MANILA - Senate President Franklin Drilon stands by political ally and Liberal Party colleague, Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) chair Rene Villa after the latter admitted lawyering for suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
Drilon doesn't think Villa's admission that he lawyered for Napoles will affect the party, saying there's no need for the party to meet over it.
"Hindi maapektuhan. Ang isyu dito ay ang di tamang paggamit ng PDAF [Priority Development Assistance Fund] by some senators and congressmen. Si Rene Villa, inamin niya na abugado siya nung siya nasa labas ng gobyerno. Di po ito makaapekto sa partido," he said.
Asked about Villa's place in the LP, the Senate President said: "He has no (position). He is considered as a person of national stature. No specific position. He is not an officer of the Liberal Party. He is recognized as a person of national stature, that's basically what it is."
Drilon is baffled as to why he is being linked again to Napoles, this time through Villa.
He said Villa is his political ally in Iloilo but pointed out that he had nothing to do with Villa's lawyering for Napoles.
In a Philippine Daily Inquirer report, Villa said he did not know that Napoles was dealing with the DAR.
"I wasn't aware of that, that he's lawyered once for Napoles. Sabi niya, he lawyered for Napoles when he was out of government. Yan naman ay as a practicing lawyer when he was out of government. He exercised his own independent judgment as to who he will take in as client. I had nothing to do with that," Drilon said.
Prior to his appointment as LWUA chair in the Aquino administration, Villa was also agrarian reform secretary during the Arroyo Administration. However, Villa was among those who resigned from the Arroyo Cabinet over the 2005 "Hello, Garci" scandal.
Drilon was also an Arroyo ally until the Hello Garci scandal.
"I admit Chairman Villa is my political ally in Iloilo. What has that got to do with the issue at hand? Obviously, they're trying to link me to Janet Napoles. The issue at hand is the alleged misuse of of PDAF funds by some senators and congressmen and obviously again, there's an effort on the part of a well-funded demolition to link me to Janet Napoles through Rene Villa. Such a waste of PR funds, useless waste of PR funds," he said.
Drilon said the recent controversy is part of a demolition job being foisted by political opponents of the Aquino administration.
He particularly cited the charges filed by former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) chief Augusto Syjuco against him.
Drilon maintained that the party did not receive any 2013 campaign contributions from Napoles.
"Wala pong tinatanggap ang partido nung nakaraang eleksyon. Ang campaign contributions, nakareport sa Comelec," he said.
Earlier, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair Teofisto Guingona said he was only made aware of the Villa-Napoles connection after reading the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday.
Asked if this will tarnish the image of the administration, Guigona said: "Definitely not. It's just one person. I don't think so. No, I think Mr. Villa can address it himself."
Drilon maintained that he has never allocated any of his pork barrel funds to any project implemented by any group linked to Napoles.
"I can account for every peso. I have released to media how I allocated my PDAF for the last 3 years. This was ignored. I wish media would take a second look," he said.
Drilon's office said that according to the DBM website, a total of P293 million worth of projects has been released to the Senate Chief, below the P600 million he was supposed to avail from the DBM from the years 2010 to 2013.
The biggest amount of the PDAF allocated to Drilon, amounting P153.35 million, was spent for various infrastructure programs which was directly implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The amount includes the P32.5 million to fund his school building program nationwide, which was coursed through the Filipino Federation of Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a recognized non-government organization under the General Appropriations Act, he noted.
Drilon likewise spent P81.65 million for the medical assistance needs of indigent families nationwide coursed through the Department of Health-attached hospitals.
In 2013, he allotted P1.5 million to the Amang Rodriguez Medical Center.
Last year, he allocated P79 million for financial assistance to indigent patients seeking treatment at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (P42.5 million), University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (P21 million), Philippine Heart Center (P7.5 million), Western Visayas Regional Hospital (P3 million), Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (P2 million), Philippine Children's Medical Center (P2 million), West Visayas State University Medical Center (P1.15 million), and Bicol Medical Center (P500,000).
Aside from the P21 million allotted to the PGH for medical assistance to indigent patients, Drilon also allocated P50 million to PGH charged against his 2010 PDAF for the upgrading and renovation of the dilapidated operating rooms, including acquisition of medical equipment.
Likewise, Drilon assigned additional P5 million to the Philippine Heart Center (PHC) charged against his 2012 PDAF for the renovation of a dilapidated PHC Cardiovascular Sciences Division to provide a better health service.
In 2011, Drilon allotted P500,000 for the construction of a rural health center in San Jose, Camarines Sur.