By: Antonio Montalvan II
It is common in provincial elections to see “also-rans”and “has-beens,” derisive terms for people who repeatedly run even if they are serial losers. They may lose votes, but they are said to run happily to the bank each time. The Commission on Elections’ required statement of contributions and expenditures (Soce) is actually a wry document anyone can simply fake by not declaring donations.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) released only this April a study that may actually suggest money in hard cash can also be a common denominator for continually winning candidates. More than an eye-opener, the study is a guidepost to all and sundry the accountability of public officials and that it is within citizens’ rights to question sans fear or favor the wealth possibly gained by them.
In “The Dutertes: Wealth Reveal and Riddles,”the PCIJ sifted through the paper trail of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of Rodrigo, Paolo and Sara Duterte that they had filed since each entered public office. In the case of the father, it was 20 years of paper trail. That is substantially weighty.
Recall that the Duterte patriarch had repeatedly said a mouthful that run contrary to his SALNs. “We were nobody. We were poor,” MalacaÃ±ang, Sept. 12, 2016). “I was born poor. We were only migrants in Mindanao,”(Singapore, Dec. 16, 2016). Lovely sound bites, but in an age when perceptions can be tooled to make them sound truthful, fact-checking is an imperative. The PCIJ did exactly that.
So, how poor are the Dutertes?
Rodrigo Duterte (in public office since 1988) declared in 1998 a net worth of P898,000. In his 2007 SALN, his declared net worth was P9.69 million. In 2008, he declared 10 pieces of real property. In 2017, his net worth rose to P28.54 million, a triple increase from his 2007 SALN. His highest increase was in 2008 at P5.6 million. All his SALNs reflected cash on hand and bank increases every year except 1999 and 2001. “His 2017 SALN reflected the biggest cash asset he has ever declared since 1998 at P19.4M,”said the PCIJ.
Sara Duterte Carpio (in public office since 2007) declared a net worth of P7.25 million in her first SALN. One year after, she reported owning 11 pieces of real property worth P11.91 million, her net worth ballooning to P18.49 million. With only an annual gross salary of P340,000 and an annual gross family income of only P667,422, “it would be hard to explain the significant rise in her net worth and acquisition of more real assets,”reported the PCIJ.
Ten years later with only her salary as public official, her net worth rose to a sharp upsurge. Yet in the few corporate entities she owned or co-owned, “all reported negligible retained earnings year on year,” said the PCIJ based on the financial statements of these entities at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Her 2017 SALN declared a net worth of P44.83 million, growing more than six times since 2007, “filed nearly a year after she returned to work as mayor of Davao City, and her father was elected President,” said the PCIJ.
Paolo Duterte (in public office since 2007) declared a net worth of P8.34 million after being elected barangay captain that year. By 2008, he reported owning nine pieces of real property, six of which were collectively worth P10.83 million. His real estate holdings totaled P13.74 million for 2008 with a total net worth of P16.51 million, just a year as barangay captain with a reported annual gross salary of only P324,624. His 2017 SALN declared a net worth of P27.74 million, growing more than triple since 2007.
We proceed from the premise that here was a maverick reformist who didn’t enrich himself in office. At the very least, the SALNs of all three Dutertes do not support the axiom of their “poverty.”Assuming these to be honest, wealth grew instead while in office. It hardly clads them with the mantle of being reformers.
But here’s the more useful lesson: We can demolish contrived troll-generated images in traditional politics. They throw honesty out the window, we don’t. The more scrutiny we do once they are in public office. The PCIJ did just that. All is fair in love.
[On Twitter: @AntonioJMontal2. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org]