MANILA (UPDATE)- Sen. Cynthia Villar, whose family has stakes in real estate, land development, retail and utilities, among other businesses in the country, is the richest among the Philippines' 24 senators in 2020, with a P3.87 billion net worth.
Based on the 2020 summary of the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of senators, Villar, wife of the country's second-richest Manny Villar, has P3,875,696,435.00 worth of assets while the space for liabilities was marked "N/A" (not applicable).
Her net worth increased from the P3,814,091,438 she declared for the year 2019, during which she also topped the list of richest senators.
Boxing legend Sen. Manny Pacquiao again ranks second, with a net worth of P3.18-billion in 2020, up from the P3.17-billion he reported the previous year.
Another senator who retained her spot from 2019 is Sen. Leila de Lima, having again the least net worth. The lawmaker, who has been detained due to illegal drugs charges but which she regards as political persecution, has a net worth of P9.5 million in 2020, higher by around P1.2 million the previous year.
Below is the complete list of senators and their their latest declared net worth:
1. Sen. Cynthia Villar: P3,875,696,435
2. Sen. Manny Pacquiao: P3,187,092,600.69
3. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto: P581,071,657.97
4. Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri: P220,736,702.43
5. Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr.: P179,958,909.30
6. Sen. Sonny Angara: P150,898,358
7. Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon: P106,862,853
8. Sen. Grace Poe: P101,327,620.48
9. Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian: P91,213,596.57
10. Senate President Vicente Sotto III: P85,643,477.63
11. Sen. Pia Cayetano: P84,591,678.21
12. Sen. Richard Gordon: P77,569,572.39
13. Sen. Lito Lapid: P74,948,600
14. Sen. Francis Tolentino: P59,812,000
15. Sen. Nancy Binay: P59,770,251
16. Sen. Panfilo Lacson: P58,330,268.50
17. Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III: P37,203,400
18. Sen. Imee Marcos: P36,270,467
19. Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa: P34,383,136.29
20. Sen. Joel Villanueva: P33,029,725
21. Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan: P23,941,333.25
22. Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go: P22,274,508.68
23. Sen. Risa Hontiveros: P16,720,359.73
24. Sen. Leila De Lima: P9,544,111.68
Zubiri posted the highest gain with his wealth increasing by around P17 million, followed by Recto with at least P12 million.
Angara's wealth, meanwhile, grew by P8 million while Sotto had an approximately P7 million increase.
Cayetano, Dela Rosa, Drilon, Go, Gordon, Lapid, Marcos, Revilla, Pangilinan, Poe and Villanueva each posted an increase of at least P1 million, while Hontiveros, Binay and Pimentel each reported less than a million increase in net worth.
Only Tolentino and Gatchalian reported a decrease in their net worth.
Aside from Villar, Gatchalian and Hontiveros also had their liabilities marked "N/A".
The release of the senators' SALN for the year 2020 came some two weeks since a lawyer said he was given the run-around in his attempt to get copies of President Rodrigo Duterte’s SALNs, with both the Office of the President and the Office of the Ombudsman denying his requests.
The Ombudsman is the repository official repository of SALNs of top government officials like the President, Vice President and heads of Constitutional bodies. SALNs of government officials of lower positions and rank and file employees, on the other hand, are with the Civil Service Commission.
In September last year, Ombudsman Samuel Martires issued a memorandum, limiting public access to the SALN under his office and allowing its release only for official investigations, by court order, or upon authority from officials themselves.
At a budget hearing in Congress last Sept. 9, Martires said he wants the country's laws on the release of SALN reconciled, proposing jail time for those who make public comments on such documents.
Suggesting "stringent penalties" on anyone who makes a public comment on any SALN, which he said is not allowed under Republic Act 6713, Martires said those liable may be imprisoned for not less than 5 years.
He asserted that while publication of SALN is allowed, "making any comment" on it is not.
"I really do not know what is the purpose of these people asking for the SALN of the President, specifically, and the Vice President. What is in that offices? Is it only the President and Vice President who's capable of corruption? Isn't corruption starting in the grassroots, from the ranks of the clerks?" Martires told lawmakers.
The Ombudsman's position was criticized by advocates of transparency and anti-corruption, and some officials, including Vice President Leni Robredo, who issues her SALNs to requesting parties.
Robredo, a lawyer, said it seems Martires has forgotten the reason why government workers are required to submit their SALNs.
“Kasi kung public official ka na wala kang tinatago, wala namang problema na ikaw mismo iyong maglabas,” said the Vice President.
(If you are a public official who is not hiding something, there should be no problem about releasing your SALN on your own.)
Being scrutinized by the people about your wealth is part of being in government, she said.
A framer of the 1987 Constitution slammed the Office of the Ombudsman for having “lost its purpose” in imposing restrictions on access to SALNs, while several business groups said criminalizing commentaries on SALNs will violate the Constitutional provision on freedom of speech.