Archive for May 13, 2009

Odd partisan lines show in Villar case

GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc , The Philippine Star, May 13, 2009

A group of military reformers is raising this issue with the Armed Forces GHQ: the AFP is losing vast military reservations at an alarming rate. Certain retired generals surreptitiously have converted the land to private farms. Alleged example is a 3,000-hectare segment of Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal. Also being subdivided are Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, and reservations in Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon.

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And so will commence Thursday Senate hearings of misconduct raps against Manuel Villar. Observers expect proceedings of the Committee of the Whole to be politically charged. So far everything about the case has been partisan.

It was Sen. Panfilo Lacson who in Sept. 2008 first brought up charges. Allegedly Villar as then-Senate President had caused the allocation of P200 million on two successive years for the same completed roadwork. Quickly Villar replied that there were in fact two projects, both costing P100 million, in adjacent Parañaque and Las Piñas cities. Budget and highways officials said the works wrongly were named identical in the 2008 and 2009 outlays, but specifications were for different areas. The audit commission and then-Senate finance chairman Juan Ponce Enrile confirmed so. But the issue wouldn’t die. Villar soon found himself accused by Sen. Jamby Madrigal of having the two roads paved to benefit nearby home lots that his real estate firm was developing. Two months later he was deposed. Enrile took over the Senate Presidency. Lacson became head of the ethics committee where his and Madrigal’s complaints had been lodged. Among its members, Villar learned, were like him and Lacson planning presidential runs in 2010: Mar Roxas, Dick Gordon, Francis Escudero, and Loren Legarda. And in keeping with RP’s tradition of skewed politics, Aquilino Pimentel Jr. remained the Minority Leader but lost his members Lacson, Madrigal, Roxas and Rodolfo Biazon to the new majority. Villar and loyalists Joker Arroyo, Francis Pangilinan, and Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano landed in minority. Antonio Trillanes broke from patron Madrigal to turn independent; so did Noynoy Aquino distance from Liberal Party mates Roxas, Biazon and Pangilinan.

Sensing the ethics body to be plotting Villar’s political hanging, Alan Peter Cayetano recused Lacson’s chairmanship. Villar asked to be tried by the entire Senate. Roxas fairly but in vain called on fellow “presidentiables” to inhibit from the proceedings. Lacson conceded to trial by the whole, but not before being twitted of public tiffing to deflect focus from being linked to the Dacer-Corbito kidnapping-murder. Joker suggested that charges be filed in court instead to avoid the spectacle of politicking, but was outvoted.

Politics heated up, meanwhile. Citizens’ groupings began to endorse presidential bets. A radio-TV network simultaneously interviewed five of them. Pimentel proposed an Opposition convention to select a standard bearer and smoke out admin Trojan horses. Villar emerged in yet another survey, more than a dozen by far, tying with Vice President Noli de Castro as voters’ preferred successor to Gloria Arroyo. It was with this backdrop that the Committee of the Whole convened. Villar’s camp at once protested that the general counsel appointed by Enrile was on the payroll of Lacson. It batted too for the revision of ethics committee rules that the bigger body had adopted. On Monday the Committee of the Whole approved only three changes with finality. Eight items that Villar deems prejudicial stayed. One would allow complaints for acts committed in past congresses or positions. “It could include my teenage mischief,” Villar said, then pointedly added, “It could include Lacson’s connection to the Kuratong Baleleng massacre.” Another rule bars the accused from filing for outright case dismissal due to weak evidence, and from refuting witnesses at a preliminary inquiry to list them. Enrile as Committee of the Whole boss ruled that the body was done with its rules, so it can move on to the preliminary conference. “The rules were tailored to convict Villar,” Cayetano rued. To which Joker added: “Voting was along party lines.” Enrile earlier had opined that his predecessor’s trial would be political and not strictly based on court rules. Like House impeachment proceedings, it would be a numbers game.

The Committee general counsel and secretariat have been directed to notify Villar officially of his trial’s virtual start tomorrow. Cayetano aims to continue fighting for revision of the eight more rules, but the majority is unlikely to allow it. In deciding to attend the hearing to accept or reject evidence and witnesses, Villar hoped for speedy trial. He knows from experience that Senate proceedings unfairly can be protracted to put targeted personalities on the spot.

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For accurate verified news and info on nursing jobs, sector events, and health updates, log on to http://www.angnars.com. This notice to nurses and students comes from Dr. Leah Samaco Paquiz, former president of the Philippine Nurses Association.

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E-mail: jariusbondoc@workmail.com

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