Kaban ng Bayan, Bantayan! (Part 2)

I would not have taken the floor today as I am concerned the core issue of corruption in the national budget will be diverted. But for the lies that are now part of the Senate record and other misinterpretations of the contents of my privilege speech last Monday by the gentleman from Makati and Camarines Sur, I now rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege.

I will not dignify by wasting a second of the Senate’s time, however, the points raised by the other fanatical defender of the Senate President. Arguing with the gentleman, I am afraid, would be like talking to a chatterbox in a TV paid advertisement.

Going back to the points raised by Sen. Arroyo, or at least some of them, without conceding of course that the other issues raised are correct, please allow me to state here and now:

First, the issue on Mike Velarde.

Sen. Arroyo charged that I am protecting Bro. Mike Velarde; that I am afraid to lose 2-3 million votes. Mr. President, I have a copy of an article quoted Sept. 14, 3:42 p.m. entitled “El Shaddai’s Bro. Mike not off the hook in P200m road mess.” It proceeds by stating that El Shaddai leader and businessman Mariano Mike Velarde is not off the hook in the P200m road to nowhere mess that the Senate plans to investigate, opposition Senator Panfilo Lacson said Sunday.

If I may proceed, “nag-file ng resolution si Sen. Madrigal para malaman kung sino ang may personal na pakinabang sa kalye, talagang mata-tackle yan. Bukod kay Bro. Mike sino pa ang individual na personal na nakinabang na tinamaan ng C5 extension. Yan dapat malaman he said in an interview on DZBB radio.” I confirm the statement to have come from me. Therefore, what Sen. Arroyo mentioned in his privilege speech last Tuesday was a complete lie.

Number 2: Attack on the integrity of the Senate.

I never attacked the integrity of the Senate when I said there was one among us who could be responsible for the insertion, the double entry in the GAA of 2008. It is not attacking the integrity of the entire Senate. Precisely, I am trying to protect the integrity of the Senate. I was attacking the integrity of the GAA for 2008. Then Sen. Arroyo said I was playing hero. How could I play hero when I was just espousing the advocacy of a group that approached me and pointed to me some of the anomalies in the national budget? And then he proceeded by staying that whatever Sen. Lacson says the Senate media juts say yes, yes, yes. Is he implying that the members of the Senate media are that stupid to just take hook, line and sinker what I will tell them without analyzing the facts?

The distinguished majority leader called for a ceasefire. A respected colleague, my classmate in the PMA, suggested a group hug. Their suggestions are well taken. Because I know they are well intentioned to say the least, and at most their suggestions are noble.

But I will not and cannot abandon the cause of the tens of thousands or millions of Filipino taxpayers and allow them to be left at the mercy of a systematically flawed and corrupt national budget. This is one fight I will never run away from, as I have never run away from all my previous fights against graft and corruption.

Long before I entered politics when I was chief of the PNP, I was fighting corruption. There is nothing political in this endeavor. If I come out of this messy issue politically battered and bruised and even in a state of political comatose then so be it. I couldn’t care less.

Alam kong tama ang pinaglalaban ko rito at handa akong makipagbasagan ng mukha o makipagputukan ng kilay, in a manner of speaking, anuman ang kahinatnan ng laban kong ito. At least I will be comforted by the thought that legislators, as well as our people, now are adequately informed and become conscious of how the national budget should benefit taxpayers and the people and not just a few.

I therefore support the call of the finance committee chairman Senator Juan Ponce Enrile to conduct an immediate investigation on the matter.

I also support the call of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago for transparency in the entire budget process. I support the call of our other colleagues Sen. Mar Roxas, Sen. Legarda, Sen. Pimentel that we should get over with this issue and find out if there indeed are double entries in the national budget, if indeed insertions in the magnitude of P23 billion are categorized as lump sum appropriations.

Before I ended my privilege speech last Monday, I asked 2 questions. One, who among us proposed the double or redundant appropriation of P200 million. That question has been answered. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile pointed at the Senate President as the one responsible for the double or at least the second entry of that redundant or double appropriation for a stretch of road described as follows: C5 Extension from SLEX to Sucat Road in Parañaque. The other one is Carlos P. Garcia Avenue from SLEX to Sucat Road, Parañaque City.

Now my detractors are saying these are 2 different projects. I will always refer to the GAA particularly the provisions therein. Now that Sen. Villar has finally admitted — albeit haphazardly during last Tuesday’s press conference, I have the transcript of the press conference with Senate President Manny Villar and I quote from the transcript: Villar: I categorically deny any participation in the alleged erroneous appropriation in the 2008 budget, referring to the 2nd entry of P200 million from C5 Road Extension from SLEX to Sucat Road. Question: Project nyo ba talaga yan? Villar: Paano nalagay doon, hindi ko alam yan.

Mr. President, how can you lie to members of the media? Everything you say cannot be taken back. It will hit the airwaves, it will hit the print, it will hit the TV stations to be brought out to their audience.

Now the Senate President is saying that yes indeed I was responsible for the insertion but I did not specify any amount.

Mr. President, I’ve been a senator for 7 years, I have introduced amendments in the budget. This is the first time if indeed what the Senate President stated is true that a proponent of an amendment or an insertion will tell the Senate finance committee chairman “bahala na kayo gusto ko madagdagan bahala kayo sa halaga.” I don’t think that has happened or will ever happen in any of our budget deliberations.

Before I cap my privilege speech I would like to bring the attention of this august chamber to a copy or transcript of records of the House of Representatives dated Aug. 17, 1998.

Then Rep. Joker Arroyo of Makati rose on a question of collective privilege on a constitutional issue that affects the integrity of the House of Representatives. This pertains to a possible violation of the 1987 Constitution and existing laws by then House Speaker Manuel Villar.

This is the question raised by then Rep. Agapito Aquino regarding the fitness of then Rep. Villar to seek the speakership, which the latter chose not to answer, NOT TO ANSWER.

Among the alleged violations as raised by then Rep. Arroyo as committed by then Rep. Villar were the following: I’d like to mention only 1 of them. Violation of Sec. 6, RA 3019, antigraft and corrupt practices act, that it shall be unlawful for any member of Congress during the term he has been elected to acquire or to receive any personal or pecuniary interest in any specific business enterprise which will be directly and particularly favored by any law or resolution authored by him previously adopted by the Congress during the same term.

I would like to lift some excerpts from the transcript in my possession: On page 1, Aug 17 1998 … 5:15 p.m., presiding officer deputy speaker Abueg: Let the thing speak for itself … The questions raised made the charges vs. Speaker Villar are constitutional in character and our duty as members of this legislature is clear … We took an oath to support and defend the Constitution and uphold the law. The Constitution has been violated, laws have been broken. If we are to continue in the capacity of public officials, if this chamber is to continue in its very character as legislature an indispensable pillar in the system of checks and balances then we must come to the Constitution’s defense and the vindication of the laws.

I will continue: I hesitated and pondered hard whether to raise these questions for fear of being accused of sourgraping and for being a poor sport.

Remember, they just elected then Rep. Villar to be speaker, this was in 1998.

Our duty is clear. There are charges of illegalities, the charges must be heard and answered. I am reminded of the case of Speaker Newt Gingrich of US House of Representatives. He was investigated by USHR for collecting fees of books he wrote while speaker. I am not too sure of the task but one thing I’m sure of is this. The House after hearing censured and penalized him with $300,000. He remained as speaker but the penalty was meted out. These are precedents and we must not hesitate to do our duty.

Charge 1, this is Rep. Arroyo speaking Aug. 17, 1998, low-cost housing is totally dependent on government agencies such as PagIBIG, NHMFC, SSS, GSIS and other GFIs. Speaker Villar and the companies of which he is president or chairman or where he has a controlling interest are the biggest low-cost housing developers in the country, in violation of constitutional injunction, his companies are given financial accommodation by government banks or GFIs among them PagIBIG and NHMFC during Rep. Villar’s term as rep from 1992 to 1998 to finance their business purposes.

Charge 2, Rep. Villar from 1992 to 1998 did not divest himself of his interest in, nor did he sever his connections with the companies aforestated.

Charge 3, nor has Speaker Villar up to now, I say UP TO NOW, divested himself of interest in or has he severed his connections with the companies aforestated.

Charge 4, Speaker Villar controls Capitol Bank, Mrs. Villar is CEO. Capitol Bank received loans, financial accommodations and guarantees from BSP from 1992 to 1998 while he was a representative. This is constitutionally forbidden.

To sum it up this is still congressman Arroyo speaking … the constitutional prohibition is very simple. If a representative has controlling interest in a firm or entity, that firm or entity cannot be extended a loan, a guaranty or a financial accommodation or any business purpose from any GFI.

And then he proceeded by quoting Sec. 6, prohibition of RA 3019 prohibition on members of Congress, it shall be unlawful hereafter for any member of Congress during the term for which he has been elected to acquire or receive any personal or pecuniary interest in any specific business enterprise which will be favored or benefited by any law or resolution authored by him, previously approved and adopted by Congress during the same term.

Simply put, this is Joker Arroyo speaking, simply put during our term of office, each one of us, it shall be unlawful for us to author any law or resolution that will benefit or favor us. The above prohibition shall apply even to that representative who just recommended, not even authored, the enactment of such law that benefited him.

Charge 6, Rep. Villar in his bid for the speakership prepared a propaganda kit he distributed to congressmen and media. I think you were given copies of that one. It is entitled “Manuel B. Villar Jr.: Achiever and Visionary Leader.” And the legislative performance of Cong MBV Jr. … Rep. Villar unequivocally said he incorporated in the landmark comprehensive and integrated shelter finance act, RA 7835, the re-capitalization of the NHMFC and amendment to the agri-aqua law to including housing…

Charge 7, this is still Rep. Arroyo speaking, when those bills Rep. Villar introduced or co-authored were enacted into law, he did not divest himself of his interests in the companies that benefited therefrom.

Charge 8: When Manuela Corp. applied for and was granted a loan of P1 billion by the SSS, a GFI, another P2 billion loan could be syndicated with another GFI, GSIS. Total syndicated loan from the 2 GFIs, P3 billion. Manuela Corp., a housing and reality corporation, is owned by the family of the wife of Speaker Villar, an indirect financial accommodation. Again in the same code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials states in Sec 3-k, relatives refers to any person related to a public official or employee within the 4th civil degree of consanguinity.

Charge 9: Manuela Corp. owes Capitol Bank P150 million. There may be nothing wrong with that because both are private entities, but out of the P3 billion loan to be syndicated by SSS and GSIS, P150 million was earmarked to liquidate capitol bank loan to the failing Manuela Corp. In other words it is a financial accommodation extended by the GFIs to relieve Capitol Bank owned by Speaker Villar of a P150 million loan.

Charge 10: CARP undertaken in obedience to constitutional mandate, all lands covered by CARP cannot be used for residential, industrial and other uses unless a clearance conversion or exemption for a particular property is first issued by DAR. Speaker Villar’s companies have developed 5,950 ha or almost 60 million square meters of CARP lands without appropriate DAR issuances that would authorize such lands to be used for residential purposes. …

The House, still Rep. Arroyo speaking, cannot reform itself much less operate effectively if a cloud of doubt hangs over the Speaker of the House. It is to the interest of the Speaker and the members no less if these concerns are addressed frontally and resolved forthwith to clear the path for meaningful reforms.

I would like to reiterate my support for the call of SJPE for an immediate investigation that should start within the week if possible.

Public office is a public trust. We the representatives of the people pay a price for getting elected to public office. The Constitution imposes on us certain constraints which we must follow to the letter.

In the case of Speaker Villar, it is simple. If he wants to go/continue in business and deal with GFIs he can do so but he cannot also be a congressman. If he wants to be congressman he must not be in business which deals with the government. We have to pay a price.

So this case is a learning experience for us all. Whatever the outcome, it will show the things we can do, the things we cannot do, and the things we must do.

I propose the HR constitute itself into a committee of the whole to hear the charges and the speaker’s defense. Then Rep. Arroyo was proposing the HR constitute itself into committee of the whole. This was in 1998. He will have a trial that is more than fair to him. He will be judged by the very peers who elevated him to be the first among equals. Only this time they will judge him according to the law.

Mr. President, what is the relevance of all of this? There seems to be parallelism in the situation now with Senate President Villar as our presiding officer. We voted him, at least the majority of the members of this august chamber voted him into office. He is now Senate President. He was then House Speaker. Now I go back to my second question. Who among us would stand to benefit from the development project as a consequence of the appropriation made by that one member of this body? The question is, does SP Villar have financial interest in the development of C5 Extension Road from SLEX to Sucat Road in Parañaque City?

Does he own pieces of land in that stretch of road where he admitted to have inserted or proposed the appropriation of another P200 million? This is a clear case of double entry no matter what the other members of this body say. This is double entry plain and simple.

But if SP Villar will benefit personally and financially in the development of a project he is advocating as he said during his press con last Tuesday, don’t you find some similarities in the situation in 1998 and the situation this year 2008?

The only difference is that Sen. Joker Arroyo is almost rabidly defending Sen. Villar in this case, whereas in 1998 he was the one who stood on the floor on a question of personal and collective privilege lambasting him on the floor … for practically the same offense, for practically the same actions taken by the SP now and HS in 1998. I leave the question and thank the body for bearing with me.