Amid the vicious attacks on President Rodrigo Duterte and his family members based on the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) they filed over the years, it is worthwhile to look back on the huge jump in his predecessors’ net worth during his incumbency.
In 2015, President Benigno Aquino III’s last full year as the country’s leader, he declared a net worth of P68.78 million compared to 2009, a year before he was elected to Malacañang, when he declared a net worth of only P15.44 million, or a huge 345.43 percent increase from 2009 to 2015.
The increase in Aquino’s net worth was even higher than the spike in the net worth of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Aquino’s SALN was also mysterious in that in his last annual filing as senator, it showed a net worth of only P15.44 million in December 2009, and the figure jumped to P50.19 million in June 2010 when he entered the presidency, or a difference of almost P35 million in a span of six months. The filing of SALN is required of newly-elected officials within 30 days after assumption of office.
Strange wealth sources
News reports stated that Aquino’s campaign team declared P36.9 million in excess donations for the 2010 elections, but the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) defended Aquino saying that “if he had enrolled his P36.9-million excess campaign donations as part of his income in 2010, according to the BIR’s Revenue Regulation 7-2011 dated 16 February 2011, Aquino should have paid millions more in taxes.”
Then Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares told the PCIJ the excess campaign funds were not recorded in Aquino’s income tax return (ITR) for 2010.
A controversial asset of Aquino was a Porsche 911 Carrera, which he claimed to have sold six months after he bought it in 2011. The SALN does not provide a breakdown of the receivables.
Aquino, just months into his presidency, claimed he bought the car for P5 million, and that he used the money he got when he sold a BMW.
Mr. Duterte’s Land Transportation Office head Edgar Galvante, who was a former police general, said there were no records that Aquino purchased a Porsche 911 nor a BMW.
LTO records showed that the only cars under his name were a 2003 Toyota Land Cruiser he registered in 30 June 2003 and a 2016 Ford Explorer registered 15 June 2016, two weeks before he stepped down as President.
The high growth in Aquino’s SALN surpassed that of Arroyo. Aquino was elected in 2010 while Arroyo began her full six-year term as president in 2004. While his net worth rose by more than 300 percent from 2009 to 2015, Arroyo registered an increase of over 90 percent in her wealth declaration from 2003 to 2009.
Two administration-supported senatorial candidates, meanwhile, defended the President and his children from critics who are questioning their wealth increase.
Criticisms on their wealth increase came after the PCIJ released an article, which examined their assets, which in turn Mr. Duterte said was a paid hack job.
In the first part of its report released last week, the PCIJ said the law firm Carpio & Duterte Lawyers was not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. While in the second part of their report, it said the Dutertes “have all consistently grown richer over the years.”
Maguindanao Rep. Zajid “Dong” Mangudadatu said during the sidelines of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HnP) sortie in Surigao City that he has known the President, as he grew up in Davao City where Duterte became mayor for over two decades.
“I am assured, because I grew up in Davao City. The Dutertes, they are really honest and they do not want to lead to get rich,” the lawmaker said.
On the other hand, reelectionist Senator Cynthia Villar said that in all her encounters with Mr. Duterte, she has always known the President to be a simple man with a simple lifestyle.
“I don’t see (that they are very rich) in how he acts or in their life(style). I know them personally, I dealt with them personally. I do not see that (they are very luxurious) in their personal life,” the lawmaker said in a previous interview in Gingoog, Misamis Oriental.
No waiver needed
She added that Duterte doesn’t need to sign a waiver to show his assets and net worth.
“I don’t think he has changed his attitude. His life is simple and he will remain a simple person all his life. He is more simple than us,” Villar added.
Meanwhile, HnP chairperson and campaign manager Sara Duterte said that it is normal that they are plagued with controversies as the elections are fast-approaching.
“Yes, it is natural that there are political issues, especially when it’s the season for campaigns and elections. So, it’s a natural thing in politics, those issues,” she said.
The President’s daughter said that among the issues being thrown at them, she said these were not “worthy of a comment.”
“So far, as what I can see, there is no issue that should be given attention or comment,” she said.
Davao’s local chief executive has said that she will just issue a statement if there are allegations that cannot be answered by her SALN.
The Palace said the President is not required to explain any reported surge in his wealth. Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo challenged former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the PCIJ to file a case against the President after questioning the alleged increase in his wealth while in public office.
Burden of proof
“The law requires public officials to file their SALN. PRRD already did that. The law does not require the filer to explain the increases in their income, if there are,” Panelo said.
He noted that any contrary argument would be “an undue expansion” of the commands of the law pertaining to the transparency of a public official or employee’s property.
“If Atty. Sereno and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism believe that the increases relating to the President’s assets are ill-gotten wealth, they should file the appropriate charges instead of nitpicking and using media to create intrigue and put the President and his family in a bad light,” Panelo said.
“After all, ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat — the burden of proof lies upon him who affirms, not on him who denies,” he added.
Sereno recently called on Duterte to explain to the public the alleged increases in his family’s wealth.