mala-mr.exposey ang drama ni lito banayo these days. patindi nang patindi ang mga banat niya kina manny villar, the senate president, at cynthia villar, the congresswoman from las pinas, sa kanyang malaya column. check out A case of plunder and The road to nowhere or read on.
A case of plunder
When Rep. Joker Arroyo of the first congressional district of Makati was robbed of the speakership in June 1998, he asked some investigative journalist to dig deeper into information he received about an alleged land-grabbing incident in the hilly town of Norzagaray in Bulacan, right beside the foothills of the Sierra Madre. He had information that behind the supposed land-grabbing was the Villar couple, Manuel, soon to be proclaimed Speaker of the House by the grace of the newly-elected president of the land Joseph Ejercito Estrada, and his wife Cynthia.
On August 17, 1998 Joker Arroyo spoke before his peers and charged the new Speaker with violations of the Constitution and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, or R.A. 3019, in all of ten specific instances. The fourth charge of corruption stated by Arroyo was about the Capitol Bank’s receipt of financial accommodations from the Bangko Sentral between 1992 and 1998, when Mrs. Cynthia Villar was its CEO, and her husband Manuel was a congressman from Las Piñas, and now, Speaker of the House.
Sometime last week, at just about the same time that now Senator Arroyo was defending his by now good friend and fellow Wednesday dining companion, Senate President Manuel Villar, on charges of conflict of interest discovered because of a 200 million peso “singit” in the 2008 national budget, a story appeared in one of the national dailies. It said that a certain Gina Jarvina and Valentin Amador, representing several farmers of Norzagaray, filed charges of probable plunder against Villar, his wife Cynthia, now congresswoman of the lone district of Las Piñas, along with Anacordita Magno, first vice-president of Capitol Development Bank, Arturo de los Santos, executive vice-president of Optimum Development Bank, and Andres Rustia, managing director in charge of the Department of Loans and Credit as well as the Assets Management Department of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, in connection with an unpaid loan from the BSP amounting to almost P1.5 billion.
Cynthia Villar was charged in her capacity as president of the Capitol Development Bank (now Optimum Development Bank) who was one of the signatories in the P1.5 billion loan, while Senate President Manuel Villar was made respondent for being a shareholder in the family-owned bank.
The plunder case was filed last Friday by a group of farmers whose ownership of some 484 hectares of agricultural lands in Norzagaray, Bulacan is being disputed by the Bangko Sentral before the Regional Trial Court of Malolos. Complainants are assisted by their lawyer Sergio Angeles of the Angeles, Golla & Associates which holds office in Eagle’s Nest, Sumulong Highway, Barangay Sta. Cruz, Antipolo City.
Based on that complaint, pertinent facts of which were confirmed to this writer by the investigative journalist Joker Arroyo commissioned in 1998, this is the story of the case:
Mrs. Cynthia Villar and Ditas Magno (once introduced to this writer by then Speaker Villar), president and vice-president of Capitol Development Bank, managed to secure a loan from the Bangko Sentral amounting to one and a half billion pesos in two tranches: 1.17 billion on 22 April 1998, and 332 million on 24 April,1998.
Based on the promissory notes signed by Villar and Magno on the two mentioned dates, they promised to pay their loan after six months or 180 days at an interest rate of 14.957 percent per annum. Upon maturity however, the bank and/or the signatories to the loan accommodation failed to pay.
Instead, they settled the loan through a dacion en pago of 483.97 hectares in Norzagaray, Bulacan, the same property that the complainants now before the Ombudsman are claiming to be lawfully theirs. At the time of the dacion, the zonal value assigned by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, which is supposed to approximate actual market value, was 60 pesos per square meter or 600,000 pesos per hectare. Those 484 hectares should therefore be worth 290 million pesos, but it was used to settle an account from the Bangko Sentral of 1.5 billion pesos! Can you beat that?
In fine, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, fiduciary trustee of the people of the Republic of the Philippines, issuer of legal tender used by its benighted residents within the metes and bounds of the same Republic, now holds assets valued at 290 million, which “erased” liability of the Villars worth one and a half billion, or five times the value of the property now in its possession. In effect, the Bangko Sentral lost 1.210 billion of the people’s money to some very, very wise guys, for and in behalf of a hopelessly bankrupt Capitol Development Bank.
The deed of real estate mortgage was dated June 29, 2001 for the 483.973 hectares (484 has.) of agricultural land in Norzagaray, Bulacan which was used as payment for the P1.5 billion loan of CDB in April 1998. By this time, Manuel Villar had ceased to be Speaker of the House, and was already a candidatefor senator of the realm under newly-proclaimed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s People Power Movement ticket, in the “unusual” company of Joker Arroyo, his erstwhile tormentor-rival in 1998. Both won, Joker Arroyo for his tagline “Uubusin ang corrupt!” and Manuel Villar as “Mr. Sipag at Tiyaga”.
The perfect corporate crime, with the people of the Republic holding land one-fifth the value of the monies it lent? That’s not the end of the story, though.
It was only in 2007 that the complainant-farmers learned about the so-called nine transfer certificate of titles (TCT) covering the 484 hectares of land now being claimed by the BSP as their property after the foreclosure proceedings it conducted against the CDB.
The complainant-farmers, whose forebears had been cultivating the land since the turn of the last century, learned about the BSP’s claim only when they filed before the Malolos City Regional Trial Court for reconstitution of their land titles after the records of their titles in Norzagaray were burned in a fire that destroyed the building which houses the local Register of Deeds.
The complainants questioned the validity of TCTs in the possession of BSP since the date of issuance of the sales patent on July 17, 1944 and the date of issuance of the original certificate title (OCT) on July 25, 1944 “took place when there was no civil government in the Philippines.”
The complainants added that Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, maintained that “authorizing the issuance of sales patent was illegal and inoperative during the Japanese occupation.”
Sa madaling salita, “peke” pa ang mga titulo ng lupa na ibinayad sa Bangko Sentral!
Niloko na nga sa over-valued na halaga, naloko pa ang Bangko Sentral, na binayaran ng “mickey mouse” torrens title, issued during the Japanese occupation. At ninakawan ng lupain ang mga mahihirap na magsasaka. Will wonders never cease?
When the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman was printed in a broadsheet, the spokesperson of the Villar companies, or was it the Nacionalista spokesman, former Rep. Gilbert Remulla of Cavite, the young man who would be senator of the realm, called it “old hat”, “recycled issues” that were already dismissed by the Ombudsman. “Pulitika lang ‘yan”, he scoffed. Yet a check with the agency records in the pink building along Agham Road in Quezon City shows that what was brought before the graft prosecutor was a mere letter-complaint, and this is the first time that a formal complaint of plunder regarding the transaction was received by them.
The signatories of the promissory notes for which Bangko Sentral loaned out 1.5 billion of the people’s money were Mrs. Cynthia Villar, not yet a congresswoman at the time of the transaction, and Ditas Magno, with Arturo de los Santos participating at the time of the dacion. The signatory for the Bangko Sentral was Andres Rustia.
Yet, the complainants and their lawyer included Senate President Manuel Villar in the complaint, who at the time of the transaction and its episodes, was either a congressman or already Speaker of the House. The lawyer explained that though Villar was not a signatory, the circumstances in the irregular and unusually generous transaction suggest clearly that the latter must have exerted undue influence or pressure upon the officers of the Bangko Sentral.
While that contention may be legally debatable, would Manny Villar leave his wife the congresswoman to answer this complaint singly? Can he simply shrug these charges off as “recycled” and “old” or leave the explaining to his faithful political acolytes, as he did the mystery of the 200 million double entry which would cross through properties he and his wife own, and for which monies of the Republic were used to compensate for road right of way? ”
A road through elsewhere
The Carlos P. Garcia Avenue, from SLEX to Sucat Road Extension, and from there, onwards to the Coastal Road, is not a “road to nowhere.” More appropriately, it is the “road through elsewhere”.
What has become a road to nowhere though is another-the original C-5 as planned, and for which money spent by two previous administrations have been laid to waste. Read on and find out how this happened:
The Circumferential Road that was to thread around the metropolis, just as EDSA does, was planned long ago, in fact, as far back as Ferdinand Marcos’ extended stay in Malacañang. EDSA stretches from the city of Caloocan at the Bonifacio monument all the way down to Roxas Boulevard, crossing through Quezon City, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Makati, and Pasay. C-5 strings Navotas-Malabon in the northwestern side of Manila Bay, goes through Caloocan, then Quezon City, to Mandaluyong, Makati, Pasig, Taguig, crossing SLEX around the Bicutan area, and through Parañaque up to the Coastal Road along the southwest part of Manila Bay. There is absolutely no doubt that it is a major road artery with great benefit to motorists and transport operators. Nobody disputes that.
In fact, it certainly qualifies for foreign funding. But somehow, we’ve always been using funds appropriated piece-meal from the General Appropriations Act, except for fly-overs traversing it, which were funded by bilateral financing assistance from Japan.
But here is the startling discovery the Senate investigation into the 200 million peso “insertion” triggered: The original C-5 stretch from SLEX to Coastal as planned, has been transferred to some other site. It has been moved elsewhere!
Originally, DPWH would have constructed the road from somewhere in Bicutan through Parañaque, and comes out to Sucat after passing through the huge property of Amvel Corporation, owned by Bro. Mike Velarde of the El Shaddai, which ends at Sucat Road. From there, it goes through San Dionisio in Parañaque, almost at the border of La Huerta, widening an existing road called Kabihasnan. In fact, as early as FVR’s term, concluded in Erap’s shortened term, a negotiated price had been set for the road right-of-way traversing Amvel’s land. Government had already paid 1.2 billion pesos for that stretch of road.
Yet in a macabre twist of events, that stretch of C-5 or Carlos P. Garcia Avenue, was moved from the area traversing Amvel’s paid-for right of way, and forays farther south, through other properties, and approaches Sucat elsewhere, near the border of San Dionisio, right smack into the SM Mall complex. Then, a new road, already constructed, traverses the SM property, cuts through portions of Pulang Lupa in Las Piñas, and ends in Aldana, also in Las Piñas. From there, it will cross onto the Coastal Road. The new road will be longer than the original C-5, but what’s more, it passes through 39 lots, 12 of which belong to either Adelfa Corporation, or Brittany Corporation, or Golden Haven Memorial Park, all of which belong to the Villar spouses, Manuel and Cynthia, their children and minority assigns.
By moving the C-5 Road “elsewhere,” not only has the cost of construction expanded, but the purchase of right-of-way has multiplied.
Worse, criminal in fact, is that by so doing, government throws away 1.2 billion precious pesos paid out in road right-of-way rights to private landowners, chief of which is the Amvel of Bro. Mike Velarde.
How was this done? How was the original plan scrapped, and the road effectively moved elsewhere? Ask the spouses Manuel and Cynthia Villar, now Senate President and lone representative of Las Piñas City in the Lower House.
For when Villar the husband was yet the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee back in 2004, he and his Cynthia worked out a project proposal with the Department of Public Works and Highways, providing funds amounting to 710 million pesos, for road construction and “road right-of-way” payments in the newly-moved location of C-5. For that year alone, 355 million was allocated for right-of-way settlements. And clearly, Villar and his family corporations own so much of these properties. From the public monies appropriated in the budget Villar “amended” – to his own pocket, right?
And that is just the 2005 appropriations law. What about the 2006 budget, which was a re-enacted budget? Did the Doña’s DBM release re-aligned funds once more to fund Villar’s favorite project? After all, Villar was a pillar of the administration’s support base in the Senate, having in fact become Senate President by virtue of a term-sharing deal ironed out with Franklin Drilon, who in the middle of 2005, after discovery of the election cheating conspiracy between Garci and Gloria, had the courage to call for his president’s resignation. Not Villar. Never Villar, who now styles himself as “opposition”.
Now, pray ask our dear senators of the realm – did then Senator Manuel Villar, by effectively causing the re-routing of C-5, not cause the waste of public monies already sunk in road right-of-way payments to private persons to the tune of almost 1.2 billion pesos? Is this not violative of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act?
And in proposing the new C-5 project, passing through properties that his family corporations own, pray ask, was not Senator Manuel Villar guilty of conflict of interest, which violates constitutional provisions?
And in appropriating funds for the revised road project, the road right-of-way problems for 2005 alone amounting to 355 million pesos, was not Villar guilty of self-dealing, using funds that belong to the Treasury over which he had greater power to appropriate than any of his peers, being at the time chair of the Finance Committee? Isn’t this again a clear conflict of interest?
Then again, this time as Senate President in 2007, while passing the General Appropriations Act for the current year 2008, did not Villar cause the “insertion” of an additional 200 million pesos over and above a similar amount proposed in the President’s budget through the National Expenditures Program? That fact was established during the single open-and-shut hearing called by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who himself confirmed that it was his Senate President who asked for the insertion, earmark or amendment.
That the money had not yet been spent, and that the money was not to go directly to Villar’s pocket or anybody else’s, does not detract from the fact that all along, the Senate President who was once chair of the Senate Finance Committee, was profiting, and profiting immensely, from the relocation of a new C-5 from an old C-5 road plan. And would profit even more, in fact, humongously more, once the new road opens up all his real estate, which will later spot such ultra-expensive brands as Portofino, or La Marea, or Brittany, or whatever else, no more the plebeian Palmera or Camella?
Why am I now detailing the specifics of the bizarre arrangements made by Senator Manuel Villar with the present administration, as if I were a reporter instead of an opinion writer?
Because the public has the right to know what many sectors of media have conveniently hidden from them, whether through deliberately shortened reports of through a plain news blackout, as happened on the night and succeeding nights of the nation’s biggest television network. 1.2 billion pesos down the drain, and additional public funds spent and yet to be spent, simply because one family’s greed knows no bounds, yet this is not considered important enough to be news? One wonders whether the network’s moguls are in the know about what their editors and news managers do “on the side.”
But that is not the only story. There is more than what we see on the surface. This is not just a case of self-aggrandizement, enriching one’s coffers by using power and influence to determine policies, plans and programs of government.
In the next column, we will detail more sinister C-5 related deals of the man who heads the Senate of the Republic. . . .