by Frank Wenceslao
Many overseas Filipinos are asking: Is Sen. Manuel Villar running for uplifting our poor countrymen, or from prosecution for the crimes he, Mrs. Villar and close associates are probably guilty of in their rush to build up a real estate development empire and mind-boggling personal net worth of close to $1 billion in only 16 years while the couple is members of Congress?
Up to now Villar maintains he’s from a poor Tondo family. Hence, using as baseline his 1992 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth when first elected to Congress it’s incredible he’d build up a billion-dollar net worth at the end of 2008 even under the most favorable conditions, hence beyond the realm of statistical probability.
Villar should’ve known once he announced his run for president the evidence of his wrongdoings will emerge. Or could this really be his plan to brave the run perhaps by buying the office for it’d be his “safe harbor” anyway? Note that Villar’s spending money for his campaign as though really running from the arms of law.
Another bomb was unleashed by former Senate president Franklin Drilon last week that Villar’s company, Crown Communities Iloilo, bought 12.7 hectares in Jibao-an, Pavia, Iloilo from farmer beneficiaries and converted this first-class irrigated rice land into a residential enclave, Savannah Subdivision.
Drilon claims that under the law, it is illegal to convert first-class irrigated agricultural land into a subdivision. That’s exactly what Villar did in developing the Savannah Subdivision. Drilon charged Villar of the crime as he presented tax declarations and other documents obtained from the provincial government.
Drilon said Villar had obtained approval of the Department of Agrarian Reform to convert the agriculture land into a residential area only in 2007, seven years after construction of the subdivision started in 2000. Hence, a criminal act has gone on for 5 years before the conversion was approved, which should’ve sufficed for the DAR to file criminal action unless, of course, Villar fixed it.
Drilon added that Villar used P4 million of his pork barrel funds to build a 585-meter national road that led right into the entrance of Savannah. “This is the only public works project of Villar in the province,” said Drilon at the Iloilo press conference.
Drilon said that Villar, not content with the 12-hectare Savannah property, bought the adjoining rice lands in the area and amassed a total of 250 hectares of land to expand his residential community. The farmers had no choice but to sell their property, said Drilon, because their irrigation supply had been cut off with Villar’s conversion of the Savannah property which was the primary source of water in the area.
Is this a sample of Villar’s social conscience he’d bring to the presidency?
Drilon, who naturally faces a libel suit if his claims weren’t true, said the source of water was cut off and led to the destruction of irrigation canals whose costs should be charged to Villar the same way the Senate is asking him to reimburse the government of close to P7 billion for the feasibility studies, engineering design and plans, and other preparatory work wasted when Villar’s pressured DPWH officials to change the C-5 road extension alignment to “snake” through and provide ingress and egress for 23 Villar-owned or controlled housing subdivisions arching over parts of Metro Manila, Cavite and Laguna.
Villar’s workers back-filled the canals so they can be classified as non-serviceable, said Drilon, who noted that the value of Villar’s Pavia property in Iloilo shot up to P3,500 per square meter from less than P150 per square meter.
Drilon further said, “This is what we call C-5 and a half. Regardless if it is only half a kilometer, it shows the lack of decency on the part of the developer, Senator Villar, who simply set aside all interest of the CARP beneficiaries to be able to pursue his business interests. The C-5 controversy is simply a tip [of] the iceberg. It is a pattern we now see. We are aware of other subdivisions all over the country where similar practice was followed.”
As usual, Villar dismissed the charges the same way he did the Senate Committee Report No. 780 on the C-5 road extension scandal which, according to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, a Harvard-trained lawyer, presents a strong case against Villar and if the issue was brought to court and handled by a good prosecutor, the presidential aspirant “will end up in jail.”
Sen. Jamby Madrigal who first brought the charges on C-5 against Villar and his corporations for the insertions he made in the national budget to cover the road extension costs. The insertions are the same as “earmarks” that brought members of the US Congress to jail.
There’s another property bought by Northwinds Prime Properties Inc. (a Villar company) for the amount of Php120,196,780.00 from Sta. Lucia Realty and Development Corp. was mortgaged to Capitol Development Bank (a Villar-owned thrift bank) under the name of ADR Farms in the amount of Php150,000,000.00 on July 4, 1996 which was used as collateral for a Php1,500,000,000.00 emergency loan from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and eventually sold to RCBC Savings Bank by Capitol Bank and then finally bought back by Palmera Homes Inc. (another Villar company).
Here again is a criminal act involving the BSP in questionable private business transactions whose benefits solely accrued to Villar’s owned Capitol Development Bank, Palmera Homes Inc. and, of course, himself.
It’s a fact an important aspect of a crime an investigator looks into is modus operandi. It’s undeniable that Villar’s MO is to acquire undeveloped lands that a road project is planned or can be made to traverse which he’d hasten through insertions in the national budget or using his pork barrel for road construction to the property, inflate its loan value and borrow housing development funds from government lending institutions.
Very neat, isn’t it? Even Mafia mobsters wanting to go legitimate couldn’t have thought of such criminal enterprise. Pamusa’s volunteer Filipino counsels are unanimous that Villar is probably guilty of “corrupt practices of public officers” under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019) Sections 3(a) and 3(e).
Overseas Filipinos are urging the Ombudsman and Integrated Bar of the Philippines members to act immediately and cleanse our electoral system so an elective office especially the presidency in Villar’s case or Congress in Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s case wouldn’t be a “safe harbor” for crimes they’ve committed with impunity.
Moreover, there’re surely evidence that GMA and Villar have “seriously violated laws on US soil” which the FBI can immediately investigate under the US-RP Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and file the needed legal action in the US which should compel GMA and Villar to withdraw their candidacies, to wit:
1. Mail or Wire Fraud – transferring to the U.S. illegally earned funds or from the proceeds of corruption.
2. Money Laundering – transferring, investing and depositing in the U.S. banking or financial system illegally earned funds or from the proceeds of corruption.
3. Racketeering – violation of the RICO Act which provides that a person who is a member of an enterprise that has committed any two of 35 crimes—27 federal and 8 state crimes —within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering. Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $250,000 and/or sentenced to 20 years in prison per racketeering count. In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of “racketeering activity.” RICO also permits a private individual harmed by the actions of such an enterprise to file a civil suit; if successful, the individual can collect treble damages.
When the United States Attorney (prosecutor) decides to indict someone under RICO, he or she has the option of seeking a pre-trial restraining order or injunction to temporarily seize a defendant’s assets and prevent the transfer of potentially forfeitable property, as well as require the defendant to put up a performance bond. This provision was placed in the law because the owners of Mafia-related shell corporation often absconded with the assets. An injunction and/or performance bond ensures that there is something to seize in the event of a guilty verdict.
In many cases, the threat of a RICO indictment can force defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges, in part because the seizure of assets would make it difficult to pay a defense attorney. Despite its harsh provisions, a RICO-related charge is considered easy to prove in court, as it focuses on patterns of behavior as opposed to criminal acts.
Norwalk, CA – 021310