Indecent proposals

Indecent proposals
Lito Banayo

BELEAGUERED Sen. Manuel B. Villar Jr., former Speaker of the House of Representatives, former President of the Senate, called upon his “loyal” allies to circle the wagons. Indeed the allies came, but all they brought were cartwheels. And how they spun their lies.

Instead of facing the charges openly, instead of answering these before peers, Villar kept shouting kangaroo and lynch mob and hanging jury or all of them stitched together. Which is why Juan Ponce Enrile and then Jamby Madrigal called him a “coward”.

Last Tuesday, I enumerated all the acts of obfuscation and stonewalling taken by Manuel B. Villar Jr. from the time the double appropriation for the same road was discovered in the Senate. And in that article, I wondered why Villar did not defend himself even in the face of so grievous a public charge as acting like a “coward”.

And I surmised that Enrile had more up his sleeve. “Is it because Enrile knows more? Is it because an 85-year old ‘enemy’ could do so much damage to a carefully-laid out campaign oozing with indecent billions? Or is it plain and simple cowardice?”

Actually, I was wondering if Enrile would speak up about an incident in the Inagiku of Makati Shangri-la months ago (August 29, 2009), something that he could not contain to himself, and had to unburden to close kin and the closest of friends. There was sadness etched upon the face of the man who had been part and parcel of so much of our contemporary history, one who has seen it all, met them all – all who mattered – as he confided to them.

It was the countenance of one who seemed to have lost all respect for a peer. Little wonder that when push came to shove, he had no trepidation at publicly calling Manuel B. Villar Jr. a “coward”.

And last Tuesday, in a radio interview with Pinky Webb and Ted Failon, the Senate President unburdened himself publicly. He talked about that Inagiku lunch which Manny Villar sought and where Enrile brought a witness, no less than his chief of staff, Atty. Gigi Gonzales-Reyes. I alluded to that meeting when I wrote in last Tuesday’s article about Enrile “knowing more”.

A week after that Inagiku lunch, someone close to the veteran legislator told me about the incident.

The Senate President could not believe what his immediate predecessor was suggesting, to his face. Villar kept repeating “makakatulong ako” like a mantra, after asking his peer if he could come out with a “proper” committee report. And Enrile reminded him that in several previous meetings, he had advised Villar to face the Committee of the Whole, bring as many witnesses as he could muster, and assured him that he would be fair and impartial. Yet Villar snubbed his peers, even if the same Committee of the Whole was precisely in response to his previous accusation that the Panfilo Lacson-chaired Committee on Ethics and Privilege was a “kangaroo” court.

Now, this same man was suggesting something quite indecent. Enrile is running for re-election to the Senate, an enterprise quite costly, and Villar was offering to “help” him, in exchange for a “friendly” committee report? And even after Enrile begged leave of unseemly presence, Villar reiterated his “offer” to the bewildered chief of staff. The effrontery was so insulting, that Enrile had to confide. Keeping it “in pectore” might have caused his blood pressure to rise unduly.

After the Ted and Pinky interview, Senate reporters grilled Enrile, who recounted his memories of the indecent proposal. Clearly, Enrile had lost all respect for the man who desperately wants the presidency. The man who went to Congress because that was the best way to multiply his millions to billions. And sought the speakership desperately because he wanted to save the billions his bank had lost, and hide his DOSRI loans. And who authored legislation to ensure that banks would be unable to recover either their monies nor get their hands on his mortgaged properties. And multiplied the market value of those properties by proposing, funding and ensuring implementation of zig-zagging roads that would traverse the same, as chair of the Finance Committee and later, as Senate President. And who now terrorizes the competition and mesmerizes the masa with his billions, to seek a presidency which could doubtless multiply those billions to trillions.

But yesterday, another of Villar’s abogadas de campanilla, Miriam Defensor Santiago, hit Enrile for supposedly insulting her “intelligence”. In the course of her “sound and fury signifying nothing”, the senadora from Pototan adverted to an attempt to oust Enrile (The Plot, Malaya, Jan. 19, 2009), and asked why her ninong Johnny “should not emulate Villar by facing the prospect with equanimity, and if necessary, leaving the position with grace”.

Leaving the position with “grace” said she as she elevated Villar to the pantheon of her esteem. When I heard her last Tuesday on television, I knew what to write about for today.

Now let me tell you one more story that Juan Ponce Enrile could not contain to himself. Lest he out-scoop me once more with yet another sordid insight into the character of this man who would be president, I will tell you about what transpired in November of 2008, when Senator Juan Ponce Enrile went to the office of then Senate President Manuel B. Villar Jr. with a resolution signed by thirteen senators, expressing their desire for a change of leadership in the chamber. Rather than have a “bloody” fight on the floor, it has been customary for senators to simply sign a no-confidence resolution against their president, and nominating who they want to replace him.

That “coup” was a masterstroke in stealth, for Villar learned about it only in the morning of that grey November Monday. The resolution was signed by Lacson, Madrigal and Legarda, Roxas and Biazon, Angara, Zubiri and Gordon, plus Revilla, then Gringo, then Jinggoy, then Chiz Escudero, and Enrile. Noynoy abstained because his mom Cory who had a clash with JPE in the tumultuous years of lurking coups, was terminally ill, and he could not add to her anxieties. Miriam played hide-and-sick the Saturday and Sunday before, but at least kept quiet and did not rat on the act.

But Villar seemed quite composed when Enrile entered his chambers. Very corporate. And when Enrile showed him the signed resolution, corporate Villar was crisply transactional, talagang “negociador”. He made “Manong” a proposal. “Magre-resign na lang ako as Senate President, and you take over, with unanimous support (Enrile’s thirteen plus Villar’s captive six, two fence-sitters, Miriam and Lapid, with Noynoy still abstaining). Villar is good at numbers, whether it is counting billions, or counting heads, and when he knows he does not have the numbers, he transacts to get them. When transaction fails, he prevents the numbers from showing up. Amang Rodriguez, long-time president of the NP, would have loved this guy. Villar has mastered his politics of addition.)

“Huwag na lang natin galawin ang committee chairmanships, kusa na akong magre-resign”, Villar coolly segued.

Enrile wondered at the gall. Talo na, humihirit pa. Transaksyon pa rin ang nasa isip. Regaining composure after initial shock at the indecent proposal, Enrile flatly stated, “Hindi ko naman pwedeng pabayaan ang mga sumuporta sa akin. Sorry, Manny”, and walked out of the Senate President’s room that would be his an hour later.

Tuesday evening, after Gilbert Remulla mumbled something about Enrile’s word versus his idol Villar in reaction to what was revealed in the Ted and Pinky show, the transactional guy rued the revelation of the Senate president, and said, ” But looking back, I thought I was dealing with honorable men who would view things fair and impartially. Nagkamali pala ako.”

Fair meaning omerta? Impartial meaning hiding public dirt under the Senate rug? Villar’s cri de coeur sounds very much like his television commercial where he says he has a vision of a society where corruption ceases to be a problem because “hindi na kailangan pang magnakaw”. For ordinary bureaucrats, he envisions higher pay so they will not be tempted. And for leaders like him, is the standard the same? Wow! With his billions upon billions, “hindi na kaya niya kailangang magnakaw”? Now review the Senate Committee of the Whole report and weep. Wait till you learn about Molino, San Pedro, Norzagaray, Daang Hari, Daang Reyna, y otras malas.

Villar is “non-confrontational kasi”, Remulla keeps saying. And Villar indeed says it: “Sa akin naman kasi, walang masamang tinapay”. So todo pasa lahat? Magnakaw, hindi masamang tinapay? Behold!…Manuel B. Villar’s Vision of Good Governance.

Wala talagang pinagkaiba kay Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. As transactional as transactional can be. No wonder they got together fine. No wonder she trusts her enough. No wonder he is “her man”.

Todo pasa. Non-confrontational. Walang masamang tinapay. Maski tawagin mong duwag. Maski tawagin mong manunuhol.

And whenever the going gets rough, there are always grouches and the clowns to send in to douse the public fires. Grouches on the Senate floor, verbal bullies who would anger and enrage the other side. And clowns on television, por los pobres. Willie Revillame in Wowowee, and interviews by Michael V. And of course, the King of Comedy, El Dolphy, mismo! Vouching for Villar’s integrity! Nagpapatawa?

Just asking – which costs more, the grouches on the Senate floor, or the comedians on TV?


([email protected])

The ProPinoy Project