MANILA, MAY 14, 2011
 (STAR) By Jess Diaz - President Aquino appears to have increased his wealth by more than P39 million in just one year.

Based on his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), his wealth increased dramatically from P15.44 million as a senator to P55 million as President.

In 2009, then Sen. Benigno Aquino III declared a net worth of P15.44 million. Six months later, on June 30, 2010, the newly elected President filed his SALN as required by law upon assuming the highest office, declaring his net worth as P50.2 million.

But presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the President’s P17-million share from the sale of a family property in Antipolo City largely explained the sharp increase in his wealth. He also said Aquino is earning more as president.

As of the end of 2010, he was worth P55 million, based on his SALN filed with the Ombudsman’s office.

He was the 18th richest among members of the Senate in terms of net worth in 2009.

Manuel Villar Jr. was worth P947.9 million; Jamby Madrigal, P145.6 million; Ramon Revilla Jr., P123.7 million; Juan Ponce Enrile, P118.8 million; Jinggoy Estrada, P84 million; Pia Cayetano, P75.8 million; Edgardo Angara, P64.2 million; Manuel Roxas II, P62.9 million; Loren Legarda, P45.54 million; Miriam Defensor-Santiago, P40.3 million; Juan Miguel Zubiri, P39.3 million; Rodolfo Biazon, P30.7 million; Richard Gordon, P26.5 million; Panfilo Lacson, P24.2 million; Gregorio Honasan, P17.6 million; Alan Peter Cayetano, P16.9 million; Lito Lapid, P15.9 million; Francis Pangilinan, P12 million; Joker Arroyo, P11 million; Francis Escudero, P8 million; and Antonio Trillanes IV, P3.5 million.

In the course of the May 2010 elections, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) reported that among presidential candidates, then Sen. Aquino, standard-bearer of the Liberal Party, had the least net worth based on its scrutiny of the candidates’ SALN for 2007.

Aquino declared a net worth of P13.94 million for that year. As a Tarlac congressman in 1998, he was worth P8.7 million.

His assets included vehicles valued at P3.95 million, including a BMW 650i coupe, P3.2 million in cash on hand and cash in the bank, and firearms worth P400,000.

The PCIJ reported that Villar was the richest candidate with about P1 billion in net worth in 2007.

The President’s 2010 assets stood at P55.3 million. They included motor vehicles valued at P8.7 million, P6.22 million in cash and P22.07 million in real properties.


By Aurea Calica - Malacañang will not force Catholic bishops to hold further dialogues with the government on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.

Speaking to reporters, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte (photo) yesterday said the purpose of the dialogues was to hear the Catholic Church’s side and get inputs.

“We wanted to agree on certain issues… (have a) meeting of the minds on particular issues,” she said.

“But, again, we really explained our side. I think no one will begrudge the President on what he said in his five-point statement and maybe we can say (the same) for them.”

Valte said the Palace will no longer push its version called Responsible Parenthood and just await the consolidated version of the House of Representatives.

“That is up to them, that is their decision,” she said.

“They decided to end the dialogue and we respect their decision.

“I don’t want to call them attacks but most of the statements have been directed against the President. Again, let me repeat that we are not the enemies here.”

Valte said the government would have to consider what would benefit the majority even if it would be unpopular and earn criticism from some groups.

“We have consistently said that we are open to discussions between contending parties,” she said.

“We are open to consultations with all stakeholders and, again, as we have likened ourselves to referees, that’s what we want to do.”

Valte said the administration was not pushing solely for artificial means of family planning as what former President Fidel Ramos did.

“We’ve said it time and again that there is no preference for one over the other, meaning natural versus artificial family planning methods,” she said. “What we really want is to give complete and accurate information because we have recognized that parents themselves need to be the ones to decide and look after the welfare of their families.”

Valte said the Palace was aware of the planned civil obedience should the RH bill get adopted.

“If they don’t want to pay taxes, then they better talk to (Bureau of Internal Revenue) Commissioner (Kim) Henares,” she said.

House to set ground rules

The House of Representatives is coming up with ground rules to maintain order during the resumption of plenary debates on the RH bill.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday that they will “give some space” to the debates on reproductive health to allow the House to dispose of the bill within the year and let lawmakers focus on other urgent measures.

“We have to move forward at some point and come up with some ground rules from both sides (pro and anti-RH lawmakers) on how to tackle it... at the same time to be able to get it to vote one way or the other,” he said.

The bill is currently on second reading and at least 50 more lawmakers have lined up to debate on it.

Congress has 12 session days left before it adjourns its first regular session next month.

Belmonte said both sides appear to be so confident about their position on the RH bill.

It has been “cropping up” in the past several years, yet their actions actually prevent the bill from coming to a vote, he added.

Belmonte said he expects the debates to continue even after Congress opens its second regular session in July.

“I think by laying the ground rules for the observance of both sides, we can control dilatory actions,” he said.

“But I would like to stress that our priority and emphasis would be on (passing) bills that have already been covered by committee reports.”

Belmonte said President Aquino has not exerted any pressure on the House to pass the RH bill, which is not among the priority measures set by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

However, the administration is still concerned over the measure as seen by its efforts to reach out to its critics.

Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez, a staunch critic of the RH bill, scored the conduct of the launching of pro-RH advocates in an expensive hotel in Pasig City on Wednesday.

“Who funded the ritzy, extravagant RH bash in Crowne Plaza?” he asked.

“That cost hundreds of thousands of pesos, enough to pay for the pre-natal exam of thousands of poor mothers who could not afford even one decent pre-natal exam.

“The RH group there, being obviously a lobby group working for the passage of the RH bill, should disclose who are their financiers in the interest of transparency.

“We will ask this during the interpellation to check whether multinational pharmaceutical companies contributed.”

He expects lawmakers to buck the RH bill, Golez said.

‘No war on RH bill’

It is “not warring with any particular Church” in connection with the controversial RH bill, the Philippine Legislator’s Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc. (PLCPD) said yesterday.

Ramon San Pascual, PLCPD executive director, said the latest threat from anti-RH groups is directed against the state via civil disobedience and nonpayment of taxes.

“What is clear is us, advocates, strongly support President Noynoy on his determination to enact responsible parenthood. If he is attacked by bishops over RH, then us citizens will defend the President,” he said.

Earlier, the Catholic Church vowed to launch a campaign to block the passage of the RH bill through the pulpits and red-colored stickers.

This Church had backed out from the dialogue with Malacañang concerning the controversial bill.

Ona lauded for being candid

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III lauded Health Secretary Enrique Ona (photo at right) for confirming money was released for family health programs.

He asked Ona to account for the funds to establish transparency.

“I would like to thank Secretary Ona for confirming that they have indeed released the money intended for family health programs,” he said.

Ona’s statement has bolstered the Senate’s urgent call for a probe on the use or possible misuse of Family Health Program funds, Sotto said.

Ona has denied Sotto’s allegations of irregularities in the disbursement of the budget for the family health program from 2008 to 2010.

Sotto said it is clear that money has been released by the DOH.

“But we have here several certification from different local government units, that no funds have been funneled to them,” he said.

“If money has been released and the intended end user (LGUs) is saying they did not receive it, we have here a case of missing or disappearing fund at the very least.”

Ona said local governments claiming that they have not received the allocated budget for maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition program had actually failed to comply with the requirements of the grants covering the program, such as the completion and submission of fund utilization and liquidation reports.

Reacting to Ona’s statement, Sotto said the basic questions that ought to be answered were:

•Where did the funds go?

•Was it used in the first place?

•Did it go to the intended beneficiary?

• How was it used?

• Who is to be held accountable?

Sotto said he has referred his exposé to the proper committees in the Senate to probe the irregularities.

“There are gaps in the accountability of the funds and we intend to dig deeper,” he said.

“Someone should be able to explain the gaps. We cannot just accept the explanation of both sides at face value. Clearly, there are contradictory positions. Someone could be telling half-truths or half lies. This we will soon find out.

“The issue on the Reproductive Health bill needs a complete system of accountability. Our nation is divided on this matter. I believe that all of us need to be informed how taxpayer’s money is used.” — With Paolo Romero, Sheila Crisostomo, Christina Mendez

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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