PerryScope: By Perry Diaz
Finally, after so much speculation about President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s “secret candidate,” a face has emerged. In his recent article, “Her” man, respected columnist and political consultant Lito Banayo exposed Manny Villar as Gloria’s “secret candidate.” I totally agree with Mr. Banayo’s arguments that Villar is now Gloria’s man.
In a recent survey, Villar is second to frontrunner Noynoy Aquino by 11% while Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro -- Gloria’s “anointed” candidate -- is languishing at the tail end of the survey in single digits. Unless there is a miracle or massive cheating in the May 10 elections, Gibo doesn’t stand a chance of winning. Simply put, Gloria wouldn’t bet her political future on Gibo.
Since it is not possible or probable that Gloria would support Noynoy, Villar is Gloria’s only viable pick. Even if Gloria tried to play ball with Noynoy, I doubt if Noynoy would be willing to play with Gloria. On the other hand, Villar had nothing to lose and everything to gain by secretly dealing with Gloria. Heck, the fact that Villar allied himself with the leftists just shows that he would deal with the Devil himself if that’s what it would take to win the presidency. As he recently said, “the presidency is my last dream.” Indeed, it’s the ultimate dream of a lifetime that he would relentlessly -- and ruthlessly -- pursue by any means his money could buy. And that’s what makes Villar as dangerous as -- if not more dangerous than -- Gloria.
The fact that Villar has reportedly planned to spend at least P7 billion of his own money in his presidential campaign manifests his steely determination to win the presidency. That kind of money would be enough to buy the election. And should Villar win the election, how would he recoup his “investment” in his campaign?
Rags to riches
Villar claimed that he came from a poor family from Tondo. His father was a government employee and his mother was selling fish at the public market in Divisoria. When he was a boy, Villar said that he helped his mother sell fish. However, there were reports that Villar was adopted by the wealthy Jalandoni family of Nueva Ecija. When he reached legal age, the Jalandoni patriarch deeded 400 hectares in Licab, Nueva Ecija under his name.
In 1975, Villar married the former Cynthia Aguilar, daughter of a politically powerful and wealthy family from Las Pinas City. With his wife’s wealth, Villar started building and selling homes. He became a millionaire and a leader in the housing industry.
Villar enters politics
Basking in his “rags to riches” accomplishment, Villar entered politics. In 1992, he ran for Congress and won. In 1998, he was chosen Speaker of the House of Representatives. In 2001, he ran for Senator and won. In 2007, after his reelection he was chosen Senate President.
During his presidency of the Senate, a scandal erupted that would haunt Villar for the rest of his political life. In October 2008, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, in a privileged speech alleged that Villar caused the “double insertion” of funds into the C-5 extension project linking Las Pinas to Paranaque in the 2008 national budget. Lacson said that Villar allocated another P200 million on top of the P200 million already allotted by Malacañang for the same purpose. Sen. Jamby Madrigal joined the fray when she alleged that Villar “wanted the C-5 extension to cut through his property so he could sell the property at a higher price.” A month later, Villar was ousted from his presidency of the Senate.
In 2009, Villar declared his presidential bid amidst the “double insertion” scandal of which he has yet to be cleared.
Conflict of interest
One of the hazards of running for president is that your life story becomes public and everything you’ve done in the past is unearthed and exposed for all to see. One of the issues that has been dogging Villar recently was the appearance of “conflict of interest” in regard to his real estate empire vis-à-vis his elected position as a legislative leader in both chambers of Congress.
On December 22, 2009, Ted Failon, host of the“Failon Ngayon” TV show, exposed Villar’s 23 subdivisions which were all connected by the C-5 Road extension -- Daang Hari Road --linking Las Pinas and Cavite. Failon showed how Daang Hari Road -- instead of a straight line -- snaked around the 23 subdivisions from Las Pinas to Cavite by way of Muntinglupa, Alabang, and Laguna. Failon said that the C-5 Road extension -- completed in 2004 --was funded by the national budget which was passed by Congress at the time Villar was Speaker of the House and then Senator who chaired the Finance Committee. Failon indicated that Villar voted for the national budget that appropriated funds for the C-5 Road extension, a violation of Article VI Section 14 of the constitution which says in part: “…Neither shall he [Senator or Member of the House of Representatives], directly or indirectly, be interested financially in any contract with, or in any franchise or special privilege granted by the Government, or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including any government-owned or controlled corporation, or its subsidiary, during his term of office.” Failon contended that Villar shouldn’t have ran for Congress because he had and still has ownership of business enterprises involved in government transactions and funding.
From millionaire to multi-billionaire
In the 17 years that Villar has been in Congress, he has accumulated so much wealth. He is now ranked number five on the list of the Philippines’ richest men with his net worth of $940 million (P45 billion). He has the largest shareholding in the real estate firm Vista Land. Indeed, Villar has come a long way from selling fish in Divisoria to the multi-billionaire that he is today.
Had Villar stayed out of politics and earned his wealth through hard and honest work, he could have become the role model for the Filipino entrepreneur. But allegations of “conflict of interest” and probable corrupt practices while serving the people in Congress have raised doubts in the people’s minds about his qualifications to become the president of the country.
The question that keeps on popping up in my mind is: Is Villar’s association with Gloria going to influence his presidency and create a plutocratic oligarchy where the wealthy few govern the powerless citizenry? There is an old adage that says: “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.” Yes, indeed.