EXACTLY A year ago tomorrow, on Dec. 12, 2011, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III marshaled votes from his Liberal Party and coalition allies in the House of Representatives to impeach then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.
The chief magistrate, it was alleged, had failed to declare the true and full details of his wealth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).
But by most indications, many strands of Corona’s story find parallels in the state of wealth of most of his former colleagues at the Supreme Court, as of 2011.
For instance, like Corona, nearly all the justices retain sizeable caches of cash on hand and in bank. In fact, four justices have zero liabilities, as of their 2011 SALNs.
Only two justices have loans or liabilities of around P5 million, and only one with P16-million liabilities on account of his wife’s business ventures. The rest of the justices have a little less or more than P1 million in loans.
Like Corona as well, land or real assets remain the pivot or bulk of the assets of at least four justices. All the rest, except for one, have land estates accounting for 30 to 50 percent of their assets. The seemingly basement prices at which some justices acquired their houses and lots and agricultural land are incredible to say the least.
Unlike Corona though, several of the justices have fairly robust portfolios of equity interest in family corporations and holding companies, and in sundry stocks in corporate entities they did not identify in 2011 but had revealed in their previous SALNs.
PCIJ’s review of the data enrolled in their SALNs through the years, however, yields a number of disparities that beg further explanation from the justices. Our findings include:
- A largely sharp uptick in the net worth of invariably all the justices across a decade. For eight justices whose 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2011 SALNs are available, PCIJ found that the rise in their net worth ranged from P6.75 million to P81.65 million, or from 58 percent to 558 percent more, across a decade.
- Some justices have reported changing or rising acquisition costs, as well as static fair market values, for their properties; the others did not even disclose the acquisition costs of their real assets.
- A number of corporate interests are not disclosed in the SALNs of some justices but in which, SEC records show, they still retain equity interest as incorporators, shareholders, or officers.
- Conflict of interest situations – in law, could either be real, potential, or apparent – confront three justices because of loans that they had acquired for companies in which their spouses have interests, or for a family holding firm with office addresses at the old and new offices of one justice’s former law firm.
- Twelve justices have brought in two to six relatives as executive assistant, judicial staff, legislative staff or consultant in the Supreme Court and the electoral tribunals. They include the spouse, children, siblings, nephews, nieces, and in-laws of the justices. At least four have at least six relatives each in government, majority employed by the high court and the electoral tribunals.
- Bad math marks the SALN of two justices who apparently failed to derive the correct sums of their assets, thus pruning the value of their true net worth.
Read Part 3 of our report on The Wealth of the ‘Gods of Faura’ here.