Villar: I will spare no one for graft

Villar: I will spare no one for graft
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Defending himself from the “Villarroyo” tag, Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. vowed to spare no one, including President Arroyo, in charging people guilty of graft and corruption.

Villar said that if ever he becomes the new president, he would even “encourage” the prosecution of Mrs. Arroyo after she steps down on June 30 because of the numerous anomalies that have been linked to her during her administration.

The issue of Villar having links with Mrs. Arroyo as well the allegation that he is the real candidate of the administration continue to be among the issues raised against him by his opponents.

He has repeatedly denied these and reiterated that it was he and his NP colleagues who had spearheaded numerous probes against Mrs. Arroyo over the course of her administration.

“I have criticized the President on numerous occasions,” Villar said.

In fact, he said that he would give the President a rating of 4 out of 10 in terms of honesty.

According to Villar, it was the NP that initiated the congressional probes into the “Hello, Garci” issue, the NBN-ZTE deal and the jueteng controversy against the President.

He said the investigations on these issues were done under his term as Senate President and so he gave the go-signal for these to take place.

“I’m not seen as a critic of anybody. That’s my style. I would rather do things than say them,” he said.

“But when I was asked if I agree with the President, maybe a hundred times, I’ve said, I disagree with her,” he added.

The allegations against Villar coming from the Liberal Party and its standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III has been a thorn in his side and has contributed to the drop in his survey ratings.

The LP camp coined the term “Villarroyo” or Villar-Arroyo to describe the alleged alliance between the President and Villar and has stuck with it throughout the campaign period.

Villar and the NP have responded in kind by coming up with the “Aquinorroyo” and “Gloriaquino” tags for Aquino.

The party has alleged that the LP camp has various connections with the Arroyo administration, including Aquino’s relatives in the current government and the presence of former Cabinet members and officials of Mrs. Arroyo in the LP.

Villar also vowed not to support the supposed bid of Mrs. Arroyo for the speakership of the House of Representatives if and when he and the President succeed in their respective bids.

Mrs. Arroyo is running for congresswoman of Pampanga, prompting her critics to suspect that she intends to reclaim power by going after the speakership.

Villar reiterated that the NP would put up its own candidate in order to thwart the alleged bid of Mrs. Arroyo.

Villar: I’m prepared to lose

Although he is determined to win the presidency, Villar also said he is psychologically prepared for the worst in case he loses.

Villar said he has prepared himself for two possibilities, which are winning and losing the presidency.

“You will be surprised, I am prepared to win but I am also prepared to lose. I have had my ups and downs but I have faced them all,” Villar said over the ANC show “Headstart” last Friday.

“If I win, I am ready to run the country on day one. If I lose then I am also prepared. I know that psychologically, I must be prepared,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) yesterday told Villar to “prepare well – for losing.”

“Judging by how his numbers have been sliding consistently, I would say that Sen. Villar is beginning to realize that his millions, and even billions, will not prevent the inevitable,” said PMP spokesman Ralph Calinisan.

Northern Alliance picks Villar

The Northern Alliance in the House of Representatives has chosen to support Villar.

At least 15 of the 21 congressmen present during Friday’s meeting in Baguio City agreed to back Villar, according to Ilocos Sur Rep. Eric Singson, deputy speaker for Northern Luzon of the Lower House.

He said they chose Villar because he promised to help develop Northern Luzon and take care of Ilocanos.

Villar also vowed to develop the industrial and agriculture industries of the North like tobacco and the export processing zones and the extension of the North Luzon Expressway.

In another development, the NP said yesterday that consumers would most likely see an increase in the value added tax (VAT) if Aquino wins in the May elections.

In a statement, the NP noted that the presence of a “VAT block” in the LP is now more evident with the addition of Mrs. Arroyo’s economic adviser, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, to its camp.

“Noynoy is surrounded by the most passionate apostles of increasing the VAT pain. This early it is fair to equate a Noynoy victory with a 15-percent VAT rate,” the NP said. – With Christina Mendez, Sandy Araneta, Artemio Dumlao and Andy Zapata

LP Senate bets bare secret of their unity

LP Senate bets bare secret of their unity
By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—How come no one is defecting from the Liberal Party? Despite limited funding, the LP remains intact.

Their secret: LP standard-bearer Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III knows how to take care of his teammates.

It’s Aquino’s little acts of thoughtfulness that they find most affecting, according to the LP senatorial candidates—Representatives Ruffy Biazon, Teofisto Guingona III and Rissa Hontiveros, and guest candidate, detained Army Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, represented by his wife, Aloy.

Even if all of his time is consumed by the campaign, Aquino makes time to give them pep talks, engage in light banter and even share chichiria (junk food) with them during breaks in the sorties, the LP senatorial candidates told Inquirer editors and reporters on Thursday.

“You would feel that he really sees you,” said Hontiveros.

Biazon recalled how Aquino kept their spirits up during a long bus ride while campaigning in Albay.

“We were going around the whole day. Most of us were already tired but Noynoy engaged us in light banter,” he recounted.

Leader of the pack

“It was an encouraging thing for me because as the leader of the group, he was keeping our spirits up and we were infected,” Biazon added.

The LP standard-bearer also does not hesitate to spare a few moments for his teammates whenever they need to consult him, Guingona said.

“In Baguio, he had just arrived onstage when I asked him if we could talk. He immediately agreed,” said Guingona.

“I was embarrassed because he had just taken his seat onstage but he stood up and went backstage [to accommodate me],” he said.

Biazon recalled that Aquino had bought chicharon (fried pork rind) for them to munch on while they waited for their return flight to Manila a few weeks ago.

But what surprised Biazon was that Aquino, before boarding, had bought an extra pack for his wife upon learning that she loved the snack. “He’s a good guy,” Guingona said.

They said these were the moments that have served to bind them closely together—more than the party’s funds that have allowed them to run a “decent and efficient” campaign, though far less spectacular than Aquino’s closest rival, the billionaire candidate of the Nacionalista Party, Sen. Manuel Villar.

No expectations

“We came in with our eyes open [that we will run on a budget] so we have no expectations,” said Guingona.

The LP’s Senate bets say they were not promised funding. Only the team’s campaign sorties are subsidized with lots of junk food on the side.

But the candidates said the support for the LP comes from something that cannot be matched by money—the still potent magic of the Aquino name.

“We don’t use star power as much as the other side. But we still have something that’s priceless, that’s beyond that. That’s the connect to Cory (the late former President Aquino, Noynoy’s mother), connect to the people, connect to the Edsa revolution,” said Hontiveros.

People remember Cory

“When people remember Cory, they remember the changes we fought for two decades ago and that it can be achieved again. It’s that second chance that we hardly get in life,” said Hontiveros.

Aquino launched his candidacy following the massive outpouring of grief after his mother died last August. Critics expected the younger Aquino’s popularity to eventually wane, but the LP only saw a surge.

“When we go on motorcades with Noy, the reaction of the crowd is different even if we don’t bring stars,” Biazon said.

“When people hear that I am running under Noynoy, they show their approval. It tells me that they’re pinning their hopes on Noy,” he said.

Fast-food donation

Hontiveros, a first-time senatorial aspirant, said one would be surprised by how the support is sometimes manifested. She recalled how one woman approached her while she was having brunch at a Quezon City fast-food joint and handed her what she said was her campaign donation.

“She said ‘Excuse me, for your campaign funds.’ She then pressed a thin wad [of money] that turned out to be two neatly folded P1,000 bills. I was moved to tears because it was one of those weeks when it was so hard to raise any funds. I felt she just took out whatever she had,” Hontiveros said.

The woman refused to identify herself and walked away after shaking her hand.

Knock off 4 rivals

The senatorial hopefuls also explained why they remained loyal to the party and why they want to knock down four rivals from the so-called “Magic 12” circle of possible senatorial winners.

They said they wanted to stop what they called a “Villaroyo” legislature should Aquino and his running mate, Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, win.

“We don’t want Noy and Mar to be shackled by a neutral or hostile Senate, especially a Congress with [President] Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo there. So we are really working so that voters carry the whole LP senatorial slate,” said Hontiveros.

Knowing how long they still have to go, they are “thinking of ways and means to get up there and be in there,” said Guingona.

The latest Social Weather Stations survey showed that Biazon, Hontiveros, Guingona and Lim are still far from breaking into the magic circle which is dominated by the NP.

‘Villaroyo’ Congress

Biazon said a “Villaroyo” legislature was highly possible if Villar and his running mate Loren Legarda were to lose the elections to Aquino and Roxas and return to the Senate with the winning NP candidates.

If the surveys prove right, Villar would have 10 allies and “sympathizers” in the Senate, he said, adding that the swing votes left would probably be incumbent Sen. Edgardo Angara and the Nationalist People’s Coalition’s Vicente Sotto III, assuming that the latter wins. (Sotto has constantly ranked sixth or seventh in the surveys.)

“They could get the majority. So our call really is for voters to carry the whole team so we can work and defend Noy and Mar,” said Hontiveros.

NP senatorial candidate and party spokesperson Adel Tamano said it was presumptuous of the LP to declare this early who will win or lose in the elections, “unless they have a crystal ball.”

“Win first before you start counting. As far as I know, May 10 is still a couple of weeks away and I think it’s much too early to be toasting the champagne and celebrating victory,” Tamano said.

Villar’s Senate majority

But Tamano agreed with Biazon that the Villar group could get a majority in the next Senate.

“We’re hoping that we will have a lot of Nacionalistas in the Senate, so that might be true that the next Senate will have an NP majority,” he said.

Villar, meanwhile, said he expected Ms Arroyo to become Speaker in an Aquino presidency, while he would “put up my own candidate for the speakership if I win.”

Villar and Legarda, who were at a rally in Lingayen, Pangasinan, on Saturday, said the LP candidates were “guilty of what they are accusing us of.”

They cited the shift of many Arroyo administration officials to the Aquino camp.

“You can see that Team GMA is already completely led by Noynoy. All the economic managers of GMA are with them, so it’s already complete,” Villar said, adding that former Arroyo press secretary Ignacio Bunye will soon join the “Aquino-Arroyo Cabinet.” With reports from Tarra Quismundo and Michael Lim Ubac

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.

Villar, Noy both GMA bets – PMP

Villar, Noy both GMA bets – PMP
By Perseus Echeminada
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – A campaign manager of former President Joseph Estrada has tagged Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar and Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as President Arroyo’s secret candidates.

Outgoing Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco told The STAR that the exodus of Lakas-Kampi-CMD stalwarts to NP and LP has exposed Mrs. Arroyo’s support for Villar and Aquino in her bid to promote her political agenda beyond the May elections.

Tiangco, who is on his third and last term, said the latest defection of Albay Gov. Joey Salceda to LP is a clear sign that the President has scattered her political allies to the two parties so she can continue her agenda even after the polls.

“Senators Villar and Aquino should stop accusing each other of being an Arroyo front because both of them are allies of the President,” he said.

Tiangco, who is running unopposed as a congressman in the lone district of Navotas, said Villar and Aquino cannot deny that they had actively participated in Estrada’s ouster and in the installation of Mrs. Arroyo as president in 2001.

A strong indication of the President’s support for Villar was evident in the defection of her key political allies such as former Ilocos Sur governor Chavit Singson and boxing champion Manny Pacquiao to NP.

The exodus, he said, has earned Villar the “Villarroyo” tag and now with the defection of Salceda to LP, Aquino will get the “Aquinorroyo” tag, Tiangco said.

Aside from Salceda, he said close relatives of Aquino have been working under Mrs. Arroyo’s administration such as his aunts Lupita Kashiwahara, Tessie Oreta and uncle Peping Cojuangco.

Tiangco said that with these developments, Aquino and Villar should stop claiming that they are part of the opposition.

He also said that everybody knows that the only genuine opposition is Estrada.

“If we could just remember the famous statement of Mrs. Susan Roces Poe that GMA stole the presidency not just once but twice, then I can say that Aquino and Villar were also part of GMA’s stolen presidency twice because they were part of that conspiracy,” Tiangco said.

He said then Speaker Villar in 2001 illegally led the House to transmit the Estrada impeachment case to Senate.

He also said the late President Cory Aquino’s apology to Estrada only proved that her family, including her son Noynoy, was part of the conspiracy to remove Estrada from the presidency.

“In 2004, they openly campaigned for GMA and worst, they did nothing about the Garci controversy. They did not even condemn the cheating in the elections,” he said, referring to the alleged taped conversation between Mrs. Arroyo and former poll commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

“Now, they are saying that they are anti-GMA. I think this is just political opportunism because they want to put up an image that they are against Mrs. Arroyo since popularity of her administration is the lowest in history,” he said.

“Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino is the only consistent anti-GMA force,” he added.

Erap: No way for GMA to be the next Speaker

In a Cebu sortie last Wednesday, Estrada, whose populist nickname is Erap, said there was no way for President Arroyo to be the next House Speaker under his administration.

Estrada said that Arroyo demeaned the presidency by running for congresswoman in her hometown in Pampanga.

“She’s already the president and yet she still wants to be a congressman? What does she still want to prove?” said Estrada.

Estrada campaigned in the towns of Compostela, Liloan, Consolacion and in Lapulapu City where he had a proclamation rally together with over 30,000 supporters.

Estrada, who is hoping to win the votes of the masses in the coming elections, said that Arroyo is the heaviest baggage of the administration’s presidential bet Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro.

At the rally, Estrada also said that of all the other presidential candidates, Teodoro is the most competent, qualified and sincere in running the country.

“Of course, Erap is also competent, qualified and sincere. My only edge over Gibo is my experience. But I am impressed with Gibo. He is a good leader,” said Estrada who had been a mayor, a senator, a vice president and president, aside from being a popular movie actor.

“But I wish you would still vote for me,” Estrada told Cebuanos.

He said he was overwhelmed by the huge crowd that greeted him in the towns where he had his campaign sorties.

Estrada also said he was not impressed with Senator Aquino, whom he included in the Genuine Opposition ticket in the 2007 national elections, saying he has no track record or achievements to speak of other than being the son of democracy icons, former senator Ninoy Aquino and Corazon Aquino.

Villar, NP court Muslim vote

Villar, NP court Muslim vote
By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star

MARAWI CITY, Lanao del Sur , Philippines  – Nacionalista Party (NP) presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. and the party’s senatorial slate yesterday received a strong show of support from local leaders who gathered 20,000 supporters for their political rally in Barangay Banggolo.

The NP has allied with local party Ummah-Ompia led by re-electionist Gov. Omar Ali Solitario and sworn in local leaders from the province’s 38 municipalities.

In expressing his support for Villar, Marawi second district congressional candidate Jun Macarambon took potshots at other presidential candidates who he claims are “insensitive” to the Mindanao peace process.

Macarambon claimed that Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino standard-bearer former President Joseph Estrada practically declared an all-out war in Mindanao when he delivered a speech during his campaign sortie in Davao.

Macarambon also claimed that Liberal Party vice presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Roxas II and former senator Franklin Drilon, who is running again for the Senate, derailed the peace process when they opposed the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the separatist Moro Islamlic Liberation Front.

In his speech, Villar reiterated his platform of governance to eradicate poverty by making the Philippine economy at par with neighbor countries.

He also promised that Mindanao will not be left behind under his administration.

Villar also defended his spending for political advertisements, claiming he has not overspent.

“I keep a tab on my advertisement expenses. Most of the time the actual expenses are lower,” he said.

Villar’s new political advertisement is a 30-second spiel on the country’s pressing problems and the need to elect an experienced leader. The infomercial subtly criticizes LP standard-bearer Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III for being inexperienced.

In a separate statement, NP said the new advertisement is expected to increase Villar’s competitive advantage.

Villar said Aquino cannot implement genuine economic reforms because his party has absorbed President Arroyo’s economic team, the latest being Mrs. Arroyo’s economic adviser, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.

The others are former administration finance and trade secretaries Cesar Purisima and Roxas, and economic planning director Ralph Recto, architect of the 12 percent Expanded Value-Added Tax.

Aquino has said more administration allies are expected to transfer to his party.


Villar said Salceda’s defection to the LP disproves allegations of a secret alliance between him and President Arroyo.

Villar alleged that it is Aquino who has a hidden alliance with the President.

“Gloriaquino is very clear. They coined Villarroyo to mislead the public from the real events,” he said. “If we were to be suspicious about something, it should be about the relationship between President Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino.”

In a campaign sortie in Bulacan last April 5, Aquino said he does not welcome administration party members to transfer to his party.

Villar’s running mate. Sen. Loren Legarda believes their party can still corner votes in Bicol despite Salceda’s defection to LP because Albay is only one of the provinces in the Bicol region.

Salceda endorsed Legarda’s candidacy a week ago.

“Bicol has solid support for NP-NPC (Nationalist People’s Coalition). We should get it straight from him (Salceda). Albay is only a province in the Bicol region, so we can’t say that the region has solid support for the Liberal Party.”

Camarines Sur Gov. Lray Villafuerte doubts Salceda can bring support to the LP.

Villafuerte, chair of the League of Provinces, is confident that he can deliver votes from Camarines Norte and Catanduanes, aside from his province.

“We (NP) have support not only in Bicol but also in big provinces,” he said.

He said two other administration members – Masbate Gov. Elisa Kho and Sorsogon Gov. Sally Lee – would support the NP if they decide to join the defection bandwagon.