Villar takes tougher stance vs Arroyo

Villar takes tougher stance vs Arroyo

Aquino camp says Villar ‘too late the hero’

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) – Nacionalista Party (NP) presidential candidate Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr. has taken taken a stronger stance against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Villar told ABS-CBN News Channel’s (ANC) Headstart that he will prosecute all corrupt government officials, including President Arroyo.

“Yes. Lahat ng naging corrupt dapat habulin (Yes. We should go after all corrupt officials),” the NP standard-bearer said when asked by Headstart’s host Karen Davila if he will prosecute Mrs. Arroyo for her alleged corrupt activities.

During an ANC presidential forum last January, Villar had a softer stand against Mrs. Arroyo.

He said he would not lift a finger to influence possible cases that may be filed against President Arroyo after her term ends in June.

‘Villar too late the hero’

In response to Villar’s interview over ANC, Edwin Lacierda, Sen. Benigno Aquino III’s presidential campaign spokesperson, said the NP standard-bearer’s move to take a tougher stance against Arroyo was a “last-ditch effort” at reversing his survey ratings slide.

“Only a few months ago, he regarded investigating corrupt officials a non-issue. Now that Arroyo’s satisfaction rating is at an all-time low, and Noynoy Aquino’s message of fighting corruption has gained the overwhelming support of the Filipino people, Villar, belatedly, is joining the bandwagon, not out of a sense of public duty, but as a means to desperately claw back and regain his numbers,” Lacierda said.

(Read: Villar falls 4 points; Aquino, Erap, Gibo steady)

“When Manny Villar said Friday morning that he will prosecute all government officials including Gloria Arroyo, the question is not whether he will do it—the answer is too obvious.  He now feigns an understanding of the true cause of our country’s poverty—a culture of corruption and impunity—and is now slithering his way into the anti-Arroyo club,” Lacierda said. “The tragic thing is the people have seen him for what he is, and the bandwagon has long left him behind.

Villar gives GMA failing grade

During the ANC interview on Friday, Villar also gave Mrs. Arroyo a failing grade when asked to rate her overall performance for the last 9 years.

He said Mrs. Arroyo deserves a failing grade of 4 for bringing too many problems during her term.

“Sa akin statistically, hindi rin maganda ang performance natin sa economy… if you compare her performance to other leaders,” Villar said.

He also said that Mrs. Arroyo was never a good leader.

“I disagree that she had experience. I disagree that she had a leadership position. I disagree that she was able to show that she can manage anything successfully,” Villar added.

The senator also denied that he has not openly criticized Mrs. Arroyo for her alleged involvement in several corruption controversies.

He said he has made “maybe a hundred times” of criticisms against her during media interviews.

He also reiterated that during his stint as Senate president, he led the NP in investigating several controversies involving the Arroyos, including the “Hello, Garci” scandal, NBN-ZTE scandal and jueteng.

Villar added that it was Aquino who had taken a softer stand. He said Aquino was among those who voted against the playing of the so-called “Hello, Garci” tapes when he was still in the House of Representatives.

Noynoy has GMA’s economic team

Villar has admitted that the LP’s “Villaroyo” tag on him has hurt his ratings in recent presidential surveys. (Click here for story).

He said that if voters would really study the party defections and political affiliations of all the presidential candidates, except for Gilbert Teodoro, LP standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III would stand out as the one who has close ties with the Arroyo administration.

“Marami siyang kamag-anak na kasama ni GMA. Marami silang hininging favor na hiningi kay GMA (He has many relatives connected to GMA. They asked so many favors from GMA),” Villar said, referring to Aquino, his relatives and members of the Liberal Party, which was formerly a member of the administration’s rainbow coalition.

He added that with Albay Gov. Joey Salceda’s defection to the LP, Aquino now has President Arroyo’s former economic team. (Click here for story.)

Villar said members of the Arroyo economic team in Aquino camp are former Arroyo trade secretaries Mar Roxas and Johnny Santos, former finance secretary Cesar Purisima, and former Socio-economic Planning secretary Ralph Recto.

“Ibobo mo lang si Noynoy, babalik na si GMA (You just have to vote for Noynoy to bring back GMA),” he added.

Spending own money for country’s future

Villar also urged his critics to also ask Aquino to divulge his campaign distributors, whom he said are most likely businessmen.

He said that he is certain these businessmen-contributors would take back their money by asking favors from Aquino if he wins the May 10 presidential election.

As for himself, Villar said he is investing his own money for the presidency.

He and his wife have set aside billions of pesos for charity, which he has been spending on scholarships, on overseas Filipino workers and on livelihood for poor Filipinos.

Villar said the money came from his company Vista Land’s IPO (initial public offering) earnings, which amounted to about P23 billion, P8 billion of which went to his family.

He said that from the P8 billion, he gave his children their own money, paid his debts and the rest have been set aside for charity.

Villar assured that he will not use the presidency to take back all the money that he has been spending for his campaign.

He said that he saw the presidency as a “chance to turn the economy around.”

“If I can stop poverty, reduce it significantly, I will be helping millions. Mas malayo ang mamaring ng pera na ito kaysa iyong parang ipamimigay mo lang na mahirap pa rin sila,” he said.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.