Refuting Manny’s defenders
By Solita Collas-Monsod
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:33:00 02/05/2010
IN RESPONSE TO LAST WEEK’S COLUMN where I presented some incontrovertible facts regarding the ethics case against Sen. Manny Villar, I received an e-mail from one Danilo Suarez of Quezon City. He wrote: “Read your column re your take on C5 and Sen. Villar’s ‘involvement.’ In the interest of fairness, I exhort you, as a supporter of Sen. Villar, to also check his official website and his side on the matter. I trust you would put this out as you search for the truth …. Looking forward to reading about it in your column.”
My reply: “Dear Mr. Suarez, If there is anything erroneous in any of the statements of fact that were published in my column, please feel free to point them out, together with the documents you have that will allow me to verify that they are indeed erroneous. As you may have noticed, the A’s in my column can be verified by documents and uncontroverted statements from official sources, which I was very careful to cite, precisely so that readers like you can check them. I am certainly glad that Mr. Villar has aired his side on his website. That is his choice. It is mine to look at the government documents and the sworn testimony that are part of the Senate record. I look forward to Mr. Villar’s defending himself in a venue that allows for clarificatory questions and refutations. That is, after all, part and parcel of transparency and accountability that are so necessary for good governance. Regards.”
The Inquirer also forwarded me an e-mail from Ma. Nalen Rosero-Galang, who identifies herself as legal counsel for Senator Villar. I also received a paper titled “C-5 sound and fury: Is Monsod painting the full picture? Student rebukes professor” by Ricardo G. Barcelona of Spain, who identifies himself firstly as “a former student of Prof. Monsod,” before going on to reciting the rest of his impressive curriculum vitae. I am honored that he considers his being my former student (albeit a rebuking one) more important than the rest of his professional achievements.
For the most part, both Galang and Barcelona do not contest the facts presented in last week’s column. An exception is when Galang asserts that “There is no evidence whatsoever that the alignment of the C5 Road Extension was determined by Senator Villar, or that its alignment was changed in order that it should pass through the real estate properties of Senator Villar’s companies.” Excuse me, Ms Galang: May I remind you that per the Department of Public Works and Highways, Senator Villar conceptualized and initially funded both the CX-5 and the Las Piñas-Parañaque Link Road project. That is in black and white in the DPWH project feasibility studies.
Both do contest what I considered a reasonable conclusion: that since there was already an ongoing (MCTEP) linking C-5 to the Coastal Road, it was unnecessary (and therefore wasteful) to build a second one. Galang argues that both were necessary, given the “worsening traffic condition (sic) in Parañaque, Las Piñas and Cavite.” Barcelona argues that it was not a case of wastefulness, but rather of creating choices for motorists.
To Ms Galang: where in urban Philippines are traffic conditions not worsening? To Mr. Barcelona: MCTEP was conceived precisely to create choices for motorists. There already exists a current road network, toll-free, that will allow motorists to move from SLEX to the Coastal Road. MCTEP would give them the choice of going from point A to Point B more quickly—as long as they are willing to pay for the convenience. Giving motorists a third choice, in the context of competing demands on scarce resources, cannot be—never mind, should not be—defended. Giving motorists a third choice, while at the same time ensuring that the third-choice road passes through Villar-owned properties (I notice neither Galang nor Barcelona refuted the 50-52 hectare area involved), is even less defensible.
Then there is the matter of zonal valuation. Barcelona is correct to point out a seemingly inconsistent set of estimates: In my column, I stated (not suggested—it is a matter of arithmetic), that the Villar lots were acquired at an average price of P7,168/sq m while non-Villar properties went for P1,880/sq m. In my analysis for News on Q, which was earlier taped, the figures I gave were P11,520 and P2,922 respectively (not the P11,000 and P4,500 that Barcelona cites. Tsk.). Inconsistent? No. The P11,520 figure refers only to the properties that are directly Villar-owned. The P7,168 figure refers to direct properties and those in joint-venture with Villar companies. Please note that I used the lower figures in my column.
To Barcelona: Do not put words in my mouth. I was not suggesting that capital gains linked to proximity to public works should accrue to government. And there is a world of difference between the Hacienda Luisita issue and the Villar properties issue: (1) Noynoy Aquino probably owns less than 2 percent of Luisita, Villar owns 100 percent of his properties; and (2) Villar conceived and initially funded CX-5/LPPLP; Aquino had zilch to do with SCTEX. Tsk.
Moral of the story: Do not rebuke your teacher using insinuations and without full knowledge of the facts. My fault is that I didn’t teach him any better.
Finally, I cannot resist quoting Joker Arroyo, circa 1998: “So in the case of Speaker Villar, it is simple. If he wants to go/continue in business and deal with government financial institutions, he can do so but he cannot also be a congressman. If he wants to be a congressman, then he must not be in business which deals with the government. We have to pay a price.” Amen.