Angie M. Rosales
The Daily Tribune
January 19, 2010
Sen. Manuel Villar faces certain Senate censure, with the Senate committee of the whole’s report that was circulated to all the senators by Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, and obtaining the 12 needed signatories for voting in the plenary.
Both Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada and Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan signed the 84 page committee report, effectively making it the majority report.
Earlier, Villar supporters in the Senate branded this report from the majority bloc as “just a piece of scrap” since it failed to get the needed number of signatories.
With 12 votes gathered, the proponent of the Senate resolution effectively exonerating Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. in the unethical conduct in funding the C-5 road extension project in 2008 may now be “just as piece of scrap.”
The said Resolution No. 1472 also effectively barred the committee from calling for either suspension or expulsion from the Senate of Villar as the required numbers in making such recommendations have been rendered unattainable.
These were gathered as 12 senators, including Estrada and Pangilinan, signed the 84-page committee report No. 780 stating that Villar has committed “unethical conduct as a senator of the Republic and has, by committing such violations, damaged the integrity of the Senate as an institution.”
The same report also called, in the interest of fairness, public accountability and furtherance of the principle that public office is a public trust, the committee also recommended that the Senate “demand the return and restitution by Villar to the public coffers such amount of money or pecuniary advantage he has or his companies have illegally gained or obtained as a result of unlawful acts and improper and unethical conduct.”
The earlier quoted figure was P6.22 billion as the amount to be returned by Villar and his companies.
Pangilinan initiated the filing of resolution No. 1472 sometime last November, backed up by 11 others, seeking to dismiss the allegations that Villar used his position to benefit his real estate business in effecting the allocation of funds in the C-5 road project under the 2008 national budget.
Besides Pangilinan, Estrada also affixed his signature in the panel report, while initially also among the authors of resolution No. 1472.
It can be recalled that Estrada’s participation in the resolution became controversial especially when he decided to withdraw his signature a day after it came out in the papers.
Estrada and some senators said they would have not signed the document, had they known it would be prematurely released, adding that it was in the violation of the previous agreement to release the resolution only after the Senate has come up with the results of the Villar ethics case.
Others who signed the panel report submitted by its chairman, Senator Enrile, were Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Edgardo Angara, Rodolfo Biazon, Benigno Aquino III, Francis Escudero, Jamby Madrigal and Manuel Roxas II.
In signing the report, Pangilinan made a note that “regardless of whether we agreed or not with the findings, the proponents of the report should be given the opportunity to present the report in the plenary.”
Shortly before the sessions were suspended past 6 p.m., word got around that the report already had 11 signatures.
Pangilinan was the last to sign the report, sources said.
The panel needed at least 12 signatures to comprise the concurrence of the majority to have it submitted and discussed in the plenary.
He, however, was quick to emphasize that the matter on Villar was an “official party stand.” referring to the Liberal Party (LP) where he belongs, and where Aquino and Roxas are running for the presidency and vice presidency in the coming elections, respectively.
“The LP today took an official party stand on the issue of the committee report of the committee of the whole. It is the decision of the party leadership that regardless of whether we believe in the guilt or innocence of Villar, at the very least, the proponents of the report should be allowed to present their findings in plenary. Senators can then vote either for or against the findings at the appropriate time. As a member of LP, we will abide by the party decision and allow for the report to be presented in the plenary,” he said in a text message to reporters.
The earlier Resolution no. 1472, ironically initiated by Pangilinan also bore the signatures of Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Lito Lapid, Gregorio Honasan II, Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada, Francis Pangilinan, and Villar’s presumptive running mate Loren Legarda.
Villar himself signed the said resolution in which he even wrote “in defense of myself.”
The abovementioned resolution “express(es) the sense of the Senate to dismiss, as it hereby dismisses the complaint against Sen. Manuel B. Villar, and clear as it hereby clears him of alleged acts of disorderly behavior,” the resolution stemmed from Villar’s investigation by the Senate Committee of the Whole in connection with the C-5 road extension project.”
The committee of the whole, in its report, said the panel takes official notice of the fact that on Nov. 16, resolution 1472 was filed by the 12 senators “which not only expresses the sense of the Senate to dismiss but more importantly clears the respondent (Villar) of the charges contained in Senate resolution 706, dated Oct. 8, 2008 and the alleged in the complaint-affidavit filed by Madrigal.”
Enrile ruled that the Villar resolution was out of order and premature considering that when resolution 1472 was filed, the committee report was not yet completed.
It was referred to the rules committee and will be considered only upon the filing of the panel report and furthermore, it was agreed upon in the plenary last Nov. 17 that both will be taken up at the same time.
“The committee of the whole, notwithstanding the signatures of the remaining 11 senators to resolution 1472, it is cognizant of the reality that although it finds that the respondent should be meted out the penalties of either suspension or expulsion from the Senate, the number of votes required for such sanctions may have been rendered unattainable,” the report said.
In an interview with reporters, Enrile pointed out that suspension or expulsion would require the concurrence of three-fourths of the members of the upper chamber, which means 16 to 18 votes of the senators.
Voting on the report is another matter, Enrile also said.
“A committee report is in order any time (now that it has been filed). This, along with the resolution will be taken up side by side with the report. I will sponsor it and it is up to the body to dispose of it,” Enrile said, adding that Villar can respond to the panel report “anytime.”
But Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said if the majority bloc will bring the matter on the floor today, “we (minority) will not vote on it.”
Pimentel, in a statement, said, the committee of the whole did not follow rules.
“It was done by biased members reflecting the dissenting view not binding to the senators who had cleared Villar completely. The SCoW politicized the Senate investigation process. Thus, it is utterly useless,” he said.
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