Fomer DAR chief was Napoles' lawyer

From a report by Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 30 2013 10:24 PM | Updated as of Oct 31 2013 06:43 AM

Villa denies hand in pork scam transactions

MANILA -- A former secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has come forward to admit he used to lawyer for businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

But Rene Villa, now the chairman of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), clarified he had nothing to do with Napoles' alleged operations in connection with the pork barrel scam.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News on Wednesday, Villa said he was the lawyer of Napoles from 2006 to 2010.

He said Napoles became his client a year after he stepped down as DAR secretary.

Villa was among the so-called "Hyatt 10" group of Cabinet members and government executives who resigned in 2005 over the "Hello Garci" scandal involving former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

He was appointed as LWUA chair in the Aquino administration in 2011.

"I see nothing wrong with that because that's my profession," Villa said.

"If you're suggesting that being a lawyer to someone who has become the hate icon and being a lawyer to a criminal itself, then we might as well abolish the legal profession," he added.

He also said he was only Napoles' lawyer for the businesswoman's planned coal business and other international ventures.

However, a lawyer for the whistleblowers said it is impossible that Villa does not know anything about Napoles' alleged pork barrel scam dealings.

Atty. Lourdes Benipayo said Villa often met with Napoles at the office of JLN Corporation.

The whistleblowers' camp now wants Villa to be included in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's probe into the scam.

One of the convenors of the national people's initiative for the abolition of the pork barrel system agreed, saying Villa has a lot of explaining to do.

"Dapat lamang lisanin niya muna yung kanyang posisyon sa gobyerno. Maraming mga abogado na nagtataka kung bakit hindi lamang siya nagkusang-loob na nagsabi na siya pala yung abogado ni Napoles," Ernesto Francisco said.

But Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Teofisto "TG" Guingona III said they will no longer summon Villa, who is also a member of the Liberal Party (LP).

Guingona explained their inquiry is in aid of legislation and they are not out to determine guilt.

He said he also believes that the link of Napoles to Villa will not in any way tarnish the image of the administration.