Senate panel OKs Villar's censure

Senate panel OKs Villar censure
http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=542022&publicationSubCategoryId=63
By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) Updated January 19, 2010 12:00 AM


MANILA,Philippines – The Senate Committee of the Whole has recommended the censure of Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. for unethical conduct when he sought the realignment of the C-5 road extension project to benefit his properties in the area. The report said he must pay more than P6 billion to cover the government’s expenses for the highway.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, chairman of the committee that drafted the report, said 11 others had signed it along with him and agreed to tackle the report on the floor.

Those who signed were Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Rodolfo Biazon, Panfilo Lacson, Jamby Madrigal, Edgardo Angara, Benigno Aquino III, Manuel Roxas II, Richard Gordon, Francis Escudero and Francis Pangilinan.

Enrile said he would sponsor the report today as it had been filed last night.

There had been serious doubts on whether the C-5 report would be adopted or even discussed on the floor since Villar and 11 other senators had signed a resolution dismissing the charges against him.

Those who signed such resolution favoring Villar were Villar himself, Estrada, Pangilinan, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Senators Joker Arroyo, Alan Peter Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Gregorio Honasan II, Pia Cayetano, Manuel Lapid, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Loren Legarda.

But Enrile said the signing of the report did not mean that the Senate already convicted Villar because they would still have to debate and vote on it.

“Regardless of whether or not they agree with the report, they can sign. But as far as the voting is concerned, that’s another matter. (It’s) only to bring the matter to the floor for discussion and then we will vote on whether they agree with the sanction,” Enrile said, adding that he recommended a reprimand since it would be impossible to get two-thirds of the senators to expel Villar.

He also noted that it might not be possible to suspend Villar due to lack of votes as well.

Enrile said Villar could answer on the floor anytime to defend himself. Villar had been snubbing the hearings of the committee of the whole, saying the Senate was only a kangaroo court out to convict him.

Conflict of interest

Despite the nine session days left for them before the campaign period in February, Enrile said they could still dispose of the matter.

In the draft report prepared by Enrile, the committee said Villar violated Article VI Section 14 of the Constitution and Section 3 (I) in relation to Section 9 of Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct of Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and for engaging in improper and unethical conduct as a senator of the republic and had, by committing such violations, damaged the integrity of the Senate as an institution.

The report said Villar failed to avoid conflict of interest situation by not divesting himself of his shareholdings or interests in Adelfa Properties Inc., Golden Haven Memorial Park Inc. and Azalea Real Estate Corp. (now Brittany Corp.) when it was apparent to him that the corporations had contracts with the government, through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), for road right-of-way acquisition.

It said Section 9 of RA 6713 mandated that a public official or employee must avoid conflicts of interest at all times.

“For the benefit of his corporations, Senator Villar made the Filipino people suffer the total amount of P6,226,070,427.00,” it said.

The C-5 case stemmed from the expose of Lacson who said a senator sought an additional P200 million for the P200 million allotment for the project in the 2008 national budget.

Madrigal then filed an ethics case against Villar for plunder and conflict of interest, saying the former Senate chief benefited from the project.

The issue also cost Villar the Senate presidency as his colleagues decided to oust him when the issue broke out.

No direct evidence

Enrile said they considered the witnesses and pieces of evidence in deciding on the matter.

Based on the report, the money that the committee was asking Villar to return came from the realigned P4.28 billion for the extension project, the P1.8 billion spent for the original project but which was wasted due to the realignment, and the P141.1 million in overpriced right-of-way payments for Villar’s real estate companies.

“Villar was the proponent of the Las Piñas-Parañaque Link Road Project and the DPWH C-5 Road Extension Project were made to pass through the aforesaid corporations of Villar following a curved, instead of a straight alignment,” the report furnished to The STAR said.

Enrile refused to release the report but would not confirm or deny the contents of presumed copies in the possession of reporters.

But he said he would no longer call for an investigation into its leakage, saying it was now all up to the conscience of those who prematurely released it.

The report said the alignment of the C-5 segment of the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway Project of the Toll Regulatory Board was changed to accommodate the two road projects.

But it added that there was no evidence that Villar had directly participated in the overpricing of his properties but he regularly funded the two projects chargeable against various infrastructures nationwide or against the Priority Development Assistance Fund from 2001 to 2008.

The report also said that Villar allowed a director, general manager, senior vice president and chief operating officer of his corporation, Adelfa Properties Inc., Anastacio Adriano Jr. to propose an amendment to the 2008 national budget amounting to P400 million for the C-5 project when there was no specific program of work for such project and despite there already being an allocation for the project.

The only apparent reason for the amendment was to make available an appropriation for the payment of right-of-way compensation claims of about P200 million, according to the report.

The report also stated that Villar used that power to satisfy the interest of his corporations, violating the conflict-of-interest rule and Article VI Section 14 of the Constitution.

Noting that Villar had proposed the C-5 extension project when he was still a member of the House of Representatives, the report said he “continued to fund” the project when he was already a senator, chairman of the committee on finance and Senate president, yet did not disclose his pecuniary interest as required by the Constitution.

A venue for Villar

Meanwhile, Sen. Alan Cayetano said the upcoming discussion of the Senate Committee of the Whole report will provide an opportunity for the public to discern that the charges filed against Villar were highly politicized.

“I am sad that this has become a numbers game rather than based on evidence. Having said that, the good news is there will be an opportunity to compare the two reports and I believe that when facts are made public the people will see that this has been highly politicized,” Cayetano said.

Since the SCOW will be read as a committee report and it will be scheduled for discussion, it will be up to the majority leader Zubiri to set the issue for plenary debates.

Cayetano said he has not seen a copy of the committee report and has no idea why Estrada and Pangilinan decided to sign it when they had earlier signed a resolution exonerating Villar. – Christina Mendez

Fake BIR papers used to overvalue Villar properties

Fake BIR papers used to overvalue Villar properties: lawyer
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/09/17/09/fake-bir-papers-used-overvalue-villar-properties-lawyer
abs-cbnNEWS.com | 09/17/2009 1:25 PM

MANILA – A lawyer for Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal on Thursday claimed that companies owned by Sen. Manny Villar used fake Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) certifications to overvalue Villar’s properties, which would eventually be purchased by the government for its road projects.

In an interview over dzMM’s Tambalang Failon at Sanchez, Atty. Ernesto Francisco said Adelfa Properties and other companies owned by Villar used fake or tampered BIR certifications to overvalue several properties that would be affected by the C-5 road extension project. He said the certifications were submitted to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and directly benefited companies owned by Villar.

“There was a pattern, a modus operandi in order to sell the property to the government for a higher price. If the value of the land was worth only P7 million at 4,500 per square meter, the company would produce a BIR certification that the value of the land is really P30,000 per square meter and was actually worth P48 million,” he said.

Francisco explained that every time a government road project would go through private land, government always had to pay for road right of way.

He said Adelfa Properties COO Anastacio Adriano Jr. admitted during a Senate ethics committee hearing that the company was paid P25 million for the road right of way in one of the properties affected by a government road project.

Francisco said a total of five separate properties owned by Villar’s companies benefited from various government road projects. He also said that Villar has a history of using his pork barrel to fund road projects that would directly benefit his various real estate projects south of Manila.

Villar is currently facing an ethics investigation before the Senate for approving a P200 million double insertion in the 2008 annual appropriations of the C-5 extension road project.

Madrigal accused Villar of using his position to make the insertions and pour millions of pesos to his real estate company’s subdivision projects.

Road projects “above board”

Villar’s spokesman Gilbert Remulla, meanwhile, said all the road projects approved by the former Senate president are above board.

“Sen. Villar is particularly careful of his reputation so he would not do anything that would be illegal or anomalous. Everything is above board and the documents went through the Department of Justice and the BIR,” he said in a separate dzMM interview.

He added that Villar has refused to appear before the Senate ethics hearing since he does not believe that he would get a fair hearing.

“This trial is not an impartial court. These are fellow presidential candidates so he does not see that he will get a fair hearing there. That is one of the biggest reasons,” he said.

On the allegation that Villar properties used fake BIR documents to overvalue the property, he said: “This is a legal matter…Maybe those in Vista Land can answer it.”

He denied, however, Villar committed a “conflict of interest” when he approved road projects that directly benefited his real estate properties in Cavite.

“It was not solely for the benefit of his company but for the population at large. How many hundreds of billions are saved and properties unlocked because traffic was eased? These projects passed through due process. Besides, Villar is a public fugure and the company is publicly listed. He will not risk doing anything illegal,” he said.

Villar faces P6.22-billion censure over road mess

Villar faces censure over road mess
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20100117-247888/Villar-faces-censure-over-road-mess

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:05:00 01/17/2010


MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) Senator Manny Villar is facing censure at the Senate after he was found guilty for allegedly engaging in improper and unethical conduct in connection with the C5 road extension project, according to a draft report by the Senate committee of the whole.

At the same time, the draft report, a copy of which was furnished to the Philippine Daily Inquire by an official of a political party, asked Villar to return to the public coffers the total amount of P6.22 billion that “he has or his companies have illegally gained or obtained as a result of unlawful acts and improper and unethical conduct.”

Villar’s involvement in the C5 project in Parañaque and Las Piñas, the report said, “made the Filipino suffer (a loss) in the total amount of P6.22 billion.’’

The money came from the cost for the realigned P4.28 billion for the extension project, the P1.8 billion spent for the original project but was wasted due to the realignment and the P141.1 million in allegedly overpriced right-of way-payments for Villar’s real estate.

The report recommended that Villar be censured for violating the provisions of the Constitution and the Code of Conduct of Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and for engaging in improper and unethical conduct that damaged the integrity of the Senate.

The report said Villar violated Section 14, Article VI of the Constitution for intervening in the project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for his “pecuniary benefit’’

It noted that Villar had proposed that the extension project “pass through properties of his corporations, which in turn benefited from the use of such road, from the compensation for road right of way, and from the resultant economic development in and increased market value of the vicinity.’’

The report said the senator also violated the conflict-of- interest rule by not divesting himself of his interests in Adelfa Properties, Golden Haven Memorial Park and Azalea Real Estate Corp. (now Brittany Corp.) when it was apparent to him that these corporations had contract with the DPWH for right-of-way acquisition.

Villar was a substantial stockholder of Adelfa Properties, which owns Golden Haven Memorial Park and Azalea Real Estate Corp. and whose properties benefited from right-of-way payments from the diversion of the road project. The companies still have unpaid claims, the report added.

It said Villar violated Sec. 12, Article VI of the Constitution by failing to notify the Senate of a “potential conflict of interest’’ when he proposed an amendment to the 2008 national budget by appropriating P400 million . . . for a project that would benefit his corporations and which amount may be used to pay the claims of his corporations for unpaid road right-of-way compensation.’’

Other findings of the committee included:

* Villar was the proponent of the Las Pinas-Parañaque Link Road Project and the DPWH C5 road extension project which were made to pass through the properties of his corporations “following a curved, instead of a straight alignment.’’

• The alignment of the C5 segment of the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway Project of the Toll Regulatory Board was changed to accommodate the two road projects.

• The properties of Villar’s corporations that were acquired for the Las Piñas-Parañaque link project and the C5 extension project were given zonal valuation for different areas (not the zonal valuation of the area where they were located), jacking up the compensation due them.

But while there was no evidence that Villar had directly participated in the overpricing of his properties, the report said, it was safe to assume that Villar knew about the overpricing.

The report said Villar must have known about it because his corporations stood to gain from the transactions with the government and because of his closeness to Anastacio Adriano Jr., an official of Adelfa Properties, who was directly involved in the transactions.

The committee also found out that Villar had allowed Adriano to propose an amendment to the 2008 national budget.

The report stated that Villar had pushed for the appropriation of P400 million for the C5 road project, when there was no specific program of work for the project and despite the fact that there was already an allocation for the same amount for the project.

The committee learned that the reason for such an amendment was to make available an appropriation for the payment of an outstanding right of way compensation claims of about P200 million.

“As admitted by Adriano, it was in the interest of the corporations of Senator Villar to be paid for such road right of way. This interest may be opposed to or affected by the faithful performance of official duty on the part of Senator Villar who has the power to appropriate public funds by proposing amendments to the national budget,’’ the report said, adding:

“As it happened, Senator Villar used that power to satisfy the interest of his corporations. He did not therefore only violate the conflict of interest rule, thus violating Section 9 in relation to Section 3 of RA 6713 but Senator Villar also became directly or indirectly interested financially in such contracts between his corporations and the DPWH, hence violating Section 14, Article VI of the Constitution.’’

Noting that Villar had proposed the C5 project when he was still a member of the House of Representatives, he “continued to fund’’ the project when he was already a senator, or chair of the finance committee or Senate president and “yet did not disclose his pecuniary interest as so required by the Constitution.”

The committee found the senator funded the two projects chargeable against “various infrastructure, including local projects –nationwide’’ or against the Priority Development Assistance Fund authorized by the national budget from 2001 to 2008.

The report said the committee “takes official notice’’ of Senate resolution no. 1472, which was filed on Nov. 16, 2009, by 12 senators, which intended to express the sense of the Senate to dismiss the complaint against Villar.

The resolution was signed by Villar, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., and Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Lito Lapid, Gregorio Honasan II, Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Ramon Revilla Jr., Loren Legarda, and Francis Pangilinan.

But Estrada had said he would withdraw his signature from the resolution because it was released before the committee report.

A source in the Senate confirmed on Sunday night that the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s copy of the draft report was authentic.

But in a radio interview on Sunday over dzBB, Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile said 12 senators would have to sign the draft committee report for it to be brought to the plenary.

Villar was investigated by the committee in June 2009 on allegations that he was behind the double funding of the P200-million extension project in the 2008 national budget and the diversion of the road so as to benefit his real estate business.

The report was released before Congress took its holiday break last month so as to get the signature of senators. It needs the signature of the majority of senators or 12 for it to be reported out in the plenary.

Otherwise, Enrile said, there will be no report on the issue.

“But it will be part of the records of the Senate,’’ he told dzBB radio. “If someone wants a copy, he could make a formal request.’’

He shrugged off the Senate resolution that was filed in November last year that saw initially 12 senators saying that Villar was innocent of the charges filed against him by Sen. Ana Consuelo “Jamby’’ Madrigal .

The Senate president asked why senators signed the resolution when the committee report on the matter had not yet been released at that time.

Enrile had the committee report circulated for signature when Congress took its holiday break in December 2009.

Speaking for Villar, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano declined to discuss the content of the draft report as he stressed that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had instructed senators not to discuss the report to the media.

“Until the report is signed by majority of the senators, it’s nothing but a piece of paper,’’ Cayetano said in a phone interview.

He asked why the report was leaked to the media when he stressed it was not an official document.

But he said that generally, the release of the report for signature of the senators was questionable.

Cayetano said it came at a time “when the survey period is coming out.’’

“The report was released when the numbers of Sen. Benigno Aquino III and Sen. Villar are close together,’’ he said.