Villar ethics case to end up with Ombudsman

By Purple Romero, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Jun 01 2009 10:34 PM | Updated as of Jun 02 2009 07:07 PM

Graft raps at the Office of the Ombudsman await Sen. Manuel Villar as the Senate hears the ethics complaint against the former Senate president.

Sen. Jamby Madrigal, who filed an ethics complaint against her peer at the Senate, told reporters after Monday’s adjudicatory hearings that she plans to bring the case against Villar to the anti-graft body

“That is part of my plans already,” she said, adding that she will file the graft case with the Ombudsman after the Senate inquiry or if the Senate hearings do not prosper.

Madrigal charged Villar with abusing his authority to push for and fund the realignment of the C-5 extension road through a double insertion of P200 million in the 2008 annual appropriations.

She alleged that Villar used his position for the P400 million insertions to pour millions to his real estate company’s subdivision projects.

Villar, a real estate businessman before entering politics, founded a group of companies that include Adelfa Properties Inc. and Golden Haven Memorial Park Inc..

The new C-5 extension road project, which would connect the metropolitan cities of Las Piñas to Parañaque, would traverse 85 hectares of properties owned by Adelfa Properties and Golden Haven.

According to Adelfa Properties’ 1997 to 1998 corporate papers that Madrigal’s camp presented during the ethics hearing, Villar holds a 52 percent share, while his wife Rep. Cynthia Villar, has 48 percent stake.

Minority member Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano in earlier news reports challenged Madrigal and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who blew the whistle on the double insertion in 2008, to file criminal charges against Villar if they have substantial evidence.

Pricey request

Madrigal claimed that, as of October 2008, the government has already paid P136 million to the companies linked to Villar, while another P84 million was due last November 2008.

Her counsel, Atty. Ernesto Francisco, said in the opening testimony that while Villar will gain millions, “even billions,” from the C-5 extension road project, it would cost the government another P710 million in construction expenses and render the original design connecting South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) to Coastal road useless.

The controversial move to realign the C-5 road extension projects spans three administrations, according to the evidence presented by Madrigal.

The C-5 extension road project was initially conceptualized in 1996 as the Manila-Cavite-Toll Expressway Project, which would connect SLEX to Coastal road.

In 1998 however, Madrigal alleged that Amvel Land Development Corp., SM Holdings Properties and Villar’s Adelfa Properties Inc. sought for the realignment of the entry and exit ramps of the C-5 interchange.

She based her claim on a 1998 letter signed by Mariano “Bro. Mike” Velarde, president of the Amvel Land Development Corp., Engr. Filemon Avelino of SM Prime Holdings, and Anastacio Adriano of Adelfa Properties Inc., addressed to the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB).

Bro. Mike is the leader of the politically influential Catholic religious group El Shaddai, whose millions of members are potent source of votes.

SM Prime, on the other hand, is the operator of the country’s largest mall network called SM or Shoemart. It is owned and controlled by the Sy family, who has consolidated their property development businesses under Shoemart Inc..

In a memorandum, Benjamin De Leon, appointments secretary of then President Fidel Ramos, purportedly recommended the approval of the plan, jointly submitted by Amvel, Shoemart Inc. and Adelfa. The plan proposed the realignment of the C-5 road extension project.

TRB Chair and then Department of Public Works and Highways Sec. Gregorio Vigilar approved the request in a resolution in April 1998.

Madrigal showed in a location map that three of Villar’s properties would be initially affected by the realignment, causing their value to increase.

She furthered that because of the realignment, the government wasted P1.8 billion already paid for the original design of the road right of way.

In 2001, Villar and his wife, Rep. Cynthia Villar, allegedly proposed the development of the road connecting Quirino Avenue to Sucat Road to DPWH. The road length is 2 kilometers, with civil works and road right-of-way amounting to P700 million.

During that time, Villar was head of the Senate finance committee.

Bloated value, 20 witnesses

The Las Piñas-Parañaque link road would pass through 39 lots, according to a statement submitted by DPWH secretary Hermogenes Ebdane in 2008 to the finance committee then headed by now Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile.

Out of the 39 lots, Adelfa Properties allegedly owns 16. Consequently, Adelfa allegedly gained P128 million for the road right-of-way, while Brittany Corp., the high-end property arm of listed firm Vista Land, was compensated with P61 million.

Francisco said that Villar used the wrong zonal valuation for the lots developed by Adelfa Properties Inc. The lawyer said the lots were appraised for P13,300 per square meter—way above the P1,000-P4,000 per square meter going price for the lots sold in the same area.

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson suggested an ocular inspection of the realigned C-5 road extension. Villar earlier disputed Madrigal’s allegations to the media by showing them around sites covered by the realigned road extension, which he referred to as two separate projects.

Madrigal said that they would invite around 20 witnesses who would testify to the veracity of the evidence she presented. The witnesses may include Ebdane and other lot owners whose adjacent properties were sold for less.

Francisco said that the witnesses would be called to testify after Madrigal finishes her submission of evidence on Thursday.

Absent

Villar did not show up at the hearing. Enrile told abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak, however, that he would be given his turn to dispute Madrigal’s testimony—if Villar wants to.

Villar, along with the minority bloc, sought a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court to stop the proceedings of the committee of the whole. He questioned the rules that it adopted.

The SC did not issue one, however, but instead asked the committee to file a comment before 9a.m. Tuesday.