NP: Senate report seeks to damage Villar's poll campaign
MANILA, Philippines - The Senate Committee of the Whole has ordered Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Senator Manny Villar to return P6.2 billion pesos which the government spent on the allegedly anomalous C-5 Road Extension Project.
The Committee of the Whole has released a resolution stating that Villar's conduct in connection with the project was improper and unethical since his companies benefitted from the project.
The P6.2 billion includes the realigned P4.28 billion pesos for the extension project, the P1.8 billion spent for the original project but was wasted due to the realignment, and the reportedly overpriced payment of P141 million in right-of-way for Villar's real estate companies.
"If there was any profit made, then, since the damage was done to the government because of this overpricing and it profited him, we require that there must be a restitution to the government," Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile told ANC on Monday.
Twelve senators signed the Committee of the Whole report. They are:
Sen. Edgardo Angara;
Sen. Benigno Aquino III;
Sen. Rodolfo Biazon;
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile;
Sen. Francis Escudero;
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada;
Sen. Richard Gordon;
Sen. Jamby Madrigal;
Sen. Panfilo Lacson;
Sen. Francis Pangilinan;
Sen. Manuel Roxas II;
Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri
Estrada and Pangilinan had signed a resolution in November last year clearing Villar of any wrongdoing in the C-5 Road Extension project.
"This is the finding of the committee which will be submitted to plenary for consideration. Now I do not know whether the votes will be to sustain the recommendation of the committee," Enrile said.
Villar was investigated by the committee regarding claims he diverted the road project to benefit his real estate businesses. He has repeatedly denied the allegations.
NP: 'It's about politics, not truth'
In a press statement, the NP branded the Senate Committee of the Whole report as "clearly about politics and the presidency," and is "definitely not about truth."
"The conclusions reached in the report were not consistent with the transcripts of the proceeding nor the evidence that were presented. It was all about the headlines that it would grab and the sound bites they could produce in this week of data gathering for the next nationwide survey and at the time when Senator Villar has closed the gap between him and his closest rival," the NP said.
Villar has cut the lead of presidential survey frontrunner Noynoy Aquino from 19 percentage points in early December 2009 to 11 percentage points in the December 27-28, 2009 survey of the Social Weather Stations commissioned by Villar's camp.
The NP said the whole investigation was intended to "destroy the reputation and good name" of Villar.
"The recommendations reached in the report are a stretch to say the least and preposterous at most. The whole procedure - from its accuser/prosecutor/judge all rolled into one all the way to the partiality of its jurors - would not stand in any court of law," the NP said.
The NP added that "with the report, we sense the desperation in the rivals of Senator Villar for the presidency and their fear of a truly independent leader who will fight for the poor in our beloved country."
LP wants report presented in plenary
Meantime, in a statement, the LP said it has taken an official party stand on the Senate Committee of the Whole report on Villar's ethics case.
"It is the decision of the [LP] Party Leadership that regardless of whether we believe in the guilt or innocence of Senator Villar, at the very least the proponents of the report should be allowed to present their findings in the plenary. The Senators can vote either for or against the findings at the appropriate time," the LP said.
"As a member of the LP we will abide by the party decision and allow for the report to be presented in plenary," the LP said. -- with reports from Tony Velasquez, ANC; Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News