Cusi overtakes Mark Villar as Cabinet member with highest net worth in 2019

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi overtook fellow billionaire and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar as the member of the Duterte Cabinet with the highest net worth in 2019, based on available copies of Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) obtained by Rappler on Thursday, September 24.

Cusi declared a net worth of P1,429,301,623 in 2019, up by 3% or P43.76 million more than the P1,385,545,339 he reported in 2018.

Meanwhile, Villar's net worth went down to P1,407,445,056, lesser by only P836,738 or 0.06% than his declaration in 2018 at P1,408,281,794.

Both were already rich businessmen before they became part of the Duterte Cabinet. Cusi was involved in the shipping and logistics industry, while Villar and his family are bigwigs in the real estate industry.

So far, the SALNs of only 23 Cabinet and Cabinet-level members were available from the Malacañang Records Office (MRO) as of Thursday.

Among them, Education Secretary Leonor Briones has the lowest net worth so far, with P10,863,172.41. This is up by 13% from the P9.61 million she declared in 2018.

More than half of the Cabinet members with available SALNs – or at least 14 of 23 – had a higher net worth in 2019. But of these officials, only 6 had an increase of more than 10% versus 2018.

Public officials' net worth in their SALN is computed by declaring the total costs of their real properties and personal assets – including those acquired prior to government service – then subtracting from that the total amount of their liabilities like loans.

After Cusi and Villar, the next 6 secretaries on the list, all with a net worth of over P100 million, remained the same as in 2018. However, only the net worth of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr decreased in 2019.

The following are the declared net worths of Cabinet and Cabinet-level secretaries, based on the copies of SALNs obtained by Rappler. Their positions and offices below are as of December 2019. The rates of increase or decrease from their 2018 net worth are also listed:

The biggest percentage increase in net worth was that of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña. His net worth in 2019 more than doubled, to P13.011 million, from P5.031 million in 2018.

On his SALN, De La Peña explained that the increase in receivables and cash was due to "the sale of agricultural land in Bulacan, Bulacan."

In 2018, De La Peña was the Cabinet member with the lowest net worth, and had the biggest percentage drop in wealth versus 2017.

Next to De La Peña was Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, whose net worth went up by 84% to P16.15 million in 2019, from P8.76 million in 2018.

Compared to his 2018 SALN, Lorenzana no longer had declared liabilities in 2019. In declaring personal assets, the retired major general broke down cash-on-hand items to declare accumulated amounts for military pension, salary, and Armed Forces and Police Savings and Loans Inc (AFPSLAI) capital contribution and dividends.

On the other hand, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rolando Bautista had the biggest percentage drop in net worth, with a decrease of 21% to P15.75 million in 2019, from P20 million in 2018.

As of writing, Rappler has yet to obtain the 2018 SALNs of the following, for comparison to their 2019 declarations:

  • Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu
  • Human Settlements and Urban Development Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, who headed the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) until it was absorbed into the newly-created housing department in January 2020
  • Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, who was Presidential Assistant for Special Concerns before he was appointed to head the budget department in August 2019

The SALNs of around 25 other Cabinet secretaries and Cabinet-level officials have yet to be made available as of writing.

Cabinet members' have released their SALNs unlike other government officials who submit theirs to the Office of the Ombudsman, which decided this September to restrict the public's access to SALNs under its jurisdiction. These officials include President Rodrigo Duterte and heads of constitutional bodies.

Vice President Leni Robredo released her SALN to the media days before the Ombudsman's announcement of new SALN rules.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires argued that SALNs have been "weaponized" by certain parties to go after politicians or public officials. 

Many groups have called the Ombudsman's move a serious blow to government transparency. – Rappler.com

Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.

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