Can you believe this guy’s presidential campaign jingle actually had a line describing him as “tunay na mahirap? (true poor person).”
That line was controversial when Manny Villar ran for president in 2010, and certainly no longer rings true now that he’s officially the richest person in the Philippines, according to Forbes‘ Billionaires list released yesterday.
The former Senate president also happens to be the chairperson of Starmalls, one of the country’s largest mall operators, and Vista & Landscapes, the country’s largest homebuilder.
Villar ranks #1 in the Philippines with a net worth of US$5.5 billion, taking the spot long held by SM malls founder Henry Sy who passed away in January. Villar ranks 317th in the world.
More than his businesses, Villar is most well known as a politician. He was a congressperson for the district of Las Piñas-Muntinlupa and became the speaker for the House of Representatives. He was also a senator and Senate president. His political career reached its peak in 2010 when he ran as the Nacionalista party’s presidential candidate.
His campaign ads were massively popular but were criticized by detractors for allegedly playing up his experience of growing up in Tondo, Manila, one of the city’s poorest districts.
His viral campaign ad, for example, features street children in a slum neighborhood giddily singing his campaign jingle.
The song’s chorus goes:
Si Villar ang tunay na mahirap
Si Villar ang tunay na may malasakit
Si Villar ang may kakayahan na gumawa ng sariling pangalan
Si Manny Villar ang magtatapos ng ating kahirapan
This translates to:
Villar is the true poor person/one who really came from poverty
Villar is the one who is truly concerned
Villar is the one who had the ability to make a name for himself
Villar is the one who will end our hardships
Many questioned the authenticity of his rags-to-riches story but a bigger blow was the C5 extension controversy where he allegedly used his political influence to reroute the extension in order to pass through his company’s properties.
Villar eventually came in third in the polls and lost to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
However, the Villar family remains politically influential.
His wife, Senator Cynthia Villar is currently up for re-election is highly ranked in the surveys. His son, Mark Villar is the Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways while his daughter Camille Villar is running as Las Piñas City representative.
Other Filipinos on Forbes‘ Billionaire’s list are:
John Gokongwei, Jr.
Enrique Razon, Jr.
Tony Tan Caktiong & family
Henry Sy, Jr.
Robert Coyiuto, Jr.
Ricardo Po, Sr. & family