‘Roxas and Corruption: Campaign Planes, Election Spending, Mining Interests’

I was doing research to follow up an excellent expose by Philippione Star columnist Jarius Bondoc on mining magnates’ planes and helicopters, which   presidential candidate Manuel Roxas 2nd has been using in his campaign sorties. I chanced upon the following well-researched piece carried by the blog Thinking Pinoy, the title of which I also use for this column.  It deserves to be read by as many Filipinos as possible, to realize what “Daang Matuwid” really is.
First of Two Parts

Start of Thinking Pinoy piece:

Robredo and Roxas in a chopper owned reportedly by a mining magnate. In the middle is Eliza Antonino, a former staffer of Roxas, who since 2011 has been a trustee of the SSS and is said to be working full-time in her former boss’s campaign. COA reports show she is getting P6 million a year from the SSS. Unreported, though, is her take from Philex Mining, where she is a board member representing SSS shares. (Photo comes from an Instagram post of Roxas spokesman Miro Quimbo, who claims  it was taken inside a truck.)
Robredo and Roxas in a chopper owned reportedly by a mining magnate. In the middle is Eliza Antonino, a former staffer of Roxas, who since 2011 has been a trustee of the SSS and is said to be working full-time in her former boss’s campaign. COA reports show she has been getting P6 million a year from the SSS. Unreported, though, is her take from Philex Mining, where she is a board member representing SSS shares. (Photo comes from an Instagram post of Roxas spokesman Miro Quimbo, who initially reported wrongly that they were inside a truck.)

“Quid pro quo. Whether we want to admit it or not, this phrase defines the game of life.
This same rule applies to every electoral campaign: something for something, this for that.
When I first heard that Liberal Party (LP) bet Manuel “Mar” Araneta Roxas II spent 257 million just for August 2015 TV ads, my initial reaction was “meh, mayaman naman talaga
si Mar.’ I know that he belongs to the wealthy oligarchy, so I guess that was expected. If my clan owns the Araneta Center, I guess I can afford to do that. After all, how many Filipinos can afford to go to Wharton? That’s why I was inclined to believe Roxas’ allies when they said he “uses his own funds.”

Even if I felt something just doesn’t add up, I just can’t seem to put my finger on it, so the Roxas August TV ads news came and went without me giving a damn. Why? Because I don’t really subscribe to half-baked truths.

Then follow-up reports came in. Oh, boy.

This is the part where I tell myself to calm down and examine the situation objectively, so let’s do just that.

I would like to warn the reader that this is much longer than the usual Thinking Pinoy article, but I assure you that your ten-or-so minutes will be time well spent.

The Manila Times reported that Roxas spent ₱774 million from January to December 2015 on TV, radio, and newspaper ads. The Philippine Star even reported that Roxas has the money to pay for anti-Binay ads.

P774 million does not even include the expenses he incurs during out-of-town events, where he gives out motorcycles and bags of food to all attendees. This does not include the gargantuan costs of running his fleet of private jets that he uses to transport his entire team from province to province. It also does not include the online ad spending: I check my Facebook wall everyday and sponsored Roxas-Robredo ads – run through Roxas’ official page – pop up left and right.

The amount of money Roxas has hemorrhaged so far is mind-boggling, especially since the ₱10-per-voter cap limits presidential campaign spending at about ₱545 million, based on 54.5 million registered Filipino voters.

At this rate, Roxas should’ve already been disqualified, as any elementary school student would agree that 774 is a lot more than 570. We don’t need a Wharton degree to figure that out.

 Lipad Party?  roxas seems to have so many planes that even junior staffers get to use. a facebook post with the note: “Unforgettable Selfie with team Matuwid, plus it was my first time to ride on a private plane. “
Lipad Party?  Roxas seems to have so many planes that even junior staffers get to use them. A Facebook post with the note: “Unforgettable Selfie with team Daang Matuwid, plus it was my first time to ride on a private plane. “

Amid the over-spending allegations, administration stalwarts, including Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and YACAP Party-list Rep. Carol Jane Lopez, and presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, were quick to defend Roxas. They said Roxas ‘used his own money.’

Roxas’ 2014 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) indicates a net worth of ₱202 million, according to the Inquirer. No other details were made public about his 2014 SALN declaration.

TV5 was somehow able to secure a copy of Roxas’ 2012 SALN that showed a net worth of ₱183.1 million, approximately 10% less than the 2014 figure.

In this 2012 SALN, Roxas stated that his cash and time deposits in 2012 were ₱ 9.5 million. Even if the ₱ 19 million increase from 2012 to 2014 was in pure cash, it still won’t allow him to afford this degree of election spending.

Even in the extreme scenario where he liquidated all his assets, there’s no way ₱202 million can pay for ₱257 million in TV ads, let alone that ₱774 million figure that he purportedly spent from January to December 2015.

Roxas cannot ‘use his own money’ because according to Roxas SALN, even if he’s one of the richest cabinet members, the kind of election spending he’s doing is on an entirely different level.

With this said, it’s safe to say that he relied heavily on campaign donors, and this leads to the next question: who are his donors?

That is, Thinking Pinoy asks: What kinds of people are funding Roxas’ ascent into the presidency?

A closer look at Roxas’ 2012 SALN shows that Roxas has a personal interest in the mining sector. His stockholdings, officially amounting to ₱120 million, include shares in seven mining companies, namely: Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, Manila Mining Corporation, Philex Mining Corporation, Marinduque Mining and Industrial Corporation, Mindanao Mother Lake Mines, Samar Mining Company, Western Minolco Corporation.

Mar, the miner

Being a stockholder in these seven wealthy firms indicate that he should have a lot of wealthy friends and wealthy acquaintances in the mining industry. And when in a pinch, such as when he needs campaign contributions, wouldn’t it be reasonable to say that his group of wealthy friends would be the first ones he’d run to?

Thinking Pinoy had no way of verifying who among these miner friends are helping Roxas fulfill his presidential ambitions.

I needed leads. Luckily, the Philippine Star’s Jarius Bondoc gave me just that.

Bondoc of the Philippine Star reported Friday that private Cessna planes Roxas uses for his campaign sorties are registered under Air Juan Aviation Inc., owned by a certain Francis Eric Gutierrez. These planes are also used to fly VP candidate Leni Robredo and the Liberal Party (LP) senatorial lineup.

A 2013 PCIJ report showed the billionaire Gutierrez is 2013’s 87th highest taxpayer in the country.

To give the reader an idea of Gutierrez’s net worth, GMA Network’s Jimmy Duavit is 83rd and SM Prime Holding’s Henry Sy Sr. is 85th. Their corresponding tax returns differ by less than a million pesos.

Bondoc’s sources said that the planes comprising the Air Juan fleet were acquired with VAT and import duty exemptions, privileges that were never given any other aviation company.

Signed for Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima by Usec. Carlo Carag, the tax exemptions were granted on the basis ‘that said importation is necessary in the operation of its business.’

If we go by that logic, jeepney drivers should also be exempted from VAT on diesel, right? After all, diesel is necessary in the operation of a jeepney business.

But no, lowly jeepney drivers won’t be exempted. As to why, it’s best to ask Purisima.
Then came the lead I was looking for: Bondoc cited Gutierrez’s alleged illegal mining activities in Mindanao. Bondoc explained how Gutierrez skirted tough laws to exploit the rich nickel ore reserves of Tubay, Agusan del Norte.

When asked about it, Roxas’ camp said Mar leased the aircraft from SR Mining Inc. (SRMI) owner Francis Eric Gutierrez and that the said transactions were ‘above-board.’
My subsequent research on Roxas’ mining links and its implications terrified me so much, I actually fervently prayed that I am wrong….”
To be continued on Monday.

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