Our vote matters: We should have learned from the US elections in 2020. (Illustration from Mega Magazine)
Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.
— Chinese revolutionary leader Chairman Mao Zedong
ON record, it’s obvious that the richest presidential candidate in next year’s May 2022 elections is no other than our very own People’s Champ Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Pacquiao and there’s no debate that the incumbent senator—who started as a poor kid from Sarangani but later on became the world’s only eight-division boxing champion—is the only billionaire on the list of those seeking the country’s highest post in May next year.
But that’s only on paper. In this country of ours, a politician’s real wealth cannot be measured only by the amount of money he has stashed away or based on his statement of assets, liability, and net worth (SALN) because there are hidden riches, too, like what other people owe him from his generosity or from corrupt practices he has adopted. I call that ‘utang-na-loob’ and that can also be converted into material wealth.
Still, many Filipinos can’t simply gainsay that based on the summary of the senators’ SALN posted on the Senate’s official website, the indication is simple and that is the fact that the Pinoy boxing champion has a net worth of over PhP3 billion as of the end of the year 2020.
And the Pac-Man is now gunning for the presidency, with House Deputy Speaker Buhay party-list representative Joselito ‘Lito’ Atienza Jr. as his running mate.
But some would argue that former Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. is actually the richest among our ‘presidentiables’—and that is if his family’s alleged hidden wealth that is supposed to reach in the trillions of pesos in gold bullion and money accounts deposited in several international banks across the globe is accounted for. But it appears that the Marcoses have effectively convinced everyone that the Marcos Trillions is just a myth like the fabled Yamashita Treasure and the Golden Buddha.
Actual figures in Mr. Bongbong’s last submitted SALN say that he has a total net worth of PhP228.02 million. That is before he left the Senate in 2016.
In 2005, Marcos Jr. declared a PhP79.29 million net worth, and from his SALN from 2005 to 2014, he declared five business interests: namely Augustus Management, Belverde Manpower Inc., NIV Property Holding Co. Inc., MOST law firm, and SASIVI Holdings Inc.
Now becoming more of a spitting image of his father—the late Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Sr.—Bongbong has actually spent most of his life serving various elective government posts. He first entered public office in 1980 when he was 23 years old and then run unopposed and won as Ilocos Norte’s vice-governor. Three years later, he was again elected, this time as the province’s governor which he held until 1986 when his father and namesake was ousted from Malacañang by a military-backed but bloodless ‘People Power’ Revolution that has been praised and emulated by many freedom-loving peoples around the world.
Ousted (and probably shamed) the Marcoses fled into exile in Hawaii and it took six years to pass before Marcos Jr. won again an election as Ilocos Norte’s 2nd district representative, starting from 1992 to 1995. That was after his family was allowed to return.
Then in 1998, he again won the governorship, holding the position for three straight terms until 2007, and in finishing his last term as provincial chief executive, he returned to the House of Representatives and was later elected senator from 2010 to 2016.
He ran for vice president in 2016 but lost to then-Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo by about 260,000 votes.
And now, running again—this time for the highest post in the land—he is being supported by Davao City lady mayor Sara Duterte as his running mate.
Following the heels of Marcos Jr. in wealth is surprisingly, Manila mayor Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso, who is ranked third. In an October interview, the hosto-turned-local chief executive said his net worth was around PhP70 million, an amount we wonder where he got or from where he earned. But still, he may have unseen sources of wealth which we are not saying are illegally acquired.
At age 23, Domagoso entered government service when he was elected city councilor of Manila in 1998, and from then on, he held the post for three consecutive terms until he was elected vice mayor in 2007, again in 2010, and then again in 2013.
He was appointed by President Duterte as chairperson of the North Luzon Railways Corporation, and undersecretary at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). He ran for senator in 2016 but lost in the race. Three years thence, he won a landslide victory in the 2019 mayoral race in Manila against former mayors and political heavyweights Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada and retired Gen. Alfredo Lim.
And ranked at the bottom half of the list of wealthiest members of the Senate is senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson at No. 17 out of 24 senators, with a net worth of over PhP58-million as of December 2020. Known as the ‘watchdog of the budget’, Lacson first served in the Senate in 2001, where he made a mark in calling for the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or the controversial pork barrel allocations two years later.
Along with the late Sen. Joker Arroyo, Lacson is known to ignore his PhP200-million-a-year PDAF, returning all of the allocations he received to the National Treasury, saving the government of PhP2.4 billion in 12 years.
The third poorest senator is former president special assistant and neophyte lawmaker Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go who has a total net worth of PhP22,274,508.68 as of December 2020. Prior to being elected in a national post, Go served as the top aide of President Rodrigo Duterte even when the latter was still the mayor of Davao City.
And it’s funny to realize that Vice President Leni Robredo is by far the major presidential aspirant with the lowest net worth of only PhP11,904,280. She has declared eight real estate properties, though, in Camarines Sur, that are valued at PhP1.735 million, and also inherited seven properties in her home province.
Robredo listed her 1014 shares of the stock at the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) which she acquired in 1999. Her shares of the stock were first registered in the name of her late husband.
She first joined the public office in 2013, when she declared PhP14.043 million in total assets. In 2014, it grew to P14.932 million.
Finally, we could probably tag Ka Leody De Guzman, as the poorest among the presidential candidate’s list. The truth is that there are no available records of his SALN, despite him being a well-respected labor leader and former president and currently chairperson of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, a socialist federation of militant trade unions.
With all of these in view, shall we now ask their net worth in terms of credibility and public service or do we see all of them as worthless projections of political ambition?
I have no fight against each of them but when I cast my vote on May 9, I will surely choose the only candidate whom I have met personally and known for his genuine character and intense idealism with regards to democratic reforms and human rights and also has intense faith in God.