At least 42 of the 53 city and town mayors in Cebu, led by Toledo City Mayor John Henry Osmeña, are in the millionaire’s list.
Osmeña, with a net worth of over P138 million, is the wealthiest mayor in Cebu based on the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for the year 2016 that Cebu Daily News has obtained from the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas.
In fact, all but one of the 43 mayors who have so far submitted their SALNs to the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas have net worth and assets in millions of pesos.
The “poorest” of the mayors is Madridejos Mayor Jay dela Fuente, whose net worth for 2016 amounted to only P64,500.
According to his SALN, Dela Fuente does not own any real estate property, business firm or a car. The personal properties he declared were just three high-end smartphones, each of which costs at least P10,000.
Dela Fuente, who was the youngest mayor elected in Cebu in 2016 at age 24, is, however, not from a poor family since he is the son of the town’s former mayor Salvador dela Fuente, who is currently the vice mayor of the town and had previously declared a net worth of around P14 million.
In contrast to the younger Dela Fuente, Osmeña’s SALN showed that he owned two residential lots with a combined value of P10.9 million; two agricultural lands worth P800,000; two luxury condominiums in Cebu City worth over P20 million; and other personal properties amounting to P120 million.
As of December 2016, Osmeña declared total assets of P153 million, the bulk of which amounting to P133 million came from his investments in “various businesses” such as those engaged in the real estate industry. His net worth was pegged at P138 million after deducting a liability totaling P14.2 million, a personal loan that the mayor declared he obtained from Renner Development Corp.
The 81-year-old mayor is a stockholder of four subsidiaries of a real estate giant in Negros Oriental — Pamplona Plantation.
The mayor is currently out of the country, opting to take a vacation after he was meted a one-year suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman last August 29 for grave abuse of authority over his alleged refusal to release the quarterly real property tax (RPT) shares of Barangays Sangi and Daanlungsod in Toledo City.
He had served as a senator for 15 years, from 1971 to 2004. He was also an appointed mayor of Cebu City following the People Power Revolution in 1986 before he returned to the Senate. He first won the mayoral post of Toledo City in 2013 against Aurelio Espinosa and was reelected in 2016.
The SALN is required by law, under Republic Act 6173 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees), among government officials as means to promote transparency, accountability, and to determine any signs of ill-gotten wealth.
Public officials, if proven to have failed on submitting their SALN, may face “imprisonment not exceeding five (5) years, or a fine not exceeding five thousand pesos (P5,000), or both, and, in the discretion of the court of competent jurisdiction, disqualification to hold public office.”
In coming up with a public official’s net worth, the anti-graft office computes it by deducting the sum of their liabilities from their assets.
The other city mayors in Cebu, all seven of them, are triple- to single-digit millionaires, their SALNs showed.
The second wealthiest city mayor, with a net worth of P122.7 million, is Talisay City Mayor Eduardo Gullas, a seasoned politician who has held several elective posts including as governor of Cebu and congressman representing the 1st District of the province. Gullas also belongs to the family that owns the University of the Visayas (UV), hospitals and a community newspaper.
The SALN Gullas filed together with his wife, Norma, showed that the couple has eight real estate properties, which included an P8.6-million house-and-lot located in the United States, in the gateway city of Downey, located just 21 kilometers from Los Angeles in California.
Carcar City Mayor Nicepuro Apura, who is now serving his third and final term, came in third with a net worth of P24.2 million. He was followed by Mandaue City Mayor Gabriel Luis Quisumbing, who has a net worth of P18.3 million.
Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza is the fifth wealthiest city mayor, who declared a net worth of P14 million. On the sixth place is Danao City Mayor Ramon Durano IV at P12.9 million.
Sonny Osmeña’s cousin, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who filed a joint SALN with his wife, incumbent Cebu City Councilor Margarita Osmeña, is seventh with a net worth of P9.3 million.
Naga City Mayor Vanessa Kristine Chiong came last, declaring a net worth of P3 million.
Chiong is a political newbie. She was elected mayor in the May 2016 elections replacing her father, the city’s long-time mayor, Valdemar Chiong.
The central records department of the Ombudsman in the Visayas could only furnish CDN the SALN of 43 of the 53 mayors in the cities and municipalities of Cebu.
An officer of their department, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak on matters related to SALNs, told CDN that they were still looking for the financial records of the other 10 mayors since they are still sorting out all of their documents. He also said they were determining whether or not these 10 officials have already submitted their SALNs for 2016.
Among the financial records the Ombudsman in the Visayas was still trying to locate were those that belong to Daanbantayan Mayor Vicente Loot, whose wife Ma. Luisa was consistently among the richest mayors of Cebu province since 2011. In 2015, Mrs. Loot had declared a net worth of P108 million.
The male Loot, a retired police general, was first elected mayor of Daanbantayan last May 2016, replacing his wife Ma. Luisa.
Loot was tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016 as a drug coddler, which the mayor vehemently denied. He underwent a lifestyle check by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) last year to prove that the wealth he has amassed did not come from the illegal drugs trade.
Richest town mayors
Of the town mayors, Tuburan Mayor Democrito Diamante is the richest with a worth of over P83 million.
Diamante’s name cropped up in the list of alleged bribe givers in the Bureau of Customs, or the so-called “Tara List” exposed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson last August composed of names of Customs officials and private individuals allegedly engaging in bribery to ease movement of goods smuggled in and out of the country. But Diamante refuted the claims that he is the “Aljun Diamante” referred to in the Tara List.
In his SALN, Diamante declared he is the proprietor and president of trucking services, and a logistics and customs brokerage firm. Both are based in Cagayan de Oro City in Northern Mindanao.
In earlier reports, Diamante was quoted as saying that he sold the trucking services and customs brokerage firm he owned in Cebu since he became mayor of Tuburan in 2013.
His SALN, meanwhile, showed that Diamante owned 23 motor vehicles, most of which were classified as equipment for his trucking and logistics firms, that amount to P22.4 million. This included a P4.5-million luxury automobile he acquired in 2012.
The mayor, together with his wife Teresita, also owned 18 real estate properties around the country with a combined value of P71.3 million, including two luxury condominium units in Cebu City.
Consolacion Mayor Teresa Alegado is the second wealthiest town mayor with a net worth of P43.9 million. She and her husband, Nilo, owned at least 10 real estate properties, and four vehicles amounting to more than P5 million.
Alegado was followed by Mayors Luciano Rama of Poro (P39 million), Lito Narciso Creus of Malabuyoc (P25.2 million), Corazon Dotillos of Borbon (P18.6 million), Emerito Calderon of Samboan (P17.3 million) and Verna Magallon of Alegria (P13.2 million).
The source at the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas said that all government officials had up to April 30 to file their SALN for the previous year.
“Government officials only have up to April 30 to file their SALN for the previous fiscal year. But for those who cannot submit after the deadline can still file their SALN under ‘late filing.’ But it is still up to our office to decide whether or not any reason they cite for late filing is reasonable and acceptable,” the official added.
Aside from Loot, the source said their office could still not locate the SALNs of Mayors Beatrice Caburnay of Alcantara, Stanley Caminero of Argao, Jose Antonio Pintor of Asturias, Carmencita Lumain of Badian, Efren Gica of Dumanjug, Ma. Esperanza Christina Frasco of Liloan, Joven Mondigo Jr. of Medellin, Mariano Martinez of San Remegio, and Marilyn Wenceslao of Santander.