MANILA, Philippines — Planning to wear an expensive outfit on Monday for President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa?
Don’t push through with wearing your riches. Instead, donate your lavish attire budget to thousands of Marawi residents who were displaced by almost two months of war between government troops and extremists from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups.
“Iyong mga imbitado sa SONA ay hindi po kailangang naka-gown tayo, business attire lang pupuwede na po [Those invited in the SONA need not wear gowns, business attire will do” Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said in a radio interview on Tuesday.
“Mahal po ang gown, i-donate na lang sa Marawi [Gown is expensive, we should instead donate to Marawi residents],” he added.
Institution of multimillionaires
Congress has long been an institution composed mostly of multi-millionaire public servants.
Based on the summary of the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth of lawmakers for 2015, the latest data released by the House of Representatives, all of the more than 200 members of the Lower Chamber, except for Kalinga Rep. Abigail Ferriol (with a net worth of P715,150), were millionaires and multimillionaires.
The richest House members based on SALNs filed in 2015 were then Sarangani Rep. Many Pacquaio with a net worth of P3.27 billion, followed by Negros Occidental Rep. Jules Ledesma with P1.005 billion; Speaker Sonny Belmonte with P941.65 million; Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos with P917.8 million; Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez with P880.02 million; Diwa Rep. Emmeline Aglipay and Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar with P689.54 million; Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez with P475.62 million; and Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with P393.92 million.
At the Upper House, all senators except for billionaire Cynthia Villar, are also multimillionaires.
Based on their 2016 SALN, Villar emerged as the richest with a net worth of P3.61 billion, followed by Pacquiao, who reported a net worth of P3.07 billion; Ralph Recto with P522.6 million; and Sonny Angara with P123.95 million.
The poorest was Antonio Trillanes IV with a net worth of P6.51 million.
Already mired in poverty even before war
Even before the war broke out in Marawi, the Lanao del Sur capital was already mired in poverty.
Based on the 2012 municipal and city level poverty estimates released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in December 2014, the poverty incidence in Marawi was 60 percent. This means that six in every 10 Marawi residents were earning below the poverty threshold or the minimum income/expenditure required to meet basic food and non-food requirements.
Also, PSA data showed that in 2010, 114,961 Marawi residents, comprising 12 percent of the city’s population, lacked education or had no formal schooling.
Lanao del Sur is within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which recorded a poverty incidence of 53.7 percent in 2015. Of the provinces in the ARMM, Lanao del Sur had the highest poverty incidence of 71.9 percent during the same year.
ARMM consistently had among the highest percentages of Filipino families who didn’t have enough income to survive : 2006 – 40.5 percent; 2009 – 39.9 percent; 2012 – 48.7 percent.
The region also had the lowest Gini coefficient of 0.28 in 2015, indicating that the region had the widest income disparity between the rich and the poor.