by Manuel Buencamino
BUSINESS MIRROR Op/Ed
From Life in Gloria's Enchanted Kingdom
"Slander is the revenge of the coward, and dissimulation his defense." —Samuel Johnson
A friend sent me a text that said, “GMA plundered when she became president. Manny Villar is only a candidate but he already took a cash advance.”
I called her up, demanding an explanation.
She said the draft report of the Senate Committee of the Whole recommended censure for Senator Villar and asked him to return all the money “he has or his companies have illegally gained or obtained as a result of unlawful acts and improper and unethical conduct.”
She sounded pleased so I reminded her that Sen. Alan Cayetano said the report is a worthless piece of paper until the majority upholds it.
She replied, “Then why are Villar and company trying to prevent it from being discussed in the plenary, why is Sen. Joker Arroyo raising a prejudicial question à la Rep. Edcel Lagman preventing evidence from being presented at Gloria Arroyo’s impeachment?”
“Even Enrile admitted there was no direct evidence against Villar,” I said, quoting Senator Santiago.
“Read the report, you will see that what Enrile actually said was, ‘Although there is no evidence to prove the direct participation of Senator Villar in the overpricing of such properties, it is fair and safe to assume that Senator Villar knew about the said overpricing as his corporations stood to gain from such transactions with the government and considering the closeness of Senator Villar to Engr. Adriano who was directly involved in these transactions’”
Enrile Committee Report.
“Who is Engineer Adriano?” I asked.
“He’s the guy, according to the sworn testimony of Atty. Yolanda Doblon, director general of the Legislative Budget Monitoring Office, who dictated to her amendments to the 2008 national budget while Villar looked on. He’s an executive of the Villar-owned companies that benefited from the amendments.”
“The P200-million insertion?”
“Was C-5 really realigned?”
“The original plan for C-5 was done during the time of Marcos. C-5 extension was supposed to link South Super Highway to Coastal Road in a straight line but Villar managed to get the original plan revised so that C-5 extension would wind through his property.”
“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.
“Nothing wrong if a private citizen proposed the realignment, but Villar did it as a member of Congress.”
“Let’s go back to the overprice. Villar insists he did nothing illegal because it was the BIR [Bureau of Internal Revenue] district revenue officer of Parañaque, not him, who priced his property.”
“Carmelita R. Bacod of the BIR said she gave a high zonal valuation for Villar’s property because it would be beneficial for her agency’s collection purposes,” she explained.
‘‘That’s exactly how the committee reacted. Bacod eventually apologized for the overprice and admitted that what she did was grossly disadvantageous to the government,” she replied.
“That’s the no-direct evidence Senator Santiago referred to?”
“Yes, if you believe Villar’s employee, Engineer Adriano, had nothing to do with Bacod’s error in judgment,” she replied.
“But Villar said he has not been paid.”
“Not exactly true. He has been paid for a lot of those pieces of property, although some remain unpaid.”
She added, “Do you think his pork barrel was going to pay for road construction only?”
“You mean his pork barrel would also fund overpriced right-of-way payments for his property?”
“Read the report,” she replied.
“Villar said he does not know where the P6.2-billion figure came from.”
“That amount is itemized in the report he’s trying to keep from the public.”
I replied, “But Villar said it was a one-sided report, he had no witnesses, no lawyers. He called the committee a kangaroo court.”
“A kangaroo court? He was given all the chances to present his side, to bring in lawyers, witnesses and evidence to prove his innocence. He never did. He refused to man up and refute the allegations of Senator Madrigal. That’s why Enrile called him a coward.”
“He defended himself in the media and in advertisements,” I argued.
“Yes, in venues where he was not under oath, where he was in no danger of being charged with perjury.”
“Do you really think he is guilty?”
“Read the report, it’s only 84 pages. If, after reading it, you still believe he was unjustly persecuted, that everything he and his allies said about the committee and its report are true, then Jason Ivler was set up by the CIA and Andal Ampatuan Jr. was framed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.”