MANILA, Philippines – If I were an adviser to Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, I would’ve talked him out of two things in relation to the pork barrel scam: react to the President’s speech where he wasn’t named, and sue the whistleblowers for damages.
You don’t grab the spotlight back when the public’s attention has shifted (albeit temporarily) from you; and certainly not near All Souls’ Day when a curious public has reason to resurrect your family’s ghosts.
Few perhaps remember, but October 28 was the second death anniversary of the senator’s half-brother Ramgen Revilla. Their extended family gathered at his tomb, where their father, former Senator Ramon Revilla Sr, questioned police escorts why his other son RJ, a full sibling of Ramgen, was in handcuffs.
A week before that, Don Ramon was talking to GMA News, insisting that RJ was not capable of what authorities have jailed him for – masterminding the killing his own brother.
Remember what investigators considered as a possible motive for the crime? Family quarrel over huge monthly allowances.
That’s one ghost that wouldn’t go away.
People have always been curious how Don Ramon could manage to provide for all his children, who numbered anywhere from 39 to 81 (depending on which sources you’re talking to).
At the height of the scandal in 2011, I went over public documents that would indicate Don Ramon’s wealth – the usual: Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), and the filings of his only declared business with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). (The article was commissioned by another media outfit but was not published.)
He was, at the time, chairperson of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), although he had been frail, having undergone angioplasty in 2008. He could only manage to sign his 2010 SALN with a thumbmark.
What the documents showed was not a simple case of a politician not being able to support his family with his declared earnings. It was a case of how his stated wealth grew 20 times over those years when he was supposedly shelling out millions in cash for the needs of his children by other women.
More families than Erap’s
It was not the first time the public became curious about the old man Revilla’s wealth.
At the height of exposés about the extravagant lifestyle of former president Joseph Estrada’s families in 2000, political observers were already pointing out that then Senator Revilla Sr should similarly be subjected to a lifestyle check.
Don Ramon had 3 times the number of Estrada’s mistresses and, it would turn out, 8 times the number of Estrada’s children.
How then could a senator with a monthly salary of only P35,000 to P40,000, and investments of only P416,000 to P2.12 million in his first 9 years in government have possibly supported so many children?
Now 86, the former actor, producer, and senator is no ordinary Lothario. He has fathered at least 72 children by 16 women, according to one spokesperson. Philippine Star Entertainment editor Ricky F. Lo gave a higher count of 81.
A monument built on a family business park in March 2011 indicates only 39 children, their names grouped into 5 clusters, presumably according to who their mothers are. These 39 included Ramgen, his firstborn with former movie star Genelyn Magsaysay.
At the height of the controversy in 2011, when Magsaysay was complaining on Facebook that the legitimate children were cutting off her family’s allowances, talent manager Lolit Solis and a lawyer defended Senator Bong’s branch of the family. All children were well provided for, they said.
The family’s branch where Ramgen belonged – mom Genelyn and 9 children – was receiving P260,000 a month as support from Don Ramon. It excluded the tuition of those studying.
If each of the 39 to 81 children received the same monthly allowance – P26,000 – that would easily be P1.01 million to P2.11 million a month, or P12.17 million to P25.32 million a year.
Cut the amounts in half – assuming that half of the children already had gainful employment or independent sources of income – and it would amount from P505,000 to P1.05 million a month, or from P6.06 million to P12.6 million a year.
This should have been true for at least two decades before the controversy. Ramgen, who was already 23 at the time of his death, was still dependent on Don Ramon for financial support.
As senator, the old man Revilla’s salary was between P35,000 and P40,000 a month. As PRA chair, he was receiving only around P35,000 a month, but was getting director’s fees from Bay Dredging Incorporated and UEM-MARA Phils. Corporation, two private companies that have a built-transfer-operate arrangement with the government through the PRA. (Isn’t this conflict of interest, by the way?)
Growing family, growing assets
While the number of mistresses and children he had to support apparently increased, his core assets remained intact, and even increased.
His declared assets were divided between “personal properties” and “real properties.” Personal properties consist of cash on hand and in bank, investments, motor vehicles, jewelry, and furniture and fixtures.
The biggest bulk of his assets has always been “cash on hand and in bank.”
Table 1. Revilla’s detailed assets
From 1992 to 2007:
- His cash grew from P21.49 million to P71 million
- Investments, from less than half a million pesos to P8.11 million
- Motor vehicles, P2.25 million to P11.77 million
- Jewelry, from P1.32 million to P4.75 million
- Furniture and fixtures, from less than a million pesos to P2.03 million
- He acquired more lands, their value increasing from a mere P687,000 in 1992 to P20.57 million by 2007
Overall, his net worth of P5.98 million when he first became a lawmaker leapt to P116.86 million in 2007.
When Revilla, who chaired the influential Senate committee on public works, stepped down as senator in mid-2004, he was the 7th richest in the chamber, with a net worth of P57.61 million.
He was immediately appointed by his party mate in Lakas, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as chair of the PRA (formerly called the Public Estates Authority), “the clearing house of all reclamation projects in the country.” His net worth increased to P88.56 million in just half a year.
What do we make of these figures?
His net worth increased by an average of P7.39 million in those 15 years he was active in government. His cash increased by an average of P3.3 million a year.
Those declared growth in wealth would barely meet, if it would meet at all, the minimum P6.06 million to P12.6 million a year that supporting his numerous children by different women required.
Table 2. Assets, Liabilities, Net Worth
No more business, just cash
The only business interest ever declared by Don Ramon in his SALNs was JAB Realty and Development Incorporated, the company he founded in 1982 and which owns his commercial lands.
From 2004 to 2006, the last 3 years that he still declared an interest in JAB Realty, it had retained earnings of only P573,167 to P1.31 million, according to financial statements filed with the SEC.
But while the older Revilla declared JAB Realty in his SALNs until 2006, SEC papers show that the ownership of the company had been transferred to his children with Azucena Mortel as early as 2003 at least (the earliest available SEC filing), before he even stepped down as senator.
The company’s assets stood at P40 million and its retained earnings at P7.16 million as of 2010.
Assuming the legitimate children were too generous to support their half-siblings from the company’s earnings, still, this would not be enough to support all of them.
For those who are curious, Revilla Sr’s SALN for 2010 shows he has no more investments, motor vehicles, or furniture and fixtures. He has zero liabilities now.
His only personal properties left are P42 million cash, and half a million pesos worth of jewelry.
His real properties, generally declared as just “land” in previous assets lists, are now specified to be 8 properties in Cavite, Baguio City, Davao City, and Negros Occidental, but valued at P13.72 million.
So did the old man Revilla under-declare his wealth? If he did, this exposes him to possible graft or tax evasion cases.
Or was his camp making false claims about giving support to his other children to project a good public image? Then this won’t reflect well on his legitimate children and grandchildren who are building their own political careers.
But then again, who needs a family scandal to drag one’s political chances down? At the moment – just two-and-a-half years before the next elections – Senator Bong, the patriarch in waiting, has as much as the PDAF scam haunting him. – Rappler.com