Friday, January 29, 2010

Squeaky Clean?

I was able to catch the DLSU Youth Forum on ANC. It was a welcome deviation from the usual debate wherein questions were uniformed. The students had good questions and were tailor-made for each presidential aspirant. Towards the end, Sen. Jamby Madrigal took a dig at Manny Villar's C-5 scam. I call it a scam because Villar clearly scammed not the government but the taxpaying Filipino.

Of course Villar defended himself, saying that he never stole a single centavo. He added that he should not be blamed if he wanted Las Piñas to prosper. The city actually can prosper on its own. But without Las Piñas and his wife's influence, Manny Villar will never prosper through "legal" means. He's been exploiting the people of the city. He's been using them to enrich himself. Only Villar and his family prospered in the various road projects he has undertaken.

So he claims that he had answered the issues leveled against him in the senate. Who did benefit most in the C-5, the Daang-hari and the new Bacoor road projects? Evidence presented in the senate hearings (the ones Villar chose not to participate in) showed how the BIR took it upon itself to value Villar's properties far more than the existing value in the area. Villar also used his position to make sure that these projects had funding. Aside from collecting right-of-way compensation, his properties gained from these projects through increased value.

He may claim all he wants that he never stole from the government. You see, stealing is not the only way to enrich yourself. You can also build roads at the expense of the taxpayer to raise the value of your otherwise cheap property. You can also use you pork barrel in the guise of progress to make your subdivisions more marketable. Most of Villar's properties have no access to main thoroughfares. They are tucked behind other properties and would have to pay for right-of-way to other entities. The only logical thing to do is to use his position to push for road projects that would allow passage for his erstwhile inaccessible subdivisions. So who pays for the right-of-way? None other than the government.

It can be compared to technical smuggling. Villar did not need to shell out a single centavo so his subdivisions can have access to other road networks. Hell, he even earned because the government payed him right-of-way compensation for expropriating some portions of his land to build roads. All these are legal, but is it ethical? This is why Villar says that he never stole. Technically, he did not. This is why re fuses to be questioned on propriety and ethics. He knows that he had committed unethical practices during his term in congress and the senate.

So is Villar squeaky clean? If he can use his position and exploit the people of Las Piñas for his personal gain, then he should never be elected into any public office ever again. Here is a man presenting himself as pro-poor yet uses them to enrich himself. Here is a man who promises to give every Filipino a home yet there are many informal settlers in Las Piñas. They have been residing in the city for decades. Last December, 100 families lost their homes Renarville. These are all informal settlers. Did Villar give them homes? Without Gawad Kalinga's help, some of them would still be living in shanties. Villar is a businessman and studies the market well. This is why his developments are geared towards the OFWs who has the purchasing power.

So does Villar deserve your vote? You be the judge. Learn to scrutinize him. Be discerning. And of course, ask him to defend himself in the senate instead of hiding behind the flimsy excuse that his issue is one of politics and not of ethics.