By Ellson Quismorio
Now richer by P282 million as a result of the appreciation of shares in various investments, One Patriotic Coalition of Marginalized Nationalist (1PACMAN) Party-list Rep. Michael “Mikee” Romero remained the wealthiest House member in the country, with P7,291,000,000 in total net worth at the end of 2017.
Not only that, Romero is also richer than the top two richest senators in Cynthia Villar and newly crowned welterweight boxing champion Manny Pacquiao combined, making the party-list solon the richest member of Philippine Congress (House and Senate).
Romero, who at his young age has been listed four times in Forbes Asia Magazine’s 50 most affluent Filipinos, gained huge profits from a number of investments despite devoting full time in active legislative work.
He was in the Forbes richest list in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
The past two years, the young lawmaker filed a total 226 bills and resolutions, mostly pursuing pro-poor pieces of legislation. Some of these have become laws or are in advanced stages of the legislative process.
In the list of 2017 Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of 292 members of the Lower House released over the weekend, Romero remained on top with declared assets of P7,328,000,000 and total liabilities of P37,000,000. This resulted in his net assets of P7,291,000,000.
In 2016, Romero’s total net worth of P7,009,588,018 also placed him on the number one spot in the mandatory submission of lawmakers’ SALN.
Villar, whose family runs one of the biggest real estate firms in the country, listed her SALN at P3,611,260,766.
Meanwhile, Senator Pacquiao, who made history anew by claiming his 11th world title Sunday by beating Argentinian Lucas Matthysse, has a net worth of P2,946,315,029.93 for 2017.
Newly appointed Justice undersecretary and Villar’s daughter-in-law, Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, placed second most affluent House member with a net worth of P1,407,459,536.00
Third placer in the Lower House was Negros Occidental 3rd district Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez with P1,004,9965,616 in total net worth.
Romero, a vice chairman of the House committees on East ASEAN Growth Area, housing and urban developmetn and youth and sports development, has been batting for the swift approval of various social reform measures that were among the 226 bills he filed the past two years.
Several bills such as extending the validity of Philippine passports to 10 years and those of driver’s licenses to five years as well as granting free tuition fee for tertiary education are now laws of the land.
Romero has also sought the enactment of House Bill (HB) 159 seeking to strengthen the right of government to expropriate lands for socialized housing. The measure has been approved in the Lower House and is now pending action in the Senate.
Posting a net worth of just under a billion or P921 million is Ilocos Norte 2nd district Rep. and former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, the fourth wealthiest House member. The fifth is former House Speaker, Quezon City 4th district Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. with P861 million.
Rounding up the top 10 richest House members are Manila Teachers Party-list Rep. Virgilio Lacson, P792 million; Marikina City 1st district Rep. Bayani Fernando, P739 million; Batangas 6th district Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, P539 million; Davao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Antonio Floirendo, P524 million; and Leyte 1st district Rep. Yedda Romualdez of Leyte, P478 million.
Just outside the top 10 is former president and current Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with P465 million.
Ironically, some of Romero’s fellow party-list representatives comprise a cluster of the poorest congressmen.
Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago posted a net worth of P75,800, the least in terms of the 2017 SALNs.
Elago’s fellow Makabayan bloc solons posted the following net worth: Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, P514,660; ACT-Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro, P1.388 million; and Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, P1.645 million.