Senator Pangilinan sees food crisis as Farmers getting fewer

Pangilinan said the key to encouraging new blood in the agricultural sector was to improve support to farmers so that they could increase their income.

He favored the strengthening of the local government’s role in agricultural productivity because the local executives know the needs of their farmers.

“I am more partial to the idea of just letting the [Department of Agriculture] set the policy direction and then let the local governments implement [that policy],” Pangilinan said.

The local governments’ capacity building should be improved so that they can provide the right agricultural extension services to farmers, he said.

Economists and experts said the Philippine government’s weak extension service is one of the reasons for the low yield in the farm sector.

Read more from

A Philippines that Works: Economic Vision and Platform

Speech by Senator Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III delivered on January 21, 2010 before the members of the Makati Business Club at the Peninsula Manila Hotel, Makati City

Four-part video of the speech, courtesy of NoyTV on YouTube:





A Philippines That Works Economic Vision and Platform

Officers and members of the Makati Business Club, Your Excellencies of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen, my friends and countrymen.

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to address you. I trust your asking me first is not based on alphabetical order, or based on age, but perhaps, based on who you think will most likely win the coming election.

As managers, you recognize that one of the necessary skills of an effective manager is time management. Is it possible that you have invited me to determine if there is still a necessity to spend time with the others?

Baka naman inuna niyo ako upang malaman kung sapat na ako at hindi na kailangang pansinin yung iba?

I think we are all aware of the problems facing our country. We share the same statistics. We probably even share the same conclusions about the need for better governance. To rehash all of these problems at this forum would be a waste of your time. But what we have now is an opportunity for you to get to know me, to find out the advocacies that I champion, the perspective and philosophies I bring to the equation and some of my proposed solutions to give an insight into my inner persona.

Levity aside, the political exercise that we will engage in this May is a crucial one. It will be, as it is for every fledgling democracy, a test of the strength of our political institutions. The peaceful transition of power has become a symbol of political maturity across the world, with many still failing to achieve the credibility that is the cornerstone of a genuine political mandate. With the electoral scandals that have stalled our democratic progress as of late, it is not a test that we can afford to fail.

We have an administration whose mandate is clouded in doubt and overshadowed by allegations of fraud because it refused every opportunity to clear the air and be held to account. Its choices have limited its decision-making to seeking ways to ensure day-to-day political survival and self-interest. We must now become a government committed to accountability. A government that works with the people in achieving long-term change.

We must make the shift from bare economic survival to robust economic growth. We must make the change from treading water to keep afloat, to reaching that promised shore where we can all stand tall as healthy, happy, educated and responsible fellow citizens.

But why does transformation seem like such an impossible dream?

Isa sa mga tema ng ating kalaban, yung “ang pagbabago, madaling sabihin yan pero mahirap gawin,” is probably echoed by a lot of Filipinos. The oft-repeated question is, why can’t we advance? Why can’t we progress? What is it in us that limits or prohibits our growth as a people and as a country?

All of you are aware that most of the contenders have had years, possibly even decades, of preparation for this electoral exercise. I had no such ambitions to run in the 2010 elections but I responded to the people’s clamor. I am but the face of what we believe is the overwhelming demand of our people to repudiate everything wrong in the current administration.

Given that I only announced my decision to seek the presidency on September 9, and I only came to that decision the day before, I have not had material time comparable to our opponents. What is perplexing is that viewing the same problems, and having access to the same data for the most part, we believe the solutions have been there all along, and necessitate only clear political will to execute. But most of our opponents seem to indicate the contrary opinion that there is very little that we can do to change the situation. One has to wonder: did they overstudy the problem, or are they committed to preserving the status quo?

If the leader is not convinced that change is not only necessary, but extremely possible, how does he lead us to the promised land?

What is it that we want to change?

We want to repair the damage that has been wrought on our democratic institutions by those who have sought to manipulate them for their own selfish ends.

We want to improve the situation of our people, who have suffered years of neglect because of a self-absorbed leadership obsessed with political survival.

They are poor. Many of them are homeless. Each year, we add some 2.5 million mouths to feed to our already hungry population. Of these new additions, one third were the result of unplanned pregnancies. We have a growing underclass that statistics tell us have given up looking for work. A permanent underclass that includes the five million of our countrymen that are illiterate, which means their opportunities in life will always be limited to living hand-to-mouth.

We want to give our young the opportunity and means to improve their lot in life.

It can only begin if our children and their parents are assured that money spent on education is money well spent. Unfortunately, students are at the mercy of our decrepit education system that allows double shifting, erroneous textbooks and substandard nursing schools to exist. No less than DepEd officials admitted that students in Grade 1 take three subjects in one class period. We have a procurement program so heedless of the need for excellence that it doesn’t care if it produces a textbook series riddled with 500 factual errors. For every hundred kids that start grade school with the hope of achieving their dreams, only fourteen will graduate from college and possess a tangible means to materially improve their lives.

To my mind, the crucial, lacking element in all these is a government committed to a transformation: from a society overwhelmingly poor to one overwhelmingly middle class. In every developed, progressive, prosperous democracy, it is the middle class that is the biggest class. Government, for one, has failed to make the conceptual leap from patronage to development. Efforts at feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, providing basic care to the sick, and offering a quality education aren’t only the people’s rights; they are the essential tools for individual self-improvement.

In 1998, when I first campaigned for office, one lady bluntly told me that regardless of who is elected, things would remain the same for her.

What did she mean?

That she was poor to begin with; that she would remain poor, and in fact, she would be lucky if she didn’t end up poorer, after the candidates leave office.

This brings up the question at the forefront of the minds of our countrymen still undecided on whom to vote for, and pursued by my critics. If this is a time that calls for national transformation, am I qualified to be that transformative leader? Having answered the call of duty, can I ask you or anyone to entrust me with your vote, on faith alone? Never having sought the presidency, I preferred to do my duty and not seek the limelight. Now that I have been thrust in the limelight, it is only fair to answer the question: before you tell us what we can do, what have you done?

I have always believed that the job of an effective legislator goes beyond merely proposing laws, for what are laws but written agreements entered into by members of society on how to harmonize their mutual relations? In fact, I do not believe that we suffer from the problem of too few laws. One of my proposed measures was the recodification of laws, in response to an appeal from the legal community to put some order into our laws, their amendments and those that have been repealed, because even our lawyers are at times confused.

Consider the recent controversy over who gets to appoint the next Chief Justice. We maintain that there are no ifs and buts in Article 7 Section 15 of the Constitution where it states that the current President cannot appoint anybody within two months prior to a presidential election up to the end of her term. An exemption exists, but it applies only for positions in the Executive Department. Yet you have two retired justices arguing exactly the opposite. How can former justices of the Supreme Court be so seemingly confused, when the fact is that the provision regarding presidential appointments is stated clearly in the law?

Our problem is the lack of political will to faithfully implement the many world-class laws that our legislature has passed. A preference for ambiguity even when times call for clarity, leads to artificial controversies. Insecure or overly ambitious leaders need to create a climate of doubt, because it’s in the grey areas that its ambitions thrive.

It is in addressing this problem that I focused on the fiscalizing aspect of a legislator’s job – on Congress’ oversight and investigative functions.

Consider intelligence funds. In the proposed 2010 budget, a total of 1.4 billion was allocated to confidential and intelligence funds.

Woodrow Wilson once wrote that oversight is always preferable to investigation, which is like putting out a fire instead of preventing one. We proposed that if the Executive wants orderly transactions, at least a few members of Congress should be privy to all of the details to determine if they were spent properly. However, this proposal was dismissed out of hand without even a single hearing for the reason that they undermined the Executive’s privileges.

And yes, the investigations were a vital part of my functions, too. I don’t think anyone will begrudge me my efforts in this regard. From Hello Garci and the impeachments, to NBN-ZTE and the fertilizer scam, I did my duty at the forefront of these issues.

The original design of the NBN-ZTE project required a BOT agreement between government and the supplier, not a government loan. But during the NBN-ZTE hearings, we learned that the project was entered into through a government loan despite instructions to the contrary from no less than the President herself. The cost of the intended government loan was P40 billion, (in which P16 billion was for the backbone and P24 billion was for the CyberEd project.) Jun Lozada belied this when he cited P5 billion as the actual cost of the entire project. Ito yung sinasabi niyang kalakaran ng gobyerno, kung saan sa sobrang laki ng patong, bubukol na.

SCTEx took around 8 years to construct before it finally opened. Projects of this scale normally require two years to complete. Furthermore, when SCTEx finally became operational, it was found that the central hub, which was Clark, did not have an exit, excluding Clark from the Subic Clark Tarlac expressway itself. How can one justify these kinds of delays where opportunities are lost, costs have escalated and the people’s burdens, instead of being reduced, end up being compounded?

My active role in these congressional hearings has put me at odds with the administration. In 2005, it cost me my post as Deputy Speaker. It continues to put me at odds with the coalition of self-interest that currently holds power. It puts me at odds with other candidates for the presidency.

To lead transformation, you cannot be part of the problem. As I said when I accepted the people’s draft, the job of chief executive is about the efficient allocation of resources. If you have hogged those resources for yourself, if you have lied, cheated, and stolen to gain power, how can you be trusted to lead the transformation our country needs?

Going back on the issue of appointing a Chief Justice prior to the forthcoming elections. If we are to transform the country, it begins with doing what we can, now, to limit the damage and give our people a fighting chance to rebuild our damaged institutions. The Constitution imposes a blanket prohibition with few exceptions concerning midnight appointments. A candidate cannot ask for the people’s mandate, pledging to improve the situation tomorrow, if he becomes complicit in worsening the situation today.

Hindi naman mahirap gawin ang tama. Alam naman ng lahat yan eh. Wala namang magic, wala namang sikreto. Pero bakit pilit pa ring ginagawa ang mali?

There is a widespread perception that success in the business milieu can almost be directly correlated to your closeness to the powers-that-be. Because of this, some players in the industry are forced to focus their activities on maintaining relationships in order to retain the favors that they receive in exchange for cultivating that relationship. This has fostered the wrong kind of competitiveness. While it may work, locally, for now, it has not enabled these players to become competitive in the world market, where the rules of the game do not take special relationships into consideration.

We will encourage free and fair competition in a level playing field. One not need be a crony in order to succeed in the field of business. More importantly, government will not compete with business. Nor will government use its regulatory powers to extort, intimidate and harass.

We will transform our systems to foster service to the public instead of making citizens jump through hoops. We will streamline the approval process, not only for setting up new businesses but also in the regular day-to-day transactions with government, such as the payment of taxes. We will do this on a national as well as the local level.

In 2010, our next President will inherit a continually bloating deficit. As of November 2009, the deficit of the national government already reached P272.5 billion, or 4.1% of GDP.

In addressing the looming fiscal crisis, good governance and the drive against corruption are critical components in our strategy. We will refrain from imposing new taxes or increasing tax rates.

I strongly believe that we can collect more taxes at the BIR and higher duties at Customs if we become more serious in curbing and punishing tax evasion and smuggling. The BIR’s collection dropped by 5.5%, while that of Customs declined by 16.6%. This is the first time in recent history that absolute revenues have actually declined.

Our initial focus then will be to capture a good part of the revenue leaks caused by smuggling and evasion. In this effort, we will not be starting from zero. Be assured that those smugglers and evaders are not faceless and unknown entities. The ideas to improve tax administration and to control smuggling have been there for some time and some programs have been initiated in the past. One of these successful programs was the RATE or Run After Tax Evaders. In fact, some of the people at the Department of Finance and the BIR who have tried to implement reforms before are with us now, and together with reform-minded career executives, we intend to put their commitment and talents to good use under my administration.

My vision is to transform our country into one where we have lower tax rates enjoyed by all, rather than have some enjoy absolute tax exemptions while we burden the rest of the economy with very high tax rates. I believe that markets are better than government in spotting where the growth opportunities are, and, with universal low tax rates, we will encourage entrepreneurs and enterprises to invest and create jobs in any industry. We will, therefore, pursue the rationalization of fiscal incentives early in my administration.

There is a lot of room for our revenue base to grow. Our tax effort has gone down from 17% at its peak to a worrisome 13% today. If we can only bring this back even to just the 15% level, that will translate to P150 billion in additional revenues, which would make a significant dent in cutting our deficit.

My budget team estimates that for 2009 alone, around P280 billion of our national budget was lost to corruption. If we take the years 2002 to 2009 the total estimates exceed one trillion. Estimates vary, but everyone agrees that the numbers are huge.

If we agree that change is necessary, how can a Presidential aspirant, whose own financial and political ethics are questionable, be effective in leading transformation as the head of the bureaucracy? How can a leader, who is benefiting from the status quo, be able to restore a civic sense and pride in our citizenry? The leader, who has used public office for private gain, will always be the most committed enemy of change.

Rich or poor alike, we have a tangible experience of the sorry state of public infrastructure at present: traffic, which eats up time, which as the saying goes, is money. Railways are built at bloated cost; urban transport is constructed, but not enough trains are on track. Our people are the first to experience the effect of something that works and conversely, something that is badly done because bad intentions handicapped the project from the start.

It is time that our infrastructure agencies and LGUs transform into cooperative ventures with the private sector by bringing forth an agreed public infrastructure program, based on a cohesive plan that optimizes the value of the entire network. In our conversations with members of the private sector, there has been a lot of positive feedback about possibly working with government on this endeavor.

To transform infrastructure projects from sources of waste and scandal into examples of cooperation and efficiency, we will set objective criteria for different types of projects and develop a scorecard that will assess various projects against benchmarks transparent to the public.

Initially we want our infrastructure program to transform from being the means to enrich a few, to being labor-intensive and biased for employment as a means to pump-prime the economy.

When I read about countries that have invested in their agriculture sectors and succeeded, it always pains me to find that these countries – Vietnam and Thailand, to name just a couple – had started by sending their experts to be educated in the Philippines. It seems that we cannot implement among ourselves the lessons we successfully imparted to experts from elsewhere. This will have to change. We must be able to harness our homegrown talent in order to further our local industries.

When we change administrations, there must be a complete review of all the programs in the Department of Agriculture. We can do a lot for our farmers given the present budget of the Department if we eliminate the leaks and focus on the efficient use of resources. For example, we must stop eating up millions in mere administrative costs as in the case of NABCOR, which charged our government P60 million because it served as a useless conduit to regional offices. We will also support efforts such as supply chain management that minimizes losses, creates jobs, consults with stakeholders, and capitalizes on our competitive advantage.

Our core belief is that the current approach to governance and power must change. That is why our terms of reference always begin with the present government, what it has done, and how different our institutions and our nation must be six years from June 30, 2010.

In a small-scale operation it is easy for everyone involved to visualize that entity as the combination of their collective efforts. As opposed to, say, when you are a bigger firm, and there is the management side and there is the labor side. In Tagalog, it’s even more dramatic. Kayo at kami, sa halip na tayo.

We must find a unity that transcends the divisions of today, based on a shared commitment to transforming our country into one that works: One where traffic flows well, garbage is collected efficiently, crimes are solved, justice is served, and our kids are educated properly. It works in the sense that you do not have to flee the country to move up in the world, improve your lot in life, and rise to the highest level your personal merits can achieve.

We are a nation of sacrifice, of diligence, dedication and, idealism, because we are a people imbued with compassion even when we have officials who lie, cheat, and steal. Our faith teaches us that we are our brother’s keeper. Our logic should tell us that in taking care of others, their growth equals our own.

In the movie “Invictus,” Nelson Mandela says, “In order to rebuild our nation, we must exceed our own expectations.” It requires us to insist, always, that we are not a nation of crooks, of thieves, of murderers who get off scot-free and where justice is won by the highest bidder.

In May, you will be asked to make a choice. Will you choose transformation and change or will you choose to uphold the status quo?

We have already made our choice. Ours is a journey towards transformation. I ask you today to join us in this journey now.

Thank you.

[Archived from the official campaign web site of President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III]

Transcript of BSAIII speech before filing his certificate of candidacy

Transcript of the Speech of Senator Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III Before Filing His Certificate of Candidacy for President (November 28, 2009)

Transcript of Speech Before Filing of Certificate of Candidacy

Napansin ko po, hindi nababati ng maayos ang ating mga kasanggang matibay tulad ni Mayor Lim, na nandito po sa entablado.

Nandiyan po si Mayor Aro Mendoza ng Tarlac City!

Nandiyan po si Vice Governor Mark Leviste ng Batangas, matanda lang po ng konti sa akin yan.

Alam ho ninyo ang problema ko, ay mahaba-haba sana yung sasabihin ko sa inyo. Tapos sabi sa akin, paki bilisan ninyo one minute lang kayo at baka magsara yung Comelec.

Ito po ang listahan ng babatiin ko halos naging baliktaran sa papel, tsaka ko na po kayo babatiin kapag mas mahaba ang oras.

Simple lang po ang mensahe natin itong araw na ito: Diyan po sa Manila Cathedral, tatlong buwan pa lang po halos ang lumipas noong atin pong ina ay nandiyan at dadalhin na po sa huling hantungan. Marami pong problema na bumabalot sa aking kaisipan. Unang una na ho doon, wala na po ang ating pinuno, paano kaya natin maibabalik sa liwanag ang ating bansa? Kulang siguro sa tulog kaya’t hindi ko nakita kaagad yung mga sagot. Nakita po natin yung apat na sundalo nandoon sa taas ng truck. Sila ho ay hindi magkakasama sa isang unit at tsaka yung isa po ay miyembro ng kapulisan. Sila ho ay hindi nagtraining para sa trabahong iyon na sinabihan silang siyam na oras kayong hindi puwede kumilos. Pero yung Pilipino ho, tulad noong apat na iyon, bigyan lamang ng pagkakataon, maliwanag kung ano ang tama, gagawin ang tama – yun po ang solusyon natin.

Itong araw pong ito ihahain natin yung ating certificate of candidacy. Ito po siguro ang unang hakbang sa huling yugto ng ipinaglalaban natin. At ano nga ba ang pinaglalaban natin? Kapag tayo po, sa tulong ninyo, ay pinalad, yung pataba po, ang tataba halaman hindi na po yung mga tiwaling kawani ng gobyerno.

Magkakaroon din po ng sistema ng gobyerno na hindi nagpapahintulot o nakapapayag ng nangyaring karumaldumal na nangyari sa Maguindanao, hindi na po pupuwede iyan. Magkakaroon na tayo ng katiyakan na kaparusahan kapag may nilabag ka sa batas natin, iyan po ay itaga na natin sa bato.

Ipinaglalaban din po natin na lahat ng Pilipinong gustong matuto, may pagkakataon para matuto. Ang Pilipinong gustong magkaroon ng trabahong may dangal, magkakaroon ng trabahong may dangal.

Ang Pilipino pong may karamdaman, aarugain ng estado, obligasyon po iyan ng estado. Lahat po iyan, kaya nating makamtan, dahil ako po ay naniniwala sa bansa po natin. Sa singkuwentang porsyento na binubungkal na lupa, hindi ho tamang may nagugutom sa Pilipinas. Kailangan lang po gawin natin yung tama, babawasan natin ng babawasan ang nagugutom at talagang papunta na tayo sa kasaganaan, dahil gagawin po natin ang tama.

Malapit na po tayong senyasan. Baka sabihin sa atin ay malapit na ang lunch break sa Comelec.

Ang importante lang po sa akin na maiwan sa inyo sa araw na ito ay isang bagay:

Yung mga kalaban natin ang daming ipinagyayabang. Lahat na po sila ay ipinagsama-sama ko na. Pare-pareho silang gusto pa ring ipagpatuloy ang paglilinlang, yung pandaraya. Ang sagot ko lang sa kanila: Sige na pumutak na kayo ng pumutak. Sige na magtext brigade na kayo, mag-internet pa kayo. Sige na bilhin na ninyo ang lahat ng commercial na puwede ninyong bilhin.

Pero ang taong bayan, sa akin pong pananaw ay gising na, mulat na at sawa na sa inyo! Papasalamatan ko nalang ho kayong lahat.

Mga kapatid, talagang noong iniisip natin ito, ang dami kong problemang nakikita sabi ko, “Paano nga ba natin malalaktawan iyan?”

At yung sagot po pabalikbalik, simple lang pala, habang nandiyan ang taong bayan maski anong problema kaya nating laktawan. Ang tagumpay po buwan na lang ang pinag-uusapan, ke nandoon ako, ke wala ho ako dito, sigurado po ako itong ating krusada, magpapatuloy at magtatagumpay dahil lahat po kayo ay nandito.

Kaya’t magandang umaga pong muli at maraming salamat sa inyo!

[Archived from the official campaign web site of President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III]

Sumilao farmers back Noynoy's candidacy

Sumilao farmers back Noynoy’s candidacy

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—While some farmers from Hacienda Luisita are criticizing Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III for his family’s non-distribution of the plantation’s land, another group of farmers pushing for agrarian reform is backing up his presidential candidacy.

Farmers from Sumilao, Bukidnon were present at Aquino’s campaign rally in Cagayan de Oro Tuesday, where some of them even lit torches for the Liberal Party standard bearer.

Sumilao farmers join others in holding torches as a show of support during Aquino’s campaign rally in Cagayan de Oro. Johanna Camille Sisante

The Sumilao farmers gained nationwide attention in late 2007 when they marched all the way from Bukidnon in Mindanao to Manila to push for their claim to their land. (See: Sumilao farmers return to a tearful reunion in hometown)

They also held hunger strikes for their land in 1997, and last year to push for the passage of the measure extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Act (CARP) until 2014.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Sumilao farmers said they are supporting the candidacies of Aquino and Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, who is running under the LP’s senatorial slate. Baraquel is one of the main proponents of the CARP extension with reforms (CARPER) law. (See: Arroyo signs CARP extension bill into law)

The Sumilao farmers said they are backing up Aquino despite the Hacienda Luisita controversy hounding him and the Cojuangcos.

“The Sumilao farmers are confident that the former will help put a close to this matter through a just and legal resolution, in consultation with the Luisita farmers-stakeholders themselves,” the statement read.

“The Sumilao farmers note that among the presidential candidates, only Senator Aquino has expressly pronounced that he will be seeing CARP to its completion,” it said.

Aquino had earlier vowed to ensure the distribution of Hacienda Luisita land by 2014 after all its debts were settled. Luisita spokesman Antonio Ligon said Aquino’s wishes regarding the fate of Luisita will be followed if he is elected. (See: If elected, Noynoy’s wishes will be followed, says Luisita spokesman) —Johanna Camille Sisante/JV, GMANews.TV

How Villar built business empire with deceit, corruption: ex-lawyer

How Villar built business empire with deceit, corruption: ex-lawyer
By Aries Rufo

First of 3 Parts

MANILA, Philippines – Octogenarian Maxima Policarpio had spent most of her life in the mountains of Norzagaray, a small town in Bulacan, near the foothills of the Sierra Madre. She had hoped to spend the twilight of her life there in peace and quiet, tending a tiny vegetable garden and surrounded by fruit-bearing trees she had planted many years ago.

Related Stories:

PART 2 of 3: Villar firm faked titles through ‘layering’: ex-lawyer
SIDEBAR: The man who turned his back on Villar
PROFILE: The man who turned his back on Villar
INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: How Villar company obtained titles to contested land
SIDEBAR: Imus Estate land key to Villar-Ayala deal

Last February, despite her age, she left the comfort of her town and braved Quezon City’s noise, pollution and confusion to join dozens of Norzagaray farmers seeking attention to the imminent loss of their ancestral lands. “I am here to protect my land. I may be old, but I still have rights.”

“We are up against an influential person,” she said.

That person is presidential aspirant and billionaire Senator Manuel Villar Jr.

Represented by a counsel, the farmers detailed how they lost their ancestral lands, in the blink of an eye, to companies connected with Villar.

They also told of harassment efforts to force them to leave their lands.

“Before, we would wake up and see all those crops pulled out from the soil. They would do it at night. We were helpless. Some of them were armed. What would you do? We would just put back the plants,” Inocencia Pascual, 67, said.

The harassment, however, stopped as the election season neared. And they knew it is only a respite. “Tapos kami pag nanalo sya (We’re finished if he wins),” Pascual said.

Contested land

Court records show that the contested land in Norzagaray is supposedly now the property of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas after it was mortgaged in 2001 by two companies where Villar’s wife, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, has a stake.

The two companies–Capitol Development Bank (now Optimum Development Bank) and Manila Brickworks–defaulted on a P1.5 billion loan it secured from BSP in April 1998 following the financial crisis that hit Asian countries. The money was allegedly spent to finance the House Speakership bid that year of Villar, who was then a congressman.

Yet, documents gathered by Newsbreak show that the two companies acquired possession of the ancestral lands through fraud and manipulative layering scheme.

It appears that the Villars brought to life the defunct Manila Brickworks out of nowhere to act as the original owner of the contested land. Fake Transfer Certificates of Titles (TCTs) were produced in connivance with the Malolos Registry of Deeds to show possession of property.

Court records in Bulacan show that Manila Brickworks was originally owned by Puyat Enterprises and had claimed possession of the property in the 70s. Poultry houses were put up by Puyat Enterprises but abandoned the area after some time.

After years of inactivity, Manila Brickworks resurfaced in 1998 with new incorporators that interlocked with those of Capitol Development Bank.

Capitol Bank, which had financial problems attributed to the financial crisis, eventually sold select assets to Yuchengco-led RCBC Savings Bank to pay off some obligations, then was renamed  Optimum Development Bank. (Initially, we reported that Capitol Bank was closed. It was not. – Eds)

In June 2001, Optimum signed a deed of real estate mortgage over the questioned property in favor of BSP to secure Capitol and Manila Brickworks’ unpaid loans.

The conveyance of land titles, coupled with fake ones, from one alleged owner to another, creates different layers that were used as an argument to legitimize property acquisition.

This has been the standard operating procedure of Villar’s lawyers and companies to acquire government and previously awarded lands, according to a lawyer formerly employed by the Nacionalista Party bet.

Pandora’s box of testimony

The man who turned his back on Villar

Lawyer Restituto Mendoza is seeking restitution for his sins of commission and omission as a former employee of Senator Manuel Villar Jr’s. housing empire.

Mendoza has filed a labor complaint before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) for his alleged illegal dismissal after refusing the game that Villar’s senior officers play.

In his complaint, he wrote that he turned a blind eye and deaf ears to the mischief that his employers were getting into and how they get out of trouble. But an unexpected twist of events made him see the light.

He is waging a lonely battle against the billionaire and his senior officers.

His labor complaint is also a tell-all account on how the businesses of Villar acquired land for property development. Read more

The Norzagaray land case is just one of the many legal cases faced by Villar’s real estate empire, which was spawned by the production and sale of affordable houses.

Interviews with different sources and documents show his companies have been fending off legal disputes, mostly land grabbing cases, like the Norzagaray case.

In 2004, Villar hired Atty. Restituto Mendoza to handle problematic raw land cases for Household Development Corp., one of the firms under his real estate empire.

Mendoza has a pending complaint before the National Labor Relations Commission for illegal dismissal. Named respondents were Villar, his flagship real estate firm Vista Land and Lifescapes Inc., Casa Regalia, Adelfa Properties and lawyers and officers of the companies. Newsbreak obtained a copy of the complaint, including other documents.

In the labor case, Mendoza opened the Pandora’s box of irregularities of Villar’s businesses, practices and ethics. It was a tell-all testimony, bordering on violating the lawyer-client privilege, as he accused Villar of bribery, corruption, deceit and fraud in rebuilding his empire from bankruptcy.

Mendoza charged Villar on the ground that he is well aware of the practices of the firms’ senior officers—from paying off government officials and judges to faking titles—to skirt potential legal issues. Mendoza said Villar is a hands-on manager, supposedly even concerned about where to put trash cans in the subdivision projects.

Newsbreak sought to corroborate Mendoza’s serious allegations, which included duping another land developer, Ayala Land, and an alleged attempt to bribe Customs officials to release an undervalued crane imported by his company, MGS Corp. (Details in Part 3 of the series, to be published on April 14.) We found some corroborative documents and information to back up Mendoza’s claims.

Ayala Land, which got questionable titles as in exchange for a previous P300 million loan from a Villar firm, has yet to reply to our query as of this posting. (Read: Imus Estate land key to Villar-Ayala deal)

Customs officials, on the other hand, provided data of the botched importation. (Details in Part 3)

Violation of lawyer-client relationship

Villar’s chief legal officer, Ma. Nalen Rosero-Galang, who has been countering the land grabbing complaints hurled against Villar since the campaign began, dismissed Mendoza’s stories and narration as “all lies.” In an interview with Newsbreak, Galang said she is “shocked of Mendoza’s allegations.”

Galang pointed out that Mendoza took five years to come out and expose the unethical practices of Villar’s businesses.

“I would have wanted to ignore him so as not to dignify his claims,” Galang said in an interview. Besides, she added that Mendoza’s claims would not have been admissible in court since “it violates the lawyer-client relationship.”

“Actually I pity him, since no one would want to hire him as a lawyer after this,” she added.

We also sought to interview Mendoza, but he begged off, saying his complaint would suffice. Mendoza was dismissed in May last year and filed his complaint in August.

The C-5 controversy

In his complaint, Mendoza mentioned some of the properties that benefitted from the controversial C5 road extenstion project. The road traversed through 50-52 hectares of Villar’s property holdings.

Villar’s peers in the Senate conducted ethics committee hearings. In a report, the senators found Villar guilty of conflict of interest when he supposedly benefited from the P6.96 billion road project. A public works feasibility study stated that Villar conceived and funded the project.

Mendoza provided the context in the arrangement between two real estate properties associated with Villar. Masaito Development Corp and Adelfa Properties supposedly swapped properties affected by the C5 road extension.

Based on documents submitted by Mendoza to the NLRC, it was Villar’s Adelfa Properties that initiated the arrangement with Masaito. Adelfa then claimed the bulk of expropriation proceeds from the Masaito property.

The agreement stated Masaito would only get only P7 million while Adelfa would get the remainder, amounting to P15 million.

A total of P168.1 million was paid by the government for the right of way involving Villar’s properties while only P22 million for non-Villar properties.

And yet, based on Mendoza’s claims on the Masaito agreement, through careful planning and foresight, Villar even got proceeds from his supposed non-properties.

Why would Masaito agree to swap properties with Adelfa if it would be paid for the right of way anyway? Was government informed about the swap or was there an attempt to cloak it through internal arrangement?

Internal arrangement

A source familiar with the case said that Villar’s senior officers had anticipated the road extension would pass through the Masaito properties. The properties were raw lands at that time and would have commanded low zonal valuation.

Yet, through connections in the DPWH and the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Masaito property was valued at P30,000 per square meter, a “unique” situation that Adriano told the Senate since it was the only property that commanded that high price.

In the Senate probe, former revenue district officer Carmelita Bacod admitted that the valuation was “grossly disadvantageous to the government.”

The source explained that Masaito knew it would only get a lower zonal valuation and thus, lower payment for its properties, if only government would have its way. Entering into an agreement would be a win-win situation for both Adelfa and Masaito—the former gets a portion of the right of way payment without essentially losing with its property while the latter gets the bulk of the proceeds.

To facilitate the agreement, Masaito and Adelfa signed a memorandum of undertaking (MOU) where they agreed to open a joint bank account at the Landbank where expropriation proceeds would be deposited. Adelfa president Jerry Navarette and Masaito president Joseph Wang would be the joint signatories.

After the first tranche of P22 million has been deposited, of which P7 million would given to Masaito, Adelfa would assume “sole right” of the remainder of the proceeds, the MOU stated. Navarrete would then be the sole signatory of the Landbank account.

Mendoza said it was the C5 controversy that shattered his respect of Villar. He recalled that he was the one who drafted the Masaito agreement upon hearing Senator Jamby Madrigal mentioning the company. “Evidently, Senator Villar was not telling the truth when he had been consistently denying in public that he and his companies never received a single centavo from the C-5 road extension project,” Mendoza said.

In drafting the Masaito-Adelfa agreement, Mendoza said he “unknowingly had been an instrument of corruption in what is now the C5 road scandal.”

In his Feb. 2 speech before the Senate to rebut the ethics, Villar maintained that he did not financially benefit from the C5 project. “Wala po akong ninakaw sa kaban ng bayan. Wala po akong kasalanan, wala pong anomalya sa C5 project at hindi po ako nakinabang,” Villar said. – With reports and additional research from Althea Teves and Purple Romero,

Villar Took Our Land – Tribesmen

We want to link to the original article but we get a 404 now. It seems that many news articles about the protest are gone now. Why is that?

by People’s Journal

Wednesday, 17 March 2010 19:51

DUMAGAT tribesmen who accused Sen. Manny Villar of grabbing their ancestral lands yesterday held a protest rally in front of the Central Bank and the Laurel Mansion in Mandaluyong City that serves as the campaign headquarters of the Nacionalista Party.

After a long march from Norzagaray, Bulacan to Metro Manila, the farmers claimed that they lost their lands due to the manipulative acts of Villar, presidential bet of the NP.

They picketed in front of the Central Bank to protest the continued disregard by concerned government offices especially the Office of the Ombudsman and Central Bank of the cases they filed against Villar and his wife Cynthia.

“Nananawagan kami para sa mabilis at agarang pag-resolba ng Office of the Ombudsman hinggil sa isinampa naming kaso laban kay Sen.Villar, sa kanyang asawa na si Cynthia at iba pa nilang mga kasapakat sa pang-aagaw sa aming mga minanang lupain,” said Valentino Amador, one of the protest leaders.

On Tuesday, the victims marched from the Department of Agrarian Reform to the Office of the Ombudsman where they demanded immediate resolution of the complaints that they filed against Villar.

They then went to the offices of broadcast giants Channel 2 and 7 to solicit their support for their fight. Afterwards, they went to the NP headquarters to denounce Villar.

They decided to continue their protest march to the Central Bank because it is where Villar and his group reportedly mortgaged their 480 hectares land for P1.5 billion.

They said that they will continue to hold a picket rally in front of CB until they receive concrete commitment and support from the agency.

“Lumalabas kasi na walang pakialam ang Central bank sa aming sinapit at ang importante sa kanila ay ang perang kinita nila bunga ng mapanlinlang na transaksyon na pinasok sa kanila ni Villar,” explained Sergio Cruz, a chieftain of the Dumagat tribe.

The Capitol Development Bank which was owned by the Villar couple and Manila Brickworks, Inc. conspired to mortgage the victims’ properties before the CB using spurious papers and documents.

However, Villar and his group however failed to pay the loans, thus, BSP foreclosed the mortgage and finally acquired the lands in a public auction.

At the time the loans were contracted, Villar was the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Gina Jarvina, one of the aggrieved landowners, said they learned about the manipulative acts of the Villars when BSP personnel visited their area.

Jarvina and Amador filed plunder and graft complaints against the Villars and their accomplices before the Office of the Ombudsman on Sept. 26, 2008. The cases remain pending.

NY Times stands by accuracy of Luisita story

NY Times stands by accuracy of Luisita story
By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—It’s all on tape.

The New York Times Wednesday stood pat on the accuracy and fairness of the paper’s story that quoted a cousin of Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as saying that the Cojuangcos had no intention of leaving Hacienda Luisita.

Aquino, the Liberal Party presidential candidate in the May 10 elections, on Tuesday said that the article “favored one side of the issue.”

“I don’t think it was a fair treatment,” he added, suggesting that the quotes were taken out of context.

“We stand by our story. The interview with Mr. Fernando Cojuangco was recorded. If he wants us to release the tape, we will be more than happy to do so,” said Carlos H. Conde, the newspaper’s local reporter. He said he had been authorized to speak on the matter.

Cojuangco, 47, chief operating officer of the holding company that owns the sugar plantation, was quoted as saying in the interview on Feb. 23 that the family had no intention of giving up the land or the sugar business.

Not out of context

“No, we’re not going to,” Cojuangco was quoted by the Times as saying. “I think it would be irresponsible because I feel that continuing what we have here is the way to go. Sugar farming has to be; it’s the kind of business that has to be done plantation-style.”

Conde said he and NYT Southeast Asia bureau chief Norimitsu Onishi interviewed Cojuangco for an hour and a half at the plantation on Feb 23. He said he reviewed the tape after Aquino disputed the Times story.

“They were not taken out of context,” Conde said. “There were portions of the interview that were off the record but not those quotes.”

Conde said that the Aquino camp had asked for copies of the tape but he said it could only be released to Cojuangco, who had so far not made such a request.

Disputing Aquino’s claim of bias, Conde said, “We included his side in the story and the supposedly good things that had happened in the hacienda which Mr. Cojuangco said.”


Conde said he thought that the article was “evenhanded.”

“I don’t know why he is saying it was unfair,” he said.

Edwin Lacierda, Aquino’s campaign spokesperson, Wednesday said that the senator’s statement was based on what his cousin had told him about the interview. “We have nothing further to say,” he said.

Aquino said in his Tuesday news conference that members of the extended Cojuangco family had agreed in a meeting before he announced he was seeking the highest post in the land in September last year that it was no longer feasible to run the hacienda as a sugar plantation.

“It’s a sunset industry and then there’s politics. So, we are considering many schemes, wherein the debts of the company would be gone and we would be able to transfer the sizeable portion to our farmer beneficiaries,” Aquino said.

“If the significant majority says yes, then the intracorporate dispute is resolved and they can proceed as to the direction of the company they own.”

Case in Supreme Court

Aquino did not spell out the options open to the family, which is battling in the Supreme Court an order from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) rescinding a stock distribution option in lieu of land distribution.

The DAR said that the stock option did not improve the lives of the 10,000 workers of 6,000-hectare hacienda the Cojuangcos acquired in 1957 on a loan guaranteed by the government on condition that the estate be distributed to farmers under the social justice policy of the Ramon Magsaysay administration.

The Aquino family said that the DAR decision was a reprisal after the late President Corazon Aquino, the senator’s mother, had joined calls for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo following revelations in the “Hello Garci” wiretaps that she stole the 2004 elections—a charge she denies.

A five-year extension of the 1988 agrarian reform law signed last year called for the distribution of the remaining 1.2 million hectares of prime agricultural land, including Hacienda Luisita, that had so far escaped coverage through various corporate schemes.

Villar allies slam Aquino over Hacienda Luisita

Villar allies slam Aquino over Hacienda Luisita
By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, the Liberal Party standard-bearer, came under fire Tuesday after his cousin was quoted in The New York Times article published March 14 as saying that the Cojuangco family would not give up Hacienda Luisita.

The distribution of all agricultural lands to farmers—over 1 million hectares in the most productive areas of the country that had not been distributed under the agrarian reform program in the past two decades—is mandated under a new law extending the program for five years and appropriating P150 billion for its implementation.

Hypocrisy, double-speak

Gilbert Remulla, spokesperson of Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Manny Villar, accused Aquino of “political double-speak” over the hacienda issue.

“Senator Aquino says in his latest political ads that he will continue the fight. I think he owes it to the Filipino people to first settle his family’s fight with the farmers and tenants of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac,” said Remulla, also an NP senatorial candidate.

“It is hypocrisy and double-speak, plain and simple,” Remulla said.

“He can no longer evade the issue as he did all these months. For a presidential candidate who is supposedly running on a platform of change, the appalling conditions that pervade in his family’s hacienda and the continuing plight of the farmers and tenants there should be explained and not swept under the rug,” Remulla said.

Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano accused Aquino of “sheer posturing” when he promised on the first day of the campaign to distribute Hacienda Luisita should he win in May.

Mariano said that the remarks made by Aquino’s cousin, Fernando Cojuangco, in The New York Times article showed that the Cojuangcos would “never let loose their stranglehold of the hacienda.”

Mariano warned that Aquino’s posturing would be “a portent of things to come” such as the revival of Kamag-anak Inc. which flourished during his mother’s term.

He also called Aquino “conceited” for “bragging” in a television interview that the Cojuangcos could have made P3 billion from selling the 4,500-ha Luisita for P4.5 billion if his family did not care about the farmers and was only worried about its interests.

License to massacre

“Noynoy wants to make it appear that if not for the self-proclaimed benevolence of the Cojuangco-Aquinos, Luisita farmers would have nothing. The Cojuangco-Aquinos cannot reverse the truth, that they have used this so-called ‘benevolence’ as a license to massacre farmers, exploit and deny them their right to the land,” Mariano said.

“The truth is Luisita farmers were forced, deceived and coerced into agreeing to the onerous and one-sided stock distribution option scheme. This is the ultimate reason why up to now the Cojuangco-Aquinos still control the hacienda.”

Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla, a Villar ally, said he was not surprised by the remarks of Aquino’s cousin.

“That has been expected. He cannot control his family and shows the weakness of a person masquerading as a leader. He cannot stand up to the family patriarch and proves he is not his own man,” Remulla said of Aquino in a text message.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo said Fernando Cojuangco’s statement “defines the basic stand of the clan to hold on to Hacienda Luisita.”

Aquino: NY Times unfairly misquoted cousin on Luisita issue

Aquino: NY Times unfairly misquoted cousin on Luisita issue
By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer

NAGA CITY—Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III Tuesday accused The New York Times of unfairly misquoting his cousin and said that the Cojuangco family had unanimously decided on drastic changes in the operation of Hacienda Luisita.

“It is clear to me and my clan met—all the six families composed of my mother and her siblings’ families were represented—and there was a unanimous decision that we will be at the very minimum changing what is present there,” Aquino said in a press conference at the airport here.

Part of The New York Times article reads: “But Mr. Aquino’s cousin, Fernando Cojuangco, the chief operating officer of the holding company that owns the plantation, said that the extended Cojuangco family, owners of this plantation since 1958, had no intention of giving up the land or the sugar business.

“‘No, we’re not going to,’ Mr. Cojuangco, 47, said in an interview here. ‘I think it would be irresponsible because I feel that continuing what we have here is the way to go. Sugar farming has to be; it’s the kind of business that has to be done plantation-style.’”

“My understanding is—and I cleared this up when I asked—I said ‘We’re all clear that this is really no longer viable for anybody. That running it in the present scheme is not a sound venture. That was clear to everybody,” said the Liberal Party presidential candidate in the May 10 elections.

Aquino said that the family meeting happened after he formally declared last September his intention to seek the highest post in the land following the death of his mother, former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino.

To distribute land in 5 years

When the campaign started in February, Aquino said that his family would distribute the land to farmers within five years (the specified period for the distribution of land still not covered by agrarian reform under a new law) but was still deciding how this would be done without putting on the beneficiaries the burden of the hacienda’s huge debts.

“If you look at the entire story of The New York Times, unfortunately they have a colleague here, I think it favored one side of the issue. I don’t think it was a fair treatment,” Aquino said.

“As I told you there are many options that are being explored. There are 10,000 beneficiaries who are members of the corporation who have to be consulted and they will pick among all these schemes which best meets their needs,” he added.

Cousin’s apology

Aquino said his cousin Fernando, a son of his uncle Pedro Cojuangco, had sent him a text message and also apologized to him. Fernando Cojuangco is reportedly checking his own records of the interview with The New York Times.

“He said ‘It looks like negativism really sells.’ He’s wondering if he was quoted accurately. He’s starting to search his records,” Aquino said.

He said that it was unlikely for Fernando, a lawyer, to question the status of agrarian reform as the centerpiece program of the late President Corazon Aquino.

“I cannot imagine him talking that way about my mother. All of us were brought up to respect our elders. He as a lawyer would have studied the matter,” Aquino said.

“I really am not sure if he was taken out of context, if at all,” he said.

On Monday, Aquino said that his family could have earned P3 billion from selling the large sugar plantation. He said the 4,500-hectare plantation could have been sold for P4.5 billion, at a price of P100 per square meter, if his family did not care about the farmers and only worried about its own interests.

Excerpts of Times article

The New York Times article written by its correspondent Norimitsu Onishi and published on March 14 said in part:

“Despite the government’s assertion that a two-decade-old land distribution program has been a success, most farmers in the Philippines have yet to benefit significantly. The uneven ownership of land, this country’s primordial problem, continues to concentrate economic and political power in the hands of large landowning families and to fuel armed insurgencies, including Asia’s longest-running Communist rebellion.

“The land problem has drawn fresh attention since Mrs. Aquino’s son, Benigno Aquino III, declared his candidacy for the May 10 presidential election, running on his mother’s legacy of ‘people power.’ Through Mrs. Aquino made land reform a top priority, she allowed landowning families to eviscerate her distribution program. Critics say there is no greater example of the failure of land reform than her own family’s estate.

“For the past five years, the family has been fighting in the Supreme Court a government directive to distribute the 10,000-acre Hacienda Luisita—the second-biggest family-owned piece of land in the Philippines, about 80 miles north of Manila—to 10,000 farmers.

“In 2004, the military and police killed seven protesters during a strike by farmers fighting for land and higher wages. Since then, the family-controlled Hacienda Luisita Inc. has managed to plant only 40 percent of the estate with sugar cane; the rest has been seized by individual farmers or remains idle.

“Criticized for his family’s position, Mr. Aquino, 50, the front-runner in the presidential election, announced recently that the family would transfer the land to the farmers after ensuring that debts were paid off.

“‘It will be theirs clear and free,” Mr. Aquino said in an interview in Manila.

Is this the centerpiece?

“He (Fernando Cojuangco) dismissed the widely held view that Mrs. Aquino, his aunt, had made land reform a centerpiece of her government.

“‘Is there a document that it was a centerpiece? I always asked that question even to her ex-Cabinet members. Was there a Cabinet meeting where she said this is the centerpiece?’”

San Pedro

San Pedro
By Lito Banayo

HOW could a piece of property sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), and a lis pendens annotated upon its transfer certificate of title, land in the hands of a corporation called Crown Asia, owned and controlled by the so-called “brown taipan”, Manuel Villar, who wants to be president of the land?

The 2.18 hectare property is in the vicinity of a swanky golf course called TAT, before that Filipinas Golf Course, and even before that, during the Marcos years, known as Holiday Hills, in the municipality of San Pedro Laguna. It straddles the boundary of the first town of Laguna with the last city of Metro Manila, and is now connected to the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) by an interchange, and to Las Piñas and Bacoor to a so-called Daang Reyna, which in turn connects to Daang Hari. Pretty good property, one must say.

It used to be titled to one Maximo Argana, remembered by many to be the feared and powerful mayor of Muntinglupa during the martial law years. When the dictatorship fell, the newly-created PCGG went after the unexplained wealth of Marcos, his cronies and other public officials. They went after Maximo Argana’s wealth, and this San Pedro property was one of them. Because Argana had meanwhile died, the PCGG attached an encumbrance upon the title, what is called a lis pendens, which means the property cannot be sold, leased, or otherwise encumbered while the case is pending. And up till today, that case pends before the Sandiganbayan.

Meanwhile, the informal settlers who had stayed in the property by tolerance or sufferance of the registered owner, Argana, had hoped that when the government finally got full leave of the court to confiscate the San Pedro property, they could apply for land ownership under the social justice programs of the State.

Their hopes brightened with the enactment of the Urban Dwellers Act during the Cory administration, otherwise known as the Lina Law.

But lo and behold! In the year 2000, a corporation called Crown Asia suddenly claimed ownership of the property, on the basis of a deed of sale executed between it and Capitol Bank. Both Crown Asia and Capitol are owned and controlled by the spouses Manuel and Cynthia Villar. Crown Asia, along with its sister corporations, had already acquired other properties in the vicinity, which it was then developing into medium and high-end housing projects.

How did this happen? There was a lis pendens on the property, and a check with government agencies, including the Office of the President shows that the Argana title should not and must not be the subject of a deed of sale, not even a contract of lease, for as long as the courts would not lift that lis pendens (or pendente lite, which means pending legal resolution of the case.

But apparently, Capitol Bank foreclosed the property from a certain Jose Nunez, who failed to pay a short-term loan, and made no effort whatsoever to restructure or re-schedule the loan, as most are wont to do, but instead, immediately had his property foreclosed by the Villar bank. And the Villar’s Capitol Bank turns around and sells the property also immediately, to Crown Asia. Seems like this is a pattern, a modus operandi of the Villar’s interlocking corporations.

In 2002, Villar’s Crown Asia posted security guards and then ordered demolition of the settler’s houses. The demolition squad succeeded in destroying 30 houses and led to the killing of Quirico “Rico” de los Santos, a leader of the neighborhood association of poor informal dwellers called ironically, Paradise Park. But the informal settlers resisted and they remain there to this day, their Paradise Park Neighborhood Association knocking from one government agency door to another, hoping to seek justice and their urban dwellers’ rights under the laws of the benighted land. There are now some 205 family houses walled inside the 2.18 hectare property, with no basic services such as electrical connections and water. They have to walk to buy expensive retailed water and inter-connect or share one electricity source. Guards of the neighboring walled subdivision, armed with shotguns strictly monitor their movements. They are not allowed to bring in construction materials even to repair their rickety dwellings.

Is this another racket where fake titles are produced surreptitiously, and prey on helpless landowners, such as the Dumagat and Remontado farmers in Norzagaray, Bulacan (read our articles of February 25 and 27, Malaya)? In Norzagaray, the titles issued during the Japanese occupation, which under Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, have been declared null and void, were “foreclosed” by Capitol Bank, and then paid in kind to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas which had earlier issued an emergency loan to the said Villar-owned bank of 1.5 billion pesos.

In San Pedro, property encumbered in temporary favor of the Republic of the Philippines, pending resolution of a sequestration case, is suddenly claimed by a family corporation which “bought” the property from the same family-owned bank, which in turn foreclosed the same from a person, fictitious or real, who “borrowed” a short-term loan and “failed” to pay.

But the Paradise Park homeowners are now in mortal fear of imminent ejection, should this “poor man turned billionaire”, whose heart “bleeds for the poor”, and who makes a holy vow (panata) to end poverty (tatapusin ang kahirapan), become president. Truly, night will fall upon the lives of these poor people “squatting” on government-owned land. Because if Villarroyo succeeds with his money, and buys the presidency come May 10, 2010, with secret help from the woman who replaced the man he impeached in 2000, then the “government” and their nemesis will be one and the same.

“Mayaman na siya. Huwag na niyang agawin sa amin ang karapatan na manirahan sa lupang hindi naman kanya”, said Aling Gloria Barrameda of the Paradise Park Neighborhood Association , who along with some 40 other settlers marched and picketed the front of the historic Laurel House that Money Villarroyo bought two years ago, and from whence he launched his quest for the presidency.

The man who claims to have shared the tribulations of the poorest of the poor, who used to live in a single-room house with his entire family (but transferred as a kid later to a 560 square-meter property in San Rafael Village in Balut, built by his government employee of a father and his industrious fish merchant of a mother) and used to sleep in a narrow bench in Divisoria market (but was schooled in a Catholic parochial school where he and brood were fetched by a stainless steel owner-type jeep), and virtually mocks the toil and sacrifices of his truly industrious parents in order to propagandize alleged poverty, now sends his guards to confiscate property held by the Republic, at the expense of poor, landless settlers, one of whom was executed by his unknown security guards.

As Aling Gloria stated in poignant anger: “Sa ginagawa niya sa aming mahihirap, kasinungalingan ang sinasabi niyang siya ay para sa mahirap at siya ay may malasakit. Siya ang tunay na pasakit. Siya ang tunay na pahirap”.


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