Villar allies, critics face off on C-5 deal
- Christina Mendez, Aurea Calica () - January 26, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Allies and critics of Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. squared off yesterday over the ethics case against him during an emotional and tension-filled floor debate. Villar snubbed the session.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile lashed out at the absent Villar, standard-bearer of the Nacionalista Party, for not facing his colleagues to explain the ethics case against him in connection with alleged road project anomalies, particularly the C-5 road extension.

In a report, the Senate Committee of the Whole chaired by Enrile said Villar should be censured for failing to divulge his real estate companies’ interests in the Las Piñas-Parañaque link road and the C-5 road extension projects.

In the report, Villar was recommended for censure and directed to pay P6.22 billion for supposedly seeking the realignment of the C-5 road extension project to cover his properties in the area and increase their market value.

Instead of Villar, it was Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano who faced the senators and caught their ire when he asked why only Villar was being pinned down when other senators also had their own issues.

Sen. Joker Arroyo, another ally of Villar, pointed out that of the ethics charges filed with the Senate, only Villar’s case was pursued while the rest were not discussed.

“With this distinction, Senator Villar together with his friends adopted the position of not attending. Why? Because he cannot receive an impartial decision. Why? Because the other complaints were not moving while his was brought to the plenary,” Arroyo said.

“The Committee of the Whole formulated new rules particularly for Villar, tailor fit for Senator Villar,” Arroyo said.

“When you cannot expect justice, then there is nothing dishonorable for not participating,” said Arroyo.

“We are not embarrassed and we will insist on Resolution 1472,” Arroyo said, referring to the resolution initially signed by 12 senators clearing Villar of any improper behavior in connection with the C-5 Road extension issue.

Enrile and other members of the majority, meanwhile, repeatedly asked Villar’s defenders why he refused to face the Senate, to which Cayetano replied that any accused, even in court, need not show up all the time, most especially in the case of Villar who believed he would be found guilty by his colleagues no matter what he would do and say.

When Cayetano pointed out that other senators were also facing allegations, Senators Manuel Roxas II, Benigno Aquino III, Jamby Madrigal and Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada took turns rebutting him.

Roxas said only Villar was being investigated because he was suspected of realigning a highway to benefit his properties and inserting additional appropriations for the project.

When Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. asked Roxas why he felt alluded to when Cayetano did not say anything against him, Roxas said he did not like it that they were accused of politicking when all they wanted was the truth.

Roxas said “unlike others,” he would stand up and defend his honor when being attacked.

When Pimentel said Roxas certainly had his own “insertions” since he just got married, Roxas lost his cool and asked that the comments of Pimentel be stricken off the record as it was an affront to his wife. Pimentel agreed and did not say anything further.

Aquino, standard-bearer of the Liberal Party, also stood up and said it was unfair for Cayetano to mention the Mendiola massacre since his mother, former President Corazon Aquino, had been absolved of the case.

Aquino and Roxas also challenged Cayetano to file a case against the LP standard-bearer if he believed his family benefited from the Subic-Clark-Tarlac-Expressway. Aquino said the SCTEX case was very different from C-5 case because it was the only industrial zone in the area that could be linked to other economic zones through a highway.

Cayetano said he did not mean to cast aspersions on Aquino, Roxas and their families but would only like to point out that this was not the right time to investigate cases involving presidential candidates because of the politically-charged environment.

But it was Madrigal who got most enraged when Cayetano commented that the “saling pusa” (one who is not qualified but wants to join anyway) always wanted to be part of the discussion.

At this point, Madrigal shouted “corruption” a few times, obviously to impress on Cayetano that Villar was the one being accused of corruption and that he should attack her on issues and not on her personality.

Madrigal said Cayetano and her other detractors had been calling her names but this was fine by her.

Estrada also took the floor to challenge Villar to face the Senate and not act like the current administration.

Estrada said his own father, former President Joseph Estrada, submitted himself to an investigation and prosecution, unlike Villar.

Estrada chided Villar and dared him to follow his father’s footsteps since Villar had copied their campaign color as well as his father’s pro-people slogan, like his being from Tondo and a champion of the poor.

Madrigal called Villar a coward for not appearing at the Senate and letting his “Villar express” composed of Pimentel, Cayetano and their allies defend him.

“I still submit that Mr. Villar is making a mockery of these proceedings by not appearing and letting this Villar choo-choo train of lawyers defend him,” Madrigal said.

“If the lady thinks that she can get away with those things here, she has another thought coming. I’m not saying that she should not use any kind of language that she wants to, but she must use parliamentary language. That’s all that we are saying,” Pimentel said.

Stalement

Villar said he will not give in to demands by some of his colleagues to appear at the Senate, saying most of his accusers are running for president or seeking re-election this May.

“I have answered this issue a number of times. What they are saying in the report are all lies and politically motivated,” Villar said in a press conference last night.

With the heated arguments on the floor, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago expressed belief there would be a stalemate.

Santiago said there was no more reason to delay the discussion on the report as she admitted over the weekend that Villar’s camp had requested his allies to boycott the Senate and replace Enrile so the C-5 report would not be tackled.

This was because the C-5 report of Enrile was being tackled alongside the resolution dismissing the case against Villar.

Santiago said there must be 16 votes to censure Villar and not just the simple majority of 12, which was needed so the report would be filed and deliberated at the plenary.

Members of the majority, however, said it would take only 12 votes to adopt Enrile’s report.

Enrile said he had been censured by a simple majority and that he accepted it even if he thought it was politically motivated.

“First of all, this is a stalemate. The Rules of the Senate provide that to be able to discipline a colleague, we have to muster two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the Senate of 23, and that would mean a vote of at least 18, and neither Senator Enrile nor Senator Villar has a vote of 18. So this is going to be a stalemate,” Santiago said.

“The only proper action that can be done is to accept the committee report because it already has the required signature of 12. But still, 12 is not sufficient to make the recommendation of the committee valid, effective, and statutory,” Santiago said.

“He will simply release the report, or a summary thereof, for the records to go into the Senate journal but the Senate cannot adopt it anyway because neither party can gather the votes required,” she said.

The rules of the Senate, according to Santiago, provide that senators can discipline colleagues for disorderly behavior with suspension or even expulsion. “Censure is always, in administrative law, a disciplinary action,” Santiago said.

The witnesses who testified at the plenary were Yolanda Doblon, director general of the Legislative Budget Review and Monitoring Office of the Senate; Anastacio Adriano Jr., former senior vice president and general manager of Adelfa Properties Inc; Edilberto Tayao, district engineer of the Department of Public Works and Highways-National Capital Region; Carlos Bacolod Jr., special investigator of the DPWH; and Carmelito Bacod, former revenue district officer of Parañaque City.

Enrile noted that Villar “chose not to participate” despite the opportunities accorded to him.

“Nonetheless, he was furnished all notices issued and all pleadings, evidence, and papers submitted to the committee,” Enrile said.

AQUINO CASE CAYETANO ENRILE REPORT ROXAS SENATE SENATOR VILLAR VILLAR
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