"In societies where Robbing Hoods are treated like a celebrity it is but natural to expect political parties to act like a Mafia syndicate" Political Jaywalker "In a nation where corruption is endemic people tend to confuse due process with aiding and abetting criminals" Political Jaywalker "War doesn't determine who is right, war determines who is left" Bertrand Russell "You have just one flash flood of money, you keep your people poor. It's like a time bomb and it's scary" Philippine Lawmaker

Concentric Rings? -- Private musings on Manny, money and a national apocalypse

Part I: Personal net worth -- a case of perjury or money-laundering?

When I travel, I don’t charge the government, although it’s allowed because it is work-related. I pay my own way. When you are this big, you have to follow the rules. You can’t afford not to, because all eyes are on you. It is not a wise business practice to use government perks. I’ll serve the three terms (allowed by the Constitution). After that, I’ll think about the future. But I’ll stop at being a congressman.” -- Senator Manny Villar

There was no doubt about it: the C5 issue had been troubling enough on its own merits. The scale of its core allegation -- that an esteemed solon had willfully deployed public funds for his own personal benefit – had been nothing short of vertiginous. The masterful studies by both Winnie and Jamby conveyed volumes, as had Joker’s allegations of conflicts of interest a decade before . The latter’s recent (and arguably dubious) shift in tone notwithstanding, a seed of doubt had already begun to nestle in the public mind.

Still, there were other issues those lengthy readings had failed to shed light upon. Looking at Villar’s own C5 Primer and his Senate speech on 2 Feb 2010, one wonders at that controversial 2008 P 200M budget insertion, which had been initially embargoed by the DBM, but was subsequently used for the Sucat flyover after it was realized that the C5 extension was in fact a dead-end road. Had there even been an existing “program of work” so as to justify the term “double insertion”? What we have on record, in fact, is an admission by Engineer Adriano (the consultant for Villar-owned businesses who had allegedly dictated the Villar amendment to the 2008 national budget; this, at least, was according to Yolanda Doblon, Director General of the LBRMO, the Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office in the Senate) that the amount had been arbitrarily made in anticipation of the fact that the original P 200M would most likely be reduced; the superfluous P 200M may have been added after the dead-end realization had been made, prompting Villar to use the embargoed funds.

GMA supposedly instructed DPWH to submit the study to use the embargoed funds for the fly-over only after the budget allocation had already been made, thereby effectively providing a “program of work” to justify the release of funds. Needless to say, this is highly irregular: in established funding practice, a program of work is usually submitted before. Does this suggest that the additional P 200M had been retroactively added to ultimately “free up” a hitherto unprogrammed amount?

Adriano, a Villar real estate employee, had been put in a critical legislative role. And while there have been indications that, as a Lower House representative, Villar had put some of his employees on the congressional payroll, Adriano himself was apparently not on the Senate payroll. So why was he dealing with LBRMO in the first place? And why does Committee Report 780 contain several admissions indicating position and knowledge with respect to the 2008 budget allocations? Separate documents also tag Adriano as the sole contact person authorized to “deal” with government agencies and the courts (DAR, NIA, lower courts, a Malacañang employee, LGUs, etc.: does this suggest bribery?) before specific Villar company interests could even be addressed.

This is not to quibble over minor details after the fact. But there was no doubt about it, as I said: there had been dubious business practices all round. So who was this Manny Villar and how had he managed to amass wealth that was nothing short of stratospheric in so short a span of time? According to PCIJ, after only 14 years in government, Villar's net worth had risen to P 1.05B in 2007 or to a staggering 1,292% increase from his assets in 1992: http://pcij.org/stories/top-bets-for-president-grow-wealth-despite-poll-expenses/.

In order to assess this "sipag at tiyaga" phenomenon as fairly as I knew how, I decided to investigate him myself, and to separate both propaganda and polemic, on the one hand, from what could be empirically verified, on the other. I began to think in terms of a concentric circle: at the center of the circle, I would look at his personal finances (ultimately the measure of a man, one might say), before examining his land dealings in specific regions (as the circle expanded outwards) and, finally, his national/international endeavors on a larger scale (the outermost rim of the circle itself).


The personal: Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth

So I began with his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN). The documents studied (with the help of two gifted accountants, two lawyers and several highly-placed financial analysts, not to mention a handful of deeply committed patriots who patiently withstood my incessant questions and valiantly wore as many hats as were needed at any given moment) are copies of SALNs filed in the Philippine Senate. The difficulties in accessing them notwithstanding, they are technically a matter of public record. They cover an 8-year period (2001-2008, inclusive) because the 2009 SALN is only due for filing on 30 April 2010.

Anyone who has had to draw up a balance sheet or assess their own personal net worth will tell you that it can be a royal pain in the neck. But those insufferable categories and dreadful numbers notwithstanding, none of it, really, is rocket science. In a nutshell, it’s simply a snapshot of your financial health in any given year. The net worth statement includes what is owned (assets) on the left side of the sheet, what is owed to creditors (liabilities) on the right side of the sheet, and the net value (or difference) between what is owned and what is owed (net worth). Unless you’re a vagabond or happen to be fabulously wealthy, you generally have both A&L.

So what do Mr Villar’s SALNs indicate? (The SALNs from 2001 to 2008 can be accessed as follows: Statement of Assets as of 12/31/01 - p1, 12/31/01 - p2, 12/31/02, 12/31/03 - p1, 12/31/03 - p2, Sworn Statements of Assets as of 12/31/04, 12/31/05, 12/31/06, 12/31/07, 12/31/08, and the columnar numerical analysis). The assets reported consist of only three main types:

  1. Real Properties: i) Land/Building
  2. Investment in Shares of Stock
  3. Personal Properties: i) Cash in Bank; ii) Receivables; and iii) Other Personal Properties

Please note that this analysis is based on “acquisition cost” or “book value,” as reported in the SALNs. To simplify the analysis, the cost of living and personal expenses of someone of his stature and wealth have not been considered. A comprehensive reading no longer requires Cynthia Villar’s SALNs because they are, in fact and law, only one economic unit. The 2007 and 2008 SALNs were also jointly filed by the spouses, which means that the net worth indicated is in fact their joint net worth.

General Observations

  • No liabilities were reported at all: ergo, Net worth = Assets, which means that he had nothing to pay off.
  • His net worth from 2001 to 2008 increased by P 641,133,934, or 133%, making his 2008 Net worth 258% of his 2001 net worth.
  • According to several published reports (please see the PCIJ reference below for an example), he started with a networth of P 75M when he first entered politics as a Congressman in 1992. In a span of 16 years, therefore, he managed to increase his net worth by over 1000 percent!
  • The biggest increase can be found in his Personal Properties -- P 618,363,371, or 309%, making his 2008 Personal Properties 409% of those in 2001.
  • An increase in net worth suggests that he made or realized income in the previous years equal to at least the amount of the increase, considering that he has had no liabilities.
  • There is, however, no indication that he made such an income, nor is it suggested how this might have even been possible. As a Philippine senator, his declared salary is only P426,500.

Real Properties

Real properties generally refer to real estate or immovable properties.

In 2001, he reported only the following Real Properties at acquisition cost:


  • Residential, BFRV
  • Las Pinas: P 3, 181, 089
  • Residential, BF Vista Grande: 80, 000
  • Residential, BF Int’l LPC: 50, 000
  • Residential, Putatan, Muntinlupa: 446, 370
  • Residential, San Nicolas, Cavite: 337, 360
  • Residential, Naga Rd., LPC: 500, 000
Total: P4, 594, 819

* From 2002-2006, he declared the same properties, but at the aggregate acquisition cost of P4,588,619 (lower by only P6,200, so -- for the purposes of this analysis -- the lower figure is used).

* In 2007, this figure suddenly ballooned to P 19,518,532, or by 425% of the 2001 level. In absolute terms, this is an increase of P14, 929, 913.

* The 6 real properties listed from 2001-2006 became 38 parcels/pieces in 2007. These are the same properties declared in 2008. Reportedly, they are registered under the names of:

Cynthia alone, 10 parcels: P 5, 794, 232
Manny alone, 6 parcels: 2, 600, 500
The Spouses jointly, 8 parcels: 5, 503, 060
“Cynthia, married to Manny”: 14 parcels, 5, 620, 740
Total: P19, 518, 532

* There is no way to determine from the face of the SALN alone if the 6 properties he declared from 2001-2006 are the same 6 properties listed in his name in Annex “A;” for one, they are different in value/acquisition cost as those previously reported (PHP 2,600,000 v. 4,588,619 in 2002-2006). Those reported in 2001-2006 are listed by location; those in 2007-2008 are listed by title number and area, so an accurate comparison is difficult. However, since the aggregate acquisition cost of these properties in 2001-2006 are not much different from the 2007-2008 values, it may be safely assumed that the 6 properties in MV’s name are the same 6 properties he declared in 2001-2006.

* The rest of the listed properties – those registered under “Cynthia A. Villar m/to Manuel B. Villar,” and those registered in their joint names – are conjugal: should they therefore not have been declared in his SALNs from the outset as well? It is after all highly unlikely that they were only acquired in 2007, in view of the acquisition/book values that were given.

* Considering the values/amounts reported, it is equally unlikely that the Laurel Property on Shaw Blvd. (currently the NP HQ) is included in this list. This property is widely-known as having been acquired by Mr Villar and his wife: in a PDI article by Gerry Lirio in July 2008 conversations with Cynthia on their purchase of the property are quoted, including their plans regarding the property, renovation costs of P4M, and the private dinner they shared when they first moved in, etc. Does this, too, suggest misrepresentation and therefore perjury? It should be remembered that we are after all required by law to declare all our assets and liabilities without any exclusions: any misrepresentation is considered to be perjury, which is a criminal offense.

Investment in Shares of Stock

* From 2001-2008, he declared Investments in Shares of Stock in a lump sum amount of P200, 837, 890 – no breakdown and no changes.

* In 2007, he itemized in Annex B.2.1 of his SALN the following “Investment Items” at “Book value” (i.e., acquisition cost): Shares of Stock, Adelfa Properties: P 99, 997, 000
Shares of Stock, Fine Properties: 98, 000, 000
Shares of Stock, MB Villar Co: 1, 000, 000
Shares of Stock, Macy’s Inc: 500, 000
Shares of Stock, Mooncrest Properties: 1, 340, 890
Total: P200, 837, 890

Could this really have been all? Where were the shares in the other companies? Indeed, had Mr Villar not gone out of his way to declare his enormous wealth to all and sundry? So why is it not in the books, one is compelled to ask?

Since the total value of the foregoing investments is also P200,837,890 -- the same amount he reported from 2001-2006 as "Investments" -- and the companies are also the same companies he reported in 2001-2006 as those in which he and his wife had “business interests and financial connections,” is it not more likely that he is referring to the very same investments (which remained unchanged from 2001-2008) here?

In 2007, his investments in shares of stock increased by P7,846,850, although they remained unchanged in 2008. These consist of the following items:

Shares of Stock, PLDT: 10,600
Shares of Stock, Sun Life: (no value given)
Club share, Alabang Country Club: 1, 100, 000
Club Share, The Country Club: 4, 150, 000
Club Share, Quezon City Sports Club: 150, 000
Club Share, Tower Club: 356, 250
Club Share, Sta. Elena Golf Club: 1, 800, 000
Club Share, Camp John Hay Golf Club: 280, 000
Total: P 7, 846, 850

Based on the reported values of the “additional” investments above (which were at acquisition cost), it is improbable that they were acquired only in 2007; given real estate values, it is more likely that they were acquired much earlier, but were reported in his SALN only in 2007. Could this be another ground for perjury?

* From 2001-2008, he has consistently declared only 5 companies in which he and his wife have an interest: Fine Properties, Adelfa Properties, MB Villar Co., Macy’s Inc. and Mooncrest Properties. So where and how does Vista Land relate to these companies? What is his connection to, and interest in, Vista Land? And what of other companies associated with him or otherwise referred to by him in press statements as “his” company/ies? This, I thought, bore further scrutiny (please note the following SEC documents: Adelfa Properties GIS; Brittany Corp GIS; C and P Homes GIS; Fine Properties GIS; and Vista Land and Landscapes).

* Of course, as a highly-placed hedge fund insider later qualified: "an analysis of the SEC filings of Vista Land (VLL) indicate that VLL is 35.83%-owned by Fine, 22.48%-owned by Adelfa, 5.35%-owned by Polar and 2.12%-owned by ML&H Corp., or at least 65.78%-owned by holding companies that were all controlled by MV/CV. Fine is nearly 100%-owned by MV (51%) and CV (~49%); Adelfa is 39%-owned by the spouses and 51%-owned by a company called Althorp Holdings. I assume that the remainder comprises most of the public float. I am also assuming that the Villars or Villar-controlled entities (i) control Althorp; and (ii) own enough additional shares to take the Villars’ aggregate controlled shareholdings in VLL to more than the 2/3 supermajority threshold. In short, there is no need for MV/CV to directly own VLL shares if he already controls the companies that own a controlling stake in VLL (itals mine)."

* The C-5 Report should also be considered, given its core allegation, precisely, that he used his position to allocate funds for the road that traversed and benefited “his” housing subdivisions. According to the C-5 Report, Adelfa Properties, which is owned by Mr Villar and his wife Cynthia, owns Brittany Corporation (formerly Azalea), together with Vista Land and Paolo Villar, MV’s son. Vista Land, on the other hand, is also owned by Adelfa and MV’s sons Paolo and Mark. Adelfa further owns Golden Haven Memorial Park. Brittany, Vista Land and Golden Haven are therefore 100% owned by MV and his family indirectly, through Adelfa. These companies -- Adelfa, Brittany and Golden Haven -- all sold properties to the government as right of way for the C-5 Project.

Personal properties

* As stated earlier, this is where the most dramatic increases in his net worth can be found:

Amount/Value Increase YoY % Increase

Increase 2001: 200,085,040
2002: 274,868,165 74,783,125 37.37%
2003: 325,798,839 50,930,674 18.53%
2004: 415,327,318 89,528,479 27.5%
2005: 554,398,826 139,071,508 33.48%
2006: 710,225,075 155,826,249 28.1%
2007: 813,180,674 102,955,599 14.5%
2008: 818,448,411 5,267,737 .65%

* Cumulatively, from 2001-2008, the increase in absolute terms is P618,363,371 – or a three-fold increase (309%) over an 8-year period – making his 2008 declaration 409% of the 2001 values.

* From 2001-2004, these were simply reported as “Personal Properties;” in 2005-2006, as “Other Real and Personal Properties.” Here, too, we observe no details or itemization.

*In 2007, “Other Personal Properties” were itemized as follows:
Cash in Bank (SA/CA/TD): P 24, 573, 990
Receivables: 701, 106, 684
Other Personal and Real Properties: 87, 500, 000
Total: P 813, 180, 674

(See Annex B.2.2 of his 2007 SALN)

In 2008, “Other Personal Properties” were:

Cash in Bank P 29, 212, 803
Receivables & Other Personal & Real Properties 789, 235, 608
Total: P 818, 448, 411

(See Annex B.2.2 of his 2008 SALN)

* It is unfortunate that he lumped “Receivables” with “Other Personal and Real Properties” in 2008, so no assessment can be made about whether “Receivables” increased in 2008. For the purposes of the ensuing analysis, the 2007 figure of P701,106,684 will therefore be used. Taken together with the rest of his assets, receivables – even at the amount of P701,106,684 declared in 2007 -- comprise more than half of his entire net worth! (Receivables of P701,106,684 divided by his 2008 net worth of P1,046,651, 683 = 67%).

* It is intriguing, to say the least, that he would have receivables in the first place. Remember, this is money one is expecting to receive. This category is usually reported by business enterprises, like corporations and single proprietorships, and arises from sales on credit or loans extended in the course of business. But is he actually running a business as a single proprietor? Is he selling goods or services, where it is customary to sell on credit; or is he engaged in the business of a lending investor, pawnshop or some such enterprise, where he would tend to extend credit or loans? If so, should he not have reported in his SALN that he is a single proprietor/individual engaged in business? As far as we know, he deals only through corporations – like those 5 companies he declared in his SALN, in which he has “business interests or financial connections.”

* What could this imply? The only plausible explanation is that he extended personal loans, year after year, to unspecified parties, or had money claims with these parties, as would give rise to such receivables. If this is the case, to whom did he lend or from whom does he have money claims, and why? Is this not a matter of public interest, considering the enormous size of his “receivables”? Indeed, a typical rural bank outside of Metro Manila and other urban centres, such as Cebu or Davao, might not even have a loan portfolio this sizeable.

* More significantly, if he lent money, where and how did he get the funds to lend? If he has money claims, what is the underlying obligation of the supposed debtor/s? Logic – and the causal connection between creditor and debtor – dictates that he must have had a source for the moneys he lent out and, since he had no reported liabilities, he must have generated enough income to lend. As stated earlier, an increase in net worth -- where, as in this case, there are no liabilities -- presupposes that income was earned to the extent, at least, of the increase in net worth itself. So where and how did Mr Villar get the money?

* The increase in his net worth could not have come from the following:

a) The sale of real properties: he reported 6 in 2001-2006, with fair market value -- by his own report in the SALN – of P4,012,760 (2006 SALN), and there are still 6 in his 2007-2008 SALN registered in his name alone. Moreover, as of 2008, his Real Properties included 32 “additional” parcels/pieces.

b) The sale of shares in his companies: shareholdings in the 5 companies he declared remained constant from 2001-2008; there was therefore no change.

c) Stock market transactions in quick deals; i.e, he bought and sold “short term” (could this have been margin trading?): if he had invested in the stock market, should he not have declared these investments in his SALN? Apart from his shares in the 5 companies and the club shares in various golf and country clubs, there were no other such investments declared. Assuming that he bought and sold in quick succession such that, as of the end of each year, he had no other shares than those he held in the 5 companies (hence, no other stock investments to declare in the SALN), could he have made so much on these deals without having first sunk in a significant investment so as to enable him to take such positions in the first place?

d) He could have also earned interest on his bank deposits but, given the level and nature of his declared Cash in Bank in 2007-2008 of less than P30M, the interest income could not have been that significant.

* So where was the increase coming from? In a newscast aired on 10 February 2010, he declared that the increase in his net worth came from dividends. If so, these dividends (a sum of money paid to shareholders of a corporation out of company earnings) must have only come from the 5 companies he declared. Records obtained, however, indicate that, of these 5, only Fine Properties was reported to have declared dividends of P196,000,000 on 2 December 2006. This is certainly very far from the net increase in his net worth from 2001-2008 of P618 M+.

* Even assuming that his companies had in fact declared dividends, it would appear that they have not been paid out – hence the term “receivables.” This suggests that he does not have the funds on hand, and only has the expectation that these “receivables” will be converted into cash in due course. If so, how could he have over a billion pesos “of his own money,” which he has openly admitted to having spent on his campaign and that of the NP's?

* In any case, regardless of the source of the increase in his net worth, should he not have paid income taxes on them? Did he in fact do so? Dividends constructively received by individuals are subject to a final tax of 10% of the gross amount, to be withheld by the corporation-declarant. Assuming that the P700M+ “receivables” are dividends, the withholding tax would be at least P70M. BIR insiders (who were apparently too apprehensive to go on record) have privately suggested that nothing near this amount has been paid in taxes, although this has yet to be verified. Still, as this is a matter of public interest, perhaps we could prevail upon Mr Villar to address these insinuations and clear his record once and for all?

* The considerations above strongly suggest that he may have deliberately “inflated” his net worth with the ingenious use of receivables to justify his widely-publicized wealth and the billions he is now spending on his campaign, which he continues to describe as “his own money.” When “hidden wealth” or “ill-gotten” gains are put through legal channels (like reporting them in the SALN) so they can “surface” as legitimate, can this be considered to be a case of money-laundering? In other words, did he make up those receivables to make it look like he had more assets than he actually did so he would therefore appear to be extremely wealthy, in the hopes that people wouldn't look into how he has been able to finance what has arguably been the most expensive political campaign in Philippine history?

As far as this writer can see, there are only three possible conclusions one might make about his declared assets (what remains undeclared, of course, is another story entirely). Either my assessment is riddled with errors (in which case this also applies to the battery of financial and legal experts/scholars I have had to consult informally) or there's something seriously amiss with his SALNs, in which case he could conceivably be accused of perjury. Otherwise, if my graver suspicions are correct, he could be accused instead of money-laundering. Either way, the implications make the mind reel, and the voter would do well to consider how this might affect the public in the long term (especially the poor, who have arguably lost out in terms of desperately-needed social services). We are after all no longer talking about opportunity cost here but about actual losses to the public purse at a time of serious economic recession; if, as a solon, Mr Villar was able to achieve more than a 1000% increase in his net worth during his few years of "public service," what could happen to our entire social infrastructure if and when -- perish the thought! -- the man becomes President of this embattled republic? Perish the thought, indeed: unlike Dante's inferno, which ultimately leads upwards into the light, MV's concentric circles can only propel us towards a collective abyss from which we may never recover.

A private postscript

Once upon a time -- oh, 24-odd years ago, I think it was, when the unending grief of the Marcos era had finally begun to lift its thick and impenetrable shadow in a youthful clarion call to freedom -- I carried with me a dream that the Philippines would one day be more than just another banana republic, teeming with warlords and armies, oligarchs and monopolies. As I peer yet again upon the threshold of history, this moment gives me pause, and I pray that our voters will be wise enough not to be taken in by glib and facile solutions or appealing personalities bereft of substance; I pray that we boldly defy dishonesty (even as that easy buck is unfailingly served up before us on a gleaming, silver platter) and instead consider sacred -- no matter the personal cost -- this country's future and that of our children's unborn children.

Continue reading Concentric Rings, Part II: land-grabbing, land conversion and the untold human cost

References:

M B Villar campaign expenditures and personal finances:

Villar on campaign ads: ‘It’s my money I’m spending’
By Maila Ager
Campaign funds, poll expenses
By Fred Lobo
Top bets for president grow wealth despite poll expenses
by Malou Mangahas
The mysteries of money and politics
By Malou Mangahas
Villar: Nothing to recoup, I'm spending my own money
By Marvin Sy

Villar Ethics Presentation
Enrile Committee Report
Laurel mansion:
Poverty
*******************************************************
LILA Shahani - I grew up in the Philippines, Romania, Australia, Austria, Kenya and India. I did my undergrad at Brown and went to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts for my MA. Places of work: CCP, UP, Oxford University Press, UNICEF and UNDP. I'm currently an editor for the UN in NY and also a doctoral candidate at Oxford. This article by Sylvia Mayuga might explain a little about some of the more impalpable stuff: please click here. Meanwhile, this is the short, online version of a recent book on Amartya Sen and human development that I co-edited; the authors were primarily Oxford scholars.






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