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MANILA, Philippines – Can Sen Jinggoy Estrada reconcile his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN)?
Estrada’s admission that he owns the P120-million house now under construction in the posh Wack Wack subdivision in Mandaluyong City raises questions about the veracity of his SALN declarations.
Since it became a reportorial requirement for all public officials and employees in 1989, the SALN has become an effective paper trail in going after government officials who have amassed hidden or unexplained wealth while in public office. A number of government officials have been dismissed, charged in the Sandiganbayan and convicted for false declarations in their SALN.
Perhaps the most prominent casualty was former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was impeached and convicted by the Senate for wrongful declarations in his SALN. Corona failed to declare his peso and dollar accounts in his SALN. Among those who voted for his conviction was Estrada.
Estrada has confirmed he owns the Wack Wack house which Rappler reported this week. Although construction began in 2012, we observed this was not included in his 2011 and 2012 SALN.
His 2012 SALN, which he submitted in December 2012, listed only 3 condo units in San Juan City, a condo unit in Tagaytay City, and a farm in Lipa City. In Quezon City, he listed a condo unit, two other lots, a townhouse and one house under construction.
Reached by reporters, Estrada explained that he sold a house and lot in Greenhills, which were listed in his 2011 SALN, to bankroll the construction of his still being constructed residence in Wack Wack.
He argued that the property, which covers 3,084 square meters, was actually included in his 2012 SALN under the category of investments. “How can I place it in my properties in the SALN when it has not been transferred to my name,” Estrada was quoted as saying in a report by the Philippine Star.
He also said he sold the house in Greenhills in 2011, since “it would be more costly to renovate it,” as it was already in a “state of disrepair.”
However, a close scrutiny of his SALNs shows Estrada’s explanations raise more questions than answers.
Windfall from sale of Greenhills property?
In his 2011 SALN, the senator declared that his real property assets shrank to P74.627 million from P97.975 million in 2010, reflecting the sale of his Greenhills property. His net worth jumped from P93.562 million in 2010 to P166.727 million in 2011.
Can the sale of the Greenhills property explain the rise in his net worth?
The Greenhills property has an acquisition cost of P23.3 million based on his 2011 SALN. Estrada claimed that he sold the Greenhills property for about P100 million. This means that Estrada was able to sell the Greenhills property 4 times its acquisition cost.
If this is the case, then such sale singularly explained the surge in his net worth by P72.752 million in just one year .
If Estrada’s recollection is accurate, this also means that the P93.304 million “investments” reflected in his 2011 SALN represented solely the sale of his Greenhills property. But then, where does this leave his investments in other businesses?
That year, Estrada listed investments in 7 companies under the name of his wife, Presentacion Ejercito. The category “investments” was a new entry in his SALN under the sub-head “personal and other personalities.” In previous SALNs, he did not list any “investments.”
In his 2012 SALN, Estrada and his wife apparently divested their business interests in other companies and retained their investments in only 4 companies. These companies are the real estate firm S-E-N-J-I Corp, Lucky J4J, HK Choi and Choi Palace, which are all into the restaurant business.
From his P166.727 million net worth the previous year, Estrada’s net worth climbed to P193.580 million in 2012. Of this figure, P119.304 million was classified as “investments.” Cash on hand and in banks amounting to P15.874 million contributed to his net worth.
Following Estrada’s explanation that P100 million of his “investments” represented his new Wack Wack residence, it appears that the remaining P19.304 million represents his investments in his 4 active companies.
However, data, or the lack of it, from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) do not offer any help.
We found out that the 4 active companies have not been submitting the required financial statements which should be filed annually by companies to the SEC. Non-filing of financial statements has a corresponding penalty.
We found no records of financial statements for Lucky 4J4 since it was incorporated in 2006. The real estate firm S-E-N-J-I Corp, formed in 2008, submitted an affidavit of non-operation in May 2012.
HK Choi, formed in 2009, has not submitted any financial statements. Neither has Choi Palace Inc, formed in 2010.
It seems the senator, who is facing a plunder complaint before the Ombudsman in connection with the pork barrel scam allegedly perpetrated by Janet Lim Napoles, has a lot more explaining to do. – with Rey Santos/Rappler.com