Philippine tycoons

Filipino billionaires swim in bonuses as pandemic crushes economy

Ralf Rivas

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Filipino billionaires swim in bonuses as pandemic crushes economy
(PART 1) Rappler looks into the salaries and bonuses of the Philippines' top 1%, revealing just how much cash sits there

The economy is in recession, millions of jobs lost, and thousands of businesses have permanently closed, no thanks to a tiny virus.

But billionaires were shielded from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and are now swimming in even more cash while the world burns.

Rappler parsed through the financial documents submitted by the country’s largest companies to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) and found that some tycoons earned as much as 36% more than pre-pandemic times.

Specifically, we looked at salaries of executives of some of the largest publicly-listed conglomerates of the country, particularly SM Investments, Ayala Corporation, GT Capital, LT Group, JG Summit, and Metro Pacific Investments Corporation.

We have excluded some of the big companies that have parent companies. 

But we included companies that are not part of diversified conglomerates like Jollibee and GMA Network, as their executives had the most drastic changes in income, as well as posted the most notable movements in company earnings during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, some big companies like Ramon Ang’s San Miguel Corporation, Andrew Tan’s Alliance Global, and the Lopez family’s ABS-CBN were not part of the dataset, as they have yet to submit documents to regulators.

We have also excluded banks in this story, as we will be writing a separate report on their executives’ salaries and bonuses.

Salaries of executives give us a glimpse of how wealth is distributed under capitalism, particularly during the worst health and economic crisis in recent history.

We found that while the pandemic may have shaken capitalism, the lavish lifestyle of society’s top 1% remains untouched.

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GMA Network

Rappler found that executives of media giant GMA Network got the biggest salary increases and bonuses in 2020. This is out of all companies that have submitted financial statements as of April 15.

GMA’s top six executives, who include chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Felipe Gozon and president and chief operating officer (COO) Gilberto Duavit Jr, saw a 42.8% increase in bonuses, collectively getting P258.63 million in 2020 from the P181.13 million in 2019.

Top officials of the Kapuso network likewise saw an increase in their salaries, collectively rising by 36.6% from P279.59 million in 2019 to P381.98 million in 2020. 

The executives earned a total of P640.61 million in 2020. 

The financial statement does not break down the salaries per executive. But if they evenly divided the total, each would have gotten P106.77 million.

Directors and other officers who headed the network’s units earned a total of P837.84 million in 2020, 10% higher than the P756.28 million earned in 2019.

GMA told regulators, through its financial statement, that directors and members of the board receive not more than 2.5% of the net income during the preceding year. 

The network’s income grew a whopping 130.7% from P2.6 billion in 2019 to P6 billion in 2020, as rival network ABS-CBN was denied a franchise by Congress, propelling advertising revenue of GMA. (READ: Fewer viewers, ad options: How ABS-CBN shutdown alters PH media landscape)

With GMA’s spectacular financial performance in 2020, Gozon and other executives are likely to get richer. Their bonuses and salaries are estimated to rise by almost 5% in 2021.

Meanwhile, rival Kapamilya network ABS-CBN has asked the PSE for an extension in submitting their documents, citing “challenges in the preparation and finalization of financial reports during the Enhanced Community Quarantine.”


Officials of Globe and PLDT also got a windfall during the pandemic.

PLDT chief Manuel Pangilinan and four other top officials got a total of P130 million in salaries in 2020, 12.4% higher than the P115 million they got in 2019. 

PLDT officers collectively got an additional P1 million in bonuses in 2020, with bonuses reaching P15 million.

Total compensation of the top five officers reached P145 million. If they equally shared the amount, each one would have gotten P29 million.

Directors and other officials got 7.6% more in salaries in 2020, reaching P440 million, but got a deduction of 1.8% in bonuses amounting to P54 million.

Again, PLDT did not break down the salary of each top officer, but noted that directors receive P250,000 for each time they attend a board of directors meeting. In addition, directors of committees receive P125,000 for each committee meeting attended. (READ: Manny Pangilinan to quit PLDT CEO post ‘soon’)

The increase in internet usage due to the pandemic pushed PLDT’s net income up by 8% to P24.3 billion in 2020. 

With decent profits, PLDT’s top officers are expecting a 6% increase in bonuses and 3% increase in salaries for 2021.

Meanwhile, Globe chief Ernest Cu and four other top officials collectively earned P295 million in salaries and bonuses in 2020, 6.4% higher than the P277 million in 2019, and 103% more than PLDT’s.

If they equally divided the amount, each executive would get P59 million.

The Ayala-led telecommunications company showered their top officers a total of P161 million in bonuses, an 8.8% increase from the P148 million in 2019.

Unlike PLDT, Globe’s net income shrank by 8% to P20.4 billion. 

Due to this, top officers are expecting a 19% cut in bonuses for 2021.

SM Investments

Property and mall giant SM Investments saw a 6.5% increase in salaries and 4.7% in bonuses in 2020, amounting to P132 million and P22 million, respectively.

The amount is the total earnings of executive director Harley Sy and four others. 

Lower-ranking officers and directors saw more increases, with total bonuses jumping by 33% to P413 million and salaries increasing by 12% to P413 million.

But as the coronavirus shuttered malls and resulted in a 48% dip in earnings (P23.4 billion from P44.6 billion) in 2020, top officials will not be getting increases in salaries and bonuses for 2021.

Lower-ranking officials and directors are also getting pay cuts of around 14% in 2021, as well as a 15% cut in bonuses.

Other conglomerates

Diversified conglomerates managed to give executives the same income they got in 2019 in 2020.

For instance, GT Capital, which has interests in banking, cars, properties, and insurance, gave top officials a total of P77.9 million in 2020, around the same level as the P76 million in 2019.

This, despite a 53% dip in earnings in 2020 despite soured loans rising in Metrobank and low demand for Toyota cars.

But lower-ranking directors and managers got a massive 37% increase in 2020, with aggregate income reaching P48.9 million.

The country’s oldest conglomerate, Ayala Corporation, somewhat trimmed top officials’ total compensation in 2020, amounting to P618.9 million, or a 1.5% decline from P628.2 million in 2019.

Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and brother Fernando, as well as three other high-ranking officers, got a 4% increase in salary last year, but was offset by a 3% deduction in bonuses.

Ayala’s 51% income dip in 2020 means that the Zobel brothers and other officials will get a 25% cut in total compensation for 2021.

While top officials of Ayala retained the same level of earnings in 2020, lower-ranking directors and officers collectively saw a 17% dip in salaries and 18% dip in bonuses.

The lower-ranking officials’ total compensation in 2020 reached P1.1 billion, but this will be slashed by at least 16.7% to P934.8 million in 2021, mainly due to the conglomerate’s financial condition brought about by the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Aboitiz Equity Ventures has yet to disclose its full-year financial statement. 

But the performance of Aboitiz Power, which disclosed ahead of its parent company and comprises over 60% of the conglomerate’s total income, gives us an idea of the group’s financials.

Aboitiz Power’s top five highly-paid officials, who include president Emmanuel Rubio and chairman Erramon Aboitiz, got a 2.6% increase in salaries amounting to P100.8 million in 2020, but saw a 65% cut in bonuses in 2021 due to low power demand caused by the pandemic.

However, other officers and directors got a 45% increase in salaries in 2020, amounting to P25 million.

Overall, diversified conglomerates managed to give more than enough cash to their bosses despite the recession and job cuts at the bottom of the corporate hierarchy.

But for companies that are in the so-called non-essential industries, transportation and restaurants, executives had to significantly trim their earnings just to keep afloat. (Read Part 2: The billionaires who got pay cuts during the pandemic)

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.