Trouble brewing in Bgy Bel-Air?

Buena Bernal
Nene Lichauco of Bgy Bel-Air in Makati City has served for 30 years as village chief but corruption charges haunt her

UNOPPOSED. Incumbent village chief Nene Lichauco is confident she will win the 2013 barangay polls. All photos by Buena Bernal/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Every day for the last 6 years, Constancia “Nene” Lichauco would be at her office at 8:15 in the morning. 

Her office – a well-lit, two-story, white building – sits inside a posh subdivision in Bgy Bel-Air in Makati City. Her barangay stands out because, as she says, it is the richest in Makati, at least in terms of real property tax collections. Makati City is itself among the richest in Metro Manila.

Being barangay captain of Bel-Air means having a lot of resources at your disposal. Lichauco has, in fact, run 5 times as village chief in the past; 3 of those 5 candidacies were unopposed.

On Monday, October 28, as Bel-Air voters fill out ballots for the barangay elections, they will be deciding on the fate of Lichauco’s 6th candidacy for the same position. 

Lichauco, running unopposed yet again, is confident she will win.

“I’ve been working here as a public servant actively from 1983 up to now… From the association to the barangay, people have voted for me all the way,” she said in an interview.

Graft case

But the long-time barangay captain faces a graft case over a 2007 contract between the barangay and Two Chefs Corp, a food supply company. Lichauco received a notice about the graft case from the Office of the Ombudsman in August 2013.

According to documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Two Chefs Corp that previously supplied food during events sponsored by the barangay is owned by 5 different members of the Lichauco family.

Lichauco dismissed the case as a “demolition job,” saying that a “disgruntled bookkeeper” who profited on the side by supplying assorted items to the barangay might have been the one who released documents to her detractors.

The 75-year-old grandmother of 12 said the Commission on Audit “always has a hard time looking for findings na mali (that is irregular)” in her barangay.

Kung merong model barangay sa Makati, Bel-Air yun. Sa mga documentation, when it comes to accounting,” she said. (If there is a model village in Makati, that would be Bel-Air. In documentation and when it comes to accounting.)

“And always, like this year, first one to have their budget approved, Bel-Air,” she boasted.

NEW FOOD SUPPLIER? Documents show that Brgy Bel-airs new food supplier is owned by Patricia Lichauco who bears the same address as the village chief

New supplier? 

As its 2013 financial statements show, Bgy Bel-Air shifted to a new food supplier: the Wild Lemongrass Foods Inc.

Lichauco said the company is not owned by anyone related to her, and that it is owned by a Bel-Air resident whose name she was not familiar with.

Documents obtained by Rappler, however, belied this claim. Bgy Bel-Air’s new food supplier, Wild Lemongrass Foods Inc, is also owned by one Christine Patricia W. Lichauco who shares the same address as the village chief.

The other 4 incorporators along with Christine Patricia W. Lichauco are not residents of Bgy Bel-air or even Makati City, according to the addresses they provided to SEC. 

Lichauco also maintained that Wild Lemongrass Foods Inc went through a bidding process as mandated by law. She added that she has not been involved in the affairs of Bel-Air’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), which supervises the procurement of goods and items for the barangay.

Over P2.5 M in food expenses in 2013

Lichauco explained that the barangay had awarded a contract of around P1.5 million in food expenses for 2013 at the start of the year. Anything above that, she said, would require another bidding process.

A summary of checks issued by the barangay government from January to August 2013, however, shows that Bgy Bel-Air’s food expenses amounted to over P2.5 million in those 8 months. All the food was supposedly supplied by Wild Lemongrass Inc.








Wild Lemongrass, Inc.




Wild Lemongrass, Inc.




Wild Lemongrass, Inc.




Wild Lemongrass, Inc.




Wild Lemongrass, Inc.




Wild Lemongrass, Inc.




Wild Lemongrass, Inc.




Wild Lemongrass, Inc.






The highest expense in food came during the month of May, when the yearly Pasinaya (thanksgiving) festival of the barangay was held. 

Food served during the festival amounted to P189,685, while food served during the months of dance rehearsals for the festival amounted to P659,780.

According to the barangay’s procurement plan for 2013, the barangay prepared a contract of only P1,388,555.12 for food expenses for the entire year. Almost all of this was spent in the month of May alone.

Flying voters

Besides questionable food contracts, the issue of flying voters also hounds sitting officials in Bel-Air.

A list of voters provided to Rappler by Aurora Pijuan, lead convener of the Gising Barangay Movement in Metro Manila, shows that 20-60 voters had the same addresses.

In the residence of Lichauco alone, over 60 people are registered as voters. At 40 Solar Street, Bel-Air – address of the barangay hall – 34 people are registered as voters. Six other addresses have at least 20 registered voters in them.

During the 2010 barangay elections, Lichauco won over her opponent by a mere 300 votes.

“We have been here living for 4 decades. How many drivers, yayas (maid), hardineros (gardeners) have registered here? When they leave, they don’t want to register in another place. There’s so many benefits in Makati as a voter,” Lichauco explained.

“Why call them flying voters? A flying voter is flying from one precinct to another. That’s not the case,” she added.

Lichauco said a 300-vote margin is already big, given the number of voters in her village. Bgy Bel-Air has an estimated 6,000 voters. The voter turn-out is typically at 70%.

Lichauco said she doesn’t mind having the names removed from the voters’ list, but said it has always been a bureaucratic process at the Commission on Elections.

Her late husband who died in 2005 is actually still part of the voters’ list.

New mandate?

On the Saturday before elections, Lichauco went around the village as part of the Halloween trick-or-treat project of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK).

The back of her red shirt simply read “24/7,” representing her campaign slogan of “24/7 serbisyong todo-todo.” Monday’s polls will determine whether or not residents of one of the metro’s richest barangays will give Lichauco a fresh mandate to carry out what she claims to be round-the-clock, all-out service. – with reports from Apa Agbayani/

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