Jamby to file plunder raps vs Villar

by Purple S. Romero, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Jan 19 2010 09:15 PM | Updated as of Jan 20 2010 08:11 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Jamby Madrigal on Tuesday reiterated that she would elevate the ethics complaint she filed at the Senate against Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Back in June 2009, abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak gathered that Madrigal intends to file graft raps against Villar for allegedly using his position to gain millions from the C-5 road extension project

Madrigal said she will be soon be filing plunder charges against the presidential contender

The senator’s move came following the decision of 12 of her colleagues to sign a report of the Senate Committee of the Whole ordering Villar to pay the government P6.2 billion, the amount the government allegedly spent for the rerouting needed by the C-5 road extension project.

The P6.2 billion includes the following:

  • P4 billion pesos for the road extension project;
  • P1.8 billion for the original design of the project;
  • P141 million for the right-of-way paid to Villar’s real estate companies, Adelfa Properties Inc. and Golden Haven Memorial Park.

No quorum
Meanwhile, the plenary debate over the Committee of the Whole report on the C-5 controversy was stalled on Tuesday due to the absence of a quorum.

Only 10 – out of the needed majority or 12 senators – showed up.

Those who showed up on Tuesday were:

  • Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile;
  • Sen. Jamby Madrigal;
  • Sen. Manuel Roxas II;
  • Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri;
  • Sen. Jinggoy Estrada;
  • Sen. Benigno Aquino III;
  • Sen. Gregorio Honasan;
  • Sen. Rodolfo Biazon;
  • Sen. Francis Escudero;
  • Sen. Richard Gordon.

Six of the 12 senators who were absent on Tuesday are on official business. They include Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Francis Pangilinan, Pia Cayetano, Aquilino Pimentel, and Villar’s running mate Loren Legarda.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a guest candidate in Villar's Nacionalista Party (NP), was reportedly sick.

Those who were absent - Senators Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Lito Lapid, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Villar - allegedly did not give official reasons for their absences at Tuesday's session.

This pushed a visibly irked Roxas to move for the cancellation of official business as a cause of absence. He added that the Senate has only 7 days left to work on pending measures.

Sen. Estrada, on the other hand, stressed that no less than the 1987 Constitution mandates lawmakers to take up committee reports at the plenary.

Miriam: Acquit Villar
Meanwhile, Santiago chose to clear Villar of the charges linking him to the C-5 road extension project in the absence of "direct evidence."

Santiago, in a statement, explained that a Senate ethics probe should only base its conclusion on unimpeachable evidence, or proof beyond doubt, and not only on "credible substantial evidence," as stated in the draft of the committee report.

The senator said that since the ethical raps investigated by the Committee of the Whole merit a severe form of penalty such as suspension or even expulsion, the strength of proof presented against the respondent should be akin to the level of evidence accepted in criminal cases.

“The Senate may punish any member for disorderly behavior, and may either go to the extent of suspending the senator, or expelling him. This being the case, since the penalty can be as high as expulsion, an ethics investigation can, in effect, even impose the capital punishment on a senator, by expelling him from the Senate. Hence, the standard of proof should be the same as the standard of proof in criminal cases: 'proof beyond reasonable doubt'," the legislator said.

“The draft committee report admits that there is 'no direct evidence' against Sen. Villar. This being so, the lack of direct evidence does not meet the standard of 'proof beyond reasonable doubt.' This is why I voted to acquit him,” she said.

Changed position
Santiago, a guest candidate of six political parties, including Villar's NP, has been consistent in her vote. She also signed a resolution last year exonerating Villar of the charges.

Two of the 12 senators who signed the draft of the committee report – Estrada and Pangilinan – also signed a resolution last December nixing the allegations against Villar.

But Estrada withdrew his signature late last year in response to criticisms that he gained something in return.

Pangilinan, on the other hand, explained that he adopted the position of the Liberal Party, which he is a member of. The LP wants the report taken up at the plenary.