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Unexplained Wealth in the Philippines

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Section 144(3) of the CRIMINAL PROPERTY CONFISCATION ACT 2000 of the Philippines provides that: “The value of a person’s wealth is the amount equal to the sum of the values of all the items of property, and each service, advantage and benefit that both is constituent of the person’s wealth and was lawfully acquired”

This provision is to the end that where any public officer or employee acquires during his incumbency, assets manifestly out of proportion to his salary during service and his other lawful income from legitimate sources, he can be said to have unlawfully acquired such assets.

Many high-ranking Filipinos have assets that are not commensurate to their earnings, thereby leaving citizens to wonder as to the source of their, and many times the illogicality of the properties and assets owned by these persons compared to their income.

When the value is a person’s wealth is greater than the value of his/her lawfully acquired wealth, such a person has ‘Unexplained Wealth’ (UW). This article shall take a close look into UW in the Philippines and the efforts put in to combat same so for by the government.

Cases of UW in the Philippines

Section 2 of the Republic Act the Philippines 1379, provides for “Unlawfully acquired wealth”. Former president, Ferdinand Marcos’ family owned assets beyond the amount legally declared in their statement of assets and liabilities -UW. Through court cases, retrieval has been made either as funds or properties returned to the government, awards as repatriation to the victims of human rights, settlements and compromise deals, some cases have been dismissed for very trivial reasons. Till date, not all had been recovered, but the Anti-graft agency has vowed to continue the hunt.

Former Senator, Ramon “Bong Revilla Jr, had cash assets not declared in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth, Conviction has failed in spite of the overwhelming evidence because the “prosecution failed to prove their point beyond reasonable doubt”.

Current Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte was said to have UW in the year 2017, but he denied same, stating that he became a young millionaire at a young age due to inheritance, gave details of his personal assets, and vowed to resign if anyone can prove the claims against him.

Former Administrator of the Agricultural Credit and Cooperative Administration, Ernesto T. Jimenez, was under investigation for UW, but President of the Philippines National Bank, Eduardo Z. Romualdez, failed to provide the prosecutor with the administrator’s records of account on grounds of confidentiality, thereby frustrating investigations. The matter went all the way to the Supreme Court, simply for access to the records, and judgment was given in favor of the Prosecutor.

Conclusion

According to Transparency International, the Philippines ranked 117/190 on the world’s corruption index in the year 2021. The nation suffers from corruption including; bribery, fraud, nepotism, embezzlement, extortion, tax evasion etc. The fight against UW remains strong as it continually pushes for accountability and Transparency amongst its public officials.