WITHIN a year after the May 2010 elections, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III reported that his wealth had grown nearly three times, or from only P15,440,268 as of December 2009 to P54,999,370 as of December 2010.
The net increase in his wealth: P39,559,102, or 256 percent more in just 12 months.
The spike in his net worth was, in fact, first recorded in June 2010, a month after the elections, when Aquino filed his mid-year Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), as the law requires all winning candidates to do before they can assume office.
In June 2010, Aquino reported a net worth of P50,194,000. This would increase by P4 million in the next six months, hence the P54-million net worth that he declared in the end-2010 SALN that he filed on Apr. 25, 2011.
The rate of increase in Aquino’s wealth in the last year is unequalled by even his own record from 1998, when he first filed his SALN as a member of the House of Representatives, representing his home province of Tarlac. On his first term in the House, Aquino declared a net worth of only P8,707,247, which rose to P13,941,627 in 2007. This translates to a net increase in his wealth of only P5,234,380, or a growth rate of only 60 percent in nine years.
To be sure, the P36.9-million excess campaign donations that he had reported to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) does not account for Aquino’s recent big net worth increase. Indeed, in his December 2010 SALN, he reported only P228,961 as his only “liability,” which he said represented his “Tax Payables” to the “Bureau of Internal Revenue” or BIR.
The liability, imputing an applicable 30-percent tax levy, indicates that Aquino had earned compensation income of only P707,989, or roughly P58,999 in gross monthly pay, for the whole of 2010.
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 Feb. 16, 2011, Aquino should have paid millions more in taxes.
BIR Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares tells the PCIJ that the excess campaign funds were not recorded in the Income Tax Return (ITR) for 2010 that the president filed within the deadline last Apr. 15.
But the growth in his net worth may be well explained by other sources, according to both Henares and Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
And while what actually happened to the P37-million excess campaign funds he raised in the May 2010 elections remains a puzzling web of details not fully disclosed or even documented, it seems the latest increase in his net worth may be reasonably explained, at the very least.
Asked earlier to explain Aquino’s rise in affluence, Lacierda had told reporters that the president had realized P17 million from the sale of a family property in Antipolo City, aside from inheriting assets following the death of his mother, former President Corazon ‘Cory’ C. Aquino, on Aug. 1, 2009.
Henares also tells the PCIJ that the Aquinos had sold in 2010 a “sizeable” prime property in Antipolo that was part of the estate of the Sumulong clan, the maternal relatives of Cory Aquino.
Saying she is not at liberty to disclose details or documents, unless cleared by the president, Henares instead offers that she has verified that the Aquinos had paid “a very substantial amount” of capital gains tax due from the sale.
The president also recorded in his December 2010 SALN two real properties as “inheritance” – a “residential house and lot” in Quezon City that he valued at P13,796,167, and a “commercial lot” in San Juan City that he valued at P7,016,906. The two properties accounted for a more P20-million increase in the value of his real properties, from only P761,440 in December 2009.
Again, Henares says the records of the BIR show that the President had paid the rightful “estate tax” on these two inherited properties.
But other than the rise in value of his real properties, what accounted for Aquino’s wealth explosion in 2010 was a P17,031,484 in “receivables” that Lacierda had explained to be the value of the Antipolo property that the Aquinos had sold.
A third discernible source of wealth growth was the “cash on hand and cash in banks” that Aquino reported in December 2010. It nearly doubled to P6,223,704, from just P3,246,900 in December 2009.
The steep climb in Aquino’s net worth in the last 12 months had also been boosted by the decision of youngest sister, entertainment celebrity Ma. Kristina Bernadette Aquino-Yap, to forfeit her claim on the estate of Cory Aquino, in favor of her only brother, says someone close to the president.
This meant, the presidential friend says, that instead of the four Aquino daughters and the president getting 20 percent share each, P-Noy, Cory’s only son, received a 40-percent share.
Moreover, two liabilities that Aquino reported in his 2009 SALN had disappeared by 2010: “mortgage payable” in the amount of P3,826,740, and “other payable” in the amount of P1,500,230. In other words, he grew his wealth even as he settled over P5 million in debts in just 12 months.
Other than showing bigger positive numbers, Aquino’s December 2010 SALN is also remarkable for the suddenly absent names of nine family-owned companies in which he listed holding business interests and financial connections until 2009.
It seemed like the president had divested himself of all his shares in these companies, quietly and secretly, if also according to law. Lacierda tells that PCIJ that the absence of these companies in the latest SALN of Aquino “indicates” divestment. The presidential spokesperson, however, has yet to accede to the request for documentary proof.
Five of the nine companies that used to crowd Aquino’s SALNs, though, had been reporting net losses in recent years: Tarlac Development Corp., Jose Cojuangco & Sons, Inc., Tarlac Distillery Corp., Paniqui Sugar Corp., and Luisita Golf & Country Club, Inc.
Only three seemed to be still in the black: Central Azucarera de Tarlac, Liberty Insurance Corp. and Luisita Marketing Corp.
No records could be found with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a ninth company, Pedro Cojuangco et al., in which Aquino had declared interest in his SALNs from 2006 to 2008.
To be sure, the rate of increase in Aquino’s wealth last year is unequalled by even his own record from 1998 to 2007, or before he became president.
When he first filed his SALN as a member of the House of Representatives, Aquino declared a net worth of only P8,707,247. This rose to P13,941,627 in 2007, a net increase of only P5,234,380. That redounds to a growth rate of only 60 percent in nine years, or a modest 6.6 percent wealth expansion per year.— PCIJ, July 2011