Aquino thanks Estrada, Enrile; Satur Ocampo worries

Aquino thanks Estrada, Enrile; Satur Ocampo worries
By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer

SOLANO, NUEVA VIZCAYA, Philippines—Liberal Party presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Aquino III on Friday said he was thankful that deposed President Joseph Estrada and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile were able to get the evidence that he himself had been pursuing concerning the actuations of Nacionalista Party rival Sen. Manuel Villar with regard to the stock exchange.

“We have heard a lot about that transaction (the sale of Villar’s Vista Land shares) but we couldn’t find enough proof. We got the minutes of the [Philippine Stock Exchange] meeting several months ago and it was really sanitized. We don’t accuse based on rumors so we kept quiet about it. But it looks like they (Estrada and Enrile) got it,” said Aquino.

“Thank you, you have done what we have been running after,” Aquino said, addressing Enrile and Estrada.

He said many people had been getting agitated with him for sitting on their complaints against Villar’s alleged manipulation of the PSE and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“But we told them we can’t make charges based on gossip and it’s good that they found proof,” said Aquino.

Sense of propriety

Aquino said it seemed Villar was finding it difficult to “divorce” his private person as a businessman from his position as the third highest leader of the land.

“He should have had a clear sense of propriety. Being one of the highest officials of the land, he cannot just go to one body and expect to be treated like an ordinary person. He should have thought of that,” said Aquino.

“He went there with his private interest, he should have seen the conflict of interest there. Even if he does not speak or he just sits in the meeting, it is already undue influence on the part of the body involved,” he said.

He also noted that Villar’s windfall earnings have not yet been reflected in his statement of asset, liabilities and net worth.

Campaigning in Butuan City Friday, Estrada warned the public against voting for Villar in the wake of the allegations that he had bent stock exchange rules to raise as much as P26 billion three years ago.

“He’s really dangerous,” he told reporters during a break while campaigning with his Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino party.

“He is using his position and that’s the danger. If he can do that while he was Speaker, Senate president, how much more when he’s already the president?” he said.

Estrada said he had been hearing about Villar’s controversial transactions before, but did not publicly speak about it until he was in possession of the documents.

“It’s my duty as a private citizen to divulge them to the public,” he said.

Credible response needed

Political analyst Ramon Casiple said Villar’s credibility has been put into question.

“In this late stage of the game, we have to see if (Villar’s team) can still do damage control,” said Casiple, executive director of the Institute of Political and Electoral Reforms (Iper).

The allegations need a “credible response” from the billionaire candidate, he said.

Villar was being “evasive” when he said that it was his real estate firm, Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc., that should answer the allegations, he said.

“According to the reports, it was he himself and not [anyone from] Vista Land that met with the SEC and PSE board,” he said.

Enough time to recover

Casiple noted how Aquino met the issue of his alleged depression head on and Villar should do the same.

In the case of the fake report on Aquino’s allegedly unbalanced mental state, “the facts were refuted right away,” he said.

What will work for Villar is that he has enough time to control whatever damage the allegations may have done to his presidential bid, Casiple said.

“It’s not yet the last two minutes. If this had happened in the first week of May, (Villar) would have a hard time to recover,” he said.

Ocampo concerned

Party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo, who is a guest senatorial candidate of Villar’s party, said Villar should be able to answer the allegations.

Ocampo said he was referring to the Inquirer’s special report on the issue and not to the Estrada exposé, which he believed was politically motivated.

“The question is the ethical issue. A public official should not interfere on behalf of his businesses,” Ocampo said.

He likened the current allegations against Villar to the C-5 road extension project where there was nothing illegal in the transaction but which raised ethical questions.

Ocampo said that after reading the Inquirer special report, he sent a message to Villar about his “concern” over the issue. With Christian Esguerra