PRESIDENT Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III said it best when he declared dissatisfaction over the short list of chief justice candidates that was handed to him by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) over a fortnight ago.
Indeed, despite the big hoopla about the live television coverage of the public interviews, citizens fielding questions via email, Twitter, and Facebook, the JBC’s recently concluded selection process can apparently stand vast improvement.
Among other things, the JBC could do with a more thorough check of the wealth and possible conflicts of interests of those vying for posts in the judiciary –and especially of those aspiring to become the country’s chief magistrate.
Apart from findings on the assets of new Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno that raise questions, PCIJ’s research on the seven other short-listed candidates for the position follow:
Considered by many as Sereno’s closest rival for chief justice, the high tribunal’s most senior member is still listed as a stockholder on record in the documents of at least three companies in the latest reverse search of the PCIJ this month: Techtrade AsiaPhil Inc. (General Information Sheet or GIS filed in 2012), One Bush Financial Advisors & Mgt. Inc. (GIS for 1997), and Philippine Arsenal Corporation, (1998 Primary License).
But as late as June 2010 – when the PCIJ first called his attention to it – the name Antonio T. Carpio was still enrolled as either incorporator, board member, or stockholder of at least 68 various corporate entities, according to the PCIJ’s reverse search of SEC records.
In the case of One Bush, Carpio’s reply letter to the PCIJ dated June 3, 2010, said the “375 shares worth P37,500 in ATC’s name per 1997 GIS belong to former client.”
For Philippine Arsenal Corp., he said, the “10 nominal shares worth P1,000 per 1998 articles of incorporation belong to former client.” By the PCIJ’s verification, this company includes Severo Tuason, half-brother of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, as a major stockholder.
And as for Techtrade, Carpio said, the “50 nominal shares worth P5,000 in ATC’s name belong to former client; inadvertently not updated.”
As for the other firms, Carpio had told the PCIJ then, were all or mostly his clients’, or that of the law firm that he co-founded, the Carpio Villaraza Cruz Law (CVC Law) or simply The Firm in legal circles.
Last week, the PCIJ emailed and faxed a letter to Carpio to inquire about the identities of the “former clients” in whose names he said he had nominal shares in Techtrade and Philippine Arsenal Corp. He has not replied as yet.
Meanwhile, two other companies – Carpio Dev. Corp. and Bersol Dev. Corp. — were supposedly “formed for Carpio family, did not operate, no assets” and “formed for Bernardo and Sol Carpio, parents, did not operate, assets are co-owned by heirs of Bernardo and Sol Carpio,” respectively.
Three entities were also listed by Carpio in his reply to be “owned by CVC Law”: Foreign Business SVCS Corp., Corporate Reorganization Consultants, Inc. and Arcatrade Intl. Corp.
Carpio’s divestment from the CVC law on Oct. 25, 2001 – the day after he was appointed to the Supreme Court – has been reported in The Firm’s amended SEC papers. Yet neither The Firm nor the SEC has records showing how much Carpio actually raised from his divestment from The Firm, who acquired his shares, and whether Carpio reflected the amount he raised from the divestment in his SALN and tax declaration for the year 2001, the year he entered the high court.
Bowing to public clamor for the justices to bare their SALNs during the impeachment trial of Renato Corona, Carpio and Sereno had separately disclosed summaries of their SALNs in January 2012.
Carpio had reported to have assets of P47,344,928.00, liabilities of P75,000, for a net worth of P47,269,928.00 as of the year 2010.
His P47-million net worth as of December 2010, however, pales in comparison to the magnitude of wealth of his co-founder in CVC Law, Avelino Cruz, who had served as legal counsel and defense secretary of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In his SALN for the year 2003, Cruz had declared assets of P102,905,411.28 and liabilities of P31,204,309.62. His net worth for 2003: P71,701,101.66 or about 60 percent more than the net worth that Carpio would declare in 2010, or seven years later.
First appointed by President Aquino as Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon on July 7, 2011, Jardeleza was named solicitor general six months later in February 2012. In his quick, short stint in public service, he should have already filed three SALNs – upon assumption as Deputy Ombudsman on July 2011, as of December 2011, and upon assumption as Solicitor General in February 2012. His first two SALNs should have been filed with the Civil Service Commission (CSC), and the third, with the Office of the President.
The PCIJ was able to obtain Jardeleza’s July 2011 and Dec. 2011 SALN from the CSC. It has a pending request for Jardeleza’s Feb. 2012 SALN with the Malacañang Records Office whose staff confirmed that the document is with the office.
Jardeleza had served as Corporate Secretary, General Counsel, and Compliance Officer of the diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC) until June 2011, according to published reports of the company.
He was designated to serve as compliance officer in 2006 “to insure adherence to corporate governance principles and best practices,” by no less than SMC board chairman and chief executive officer at the time, Eduardo ‘Danding’ M. Cojuangco Jr., uncle of President Aquino.
The GIS for 2011 of an SMC subsidiary, San Miguel Beverages Inc., still lists Jardeleza as a stockholder as of June 14, 2011, or just three weeks before he was named Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon on July 7, 2011.
The SALNs Jardeleza filed as of July 2011 and December 2011 make no mention of his interests in SMC anymore. Also, a subsequent GIS form that SMC submitted to the SEC on July 9, 2012 no longer lists Jardeleza as a stockholder.
In his December 2011 SALN, Jardeleza does not specify in which companies or instruments he has “trust, fixed income, equity investments, and club shares” that he valued at a total of exactly “P160,000,000.00.” He also names himself and wife Concepcion as having “business interests and financial connections” in a company that he does not identify, although he says it involves “lease of residential property.”
As of his December 2011 SALN, the solicitor general has a declared net worth of P221.62 million. It includes 13 pieces of real properties (house and lot, condominium units, salt bed, fishpond, riceland, etc) worth P58.94 million, personal and other properties worth P169.69 million, and liabilities of P7.02 million, representing a housing loan with the BPI Family Savings Bank.
The second most senior associate justice of the Supreme Court is still listed as a stockholder in the documents of two companies: Neo-Prex Trading Corp. and Omni Prex Inc.
For the PCIJ story on the assets of the justices that ran in June 2010, Abad sent a reply letter dated May 28, 2010 in which he described these two companies as “family corporations where I remain a stockholder.”
There were other companies in which Abad’s name has been listed in the SEC records. In response to specific queries, Abad had written the PCIJ: “I have no recollection of AS Business Solutions, Inc., Triad Business Assistance Inc, Filtropic Aqua Farms Resources Inc., OB Trading Corp., and Philippine World College, Inc.”
“I have been in private practice of law for 23 years before my appointment and I may have been included as nominal stockholder by my clients but I have no recollection of actively taking part in their management,” Abad added. “It is also possible that the stockholder is my namesake because in my experience, there are at least two Roberto Abads. The other one is also a lawyer.”
But Abad also acknowledged that Roberto A. Abad & Associates 1 and Roberto A. Abad & Associates 2, and Abad & Associates “are the names of my law firm where I was the senior partner.”
In addition, he said Omni Prex Inc. and Neo-Prex Trading Corp. “are family corporations where I remain a stockholder.”
“My cousin asked permission to use my name for the foundation, Rosendo O Subido Sr. Charities for Poor Children giving harelipped children free surgery,” Abad said. Communio Et Mission Formation Institute “is an adult catechesis organization where I am a director still.” But A.M. Integrals, Inc. “is a messengerial company where I already sold my shares sometime in the 1980s.”
His latest available SALN on file with PCIJ dates back to 2006, when he was labor and employment secretary. At the time, Brion declared he had 12 real properties worth P34.5 million, cash in bank of US$25,000 and P40,000, receivables of US$30,000, and liabilities of US$10,000 (loan from Erasmo Brion) and P500,000. He reported his net worth at P39.15 million at the time, six years ago.
His real properties included five pieces of agricultural lands that he said were "inheritance" properties of his wife, Antonietta A. Brion, and one agricultural land and one house and lot that he said were "donations."
Brion's 2006 SALN also bared that his wife was then working as Court Attorney IV with the Court of Appeals, while his brother Job D. Brion was health officer of San Pablo City.
Her latest available SALN on file with the PCIJ is as an associate justice of the Sandiganbayan in 2003. At the time, she reported having six real property assets worth only P1,041,000 (two houses and four lots in Paranaque acquired from 1983 to 1997), personal and other properties worth P2.34 million “more or less”, and liabilities of “approximately 2M.”
She did not fill out the line indicated for her net worth although the amounts she enrolled would bring it to P1.39 million only.
De Castro disclosed under the section for “business interests and financial connections” that her husband Eduardo de Castro was connected with the Goldlane Taxi company as of 1997. She also said that her half-brother Eduardo L. Leonardo was then working as executive assistant with the Sandiganbayan, and her daughter Christine Genevive, executive assistant at the Court of Appeals.
The chairman of the Governance Commission for GOCCs (government-owned and –controlled corporations) or GCG had also served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Makati Medical Center, Clark Development Corp., Clark International Airport Corp., and as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of Corporate Directors and the Kapampangan Development Foundation.
The PCIJ has no copy of Villanueva’s SALNs as chairman of GCG.
Villanueva is also listed as incorporator of the Philippine Association of Law Schools, Inc. in its 2010 articles of incorporation and by-laws. The Law School listed under Villanueva is the Ateneo de Manila University in Rockwell Center, Makati City.
As well, he is listed as incorporator of the Ateneo Class ’81 Blue Legal, Inc. in its 2005 articles of incorporation and by-laws. Villanueva’s address is the same address identified in the articles of incorporation of the Philippine Association of Law Schools, which is Villa Gloria Subdivision in Angeles City.
The GCG was constituted under Republic Act No. 10149 or the “GOCC Governance Act of 2011” to act as a “central advisory, monitoring, and oversight body with authority to formulate, implement and coordinate policies” for GOCCs, government financial institutions, government instrumentalities with corporate powers, and government corporate entities. The Budget and Finance secretaries are ex-officio members of the GCG.
In his SALN for the year 2009, his latest on record dated April 29, 2010, or weeks before he ended his term in the 14th Congress, Zamora did not declare a single company in which he has business interests and financial connections. But PCIJ’s reverse search and public disclosure records of companies in which he and elder brothers Manuel and Salvador II have significant equity interests show that Congressman Zamora had for years already been well connected to many corporate interests.
The ex-congressman from San Juan – who had also served as executive secretary of former President Joseph Estrada – is board chairman of Cagdianao Mining Corp. or CMC, which registered with the SEC on July 25, 1997 as a 100%-owned subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corp., where he also sits as a board member. CMC is “primarily engaged in the exploration, mining and exporting of nickel ore located in Cagdianao, Dinagat.”
The congressman’s brother Salvador II made a P5-million contribution to President Aquino's election campaign in May 2010. It was received on March 2, 2010.
Another Nickel Asia board member, former Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Fulgencio Factoran Jr., contributed P20 million to President Aquino’s campaign in May 2010. Because he received more donations that he actually needed to cover his expenses in the last elections, Aquino had reportedly returned part of his excess campaign funds to some donors, including Factoran.
Nonetheless, also in the same election period, Congressman Zamora served as a “campaign strategist” of Nacionalista Party presidential candidate and Sen. Manuel B. Villar, Aquino’s rival candidate.
A certain “Ronaldo B. Zamora” is listed as stockholder of Jaguar Security & Investigation Agency, Inc. in the General Information Sheet (GIS) of the company for the years 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Zamora's listed address in the GIS (Ayala Heights, Quezon City) is different from the one listed in his SALNs (Greenhills, San Juan City). Both documents show the same Taxpayer’s Identification Number or TIN (105-549-511), however.
If the “Ronaldo B. Zamora” listed in Jaguar's GIS is the same Ronaldo B. Zamora being referred to, by all indications the former congressman did not declare Jaguar Security & Investigation Agency Inc. in his 2008 and 2009 SALNs.
Interestingly, Jaguar's 2012 GIS, which the SEC received on May 17, 2012, no longer lists “Ronaldo B. Zamora” as a stockholder.
In another company, Plus Properties, Inc., Zamora is also listed as board member and stockholder in its 2011 and 1997 GIS only. Zamora's address in the 2011 GIS (7 Lopez Jaena St, Ayala Heights Village, Old Balara, Quezon City) is different from the one listed on his SALNs (Greenhills, San Juan City), but the TIN is the same in both documents (105-549-511). The PCIJ does not have the 2011 and 1997 SALNS of Zamora.
Yet another company, Equinox MDSG Corp., in its 1983 primary license, enrolls a certain “Ronaldo B. Zamora” with address at “52 Van Buren Street, Greenhills, San Juan, MM” as stockholder. Zamora's address in his 2001 SALN is “22 Van Buren St., North Greenhills, San Juan.” The two documents bear similar signatures.
These gray matters about the state of wealth of the chief justice nominees remain unsettled issues pending the disclosure of the SALNs particularly of the incumbent justices, and the two other nominees from the Executive branch. – With research by Rowena F. Caronan, PCIJ, August 2012