Pandora Papers: Duterte’s Transport Secretary Named For Hidden Wealth From Offshore Firm

MANILA, Philippines — The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists conducted an investigation that revealed a shadow financial system for the richest and most powerful people in the world.

The Pandora Papers recorded multiple offshore services firms aid clients who want to keep their financial activities secret. 

Tourism Secretary Art Tugade named in the Pandora Papers exposé for Solart Holdings Limited in the British Virgin Islands. | IMG Source: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

One of the familiar names in the papers included Transport Secretary Arthur “Art” Tugade. He has been keeping an offshore company – Solart Holdings Limited – while working in the government for the past eight years.

“Solart” seems to be a combination of Art and his wife’s name – Soledad. The company is based in the British Virgin Islands, listed with Php 75 million in assets. His children Finina Marie, Paul Louie, and Jose Arturo are titled co-directors for the offshore company. 

Tugade has not declared Solart Holdings Limited as a business interest in any of the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) he has filed since becoming a public official. 

He has disclosed “offshore investments” worth P57 million as assets every year since 2012, but no details about these investments have been declared, except these were acquired in 2003.

“When you say ‘offshore investment,’ that can mean cash deposits in banks [outside of the country] or shares of companies abroad. If it’s the former, then he has properly disclosed his assets, but if [it is supposed to mean he has an offshore company], then his SALNs are lacking,” former Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) chief Kim Henares said.

Public officials are required to declare their list of businesses for transparency. Tugade began his political career during the 2012 Aquino administration as president of Clark Development Corporation.

In 2016, he quit the administration to help Duterte’s presidential campaign as they were law school classmates. He was one of Duterte’s first picks for his Cabinet. 

Bayan Muna Representative and House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate challenged Duterte and his Cabinet to release their statement of assets, liability, and net worth (SALN) as proof that they do not have hidden wealth.

“If you are not hiding anything, do not wait until your names are included in the Pandora Papers or other similar exposés on the hidden wealth of greedy, powerful, rich or corrupt persons,” he said.

He added that Duterte and his allies must sign a waiver for their bank accounts to be examined for transparency. 

After the leak, Tugade released a statement in defense of his and his family’s shadow financial activities. He said, “It is a legitimate attempt to grow our financial portfolio like what any astute and judicious entrepreneurs would do to diversify their investments.”

Tugade also said that Solart Holdings had been declared in his SALN; however, Zarate noted that he did not exact the details of the offshore company, 

The Philippines’ Constitution and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees states that government officials’ failure to detail their business and monetary assets is a criminal offense. Together with Art Tugade, there are more than 900 Philippine-based individuals named in the Pandora Papers. 

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