Villar denies sending emissary, bribe try
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Sen. Richard Gordon on Tuesday accused fellow presidential aspirant Sen. Manny Villar of attempting to bribe him to withdraw from the race.
In an interview on ANC's Top Story, Gordon said Villar sent an emissary recently and offered him a Cabinet position and reimbursement of his campaign expenses in exchange for backing out of the presidential race.
Elaborating on the incident, Gordon said the alleged bribe try happened last week of January at the height of the Senate Committee of the Whole's report recommending the censure of Villar for unethical conduct in connection with the C-5 road project.
He said the objective of the Villar camp was to convince him to side with them so that they would be able to oust Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile as Senate president and stop the Senate plenary deliberations on the ethics case.
Gordon said the emissary was a "former Cabinet official of yesteryears," and a "businessman, not a political operator." He said the emissary was "just trying to be a friend to his friend" and was just "delivering a message" for Villar.
He said the lunch meeting was held in his house, and he later told his daughter and wife about the alleged bribe try. "They were chagrined about it," he added.
"Quite frankly, I was [also] put off by it," Gordon said.
Gordon said he is convinced it was a bribe and "I am prepared to say it." He also said that he may reveal the emissary "at the proper time."
Asked why he only disclosed the bribe try during the presidential campaign, Gordon said he really had no intention of revealing it since he had promised that he would not tell.
'Fed up with use of money'
However, Gordon said it "just came off the cuff" during the radio interview Tuesday morning since he is fed up with Villar camp's propensity to use his money to get what he wants, including the presidency.
"I'm telling my friend, you can't buy everything," he said. "You can buy some of the people some of the time, but you can't buy all the people all of the time."
Gordon asked voters whether they want someone like Villar for president. He criticized the real estate tycoon for walking away from the C-5 case, refusing to be held accountable for his acts.
He said it's easy for Villar to deny the story since "he never admits to anything," noting that he refused to answer questions from his colleagues on the C-5 ethics case.
Gordon said he is in the presidential race because he wants to change society, and not simply to get a government post.
Asked if he had any proof, Gordon said: "I have my integrity against his [Villar's] integrity." He said he also has proof that the emissary was in his house.
When he met Sen. Enrile after the failed bribe try, Gordon said he even embraced Enrile since "we were able to obviate a coup d'etat."
Gordon also said it would be useless to file an ethics complaint against Villar in the Senate since the Villar camp will just use its money to avoid accountability.
Villar denies Gordon's allegations
In a statement, Villar denied bribing Gordon with a Cabinet post and reimbursement of campaign expenses in order to win him over on his Senate ethics case.
"Wala po akong ginagawang ganyan, wala po akong ino-offer na maski ako kahit kanino at mag-iingat po kayo. Meron pong mga tao na nanloloko at baka po kayo mabiktima," the NP bet said.
("I did not make such an offer. I did not offer anything, and beware: there are people trying to fool you and you might be victimized."
Villar said he's running a clean campaign, and that he respects all his opponents in the presidential race.
"Siguro po ay may mga gustong manira sa akin kaya nag-ooffer tapos ako itinuturo. Hindi po ako ganyan, wag po sana kayong maniniwala sa mga ganyan," he added.
("Perhaps, there are people who want to destroy me so they make an offer and then point to me. I am not like that, I wish you don't believe these people.")
Villar also said the campaign will soon come to a close, and they are not expecting any of the candidates to withdraw anymore, with only two months to go before the polls.
He also denied asking El Shaddai leader Bro. Mike Velarde to talk to former President Joseph Estrada to withdraw.
"Wala akong kinakausap...Maski tanungin natin ang lahat ng aking mga nasa planning group, associates, makikita niyo na lahat na meron na akong assumption lahat kami ay andiyan," he said.
Villar said he has become the focus of the attacks since it only means that he is already leading the race.
He also urged Gordon and Estrada to name the alleged emissaries.
"Dapat sasabihin na para malaman naman na wala talaga akong inuutusan na ganyan. At unang-una, wala naman na akong ganyang pera na. Ang aking natitirang budget ay para lamang sa aking kampanya at tamang-tama lamang ito," Villar said.
("They should identify the emissary so people will find out I did not order him to do that. And in the first place, I don't have that kind of money. What's left in my budget is just right for my campaign.")
'Pure hogwash, preposterous'
Nacionalista Party senatorial bet and Villar spokesman Gilbert Remulla dismissed Gordon's allegations as hogwash and nothing more than an attempt to latch on to Villar's growing popularity and create publicity for himself.
"We are wondering why Sen. Gordon didn't blame Sen. Villar for the earthquake in Chile. It's ridiculous and preposterous, all these allegations against Sen. Villar, and we believe it's going to get worse," Remulla said in an ANC interview.
"We don't really care what Gordon says. He can say anything he wants. As far as we are concerned, whatever he said doesn't matter because none of it is true. He can talks all he wants. This is pure hogwash. This is just a way for him to get his name out in the papers and to destroy the name of Sen. Villar," he added.
Remulla said Villar's campaign is running smoothly as evidenced by the last presidential survey by Pulse Asia, which showed him at a statistical tie with Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III. "To offer anything to anyone at this point would be ridiculous for us to do," he said. (Read: Aquino, Villar tied in Pulse Asia survey)
He noted that even if Gordon were to withdraw, his votes would not automatically go to Villar.
Gordon is the second presidential bet to claim being offered money by a rival to quit the presidential election.
Erap also got offers to withdraw
Last Tuesday, former President Joseph Estrada revealed that he has received offers to withdraw from the presidential race in exchange for a large amount of cash from a rival candidate. (Read: Erap reveals 'bribe' try to back out of race)
Estrada said some go-betweens have been talking to him for the past 9 months trying to convince him to withdraw. In exchange, the go-between's principal will then reimburse his expenses incurred in the campaign.
Estrada refused to name the candidate making the alleged bribe offer. "I can't [say]. That's deniable. But probably, it's someone who has lots of money," he said.
From 50-point deficit to parity
Regarding Estrada's allegation, Remulla said the former president did not name Villar as the one who offered a bribe. He said Villar did not need Estrada's votes to win the election and said that if the former president withdrew, his votes would be split and would not automatically go to Villar.
Remulla said Villar's surging popularity in the presidential race has made him a target by various camps. He said this was evidenced by the frequent bribery allegations, including the one leveled by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile during the C-5 'double insertion' probe. (Read: Enrile claims Villar tried to buy him off)
"I think they are trying to make it appear that Senator Villar is desperate but that's the farthest thing. We crawled back from a 50-point deficit in September to parity right now without having to bribe anybody and to resort to negative campaigning. We have not said anything against anybody unless we have been provoked. It is clear that all our rivals are threatened by Senator Villar," he said.