Villar: No help was asked, none was given
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - A day after formally presenting a Senate committee report recommending the censure of Sen. Manny Villar for alleged unethical conduct, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile revealed Tuesday that Villar tried to buy him off by offering his "help" if Enrile changed his position on the C-5 road project controversy.
In an interview over radio dzMM and ABS-CBN News, Enrile, who is allegedly facing a coup plot hatched by Villar's allies, said Villar invited him to lunch last August 29, 2009 to discuss the Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry on the C-5 road extension project.
During their discussion, Enrile assured Villar of a fair hearing in the Senate inquiry if the latter just presented his evidence. He said Villar kept trying to persuade him to drop the inquiry and even hinted that he would be willing to repay Enrile for the favor.
"He [Villar] said: 'Manong, pag may pangangailangan naman kayo, maaari naman ako tulungan kita.' Sabi ko: 'Manny, kung matutulungan kita na hindi labag sa batas, magkaibigan tayo, tutulungan kita. Wala nang kailangan na kapalit yun.' E paulit-ulit. 'Kung mayroon kang kailangan.' E wala akong kailangan from Manny. Ako simple lang ang buhay ko.," Enrile said in a radio dzMM interview.
(Villar said: 'Manong, if you ever need anything, maybe I can help. I said: 'Manny, if I can help you in any way that does not violate the law, we are friends and I will help. You don't have to give me anything in return.' But he kept on repeating it. 'If you ever need anything.' I don't need anything from Manny. I live a simple life.)
He later told ABS-CBN's TV Patrol World: "Para bang binibili yung loyalty ko. Parang ang dating sa akin ay sinusuhulan ako (It felt like he was buying my loyalty, like he was trying to bribe me)."
Villar: No help asked, none given
In response, Villar denied asking for Enrile's help since he was confident that the documents, records and witnesses would prove that he was not guilty of any irregularity.
“Wala akong hininging tulong at walang ibinigay. No help was asked and none was given,“ Villar said in a statement.
He added: “Bakit ako hihingi ng tulong e hindi naman ako guilty at wala naman akong ginawang masama ? Lahat ng dokumentong sinubmit at lahat ng nag-testify sa Senado yan ang sinabi."
Villar admitted he was hurt by Enrile's accusations, saying that he thought he was dealing with "honorable men." “Nagkamali pala ako (I was wrong),” he said.
Nacionalista Party spokesman and senatorial bet Gilbert Remulla said that after Enrile's interview, he talked to Villar who clarified his actual intention in meeting the Senate President.
"That is Senator Enrile's word versus that of Villar. Ang sabi niya hindi ganun ang tono ng kanyang pakikiusap. [That was not the tone of their conversation.] We question Enrile's motivation in saying this. Is it because all in na siya sa laban?" he said in a separate dzMM interview.
Remulla also questioned Enrile's motivation in revealing that he [Enrile] loaned Villar P30 million of a P50-million allocation for a project in Cagayan province. Enrile earlier told the Senate that Villar had used the money to fund the C-5 road project.
Remulla said the loaning of funds was "standard practice" in both houses of Congress, especially if a lawmaker needed funds to finish a project.
"That is a standard practice, a longstanding practice in the Senate. Even in the House of Representatives, it happens. Kung meron spare pondo o may Deputy Speaker na gustong maglagay...o yung Speaker mismo pwede tayo mag-request, sa Senado nangyayari din 'yan," he said.
He said that senators should investigate if there were any loans made by lawmakers to build Port Irene in Cagayan, which is the home province of Enrile.
Villar not used to mudslinging
During the interview, Remulla said Villar is still not inclined to attend the Senate plenary session since members of the investigating panel had already made up their minds about Villar's guilt.
"It is hard to wake up those pretending to be asleep and talk to those pretending to be deaf because they have already made up their minds. They will continue to besmirch VIllar's name because he is already gaining in the surveys," he said.
He said Villar was not confrontational and is unwilling to fire back at his opponents.
"If he appears before a group that has already judged him including the Senate President, how could he explain his side when the group will no longer listen to his explanation? In all their statements, they have already made their decision. He will go there and endure mudslinging, magkakasakitan lang sila, what for?" he said.
He added: "He [Villar] has never fought anyone. He is not confrontational...If he appears there, they will fling mud at him and it is not his nature to fling mud back."
He also challenged Villar's critics to bring the matter to court.
During his interview, Enrile denied that the timing of the report was meant to attack Villar after his recent surge in popularity in the presidential surveys. He said Villar's allies in the Senate were trying to delay the release of the report.
"They want it delayed because they want to hide the truth. They know that if I don't report it, people will no longer know what really happened. But they made a mistake because if they try to stop it, then I will bring it to the people. It's my obligation to the people. If I don't, people will say 'Manny Villar is a billionaire and he paid off Enrile,'" he said.
He added that, ultimately, it is the people who would decide if Villar is guilty of any wrongdoing.
"The ending here is the people. If they want a person like that to be in a position to rule, that's up to them. If not, then thank God," he said.
For his part, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo reiterated his stand that Villar should face the charges head-on in the Senate and present his side to his colleagues.
"We have a different approach to the issue. This has to be resolved. Our position is that it should find closure and not be dragged on," he told radio dzMM.
He added, however, that the emotional floor debates during the presentation of the Senate Committee of the Whole report showed that the 2010 elections is introducing a new element to the proceedings.
"The debates were reduced to gutter language. It is not appropriate for a dignified chamber lke the Senate. These serious issues should be faced in a sober, dignified way but the heat of partisan contest for the presidency is a new element. It's becoming personal. I hope it doesn't have to be like that. -- with a report from Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News