Enrico Echiverri

Villar to Noynoy: Come clean on Luisita

Villar to Noynoy: Come clean on Luisita
By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star

BANGUI, Ilocos Norte , Philippines  – The word war rages between the Liberals and the Nacionalistas.

Nacionalista Party (NP) presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. yesterday reiterated his challenge to Liberal Party (LP) presidential bet Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to reveal the truth behind the massacre of seven farmers in the family-owned Hacienda Luisita in 2004.

Villar challenged Aquino to accompany him to Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and show the scene where the farmers were killed.

Villar said he wanted to see for himself the vast tracts of land that the Cojuangco family has refused to distribute to thousands of tenants in the sprawling estate.

Some of the victims in the massacre were workers at the plantation, he said.

Villar also challenged Aquino to point out the land of the hacienda that was appropriated to the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX).

Villar noted the controversy surrounding the government purchase in 1999 of 83 hectares of the hacienda where the SCTEX would pass through.

Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla has alleged the Arroyo administration and the Aquino-Cojuangco clan of Tarlac agreed to an “overpriced” purchase of land from the 6,400-hectare hacienda for the right-of-way for the SCTEX.

Remulla said the government paid P83 million for the purchase of the right-of-way and poured in another P170 million for the construction of a road interchange in the middle of the sprawling sugar estate.

Remulla said the government agreed to buy 83 hectares of Luisita land at P100 per square meter, which he claimed was more than 10 times the going rate of P6 to P8 per square meter for similar raw sugar lands in Concepcion and San Miguel, Tarlac.

There were calls last month for Aquino to shed light on accusations that he lobbied for the SCTEX to pass the Cojuangco-owned property. He was also challenged to give up his share of earnings from the right-of-way payment.

“I still wonder why the SCTEX was allowed to pass through the hacienda,” Villar said.

Villar also dared Aquino to prove the “Villarroyo” allegations suggesting he was the secret candidate of President Arroyo.

Villar claimed it is Aquino who has links to Mrs. Arroyo since many of his relatives are key officials in the government.

He named Interior Undersecretary Margarita Cojuangco, who heads the Philippine Public Safety College; Secretary Tessie Aquino Oreta, who heads the Early Childhood Care and Development Council; and Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara, the President’s image consultant.

Paul Aquino, who is now the chief political officer in Noynoy’s campaign, was the CEO of Energy Development Corp. before it was privatized in 2007. It used to be a subsidiary of the state firm Philippine National Oil Co.

Former environment secretary Eleazar Quinto, a son-in-law of Kashiwahara, is currently the director general of the Presidential Coalition Affairs Office under the Office of the President.

In sharp contrast, there is not a single Villar relative now employed in the Arroyo administration, he said.

At the same time, Villar lashed out at his critics for sowing intrigue over the recent alliances forged by the NP with local officials belonging to Lakas.

He said the LP also accommodated some Lakas-Kampi-CMD members.

“Why question the shift of support of some members of the administration party to the NP when the LP itself benefited from the same last year? Once again, we can see how dirty the LP plays its politics,” Villar said.

Villar said several Lakas stalwarts that include Caloocan City Mayor Enrico Echiverri; Alaminos, Pangasinan Mayor Hernani Braganza; Cavite Gov. Ayong Maliksi; the Osmeñas in Cebu and Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco, among others, had moved to LP.

He said the NP raised no malice for those who joined LP but it was the other way around for those joining the NP.

“Now that administration party members have stopped going to LP and started trooping to the NP, they counter by sowing intrigues that we have an alliance with Malacañang. This is just plain hypocrisy and sourgraping at the highest level,” he said.