Villar's shenanigans to avoid censure, but reports are damning and objective

‘Sipag at tiyaga’ in applied politics

By Solita Collas-Monsod
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:05:00 01/23/2010

THIS CAN BE considered the continuing saga of Sen. Manny Villar’s efforts to diffuse the ethics and misconduct charges against him. If it were put into music, two alternating refrains would have to be sung: if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed-try-try-again (or maybe sipag at tiyaga), and curses-foiled again.

In the first scene, Villar tries to impugn the integrity of the Senate ethics committee, which was about to investigate charges brought against him by Sen. Jamby Madrigal regarding the C-5 Extension Project. He delivers a privilege speech on the Senate floor calling the ethics committee a kangaroo court whose members were mostly “presidentiables” out for his blood. He states that he will not appear before the committee but will answer the charges before the Senate on the Senate floor.

Unfortunately for him, ethics committee chair Sen. Panfilo Lacson calls what proved to be Villar’s bluff, and moves that the Senate constitute itself into a Committee of the Whole (COW) with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile as chair, and take over jurisdiction over the Madrigal complaint from the ethics committee. The motion is approved by the Senate. (Curses. Foiled.)

Nothing daunted (if at first you don’t succeed), Villar, who it appears doesn’t want to be investigated by the COW either, makes his next move: he goes to the Supreme Court, together with Senators Nene Pimentel, Joker Arroyo, Francis Pangilinan and Pia and Alan Cayetano, to ask the Court first for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and eventually a permanent injunction to stop the COW from continuing its investigation. The reason? They don’t like the rules under which the investigation is to be conducted (this, even though Alan Cayetano’s amendments to those rules had been adopted).

Unfortunately again for Villar, the Supreme Court refuses to cooperate—the desired TRO is not issued, and the COW proceedings continue. (Curses. Foiled again.) Following its Preliminary Inquiry Report, which finds that the documentary evidence so far submitted by Madrigal appears to constitute credible substantial evidence against Villar (sidebar: one of the 12 senators who adopted this report was Sen. Loren Legarda), the COW holds a Preliminary Conference, followed by 12 adjudicatory hearings from June to October 2009.

So Villar now tries passive resistance. (Sipag at tiyaga?) He attends none of those hearings. Instead, he brings his case “to the people,” defending himself in the media, despite Enrile’s friendly warning that the COW cannot evaluate evidence or testimony that is not presented to it.

In any case, the evidence presented against Villar is overwhelming—more than 900 exhibits—documentary (irrefutable—composed of official documents), as well as testimonies of DPWH, Senate and budget officials. The evidence is also very damning as I have seen for myself, having read the COW Report, which is both exhaustive and objective.

But I get ahead of myself. The adjudicatory hearings end in the middle of October, and Senate President Enrile targets the end of December to come up with the COW’s findings and recommendations.

At which point, Senator Villar plays what could be considered a trump card: On Nov. 19, barely a month after the hearings are terminated and with no report yet in sight, 12 senators (including Villar) file a resolution to dismiss the Madrigal complaint and to clear him of all the charges. Let us not underestimate the significance of this move: For a committee report to be reported out and considered in plenary, it needs to be signed by a majority (12, because the Senate has only 23 members now). So if 12 already signed a resolution clearing Villar, that means that only 11 were left to sign the COW report—and therefore the COW report would not even see the light of day. Aborted. Defanged. Neutralized.

(An interesting sidelight: The Villar 12 resolution reportedly should not have included Villar’s name. It was Trillanes’ signature that was supposed to be the 12th. But Trillanes reportedly refused to sign it, and so Villar perforce had to add his signature—kind of reducing the resolution’s effectivity, because in effect Villar was clearing himself.)

Unfortunately again for Villar, he underestimates Juan Ponce Enrile’s mettle. Badly. Enrile, enraged by the underhandedness of the move, declares the resolution out of order, saying that the time to bring it up is when the COW report is finished and not a minute before. In any case the issue becomes moot, because the Villar 12 almost immediately become the Villar 11. Jinggoy Estrada withdraws his name from the resolution—apparently he was asked to sign under false pretenses, because he was given to understand that it would not be released until the COW report came out. Curses. Foiled again.

Back to the trenches for Villar. And this time every effort is made to prevent the COW report from getting the 12 signatures necessary—including threatening Enrile with removal from his position unless he plays ball.

Here again, failure for Villar. Enrile—say what you will about him—doesn’t scare easy. He’s been there, done that. And 12 senators sign the report.

Villar carries out his threat (try and try again). He can’t get the numbers. (Curses. Foiled again.)

Count them folks. Six tries. Six flops. Will Villar make a seventh? We will know on Monday. Is he guilty of the charges? It certainly looks that way. But we’ll save that for later.

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