VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte falsely claims Camiguin governor ‘only rich’ member of PDP-Laban

Read this fact check in Filipino

President Rodrigo Duterte wrongly claimed that Camiguin Gov. Jurdin Jesus Romualdo is the “only rich person” in Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

STATEMENT

At the oath-taking of new members of PDP-Laban in Lanao Del Norte on Oct. 16, Duterte said his party is not like the others which receive funding from “oligarchs:”

Mao na sa dagan sa panahon, medyo ang taong nakasabot nga ang PDP pro-poor gyud na fundamentally. Ang nidato si ... ang dato lang sa PDP si Romualdo kay nimata siguro siya niadtong unang panahon ... it’s an island, Camiguin eh. Pero ang ako pung balita na kanang lanzones gud ang nagdaan ng liso nga original si Romualdo.”

(As time went by, the people began to understand that PDP is really fundamentally pro-poor. The only one who became rich ... the only rich person in PDP is Romualdo because he may have been one of the early birds ... it’s an island, Camiguin. I heard that Romualdo was the one who first brought the original lanzones seed there.)

Source: RTVMalacanang, PDP-Laban Oath-Taking of New Members and Proclamation of Local Candidates (Speech) 10/16/2021, Oct. 16, 2021, watch from 15:03 to 15:50 (transcript)
FACT

Contrary to Duterte’s claim, several of his partymates who were also present at the ceremony have declared net worths in multi-million pesos.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who heads a faction of the ruling party that was formed in July, has been reported as the richest Cabinet member with P1.43 billion net worth in 2019. In 2020, his net worth increased to P1.46 billion based on his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), according to a Rappler report.

Duterte, chairperson of PDP-Laban, even teased Cusi, his vice chairperson that time, on at least two occasions in 2018 after his net worth jumped from P162 million in 2016 to over P1 billion in 2017.

Alam mo (you know) Al, you do not need [your] job really. Nakita ko ‘yung (I saw your) SALN mo [reaching one billion]… If I were you … you can retire if you want,” Duterte told Cusi at the inauguration of the Pagbilao 3 power plant on May 31, 2018.

Both Sens. Ronald Dela Rosa and Christopher “Bong” Go are also multi-millionaires. Dela Rosa and Go, who are among the closest political allies of Duterte, declared over P34 million and P91 million net worth, respectively, in their 2020 SALN, based on the Senate’s SALN summary report.

Duterte’s former political allies, Sens. Koko Pimentel and Manny Pacquiao, who were ousted by the Cusi faction last July, are also multi-millionaires. Senate records show that Pimentel and Pacquaio had P37.20 million and P3.18 billion net worth, respectively, in 2020.

The office of Romualdo has yet to respond to the request of VERA Files Fact Check for his latest SALN. But a report in 2012 by Mindanao-based news outlet Mindanews stated that Romualdo had P48.48 million net worth in 2011, based on his joint SALN with his wife, Ma. Luisa.

Duterte has not released his SALN to the public since 2018. His last known net worth was reported at P28.54 million in 2017.

Several media organizations, including the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and concerned individuals have criticized the Office of the President and the Ombudsman for rejecting requests for copies of Duterte’s SALNs.

BACKSTORY

PDP-Laban is facing leadership issues due to the warring Cusi and Pimentel-Pacquiao factions.

Pacquiao, who had been vocal about his desire to become president in 2022, expelled Cusi and his allies from PDP-Laban on July 3 for allegedly pushing Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, to join the race for the country's top government public office although she belongs to another party. The faction also replaced Duterte with Pimentel as party chairman in August.

In turn, the Cusi faction ousted Pacquiao as party president on July 17 after declaring his post vacant, and then expelled him from PDP-Laban on Oct. 3 for filing a certificate of candidacy for president under a different party. The faction also unseated Pimentel as executive vice chairperson and elected Cusi as party president.

The party leadership feud remains unsolved but according to Commission on Elections Spokesperson James Jimenez, a decision on which of the two factions will be considered the legitimate PDP-Laban would be released by December this year.


Editor's note: This page has been updated to correct the name of the ruling party. An earlier version of this article reflected the incorrect "Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas - Lakas ng Bayan" instead of "Partido Demokratiko Pilipino - Lakas ng Bayan".


Sources

RTVMalacanang, PDP-Laban Oath-Taking of New Members and Proclamation of Local Candidates (Speech) 10/16/2021, Oct. 16, 2021 (transcript)

ABS-CBN News, Cusi elected party president, as PDP-Laban split becomes final, July 12, 2021

CNN Philippines, Cusi named as new PDP-Laban president in Duterte-led assembly; Pacquiao faction questions legality, July 17, 2021

Inquirer.net, Pacquiao out, Cusi in as PDP-Laban president, July 17, 2021

Rappler.com, Cusi, Villar remain Cabinet members with highest net worth in 2020, July 28, 2021

Rappler.com, Cusi overtakes Mark Villar as Cabinet member with highest net worth in 2019, Sept. 25, 2020

ABS-CBN News, Cusi dethrones Villar as richest Cabinet member; restrictions to full SALN disclosure formalized in nearly all branches, Nov. 6, 2020

GMA News Online, Cusi’s P1.43-B net worth highest among Cabinet members in 2019, Nov. 19, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during his meeting with the Filipino Community in South Korea, June 3, 2018

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the Inauguration of the 420-MW Pagbilao Unit 3 Power Project, May 31, 2018

ABS-CBN News, Duterte Cabinet still club of billionaires, multimillionaires in 2018, June 21, 2019

Rappler.com, Cusi joins Villar in Duterte Cabinet 'billionaires' club' in 2017, May 29, 2018

GMA News Online, Duterte ribs billionaire DOE chief Cusi: You can retire if you want, May 31, 2018

Senate of the Philippines, Summary of SALN of senators as of December 2020, Accessed Oct. 21, 2021

Backstory

Rappler.com, TIMELINE: PDP-Laban's infightings, legal battles among factions, July 10, 2021

Inquirer.net, Rift between PDP-Laban factions unlikely to be mended — Cusi wing, Sept. 10, 2021

ABS-CBN News, Pacquiao orders PDP-Laban members to ignore Cusi's call for party assembly, May 27, 2021

Rappler.com. PDP-Laban expels Cusi for supporting Duterte-Duterte tandem, July 9, 2021

CNN Philippines, Pacquiao-led faction expels Cusi, 2 others from PDP-Laban, July 9, 2021

Philstar.com, Pacquiao’s PDP-Laban kicks out Cusi, 2 others for ‘backing’ another political party, July 9, 2021

Rappler.com, 'Original' PDP-Laban ousts Duterte as party chairman, Aug. 29, 2021

Manila Bulletin, Duterte removal as PDP-Laban chair to 'save' party from crisis, party stalwart says, Aug. 30, 2021

Inquirer.net, Pimentel replaces Duterte as PDP-Laban chairman, Aug. 28, 2021

Rappler.com, Pacquiao ousted as president of Duterte party PDP-Laban, July 17, 2021

Philstar.com, Cusi faction knocks out Pacquiao as PDP-Laban president, July 12, 2021

ABS-CBN News, Cusi faction: Pacquiao faces expulsion from PDP-Laban, Aug. 13, 2021

Philstar.com, PDP-Laban faction expels Pacquiao for filing COC under little-known PROMDI, Oct. 3, 2021

Inquirer.net, PDP-Laban Cusi wing expels Pacquiao from party, Oct. 3, 2021

ABS-CBN News, PDP-Laban factions bicker over Pacquiao's COC filing under PROMDI, Oct. 3, 2021

Rappler.com, Koko Pimentel, son of party cofounder, also ousted from PDP-Laban post, July 17, 2021

CNN Philippines, Nograles: Cusi group is legitimate PDP-Laban; Pacquiao, Pimentel still members, July 19, 2021

Mindanews, Mangudadatu is Mindanao’s richest gov; Matugas is richest city mayor, Sept. 4, 2012

Mindanews, Joint SALN of Romualdo and wife Ma. Luisa, 2011

Business World, Duterte's net worth goes up by P1 million in 2017, May 11, 2018

Rappler.com, Duterte's SALN for 2017 shows net worth of P28.5M, May 11, 2018

ABS-CBN News, Duterte's net worth up by P1.11 million in 2017, May 11, 2018

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Duterte's SALNs secret; PCIJ makes public wealth disclosures of all presidents since Cory, Oct. 18, 2021

Inquirer.net, Lawyer directly asks Duterte for his SALNs this time, Sept. 13, 2021

ABS-CBN News, Lawyer challenges Duterte: Release your SALNs, Sept. 14, 2021

GMA News Online, Ombudsman denies lawyer’s request for copies of Duterte’s SALN, Sept. 7, 2021


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

Have you seen any dubious claims, photos, memes, or online posts that you want us to verify? Send us a message here or here.

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