By Raïssa Robles
The billionaire Villar couple own two properties in Glendale, California, Senator Manny Villar confirmed to me last year in an ambush interview.
Before I go on, I would like to thank a California Fil-Am lawyer named “Steve” who called my attention to these properties. It was also “Steve” who gave me last year the details on the California property of Charina Corona, daughter of then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. “Steve” asked not to be identified for now.
Steve provided me with the documents showing that Senator Villar owned two properties on the same street in Glendale, California.
The first property is at No. 812-E Chestnut Street:
The second property is at No. 816-E Chestnut St.:
I asked Senator Villar whether he had declared the two properties he had bought in cash for US$460,000 each or for a total amount of US$920,000 in the year 2011.
“Yes,” he replied and added that he was retiring from politics.
I asked Sen. Villar where he had declared the properties in his 2011 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. I told him I could not find them listed anywhere in his 2011 SALN.
Villar told me it was declared together with the rest of his real properties.
Sen. Villar did declare “other real and personal properties” worth a total of P630,396,156. But he did not provide a breakdown of these properties.
I asked him whether such a lumpsum declaration was a sufficient fulfillment of the SALN law.
He said “Yes.” He told me there was no need for a breakdown.
Sen. Villar must know what he’s talking about because according to his bio in the Senate website:
“He started his professional career as an accountant and financial analyst for prominent corporations before venturing into his own business.”
I could not ask him more questions because he said he had a meeting to attend.
At that time of my ambush interview, the candidacy of his wife Cynthia for senator was still up in the air.
But now, she is running for senator. Cynthia Villar served for three terms as congresswoman and was replaced by her son Mark in 2010.
When Senator Villar filed his SALN last year, it was at the height of the impeachment trial of then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. Corona was on trial for failing to declare his wealth properly in his SALNs.
Villar was among the senator-judges who said Corona was guilty and voted to sack him on May 30, 2012. Villar said during the impeachment trial voting:
“My vote is for the conviction of the Chief Justice. Nahirapan po ako sa desisyon na ito.”
Republic Act No. 6713 or the SALN Law states in Section 8 that government officials have to enumerate their real properties insofar as their improvements, acquisition costs, assessed value and current fair market value are concerned:
REPUBLIC ACT NO. 6713
SECTION 8. Statements and Disclosure. — Public officials and employees have an obligation to accomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know, their assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households.
(A) Statements of Assets and Liabilities and Financial Disclosure. — All public officials and employees, except those who serve in an honorary capacity, laborers and casual or temporary workers, shall file under oath their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and a Disclosure of Business Interests and Financial Connections and those of their spouses and unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households.
The two documents shall contain information on the following:
(a) real property, its improvements, acquisition costs, assessed value and current fair market value;
(b) personal property and acquisition cost;
(c) all other assets such as investments, cash on hand or in banks, stocks, bonds, and the like;
(d) liabilities, and;
(e) all business interests and financial connections.
Senator Villar provided none of those details. But as I said, he should know. He’s an accountant.
He told me that the manner by which he filled out his SALN was sufficient fulfillment of RA 6713 or “An Act Establishing a Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, to uphold the time-honored principle of public office being a public trust, granting incentives and rewards for exemplary service, enumerating prohibited acts and transactions and providing penalties for violations thereof and for other purposes.”
Please see his 2011 SALN below.
I do not have a copy of Cynthia Villar’s SALNs when she was a three-term congresswoman. But she co-signed Senator Villar’s 2011 SALN and so it’s safe to assume she knows about it. Like her husband, she also finished a Business Administration degree at the University of the Philippines. In addition, she has a masters degree in Business Administration from New York University.
If you believe that Senator Villar’s SALN is properly filled up and would have withstood a trial similar to that of Ex-CJ Corona, vote Cynthia Villar to the Senate. Their son Mark Villar is also running for reelection in Congress.
As you can see from both grant deeds submitted to the State of California record office, both properties are owned personally by the spouses. These are not owned by any of their corporations.
I am not saying at all that Senator Villar stole any money. On the contrary, the Villar couple can well afford the California properties and much more, given their huge net worth and highly successful realty business.
All I’m saying is that anyone who wants to run for public office has to be transparent about his wealth. Nobody forced the Villars to run for office. Transparency and accountability are the price of entry to a public position that brings with it untold rewards and temptations.