(Article published in the May 5, 2010
issue of Manila Standard Today)
It was bad enough that Atty. Restituto S. Mendoza, former lawyer of Adelfa Properties, Inc. (admittedly a corporation where Manny Villar has interest) came out to disclose on nationwide TV the contents of his affidavit filed with the Department of Labor in support of his claim for separation pay and other benefits. As ardently as Mendoza pleaded his cause, he too disclosed all the sordid detail of what he claimed was the modus operandi of Adelfa’s legal victories. Strike one.
The heat worsened and came closer to Manny Villar when veteran investigative journalist Gerry Lirio came out in a two-part exposé, serialized last week by another broadsheet (rather belatedly but nevertheless no less damning), that narrated how the presidential aspirant, while he was Senate President, sought to have the Philippine Stock Exchange perform some bending calisthenics of its lock-up rules.
That the PSE Board did not
capitulate does not matter. What is crucial is that he who presently would
wish to be voted president, in furtherance of his private business
interests, by body language (if not, as some have in confidence revealed,
threatening speech), went to the extent of personally gate-crushing into a
board meeting seeking to have his way.
There were so many witnesses of his surprise apparition that denial was neither plausible nor credible. So admitted it was by Manny Villar, but not without any attempt at downplay of significance and diversion of attention. There was “nothing wrong” with his intervention at the PSE, Villar maintains, since the PSE was not a government agency, and, besides, the government earned P100 million in taxes on his fast break deal. Yeah, sure.
The point, is that Manny Villar had the burden of a clear conflict of interest, between his being Senate President and his being a substantial interest holder in the corporation that stands to benefit from his advocacy. Section 4(a) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials Employees (R.A. No. 6713) requires him to “ALWAYS uphold the public interest OVER and ABOVE personal interest.” Section 9 of the same law further mandates that he shall “avoid conflicts of interest AT ALL TIMES”. (Capitalization mine). A violation of the said law is, pursuant to Section 11 a criminally punishable offense. Strike two.
Surpassing the combined malevolence of the foregoing two is the third strike against Manny Villar. As masterfully pointed out by Lilia R. Shahani in her examination of his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, from the period of eight years starting from 2001 to 2008, inclusive, a sworn declaration that is required by law to be filed by public officials, Villar has a lot of questions to answer. These questions he cannot cavalierly dodge because they go into his moral fitness as well as into the degree of fidelity to the compliance that is expected of him.
The first question is how to explain, given that he had no liabilities that could have been written off and given that he had declared a salary only of P426,500 as senator, how his net worth increased by P641, 133,934 from 2001 to 2008? He declared no liabilities; hence, the increase in net worth could only be explained by income, or some form of inflow of wealth. By what business acumen, while in office, was that made possible?
Second, Manny Villar reported in 2001 only six pieces of real property having the total acquisition cost of P4,594, 819. For some strange reason, the acquisition cost, as declared, went down to P4,588,619, or lower by 6,200. How can the acquisition cost of the same properties go down in value? Were these sales? Write-offs? Or what?
Then in 2007, his real estate properties, after hibernating for a little more than 5 years, shot skyward to P19,518,532. Moreover, what used to be 6 parcels of land, uniformly listed at the same values in the previous years, multiplied to 38 parcels. How come? By avulsion? accretion? occupation? or, what? Does the increase, both in number and in value, have anything to do with the Vista Land listing at the PSE at about the same time?
Third, the figures regarding his investment in stocks leave much to be desired. From 2001 to 2006, the book value of his stock investments amounted to a constant P200,837, 890. Then, his investment increased by P7,846.850 in 2007 and remained the same for 2008. What accounted for the increase?
Finally, the mother of all financial reporting wonders jumps out of the page that shows the increase of Manny Villar’s personal properties in the period between 2001 and 2008: a hefty increase of P618,363,371 over the 8-year period resulting in his 2008 personal properties showing up as 409% of his 2001 values. Was he in a buying spree? With what money? With whose money?
Possibly, an explanation is the movement of the “Receivables” figures. But, where did these “receivables” come from? Were these money previously lent? If so, why do we not find any indication of these cash or securities their existence prior to their being lent out?
Were the “receivables”, on the other hand, for services rendered? If so, services to whom? For what services? By the way, were they ever paid for?
Or were the receivables proceeds from the sale of shares of stock or some other personal property? If so, were these so called shares or other personal property ever reported in the SALN?
Or are these receivables no more than “balancing figures”? A quick and easy way of getting at the correct answers to these questions is the revelation by Manny Villar of his income tax returns from 2001 to 2009. If the figures match and the correct tax appears to have been properly paid, why, then, he deserves to be in the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s Hall of Fame for taxpayers. If they don’t, then we have the beginnings of a proof of the generally accepted saying that “figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”