Now, it’s Madrigal’s turn: Villar offered me P1B
By Jerry E. Esplanada, Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—“P1 billion.”
Such a staggering “bribe offer” may be enough to make any presidential candidate sing: Nakaligo ka na ba sa dagat ng pera? (Have you taken a dip in a sea of cash?)
That’s how much Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Sen. Manny Villar—whose campaign jingle recounts the “sea of trash” of his hard-up childhood—allegedly dangled before rival Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal for her to stop hounding him over the C-5 road project controversy.
The offer was made through a Villar emissary sometime last year, Madrigal said in a TV interview Wednesday. She made the same allegation in a Philippine Daily Inquirer interview in January but requested that it be kept off the record.
It was the latest of many poison arrows thrown at Villar by Madrigal, his longtime Senate critic and now an independent presidential candidate who has spent much of her campaign attacking the billionaire NP stalwart.
Another Palace contender made a similar charge against Villar last week. In a radio interview, Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon said an emissary of Villar’s had offered him a Cabinet post as well as reimbursement of his campaign expenses if he would pull out of the race and go soft on the C-5 issue.
Like how he dismissed Gordon’s, Villar shrugged off Madrigal’s claim as part of a continuing demolition job.
“It’s just like having a different meal served every breakfast, so I don’t pay much attention,” Villar told reporters covering his campaign Wednesday in Kabacan, North Cotabato.
“We can see the pattern, [my opponents] raising one issue after the other,” Villar said, adding he would expect more of the same “lies” to be thrown his way as the May election draws near.
Waging a nationwide campaign was already costly, he said, “so there’s nothing left to be offered [to my rivals] and I will not make such an offer.”
“As far as I’m concerned, I made no offer to anyone,” Villar stressed. “I will never make such an offer because I’m focused on my campaign, which I pursue continuously.”
A childhood friend
Speaking on the GMA 7 morning show “Unang Hirit,” Madrigal said the alleged offer was in exchange for the withdrawal of the ethics complaint she filed against Villar over the C-5 budget insertion controversy.
In a Jan. 27 interview, Madrigal then asked the Inquirer not to write about the alleged offer for the safety of Villar’s emissary.
Reached on the phone Wednesday, Madrigal said she was “forced to make the P1-billion bribe offer public because I can’t tell a lie” when the matter was brought up by “Unang Hirit” host Arnold Clavio.
She described the emissary as a “childhood friend, an old family friend.”
“He is a private person, a private citizen. Villar’s people know he is close to me. That is why, they approached him. They also know I don’t have a bagman,” Madrigal added.
Earlier offer P100M
And aside from dangling P1 billion, Madrigal said, Villar “initially offered me P100 million sometime in late 2008.”
“He had wanted to have lunch with me several times. That’s when he felt I was going to file the ethics committee report tagging his involvement in the C-5 anomaly. But I never agreed. Then came the P100-million offer coursed through my businessman-family friend,” she said.
She said the P1-billion bribe offer “came later” and that she told some of her fellow senators about it during a caucus.
One of them, she recalled, even teased her for not taking the money and wondered in jest if she could just share it with the others.
“I’m sure you’ll find a P1-billion bribe offer incredible, but for him (Villar) it’s all money,” Madrigal said.