Villar has another land scandal in Iloilo
By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Sen. Manny Villar, Nacionalista Party presidential candidate, got a dose of Drilon’s ire. It seems that Villar has another C-5 scandal in Drilon’s home province of Iloilo. Villar has a subdivision in Pavia, Iloilo called “Savannah.” Some 12.7 hectares of Savannah were first-class irrigated rice lands which Villar’s company converted into residential land. The CARP law prohibits the conversion of irrigated rice lands to other uses, the reason being to safeguard food production. However, Villar’s company was able to make the Department of Agrarian Reform issue a conversion order.
“Former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rene Villa refused to sign the conversion order, but Villar’s company had his successor, Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, sign the conversion order,” Drilon said.
Villar’s company later bought adjacent lands, increasing the area of Savannah Subdivision to 250 hectares. Drilon said farmers were forced to sell their lands because of lack of irrigation because Villar’s company filled up an irrigation canal, thus blocking water flow to the farms.
“Villar has only one public works project in Iloilo,” Drilon said. “That was a 585-meter highway, for which Villar used P4 million of his pork barrel. That highway led direct to his Savannah Subdivision.” The road project was in the 2003 General Appropriations Act and implemented via Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) 2004-249.
“The C-5 road controversy is just the tip of the iceberg. What we see is a pattern under which Villar’s subdivisions benefited from undue advantage allegedly because of influence peddling in government,” Drilon said.
He challenged Villar to open the books of his real estate companies and reveal to the Filipino people how many favorable land conversion orders he was able to secure from DAR ever since he became a high government official.
“In the name of transparency, I believe the Filipino people are entitled to know the land conversion processes in the DAR under which Villar was able to build his string of subdivisions,” Drilon said.
“After the discovery of this C-5-and-a-half land scam in Iloilo, Villar should now come clean and bare to the public his dealings with DAR.
“By opening his books and proving that the land conversion orders he secured from DAR are aboveboard, Villar will then be able to disprove long-standing rumors in the business community that he used his influence as a high government official to expand his vast private business empire,” Drilon said.
“I challenge Senator Villar to go beyond public rhetoric and open the books of private companies to disprove persistent allegations that he used his government influence to advance his private business interests.”