'Tesda chief won't run with De Lima'

Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Sep 10 2015 10:36 AM | Updated as of Sep 10 2015 06:36 PM

MANILA - Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Joel Villanueva is eyeing a senatorial candidacy in the May 2016 elections, but does not want to be in the same ticket as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

“I will run if I have the blessing of President Aquino,” Villanueva, a close friend of the President, has told reporters.

“But I do not want to be in the same ticket as a colleague in the administration who believes that I am a criminal,” he said.

He was referring to the charges De Lima’s department has filed against him and several other former and incumbent lawmakers led by Sen. Gregorio Honasan with the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged misuse of their pork barrel funds.

The lawmakers were alleged to have pocketed millions in kickbacks.

Villanueva has denied the accusations, claiming his signatures on documents presented to the ombudsman as evidence against him were forged.

He figured in the Commission on Audit (COA) report on irregularities in the use of billions of lawmakers’ pork barrel funds from 2007-2009, when he was then representative of party-list group Citizens Battle Against Corruption.

According to the report, Villanueva was supposed to have allocated P9.7 million to Aaron Foundation, which is identified with a pork barrel fund agent who is now a congresswoman, P1 million to Life Giver Development Foundation Inc. and P3.8 million to Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc., one of several non-government organizations linked to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

Asked if COA has asked him to explain his supposed allocations, Vilanueva said, “Yes, but I neither confirmed nor denied their report.”

De Lima will most likely be in the senatorial ticket of the ruling Liberal Party (LP). She made it to the circle of 12 possible senatorial winners in previous surveys.

With his statement that he could not run with De Lima, Villanueva has counted himself out as a potential candidate under the administration ticket.

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