Saturday, April 24, 2010

Villar jail-bound----Erap

By Charlie V. Manalo

Original Story:

BUTUAN CITY — Instead of bagging the much coveted political position in the land, Nacionalista Party presidential bet might be bound for incarceration following revelations made by former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile the NP standard bearer, Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar, pressured corporate regulators into allowing him to sell locked-up stocks of his listed holding company, in violation of stock market rules, in 2007, earning billions of pesos in the process.

In an interview, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) standard bearer Estrada said he personally believes Villar could be jailed if he is found to have unduly used his powers, then as a Senate President, to influence and pressure the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) to bend the lock-up restriction so he could sell his stake in Vista Land and Lifescapes Inc. after it got listed on the bourse.

“Yes, he could be jailed for that,” said Estrada

Aside from violating the laws governing stock offerings and listing, Estrada noted that Villar also violated another law by directly lobbying with the PSE board in behalf of his company.

According to Estrada, the law clearly prohibits government officials from directly managing their businesses.

“It is a ground for graft. He is personally involved in the majority of his business. He is personally involved in running the businesses.

“As he admitted, he’s running it as a private citizen. Is it possible to have a split personality in such things? He was certainly using his position to benefit him and his companies, where he is directly involved,” said Estrada.

“He should have divested along time ago.”

With all those revelations, Estrada said it would be dangerous for Villar to get elected as the country’s next president.

“Well, if he can do that while he was Speaker, Senate President, how much more if he is already the president,” said Estrada “He is really dangerous.”

When asked if he has plans of filing graft case or disqualification against Villar, Estrada said he believes it could be a little too late for filing a petition for disqualification.

But with regard to the graft case, Estrada said he is leaving that matter to Enrile who holds the documentary evidence against the NP bet.

Estrada’s campaign manager, Ambassador Ernesto Maceda, in a morning TV show said that the PMP, Estrada’s party, will definitely file graft charges against Villar after the elections.

Villar, however, claimed that which he did by way of calling the officials of the SEC and PSE and even sitting in their board meetings to get his locked-in shares exempted, was “aboveboard.”

Villar yesterday again denied the charge of Estrada and Enrile that he had pressured the PSE board to bend its rules in favor of his company, Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc. (VLL).

“No law was broken in the case of Vistaland. There were no new rules that the PSE came up with for Vistaland. There was no irregularity,”Villar said in a press conference held at the NP headquarters in Mandaluyong City.

Estrada and Enrile on Thursday said Villar pressured the PSE in 2007 to immediately sell shares of VLL after its initial public offering (IPO) despite a prerequisite lock-up period.

Enrile also mentioned the fact that this sale of billions of his shares of stock, where he was said to have gained some P26 million, with some P6 billion earmarked for his presidential campaign, was not included in Villar’s statement of assets and liabilities networth (SALn).

In earlier interviews, especially in his questioning Liberal Party standard bearer Sen. Noynoy Aquino’s funding, said to be coming from President Arroyo’s cronies, Villar has been claiming that he has been spending his personal funds, and that the funds came from the Villar company which is largely owned by Villar and his wife, through the IPO.

He no longer says this, after a complaint against him filed by a lawyer identified with Sen. Jamby Madrigal, who pointed out that a law may have been breached by Villar in using funds from company money through the IPO.

Lately his chief legal counsel, who now acts as his attack dog against Estrada, denied that Villar used his company’s funds for his campaign.

While Villar lets loose his attack dog, lawyer Galang, he said that despite the “false claims” raised by the former president, he has nothing but respect for Estrada whom he said was misled or fed with wrong information.

He denied that there were overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who invested in VLL, as claimed by Estrada and that these allegations are all about politics,” Villar said, using his standard line in a bid to evade getting into the root.

He clarified that the PSE is a private entity and as such, what transpired between him and the PSE board is purely a private matter.

“In the end, it was rejected. So where was the pressure there? Where was the coercion?” Villar said.

He also presented an official statement from the PSE saying that VLL had complied with the listing and public offering requirements of the exchange based on its records in 2007.

Villar also denied Estrada and Enrile’s allegation that he also called up officials of Securities and Exchange Commission for the same issue, saying the regulatory body has nothing to do with what VLL was asking from the PSE.

Later, he admitted meeting and making phone calls with SEC chairman Fe Barin and PSE president Francis Lim but said all these were just “normal.”

In Butuan City, the former president yesterday vowed he would not fail the Filipino people should he win a second mandate to serve as president in the May 2010 national elections.

“I have been humbled and changed by all my personal experiences, and I am making a solemn vow to the whole Filipino nation that I shall not fail them from the beginning to the end of a second Erap presidency,” Estrada declared.

Estrada has previously acknowledged that he may have reposed his trust in individuals who later proved themselves unworthy, adding that this has added to the “life lessons” he has learned over the past years which include nearly seven years in detention.

“I know better now, and I promise our countrymen that I will not fail them should I again be elected president in May 2010,” the PMP standard bearer promised.

Estrada has resumed his campaign sorties through several provinces and cities in the south after a brief break in Manila to spend his birthday with family and close friends.

Estrada, his running mate Makati mayor Jojo Binay, and members of the PMP senatorial slate including Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, lawyer JV Bautista, and former representative Apolinario “Jun” Lozada, were in Butuan City for a campaign sortie through the south.

Their visit was hosted by Rep. Rodolfo “Ompong” Plaza, himself a PMP senatorial candidate. Another massive, cheering throng which has become a hallmark of Estrada’s sorties was on hand to welcome them.

Meanwhile, the NP camp was quick to defend Villar, saying he is being ganged up by his rivals in next month’s election because of “something in the ground that is not being reflected by the surveys.”

“That something,” said NP spokesman and senatorial candidate Gilbert Remulla, “is that Senator Villar, in reality, is the man to beat in the battle for the presidency.”

Remulla said Villar has become the favorite target of mudslinging by the other presidential candidates because of the groundswell of support pouring his way from all sectors of Philippine society.

“Senator Villar is being pulled down because he is way up there in our people’s estimation as the most competent candidate who can end, once and for all, abject poverty in our country,” he stressed.

“I have no doubt that our people can see through the manufactured and rehashed allegations against Senator Villar, who had chosen not to dignify their malicious attacks. And rightly so since we, in the Nacionalista Party, would never stoop to such a low level.”

Just last week, Villar had cemented overwhelming support from at least 80 percent of all local government officials nationwide, said Remulla.

As candidates themselves, the local officials have been campaigning vigorously for Villar “where it matters most -- the grassroots, the barangays, the impoverished urban and rural centers.”

Mayors and barangay officials, including those in Cebu, had been so moved by Villar’s thrust to make government work for the people that they had inundated Villar’s headquarters with manifestos of support, the NP claim went.

Remulla said that among the presidential candidates, it is only Villar who has an honest-to-goodness government platform designed to improve the economy, create jobs and empower the people as entrepreneurs.

“On every campaign sortie, people come to us to say that they are overwhelmingly voting for Senator Villar as President. Incidentally, they wonder aloud how come the surveys do not reflect their real sentiments,” he said.

“They ask how come neither they nor anyone they knew had been surveyed. To them, it seems the survey figures are being plucked out from thin air. It’s a mystery to them.”

Remulla said Villar would rather talk about what he intends to do as President than to “waste his time answering every garbage accusation thrown his way.”

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