario declared a Net Worth in 2012 of P705.4 million, up P47.6 from the previous year.

    The biggest percentage increase came, perhaps not surprisingly, to Francis Tolentino, Chair of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. He jumped fromP22.5 million in 2011 to P43.7 million.

    The twelve richest:

    Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario (P705.4 m).

    Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima (P270.7 m).

    Interior Secretary Mar Roxas (P203.3 m).

    Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo (P150.7 m).

    Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez (P249.9 m).

    Chief Presidential Legal officer Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa (P120.2 m).

    Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras (P116.4 m).

    Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla (P111.2 m).

    Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya (P104.7 m).

    Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala (P88,4 m).

    Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson (P83.8 m).

    Health Secretary Enrique Ona (P80.2 m).

    National Anti-Poverty Commission head Joel Rocamora with a Net Worth of 22.3 m, reported a decrease of P3 m.

    Others with decreases were:

    Education Secretary Brother Armin Luistro down P188,355 to P550,651;
    Peace Process Adviser Teresita Deles down P14.74 m to P7.09 m.

    Other members of Cabinet reported Net Worth between P550,651 to P63 m.

    (Sourced from Michael Lim Ubac, “Rich man, poor man: Aquino’s cabinet,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 18, 2013. This deals with the just released SALNs of the Cabinet members.)


    In researching the wealth of government officials, the basic documents are the SALNs which have been used in the sections above. In those are detailed personal assets (including income and all allowances and bonuses, fringe benefits etc), liabilities (including credit card debts!) and the overall net worth of the person filing the SALN.

    But when it comes to the Supreme Court, there is a more interesting story than their net worth. After all, they have been lawyers, mostly in private practice and lower courts, but also in government offices. In such roles, they will have had the opportunity to make tons of money, fair or foul. We can assume that they have made plenty. Filipino lawyers – and judges – do not come cheap.

    In the wake of the 2012 impeachment of former Chief Justice Corona , essentially for falsifying his SALN, the highly respected Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism sought to ascertain how the other justices on the court had been following the official guides on what had to be reported and how.

    They found that of the 14 justices who had filed SALNs (the 15th was recently appointed and so was not included as his SALN would not include income from a year on the Court),* only seven replied to their queries and most of these refused to discuss their SALNs, including the new Chief Justice (appointed by her friend President Aquino who disregarded her most junior position on the Court, the fact that she had failed psychological tests required in the screening process for candidates, and that she was not the top recommendation from the screening committee.) Several gave some limited additional information.

    What struck the investigators was the lack of complete information in their SALNs. Their basic finding was that the justices tended to under-report their income by substantial amounts. In particular they were loathe to report the allowances, bonuses and incentives, and fringe benefits which doubled or tripled their earnings. It would be stretching it to say that Chief Justice Corona was rightfully impeached and found guilty by the Senate, while the other Justices did not also present incomplete information.

    Some of the findings of the Report from PCIJ are summarized here:

    The high court ranks fifth in the top 10 list of highly paid government agencies – the justices received an average of P3.58 million in salaries and allowances.

    For the most part, the Justices did not report the income beyond their base salary; the significance of this was noted by one judge who reported her income as P1,211,737, but then admitted to the investigators that her allowances were substantially more than 100% of her base salary. The magnitude of the allowances and other non-salary benefits available to the justices was shown by the amount received by former Chief Justice Corona while on the bench for 10 years: P21,247,104!

    Five Justices reported income of more than P4 million.

    Four Justices reported receiving more than P2 million in allowances and other benefits.

    In her September 2012 report on Salaries and Allowances (ROSA) to the President, Commission on Audit Chair Ma. Gracia M. Pulido-Tan noted that “the ‘Gods of Faura’ [The Supreme Court is located on Padre Faura Street – GB] are among the top 200 highest paid government officials largely because of the fat allowances and bonuses they receive.”

    The bonuses indicated include: representation and transportation (RATA), Christmas bonus; rice allowance; productivity incentive (nevertheless, one waits years for judgments to be handed down!); clothing and cost of living allowances; extra pay for extraordinary emergencies; additional pay for sitting on any of 4 special Tribunals relating to election complaints. All this without a trade union! And when so many millions of their fellow Filipinos are hungry and living in extreme poverty. Where’s the justice one may well ask.

    On the lack of improvement in reforming the judiciary, I quote from a recent editorial: “Apart from the lack of fiscal transparency, the Philippine judicial system has retained its reputation for unpredictability and vulnerability to political influence. The weak rule of law and uncertainty in the adjudication of business and other economic cases have been among the major complaints of foreign investors…Social injustice arising from compromised magistrates also continues to drive people into the arms of insurgent and bandit groups, with the impoverished most vulnerable to rebel recruitment. The most common complaint against the judiciary is the glacial pace of the administration of justice. This problem has been around for decades and changing the system will take more than the removal of a chief justice.” (Editorial, “Work in progress,” The Philippine Star, June 1, 2013.)

    The Philippine Supreme Court has just made an order granting the PICJ access to the SALNs which the justices did not wish to have questioned in public. See:
    * interestingly he was an Aquino appointment, having been the lead Peace negotiator with the MILF in Mindanao; what was largely ignored by the media and it seems the President, was that he decided to resign as Dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law when it was discovered that he had plagiarized some academic writing – and, only in the Philippines. This came to light after he led a group of his UP colleagues in condemning a Justice of the Court, a graduate in Law from rival Ateneo de Manila University Law School, for plagiarism in a Court decision of which he was the author. (Two American academics confirmed the plagiarism of their work.) The Supreme Court Justices, however, refused to turn on their colleague, who claimed it was not intentional and was, in fact, the responsibility of his clerk who had made a mechanical computer error. It has been suggested that other Ateneo lawyers, in revenge mode and after considerable research, dug up the plagiarism of the UP Dean!

    (The material on the SALNs above was sourced from M. Mangahas and K. Ilagan, “SC justices among PHs best paid, allowances, bonuses not in SALNs” a Report of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, 2012, in 4 parts, also published in Malaya, Business Online (December 9, 2012) at

    Two small newspaper items which say a lot about the elections and Filipino politicians caught my eye recently. The first is a Letter to the Editor which expresses sentiments common to many electors as the worlds of entertainment and politics become ever more closely integrated.

    In “An appeal to ‘moonlighting’ politicians” Pompeyo Pedroche wrote, “Congratulations to all the actors, actresses and other show biz celebrities who have won a mandate to serve their constituents. [He might also have mentioned the substantial number of sports personalities who won election this time – GB] However, these winners should remember that they were voted to serve the public, not to entertain a few. I, for one, therefore hope that I do not see their ubiquitous faces anymore on TV and the big screen doing something else not related to their mandate, like horse-playing, cracking ridiculous jokes, judging a talent show, acting as a co-host, or pretending to be Spiderman….We have had enough of your faces but so little of your public service” (The Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 24, 2013. See also a long, broader critique along similar lines by Gabbie Tatad, “To The Newly Elected,” The Philippine Star, May 18, 2013).

    Looking at things quite differently, a show biz personality, Daniel Fernando (re-elected Vice Governor of Bulacan province) reminds us of the problems of election expenditures and corruption in political office. He is reported to have said “he had again accepted movie and TV projects because he needed to settle debts that he incurred to fund his campaign in this year’s elections.” According to the report, “he received donations from friends, relatives and supporters… but could not avoid incurring debts so he could stretch his campaign funds.”

    It is often said that elections are so expensive for candidates that the only way to pay for them is to win, and then take graft to pay off the enormous debts incurred. It seems that the Vice Governor may be an honest man. One hopes that our letter writer will not think too harshly of him should he switch on his TV and see the Bulacan politician doing some honest work even if it is ‘moonlighting.’ (“Vice governor back in show biz to pay poll debts,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 24, 2013.)