Manny Villar Jr. a Philippine Presidentiable Controversy Collections.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Then dump it on the Republic

LAST Tuesday, we detailed how Manny Villar and his housing corporations made its billions, piggy-backing on the monies of the Republic of the Philippines.

By a scheme called "takeout," Camella and Palmera, among others, sold socialized cost housing units to any Tom, Dick and Harry, never mind if they could afford the monthly installments. Then, they turned around to the NHMFC, and through the United Home Lending Program, they were paid the value of the houses sold, in cash. Because many of the buyers, in fact more than half of them, could not pay the mortgaged units, the government was left holding the proverbial empty bag. The housing deals made Villar happy and awash with billions in profits. But Juan de la Cruz, though he did not know it then, has every reason to be unhappy. The uncollected mortgages were charged to the Republic.

Villar went for the even bigger deals. He bought every available piece of land in Bacoor, Imus, Muntinglupa, San Pedro and Las Piñas, even Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, and other bustling parts of the benighted land. These were financed by huge dollar-denominated borrowings just at the time that FVR de-regulated banking restrictions on foreign exchange. And to make sure the loans were easily facilitated, Villar had a bank to boot – Capitol Bank, which was re-packaged from the ashes of a previously failed bank. And his wife was the CEO of Capitol Bank.

But then, the heavens caved in when an overheated, over-expanded Southeast Asia suddenly got caught in the throes of a major recession. Hardest hit was Thailand, where several mega-billionaires jumped desperately from buildings to their death. Manny Villar, earlier basking in recognition as the "brown taipan," suddenly felt the ground shake beneath his billion-peso empire. It must have been akin to Intensity 8. But smart Filipinos do not commit hara-kiri. They enter politics, and then dump their liabilities on the Republic. Again, bahala na si Juan de la Cruz.

In 1998, Capitol Bank got emergency loans in four tranches from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Earlier in this space, I thought Cynthia Villar and Anacordita Magno’s signed promissory notes were only for 1.168 billion and 332 million, respectively, for a total of 1.5 billion pesos. And I thought that the bulk of the properties mortgaged and later foreclosed was the Norzagaray ancestral land occupied by Dumagats and remontados.

It turns out I barely scratched the tip of the iceberg, with documents provided by long-suffering and long-complaining farmers. For now, Bangko Sentral insiders, shocked at the kind of investigation they would have to weather after June 30 from an incensed people who would want closure and justice from several financial scandals and gross violations of anti-graft and plunder laws, and seeing how their top officials continue to stonewall, obfuscate and even prevaricate, supplied us with evidentiary documents proving that it was not just 1.5 billion pesos that the BSP in 1998 doled out to the insolvent Capitol Bank, but 4.5 billion!

On March 20, 1998, 2 billion pesos was released. Six days after, on March 26, another 1 billion was granted. Then on April 22, 1.168 billion, followed by 332 million two days after. For a grand total of 4.5 billion pesos. All of these happened while Manuel Villar Jr. was running unopposed for a third term as congressman of the lone district of Las Piñas under the ticket of Lakas-NUCD, whose standard-bearer was Jose de Venecia, then Speaker of the House of Representatives.

But another person trumped De Venecia, winning in every city and municipality of Metro Manila, except in the Villar-Aguilar fiefdom called Las Piñas. Strangely, Erap made Villar speaker after he was elected and proclaimed president, leaving Joker Arroyo of Makati and Bibit Duavit of the NPC and Rizal, out in the cold. This was a decision I objected to, as then newly-named presidential adviser on political affairs, albeit awaiting the official oath-taking, because I have a personal dislike, then and now, for political turncoatism. But the President had decided. Two years and five months later, the decision to adopt Villar as his Speaker must have caused Erap deep regrets. For Villar impeached him and forthwith, "like a thief in the night," sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial.

As Speaker, Villar was an awesome power the "independent" Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Monetary Board had to contend with. The promissory notes remained unpaid long after their six-month term expired. Thus, the BSP, through its Department of Loans and Credit, wrote the Optimum Development Bank, on December 13, 1999, the successor bank of Capitol Development Bank which had earlier closed down, reminding them of a total obligation of "PhP Four Billion Three Hundred Forty Million Three Hundred Seventy Four Thousand Seven Hundred Seventy Pesos and 71 centavos, EXCLUSIVE of the corresponding accrued interest and liquidated damages".

"Because of this, we have been given definite instruction(s) to initiate legal action against you and the real estate mortgage(s) securing the said amount…Consider this as our FINAL demand".

Cutting a long story short, the Bangko Sentral foreclosed on the properties mortgaged to it by Capitol Development Bank. Deeds of real estate mortgage executed by several Villar corporations, such as Optimum, Adelfa, Palmera, Manila Brickworks, Capitol, Carissa, Household Development, etc. etc. etc., were hastily signed from 2000 to 2001 by Anacordita Magno and Jerry Navarrete, during which time Villar had already successfully dumped Erap in favor of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and in fact, became senator of the realm in May 2001, while the transfers were yet being made to the BSP, which accepted the "titles" through Andres I. Rustia, Managing Director of the Department of Loans, Credit and Asset Management.

In an announcement made via an ad in this paper reacting to the questions posed before it by farmer’s groups and NGO’s assisting the Norzagaray farmers, the BSP now says (1) they exercised due diligence in ascertaining the validity of land titles mortgaged to it; (2) they had to act fast as lender of last resort; (3) they took appropriate legal steps to protects their rights as creditor; and (4) the claims of the Norzagaray farmes are now pending litigation and BSP would abide by the decision of the appropriate courts."

In short, the people of the Republic, whose money entrusted to the bank of banks, to the tune of 4.5 billion pesos excluding interest, will just have to accept the "good word" of its fiduciary trustee that everything was done in order, and everything was protective of their interest. The farmers dispossessed of legal title to their land will just have to grin and bear it, because the Bank said so, and will have to await decision by the courts of justice in a land where justice is for sale, or if not so in certain exceptions, is blind to the plight of the powerless when pitted against the powerful. And Manuel Villar Jr. wants to be the most powerful man in this land for the next six years.

It turns out though that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas not only accepted overlapping Norzagaray titles with faked provenance. It also accepted marginal properties in Teresa, Rizal, among others, and accepted the Villar corporation’s claimed valuations thereof which in most cases were FIVE to SIX times their market value at the time! Just as an example, TCT No. M-71887 with a Tax Declaration market value of 30,000 pesos, was accepted by the BSP at the declared collateral value of 211,400, and a 70% loan value of 148,000 pesos. TCT M-71925n worth 16,000 pesos was accepted at a collateral value of 149,950 pesos with a loan value of 105,000 pesos. And so on and so forth, through page after page of enumerated real estate "garbage."

Tell you what. In 1978, my old folks had to borrow from a commercial bank so we could rebuild a commercial property in Butuan City that was burned down without appropriate insurance. The property we hocked was given a loan value of only 60% of market. How many of us lesser mortals have had to plead with our banks to please, oh Lord please, give us more value for our precious little assets when we need the loan so very badly?

Ah, but as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "the rich are different from you and I". And in this benighted land, the supra-powerful, like a senator and congresswoman, a Speaker at that, and a Senate President even, are certainly different from you and I.

Even insofar as the "independent" Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is concerned.

The moral of the story of Manny Villar’s billions? It pays to be powerful. It pays to abuse your power.

You make an obscene amount of billions not through "sipag at tiyaga" but through cunning and deceit and the arrogant abuse of power. And when you lose those billions, either through recklessness or sheer misfortune, no need to worry…you can always charge it to poor Juan de la Cruz. You can inflate the value of your :garbage", dump it upon a trusting and submissive Bank of Banks, and just relax. And then, using all the monies you could scoop out of the public works budget, your collective pork barrel (his and hers) and even budgetary insertions, you can cause the building of spanking new highways to traverse your choice properties (C-5, Daang Hari, Daang Reyna, etc.) the better to increase their value and marketability, no longer as "low-cost" houses, but as Italianate or Mediterranean-inspired homes for the nouveau riche.

And then put together your by-now-freed-from debt corporations, thanks to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and other banks left holding garbage-filled bags into one corporate flagship. Then you go to the Philippine Stock Exchange and have the new flagship sold to the gullible public in the form of initial public offerings of hyped-up shares of stock. And when you foresee rough economic times ahead, because of an economic recession triggered in similar but bigger fashion in the ultra-rich United States of A, dump those shares of stock, take the money, and run for president of the benighted Republic whose citizens and institutions and public monies you have used, abused and hood-winked.

No. Gibo is not "galing at talino". Gloria is. And most certainly, perhaps even more "galing at talino" than Gloria and her Mike, her Mikey y ademas relaciones, is Senor Manny Villar, er, Money Villarroyo.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Villar’s Tondo roots were ‘definitely middle class’

In 1961, when Liberal Party standard-bearer Diosdado Macapagal was in the midst of a victorious presidential campaign, today’s presidential aspirant Manny Villar Jr. was 11 years old and living with his large extended family in a rented three-story corner house along Tondo’s main tree-lined boulevard, Moriones Street.

Villar’s father, Manuel Sr., was a US-educated Philippine government budget officer and his mother was an enterprising fish dealer, one of a privileged few with a choice stall in Divisoria market, one of Manila’s busiest.

By that year, Evelyn Villar, Manny’s aunt and Manuel Sr.’s sister, had already been a leading lady in movies produced by the major studio LVN. Evelyn hung out with Rosa Rosal, Delia Razon and other LVN stars at the time, and would occasionally sleep over in the Moriones house.

It was also a time when, candidate Manny Villar would like voters to believe, his family was almost desperately poor, judging from the songs, rhetoric and political ads that have formed the main narrative of his political campaign.

"Ako, noong first 11 years of my life, talagang squatter kami noong araw. Lahat, dinaanan ko yan," the senator said two weeks ago.

In 1962, as Villar was turning 13, his younger brother Danny, then three, died of leukemia, after his family had already transferred from Moriones to the upscale San Rafael Village in North Balut, Tondo (San Rafael village spans the border between Tondo and Navotas).

But in a political ad that has stopped airing, Villar claimed that his family was so poor then that they couldn’t buy the medicines that could have saved his brother’s life.

His critics and political opponents have since challenged the veracity of his claims to childhood destitution, leading Villar and his allies to back track a bit and halt some of the more questionable ads proclaiming his pauper roots, including the now famous music ad about swimming in a sea of garbage and spending Christmas on the streets, as if Villar and his siblings were urchins caroling to motorists.

The argument about the Villar family’s true economic status has become one of the bitterest bones of contention in this overheated political season, and has led to spirited exchanges in the media and on the web about what constituted real poverty in the early 1960s.

GMANews.TV has spent the past month trying to get to the bottom of Villar’s childhood poverty claims, interviewing neighbors, family members, and retired and active fish vendors who used to source their fish from Manny’s mother, Curing. She was acknowledged by both family members and her fellow-fish dealers as the entrepreneur in the family, and whom the candidate credits for teaching him the rudiments of business.

Manuel Villar Sr.'s government income

We also obtained from government archives the partial government employment records of the late Manuel Villar Sr. from 1938 to 1961 (his records beyond that year have not yet been found). Together with accounts from Curing’s fellow vendors of how much she was probably earning at the time, a fairly accurate picture has emerged for the first time of the Villar family’s income and what it could be worth in today’s money.

According to Manuel Villar Sr.’s salary record in 1961 as a rising official in the then-Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, he was earning P448 a month or P5376 a year. It does not sound like much but the value of money was much different then. The minimum wage was four pesos a day, and an eight-ounce soft drink was 10 centavos or less. The elder Villar was earning an average of P22 a day.

Significantly, according to a household income survey in 1961 conducted by the National Statistics Office, the average annual individual income in that year was only P1,105. In other words, Manny Villar’s father was earning nearly five times the average income at the time.

Using the consumer price index from both 1961 and 2009 available on the National Statistics Office web site, we calculated the equivalent of P448 in 1961 to be P35,392 in today’s money, Manuel Villar Sr.’s monthly salary when adjusted for inflation. His rank in the civil service then was Budget Officer III.

Even in 1957, when the candidate says the family was much poorer, his father was earning P3960 a year at a time when the average individual income was P924 per annum.

Manuel Villar Sr. had started out in the government service in 1938 as a laboratory helper and became a junior fish warden during World War II. According to his employment records, Manuel Sr. studied fisheries in the United States as a "pensionado" or government scholar in 1948-49. When he returned to the Philippines, he was soon made a section chief and he continued to rise in both rank and salary.

Being a government employee was a relatively comfortable situation in the 1950s and 60s, especially for the rare one who had studied abroad on a scholarship. Government officials were much better paid in those days and, without the reputation for corruption attached to government service today, they enjoyed greater prestige in the community.

“They were definitely middle class," said Dr. Cielito Habito, an economist at Ateneo de Manila University and a former head of the National Economic and Development Authority, or NEDA, who helped GMANews.TV convert the elder Villar's income to today’s money.

A double income family

But the father’s regular salary was just one income in the Villars’ double-income family. The main breadwinner was actually Manny’s now famous mother Curing. According to several fish market vendors and their children who worked alongside the Villars in the Divisoria market in the 1960s, Curing earned no less than P80 a day and could have averaged as much as P600 a day after building up a steady customer base that included restaurants and nearby offices to whom she delivered fresh fish.

Using the factor of 79, based on the Consumer Price Index, that’s the equivalent of P6,320 to P47,400 a day in 2010. The lower figure was recalled by Eduardo Artures, 69, who worked in the same market in his teens and who knew the Villars.

The higher figure was cited by retired fish vendor Lelet Buenviaje, 68, who worked in Divisoria for nearly 40 years and sold shrimp just a few stalls a way from Curing. She recalls Manny Jr. as a hard-working son who often assisted his mother.

She vividly recalls Curing being one of the most successful Divisoria seafood wholesalers during the 1960s. She herself would buy seafood from Aling Curing on a nearly daily basis, which she would then retail.

“Kasi kung minsan tinatanghali ako, wala na kong aabutan sa labas eh," recalls Lelet. “Minsan kumukuha ako 20 kilos, hanggang 30 (kilos). Pinakamababa 10 kilos ang kuha ko sa kanya. Napapautang niya kami. Kinabukasan ang bayad. Mabait si Aling Curing."

Lelet remembers most of Aling Curing’s customers being seafood vendors themselves as well, not ordinary consumers.

“Halimbawa may naligaw na buyer na bibili ng tingi, nagbebenta din siya. Pero mas marami siyang suki sa mga nagtitinda," remembers Lelet.

However, Senator Villar has insisted that his mother was never a wholesaler. “We were not in wholesaling. We were ordinary vendors selling shrimps in public markets, which I’ve been saying for so many times," he has said. “Tatlong banyera lamang ang tinda namin. Noong bandang huli, noong ako ay nasa college na, medyo dumadami-dami na yung tinda namin."

Curing Villar and three of her daughters, who met GMANews.TV in an exclusive group interview in the family home in Las Piñas, don’t recall their income in those days, a time of low food prices and national optimism when the elder Macapagal, incumbent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s father, was promising to lead a frugal and honest administration. But they were one in insisting that they were poor. The Villar sisters Baby, Vicky, and Cecile recall how during their years in Moriones, they had to forego luxuries such as new clothes and expensive food just to help their parents support their large family.

“Minsan, lalagyan lang namin ng patis ang kanin. Minsan, saging na may bagoong, mantika na may asin. Kung wala kaming ulam, kanin lang, okay na sa amin ‘yun sa araw-araw. ‘Pag may natira sa tinda (ni Nanay), yung mga hipon na nagkadurog-durog na ‘yung ulo, sisipsipin pa namin," says Gloria “Baby" Villar-Benedicto, one of Manny Villar’s three younger sisters. Baby is one year younger than the senator.

‘No way they were poor’
The Villar family’s conviction about their own poverty in the 1950s and 1960s could simply highlight the different definitions people have of being poor. Having nine children, with one dying of disease, could have left an imprint of hardship on their memories.

With tears in her eyes, Curing Villar recalls the desperation she felt when her youngest child Daniel fell ill.

"Alam mo, kapag may sakit ang anak mo, kung saan maaaring gumaling, dadalhin mo," she recalls, the pain still fresh, even after nearly 50 years. She also remembers borrowing money for her son's medical expenses: "May nagbibigay ng 20 porsyento sa palengke noon. Sabi ko, 'Ibalik mo na pera ko. Kahit magkano na lang ibigay mo sa akin, ibalik mo. Kailangan na kailangan lang ng anak ko ang pera eh.' Pabalik-balik ako sa kanya noon.."

But according to researchers who have worked in Tondo, the Villars were clearly much better off than many residents at the time.

Dr. Mary Racelis, an urban anthropologist who did poverty studies in Tondo in the 1960s, says poverty cannot be measured by income alone. “Housing is a very strong indicator of poverty," she told GMANews.TV. “They (the Villars) were renters of a home made of strong materials. That does not make them poor."

“The really poor in Tondo lived in ramshackle homes of nipa and straw," Racelis added.

According to the poor themselves, she continued, “the poverty threshold is having three regular meals a day. That’s the threshold in Tondo to this day."

“The Villars had a double income, the father was a regular wage earner, they eventually owned a piece of land. They were in the formal sector - they could have been in the upper 10 percent," Racelis said. “There was no way they were poor in Tondo."

Moreover, according to Angelito Nunag, a UP-educated historian specializing in Tondo history, “Moriones was central to all activities, and near the church, market and pier. Kung may tirahan ka diyan, kahit rental, may sinasabi ka."

While recalling that they grew up without luxuries, the Villar children have never claimed they were hungry, admitting they always had three meals a day, thanks to their hardworking parents.

When asked how difficult it was back then to feed nine children, Nanay Curing recalls: “Hindi naman mahirap. Simple lang naman ang kinakain namin eh. ‘Yun lang mga isda na putol ang ulo, putol ang buntot, ang inuuwi ko. Hindi naman ‘yung mamahalin."

With a double income much higher than the nation’s average, the Villar couple could easily afford to feed their children.

Their fish dealer-mother also had easy access to unsold fish and shrimp from the market, which she often brought home for her family's dinner.

Nanay Curing’s humble origins

Despite Curing Villar's success, she never forgot where she came from.

While candidate Villar’s rags-to-riches narrative is debatable, his mother’s origins featured a major disaster that left her family with nothing.

Curita “Curing" Bamba grew up in the fishing town of Orani, Bataan where according to her own description, her father worked as an “influence peddler" at the municipio. But a cataclysmic fire before World War II nearly wiped out the town, including her family’s home, forcing her parents and two older sisters to migrate to Manila.

The Bamba sisters and their mother started out sewing dresses at the Hollywood shirt factory near Tondo’s Santo Niño church, a factory that still exists. But Nanay Curing recalls that shortly before the war, she found her opportunity to set up a small business when there was a public raffle for stall spaces at the Divisoria Market.

“Nung nakabunot ako sa Divisoria, nakakuha ako ng pwesto 2245," she recalls. Her future husband, Manuel “Maning" Villar Sr., was a war-time government fish inspector she met when he was ordered by Japanese soldiers to confiscate her fish to feed the troops. She persuaded him to bring the fish to his family rather than to the enemy.

That was the start of an entrepreneurial life that provided the seeds for her son’s rise to wealth and power. Manny has frequently called his mother “the original Mrs. Sipag at Tiyaga."

Lelet Buenviaje says that when she became a fish vendor in 1960, Curing Villar was already a wholesaler who supplied mostly shrimp from her native Bataan to retailers. “Maraming suki yan," Lelet recalls. “Laging walang natitira sa tinda. Ubos na ubos."

As the family breadwinner, Buenviaje says she earned as much as P300 net income on a good day, or P23,700 in today’s money, enabling her to buy a house in Tondo. She says Curing made at least twice as much as she did.

Even when Curing was already earning the equivalent of tens of thousands per day, she was not known to splurge on fancy dresses and worked on every holiday except for Good Friday, her only rest day of the year. Manny, as the second child and oldest son, was often at her side assisting her before he went to school.

Even up until Manny was in college, he would help his mother sell seafood. Curing recalls how a teen-aged Manny negotiated a business deal that marked her entrance into big-time seafood dealership.

“Kaya ako nakapagrasyon noon, kasi naging kaklase ni Manny noon ang anak ng namamahala sa William Lines. Sabi ni Manny sa kaklase niya, ‘Baka naman puwedeng magrasyon ng isda ang nanay ko sa inyo,’" says Curing. During the 1960s, William Lines was one of the largest shipping lines in the country.

Villar family moves to upscale neighborhood

Curing’s earnings, coupled with her husband’s regular salary, enabled the couple to buy property in the exclusive Tondo subdivision of San Rafael. According to the Tondo historian Nunag, San Rafael was a community built by Americans during the Commonwealth period to house the newly wealthy of Tondo.

When they left the Moriones house, the less well-off Bamba sisters remained there with their children and their parents, Manny’s grandparents.

By that time, Manny and most of his siblings were enrolled in the then-Tondo Parochial School run by the church, which charged a modest tuition fee. Their cousins continued in the nearby public school Isabelo delos Reyes Elementary School, where Manny and his older sister Odette began their education before transferring to the private school.

In San Rafael, the Villars lived among the upwardly mobile of Tondo. The house still stands along quiet Bernardo Street, but is now owned by a Jun Borres who uses the structure to house workers employed by his company Jumbo Fisheries. The village has apparently seen its best days and vehicles can enter without a security check. Warehouses dominate the area, and the rainy season still brings floods. The newly wealthy would probably not live there any more.

But that is where Manny moved as a teen-ager and lived at a time when he claimed his family was too poor to save the life of his brother Danny, who got sick and died of leukemia after their transfer to San Rafael.

The Senator and his siblings explain that by that time their family moved to San Rafael, they had already begun to rise above the poverty they experienced when living in Moriones.

Cecile Villar-Feralino, the senator’s youngest sibling, explains:"Kasi si Ate Odette tumutulong nang magpaaral sa amin. May katuwang si Nanay. Tuition fee, siya ang nagbabayad sa high school namin. May mga tumutulong na. Si Kuya (Manny) tumutulong na din." Odette was the eldest among the Villar siblings.

"Nagkataon na noong nagkasakit ang kapatid ko si Danny, kalilipat lang namin. Transition period 'yun. Sabi nga sa (kanta), umahon kami. Unti-unti kaming umunlad. Ang Moriones at ang Balut, magkaiba. Ang sinasabing mahirap kami, sa Moriones 'yun," says Manny Villar's sister, Baby.

Whatever the true circumstances of Danny’s death, Manny Villar’s parents certainly had enough to give their oldest son a better education and upbringing than many in Tondo at the time, setting the stage for building a business empire and in 2010, a run at the presidency. -

Friday, April 23, 2010

Estrada, Enrile: Villar pressured PSE board for financial gain

Presidential candidate Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile alleged on Thursday that Sen. Manuel Villar, another presidential bet, used his influence as then Senate president to illegally profit from the public listing of his company's shares in 2007.

Estrada claimed that Villar pressured the board of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) board to decide in the former Senate President’s favor on an issue regarding the shares of Vista Land and Lifescapes Inc., the holding company for Villar family’s real estate businesses.

In June 2007, Vista Land listed existing and new shares in the bourse, but some of these shares were subject to a lock-up period. The shares of those who owned 10% or more could not be sold during the lock up period, which lasts 6 months to 1 year.

These shares are equivalent to billions of pesos, according to Estrada, and are part of those that Vista Land was able to list in the exchange to raise over P20 billion in fresh funds.

Estrada alleged that Villar, the standard-bearer of the Nacionalista Party, is now reaping P5 million of the over P20 million raised from the stock exchange to fund his presidential campaign.

Real estate business has spawned the wealth of Villar, the biggest advertising spender among the presidential contenders.

Vista Land is the largest homebuilder in the country.

Public official in PSE board

According to Enrile, Villar joined a private meeting of the PSE board in June 29, 2007, a few days after Vista Land has listed its shares. The PSE board meetings are usually held behind closed doors, with only the directors allowed to participate.

In the copy of the minutes of that PSE board meeting provided by Enrile, the re-electionist senator noted how Villar allegedly pressured the directors to exempt some Vista Land shares from the lock-up period.

Villar’s request was to release 29.28% of Vista Land’s shares – which translated to 2 billion new common shares – in lock-up to enable the company to sell it as part of the company’s second public offering.

At the time, Villar was the Senate president and had no direct stake in Vista Land. Enrile replaced him as Senate president in November 2008.

Enrile accused Villar of using his influence then as the third most powerful official in the land to pressure the PSE board directors to release the locked-up Vista Land shares. Enrile said Villar posed a "veiled threat" to the board directors when Villar remarked during the board meeting that the stock brokers among the directors were themselves violating the legal limitation on their shareholdings in the exchange.

(Stock brokers still own some 38% of the PSE after refusing to sell shares and dilute their stake. Under the Securities Regulation Code (SRC), brokers may only own a maximum of 20% of the stock exchange.)

The minutes of the 2007 meeting showed that, after Villar left the boardroom, there was intense debate among the PSE directors who are brokers and non-brokers as they discussed the Vista Land lock-up issue.

"From the records of all these proceedings, there is no doubt in mind that Sen. Manny Villar himself lobbied, pressured and exerted pressure to railroad the approval of his family-owned company's request for exemption to enable him and his family to sell their shares, which were otherwise subject to lock-up at a hefty premium," Enrile said during the press conference.

The board members eventually agreed not to subject the disputed Vista Land shares to a lock-up period.

Personal gain

Enrile warned that if Villar could go out of his way to pressure a private group when he was still the Senate president, he would do the same if he wins the presidency in the upcoming polls.

Enrile, a senatorial bet under Estrada’s political party, warned against the risks of having a leader who would pressure "a business institution to get what he wants."

"If he can have it as senator, as Senate president, how much more when he becomes a president? If that is a fact, that indeed, he pressured the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), I call on the PSE board to say so," Enrile said during the press conference.

"They (PSE board) are there to protect the investing public, and they must come out with the truth about this allegation. Otherwise, there can be no more other conclusion but that Manny Villar indeed use (his) own misdeed to blackmail them (PSE board) into allowing him to illegally profit from the public listing of his company's shares," Enrile added

Estrada said he did not intend to malign Villar's character. He said it is just his duty to inform the public about what kind of leader Villar could be since he is running for the highest position in the land.

PSE board speaks

In a statement, the PSE said that there was no irregularity in the Vista Land transactions in 2007.

"The PSE Board had earlier approved the public offering of VLL (Vista Land)." it said.

Regarding the issue on the lock-up of some Vista Land shares, the exchange said that the board met to clarify that the “lock-up” rule would not apply to the sale by existing shareholders (owning less than 10% of the outstanding capital stock of the company at the time of the offering) of their shares as part of the public offering following a listing by introduction."

A company that lists via introduction can trade shares on the exchange without having to go through an initial public offering.

PSE chairman Hans Sicat said the bourse is "committed to...implement its rules to protect the interest of its stakeholders and the investing public.”

Sicat joined the PSE board only in 2009.

No stock manipulation

The camp of Villar hit back at Estrada and Enrile, saying the two are peddling lies.

Villar's lawyer, Nalen Rosero-Galang, challenged Estrada and Enrile to produce evidence that Villar manipulated the stock market.

Rosero-Galang said the public offering of the shares of stock of Vista Land & Lifescapes was done in compliance with the requirements of the Securities Regulation Code and the rules of the Philippine Stock Exchange.

source -

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How Villar built business empire with deceit, corruption: ex-lawyer

Octogenarian Maxima Policarpio had spent most of her life in the mountains of Norzagaray, a small town in Bulacan, near the foothills of the Sierra Madre. She had hoped to spend the twilight of her life there in peace and quiet, tending a tiny vegetable garden and surrounded by fruit-bearing trees she had planted many years ago.

Last February, despite her age, she left the comfort of her town and braved Quezon City’s noise, pollution and confusion to join dozens of Norzagaray farmers seeking attention to the imminent loss of their ancestral lands. “I am here to protect my land. I may be old, but I still have rights.”

“We are up against an influential person,” she said.

That person is presidential aspirant and billionaire Senator Manuel Villar Jr.

Represented by a counsel, the farmers detailed how they lost their ancestral lands, in the blink of an eye, to companies connected with Villar.

They also told of harassment efforts to force them to leave their lands.

“Before, we would wake up and see all those crops pulled out from the soil. They would do it at night. We were helpless. Some of them were armed. What would you do? We would just put back the plants,” Inocencia Pascual, 67, said.

The harassment, however, stopped as the election season neared. And they knew it is only a respite. “Tapos kami pag nanalo sya (We’re finished if he wins),” Pascual said.

Contested land

Court records show that the contested land in Norzagaray is supposedly now the property of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas after it was mortgaged in 2001 by two companies where Villar’s wife, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, has a stake.

The two companies--Capitol Development Bank (now Optimum Development Bank) and Manila Brickworks--defaulted on a P1.5 billion loan it secured from BSP in April 1998 following the financial crisis that hit Asian countries. The money was allegedly spent to finance the House Speakership bid that year of Villar, who was then a congressman.

Yet, documents gathered by Newsbreak show that the two companies acquired possession of the ancestral lands through fraud and manipulative layering scheme.

It appears that the Villars brought to life the defunct Manila Brickworks out of nowhere to act as the original owner of the contested land. Fake Transfer Certificates of Titles (TCTs) were produced in connivance with the Malolos Registry of Deeds to show possession of property.

Court records in Bulacan show that Manila Brickworks was originally owned by Puyat Enterprises and had claimed possession of the property in the 70s. Poultry houses were put up by Puyat Enterprises but abandoned the area after some time.

After years of inactivity, Manila Brickworks resurfaced in 1998 with new incorporators that interlocked with those of Capitol Development Bank.

Capitol Bank, which had financial problems attributed to the financial crisis, eventually sold select assets to Yuchengco-led RCBC Savings Bank to pay off some obligations, then was renamed Optimum Development Bank. (Initially, we reported that Capitol Bank was closed. It was not. - Eds)

In June 2001, Optimum signed a deed of real estate mortgage over the questioned property in favor of BSP to secure Capitol and Manila Brickworks’ unpaid loans.

The conveyance of land titles, coupled with fake ones, from one alleged owner to another, creates different layers that were used as an argument to legitimize property acquisition.

This has been the standard operating procedure of Villar’s lawyers and companies to acquire government and previously awarded lands, according to a lawyer formerly employed by the Nacionalista Party bet.

Pandora’s box of testimony
The Norzagaray land case is just one of the many legal cases faced by Villar’s real estate empire, which was spawned by the production and sale of affordable houses.

Interviews with different sources and documents show his companies have been fending off legal disputes, mostly land grabbing cases, like the Norzagaray case.

In 2004, Villar hired Atty. Restituto Mendoza to handle problematic raw land cases for Household Development Corp., one of the firms under his real estate empire.

Mendoza has a pending complaint before the National Labor Relations Commission for illegal dismissal. Named respondents were Villar, his flagship real estate firm Vista Land and Lifescapes Inc., Casa Regalia, Adelfa Properties and lawyers and officers of the companies. Newsbreak obtained a copy of the complaint, including other documents.

In the labor case, Mendoza opened the Pandora’s box of irregularities of Villar’s businesses, practices and ethics. It was a tell-all testimony, bordering on violating the lawyer-client privilege, as he accused Villar of bribery, corruption, deceit and fraud in rebuilding his empire from bankruptcy.

Mendoza charged Villar on the ground that he is well aware of the practices of the firms' senior officers—from paying off government officials and judges to faking titles—to skirt potential legal issues. Mendoza said Villar is a hands-on manager, supposedly even concerned about where to put trash cans in the subdivision projects.

Newsbreak sought to corroborate Mendoza’s serious allegations, which included duping another land developer, Ayala Land, and an alleged attempt to bribe Customs officials to release an undervalued crane imported by his company, MGS Corp. (Details in Part 3 of the series, to be published on April 14.) We found some corroborative documents and information to back up Mendoza’s claims.

Ayala Land, which got questionable titles as in exchange for a previous P300 million loan from a Villar firm, has yet to reply to our query as of this posting. (Read:Imus Estate land key to Villar-Ayala deal)

Customs officials, on the other hand, provided data of the botched importation. (Details in Part 3)

Violation of lawyer-client relationship

Villar’s chief legal officer, Ma. Nalen Rosero-Galang, who has been countering the land grabbing complaints hurled against Villar since the campaign began, dismissed Mendoza’s stories and narration as “all lies.” In an interview with Newsbreak, Galang said she is “shocked of Mendoza’s allegations.”

Galang pointed out that Mendoza took five years to come out and expose the unethical practices of Villar’s businesses.

“I would have wanted to ignore him so as not to dignify his claims,” Galang said in an interview. Besides, she added that Mendoza’s claims would not have been admissible in court since “it violates the lawyer-client relationship.”

“Actually I pity him, since no one would want to hire him as a lawyer after this,” she added.

We also sought to interview Mendoza, but he begged off, saying his complaint would suffice. Mendoza was dismissed in May last year and filed his complaint in August.

The C-5 controversy

In his complaint, Mendoza mentioned some of the properties that benefitted from the controversial C5 road extenstion project. The road traversed through 50-52 hectares of Villar’s property holdings.

Villar's peers in the Senate conducted ethics committee hearings. In a report, the senators found Villar guilty of conflict of interest when he supposedly benefited from the P6.96 billion road project. A public works feasibility study stated that Villar conceived and funded the project.

Mendoza provided the context in the arrangement between two real estate properties associated with Villar. Masaito Development Corp and Adelfa Properties supposedly swapped properties affected by the C5 road extension.

Based on documents submitted by Mendoza to the NLRC, it was Villar’s Adelfa Properties that initiated the arrangement with Masaito. Adelfa then claimed the bulk of expropriation proceeds from the Masaito property.

The agreement stated Masaito would only get only P7 million while Adelfa would get the remainder, amounting to P15 million.

A total of P168.1 million was paid by the government for the right of way involving Villar’s properties while only P22 million for non-Villar properties.

And yet, based on Mendoza’s claims on the Masaito agreement, through careful planning and foresight, Villar even got proceeds from his supposed non-properties.

Why would Masaito agree to swap properties with Adelfa if it would be paid for the right of way anyway? Was government informed about the swap or was there an attempt to cloak it through internal arrangement?

Internal arrangement

A source familiar with the case said that Villar’s senior officers had anticipated the road extension would pass through the Masaito properties. The properties were raw lands at that time and would have commanded low zonal valuation.

Yet, through connections in the DPWH and the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Masaito property was valued at P30,000 per square meter, a “unique” situation that Adriano told the Senate since it was the only property that commanded that high price.

In the Senate probe, former revenue district officer Carmelita Bacod admitted that the valuation was “grossly disadvantageous to the government.”

The source explained that Masaito knew it would only get a lower zonal valuation and thus, lower payment for its properties, if only government would have its way. Entering into an agreement would be a win-win situation for both Adelfa and Masaito---the former gets a portion of the right of way payment without essentially losing with its property while the latter gets the bulk of the proceeds.

To facilitate the agreement, Masaito and Adelfa signed a memorandum of undertaking (MOU) where they agreed to open a joint bank account at the Landbank where expropriation proceeds would be deposited. Adelfa president Jerry Navarette and Masaito president Joseph Wang would be the joint signatories.

After the first tranche of P22 million has been deposited, of which P7 million would given to Masaito, Adelfa would assume “sole right” of the remainder of the proceeds, the MOU stated. Navarrete would then be the sole signatory of the Landbank account.

Mendoza said it was the C5 controversy that shattered his respect of Villar. He recalled that he was the one who drafted the Masaito agreement upon hearing Senator Jamby Madrigal mentioning the company. “Evidently, Senator Villar was not telling the truth when he had been consistently denying in public that he and his companies never received a single centavo from the C-5 road extension project,” Mendoza said.

In drafting the Masaito-Adelfa agreement, Mendoza said he “unknowingly had been an instrument of corruption in what is now the C5 road scandal.”

In his Feb. 2 speech before the Senate to rebut the ethics, Villar maintained that he did not financially benefit from the C5 project. “Wala po akong ninakaw sa kaban ng bayan. Wala po akong kasalanan, wala pong anomalya sa C5 project at hindi po ako nakinabang,” Villar said.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Villar responds

SENATOR Manny Villar has been making the rounds of broadcast media to respond to various issues hounding his campaign, and dish out remarks against his main protagonist, who has been featured by Time Magazine on its cover.

Villar is particularly mad at the Villarroyo tag. He and his spokespersons have been denying this tag to death. He and they keep saying that it was he and his party-mates who "initiated" the investigation of all the graft scandals, from jueteng to Hello Garci, to the fertilizer scandal, and the ZTE-NBN anomalies. Vamos a ver.

He was the chair of the Senate committee that investigated the jueteng scandals involving, as per the witnesses in the hearings, Mike and Iggy, y Mikey tambien. Who exposed these? Senator Panfilo Lacson in a privilege speech. Who convinced the witnesses to come out, and gave them protection? Senator Panfilo Lacson and Archbishop Oscar Cruz, together with his assistants in the crusade against gambling. What did Villar do? He presided over the hearings in the Senate.

What did Villar not do? To this day he has not come out with a report. Now he takes pride in fighting jueteng.

Who brought forth the Hello Garci scandal? Why, no less than Toting Bunye, then press secretary of La Dona Gloria. Everybody and his mother remembers the tale of the two discs. "I have two hands, the left and the right"…remember? Now Bunye sits in the Monetary Board, and represents the Board in the Numismatic Committee chaired by BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Gunigundo, who is rushing the approval and award of a highly suspicious New Generation Currency, to commit billions of pesos in newly-designed banknotes in midnight fashion, and to quote the Malacañang press release after GMA brought home the "bacon" that was the ZTE-NBN contract, "like a thief in the night". Bunye was then the press secretary, right?

When Hello Garci erupted into the national consciousness, Gilbert Remulla was chair of the public information committee in the lower House. Villar makes a big thing about then Congressman Noynoy Aquino’s vote not to hear the Garci tapes in public. Big deal.

But when the gory details of Garci’s caper sank in, the Liberal Party headed by Frank Drilon, Butch Abad, Mar Roxas, Kiko Pangilinan and Noynoy atoned for their coalition with GMA in 2004, publicly calling in a press conference at the Club Filipino for GMA to resign. Where was Villar and his Nacionalistas? Gilbert made noises. Cynthia voted with the impeachment crew, upon the prodding of Ronnie Zamora. But Manny Villar? As quiet as the Sphinx of Egypt, which he and his fellow Nacionalistas saw in 2007, as his blow-out after re-election, and where he intimated, with Sphinx and the mummies at Luxor as sacred witnesses, that he would be president in 2010.

While Drilon and Abad went to Hong Kong to dog Vice-President Noli de Castro into taking over the presidency from the beleaguered Gloria, where was Villar and his Nacionalistas? Tell you what:

Upon arrival at the NAIA from Hong Kong during those tense days following the "I am sorry" speech, VP Noli went straight to the Forbes Park mansion of Senador Joker Arroyo, where Manny Villar and Don Joker convinced VP Noli not to bite the Liberal offer, and stick it out with GMA. So who saved Gloria from Noli in the heyday of Hello Garci?

Cory Aquino and her entire family took a patriotic stand in those days. They did support GMA against Erap, but when they learned about the evil that Gloria committed, they denounced her. Sometime later, Cory publicly humbled herself when she apologized to Erap for her role in Edsa Dos. All of us commit errors of judgment. But good people retract when they see they had been had. Manny Villar, like the Sphinx, was and is – a moral riddle. Como la Doña – amoral?

Who is running for governor of Capiz, under a local party coalesced with the Nacionalista Party, and whose jailbird orange tarpaulins proudly proclaim Manny Villar as their "presidinti"? Why, Joc Joc Bolante, one of the most prominent icons of corruption in this benighted land. Mismo!

And who initiated the ZTE-NBN investigation in the Senate? Not Villar. Not Alan. Not Joker, who even prevented Romy Neri from spilling his heart out in executive session. Again it was Ping Lacson. It has always been Ping Lacson who had the guts to disclose the sordid affairs of the most powerful in this land. Now Villar wants to grab the credit, and appear "opposition". Did Alan the motor-mouth come out with a committee report? Nein. Nunca. Madi. Wala gyud!

But the interviewers in media never brought these out. They "politely" accepted Villar’s tall tales, instead of telling him to his face what a liar he is.

Villar and his Remulla taunt Noynoy for accepting Joey Salceda into the Liberal Party fold. All right, I agree. I have always disliked turncoatism. I tried to stop Erap in May of 1998 from accepting into the LAMMP fold the 49 recruits Rep. Manny Villar presented to him, after Erap had clearly won. Weeks later, Manny Villar became Speaker of the House, over the objections of Joker Arroyo, to whom Erap had promised the speakership months before. Now Joker is Villar’s consiglieri di tutti. Ang buhay nga naman!

But what about Cagas of Davao del Sur, Aumentado of Bohol, Barbers of Surigao Norte, Plaza of Agusan (not Ompong), Uy of Compostela, Zubirri of Bukidnon, Garcia of Cebu, El Chavit de Ilocos Sur, not to forget Bolante, and now the prize catch – the Ampatuans of Maguindanao? Of course, the Marcoses and Romualdezes as well, and even Arturo Pacificador of Antique, the man who escaped criminal prosecution under a warped justice system for the murder of Evelio Javier. Ben Abalos, that other icon of corruption along with Joc-Joc is also part of Villar’s caboodle. Joey Salceda, though Gloria’s student turned adviser, has at least dared to call her publicly "one lucky bitch", and other misdemeanors for which she could not even rebuke him.

Villar now declares that he would even "encourage the prosecution" of Mrs. Arroyo after June 30, because of her numerous anomalies. Ha, ha, ha! Tell that to Marine Col. Ariel Querubin, your candidate for senator. With Joc Joc and Joe, Chavit and Andal Jr. proudly wearing your jailbird orange colors, you would prosecute their Doña? Again, tell that to the Marines.

Villar protests further: "I’m not seen as a critic of anybody. That’s my style. I would rather do things than say them," he said. Yes indeed, you just "do things", like apportioning your pork barrel and DPWH regular budgetary appropriations to fund phase after phase of that snake-like road called Daang Hari, the better to connect one to the other of your 22 subdivisions in the area. You’ve made sure 1.97 billion pesos of the people’s money to construct Daang Hari would jack up the prices of the erstwhile irrigated farm lands you stitched together. And later, having acquired by hook or by crook more lands in Muntinglupa and San Pedro, you connected Daang Hari to a Daang Reyna. Breath-taking!

And because the Liberals were joined by Salceda of Albay, economic adviser of Doña Gloria, Villar and his Remulla now say Aquino will increase taxes, especially the VAT. And the broadcast reporter interviewing him did not even bother to ask whether or not Villar voted for E-VAT. Because as senator, Villar voted for Gloria’s consumer tax. But as congressman, Noynoy Aquino along with Chiz Escudero voted against E-VAT. Sure Ralph Recto also joined the LP, but Noynoy in a speech before the Makati Business Club categorically said that he would not impose new taxes, and when Gary Teves pined for a 15 percent E-VAT, Aquino immediately said "No way!". Villar before the same Makati businessmen said, in clear terms, that he is not averse to increasing taxes. The point is, Villar lies when it is convenient for him to do so.

Just as he lied about the circumstances of his brother’s death, and conveniently denies whatever, but never explains his side on issues like Norzagaray, San Pedro, Daang Hari, Daang Reyna, Bacoor, Molino, Savannah, and of course C-5 where his peers caught him abusing power for personal aggrandizement. Whenever he is accused, he cries "black propaganda" and tells his critics to go to court. Just like his Doña Gloria. Parehong-pareho talaga sila.

Tell you what, Mr. Villar. If you ever get to Malacañang, retain Gary Olivar and Charito Planas as your spokesmen. After all, Adel and Gilbert would not be ready to assume their posts till after one year, because of the constitutional ban on senatorial wannabes who do not make it.


In the heat of the campaign, when no one is looking because all eyes are focused on Noynoy and Villarroyo and Erap, the Numismatic Committee chair of the Bangko Sentral wants to fast-track the procurement from abroad of 702 million pieces of newly-designed banknotes. In a three-year timetable, they will demonetize present banknotes and replace the same, with imported currency printed by likely the same printer who passed off "Arrovo" as Arroyo in 2006. Under normal circumstances, such egregious error would have meant automatic black-listing as a supplier. But apparently, some guys in the Bank have an infinite capacity for looking the other way.

They are rushing the outsourcing of these banknotes even if the people are about to elect a new president on May 10, who under normal circumstances will be proclaimed 41 days thereafter. Will the nearest kin of the leaders featured in these New Generation Currency, namely Presidents Quezon, Osmena, Roxas, and Aquino please inquire about the circumstances of this rush, and parenthetically, look further into why the Bank keeps importing paper currency, and specifying even obsolete security patches which have already been object of counterfeiting, or adding specifications that all jack up the price because they allegedly are protected by exclusive patents?

Apart from replacing the photos of past presidents with younger-looking ones, which may raise eyebrows with historians (was this how the president looked when he was proclaimed president, or when he was a lesser mortal?), the proposed new legal tender will feature a new slogan, which reads: "Pinagpala ang Bansa na ang Diyos ay ang Panginoon". Loosely translated, that should be: "Blessed is the Country where God is the Lord". More aptly, it probably conveys the message that The Lord God has blessed this country. I wonder what constitutionalists will say about this slogan, considering the strict prescription about separation of Church and State.

It is after all, just 51 days before a new government takes over. And even Doña Gloria has not yet approved the new legal tender. Again, why the rush?

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Ad agency defends Villar 'Scroll' ad

The ad agency of Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manny Villar on Wednesday defended its "Scroll" TV ad, which has been widely compared to the "Truth (Upside Down)" political ad of Argentinian candidate Lopez Murphy in 2006.

In a statement, TBWA\Philippines admitted that it adapted the Villar ad from the Argentinian politician's ad. The agency said it belongs to a worldwide network of ad agencies and that many of its ideas for ads have been adapted in several countries. Among its ideas are ads for adidas, Pedigree, Absolut, Apple and Nivea.

"The fact is, many ideas of the local agency have been adapted in many countries in our network, the most recent of which is the work it had done for Absolut vodka. That's how powerful ideas become even more powerful," the agency said.

It added: "While the ad format was adapted from The Truth ad by TBWA\Argentina, the message is genuinely Manny Villar's. And it hopes to inspire a country deeply steeped in hopelessness, negativity and cynicism."

The agency said that while the local adaptation of the Murphy ad has generated positive feedback, other sectors have used the ad to attack the Villar campaign.

"From the outset, the adapted format was made known to our Client. The agency did not conceal the truth. That's the truth. And nothing but the truth," it said.

A post on the Barrio Siete blog ( was the first to make the connection between the Villar ad and Murphy's 2006 ad. The ad, which was created by Recrear advertising agency, won the silver lion in the Cannes Lions Contest in 2006.

In both ads, a voice starts talking about the problems besetting the country and how the president cannot solve these problems. While the voice is speaking, the lines of dialogue appear on the screen one by one in descending order. The ad then takes a shift in tone as the candidate reads the lines from the bottom going up, indicating that the candidate sees things from a different perspective.

In an interview, NP senatorial bet Gilbert Remulla said he did not know if the new TV ad was intentionally copied from the Murphy ad.

"What we know is that it tested very well. For us, the message is more important. We can't be accused of plagiarizing anything because the execution is different," he told

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Probe Villar fund source, Comelec asked

Why does Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manny Villar seem to have such deep pockets for his campaign?

A lawyer Monday asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to investigate the source of the funds Villar has been spending on his extensive campaign for the presidency, and to disqualify him if it is found that the funds had come from illegal sources.
In his complaint, lawyer Ernesto Francisco said Villar had just over P29 million in his bank account as of December 2008, which amount could not be bankrolling his campaign which he estimates to have cost over P1 billion so far.

Even if Villar sold his assets, the amount would not be enough as well, Francisco said. He pointed out that Villar had always claimed he was spending his own money on his campaign.

Omnibus Election Code

He asked the poll body to investigate if Villar’s funds had come from the initial public offering (IPO) of his real estate firms Vista Land and Lifescapes Inc. and from other real estate companies of which he is a stockholder.

He noted that the IPO took place around the time that Villar announced he was running for president.

He said the law prohibits Villar’s companies from contributing to his or to anyone’s campaign.

The Omnibus Election Code states that corporations that have been granted franchises, incentives and exemptions by the government are barred from directly or indirectly giving contributions to partisan political activities.

Francisco said the real estate firms of which Villar is a stockholder enjoy incentives from the government. He said the real estate business was highly regulated, as Vista Land noted in its prospectus, and those engaged in it received exemptions, privileges and concessions from the government.

As well, domestic corporations that develop and sell socialized housing are exempt from project-related income taxes.

Francisco said that even if Villar were a stockholder of the real estate firms, he could not claim that its money belonged to him and that he could use it for his campaign.

Funds not his

“In this regard, it is not relevant or material if respondent Sen. Manuel B. Villar Jr. is the major or principal stockholder of the aforementioned local corporations because, as earlier mentioned, the funds and assets of the said corporations do not belong to him but, rather, those are corporate funds and assets belonging to the said corporations. Accordingly, the funds and assets of the said corporations cannot be used in the presidential campaign of respondent,” he said.

Francisco said he filed the complaint of his own accord and not on behalf of any politician.

Francisco is a lawyer of Sen. Jamby Madrigal, a presidential candidate and consistent Villar critic.

Joma Sison favors Villar over Noynoy: report

The founder of the reorganized Communist Party of the Philippines believes Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manny Villar has a relatively better program of government compared to his rival, Liberal Party presidential candidate Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

In an interview with D.L. Mondelo of, CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison lamented that Villar's programs have been underplayed during the presidential campaign. He said that among Villar's programs are "land reform and self-reliant food production, expansion of local manufacturing to generate employment, support for small and middle entrepreneurs, peace negotiations, review of the Visiting Forces Agreement, respect for human rights and indemnification of the victims of human rights violations and independent foreign policy."

On the other hand, he lambasted Aquino and his running mate, Mar Roxas, as "rabid exponents of the US-dictated policy of neoliberal globalization, which has put the Philippine economy in severe crisis and is inflicting terrible suffering on the people."

Sison said Aquino would probably follow the example set by his mother, the late president Cory Aquino, by paying lip service to land reform "but will actually prevent it in so many clever ways."

"In the particular case of Hacienda Luisita, he will insist on the scam or swindle called the stock distribution option in order to prevent land reform. He promises a clean and honest government but the Kamag-Anak, Inc. and other vested interests are financing his campaign and are prepared to collect the spoils of bureaucrat capitalism and subservience to foreign economic interests," he said.

Sison also noted that Villar seemed to be more amenable to reviving peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front. He said Aquino would probably get advice from former senator Wigberto Tañada and Quezon 4th District Rep. Lorenzo Tañada on the matter of peace negotiations. He warned, however, that some elements in the Aquino camp are "rabid anti-communists and pseudo-progressives who will advise Aquino to pretend being for peace negotiations as a way of deceiving the people."

The CPP founder also defended the inclusion of Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza as guest senatorial candidates of Villar's Nacionalista Party. The alliance has put Sison and Maza on the same slate as Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., son of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Sison said Ocampo and Liza threatened to withdraw from the NP slate after learning that the NP would forge an alliance with Marcos and his political party, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.

"They were satisfied only after Villar publicly clarified that they were not compromised as guest candidates in the senatorial slate by the inclusion of Bongbong as another guest candidate and that the program of the NP remains firm on respect for human rights and indemnification of the victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime," he said.

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LP: Ampatuan backing shows Villar’s ‘true colors’

Liberal Party candidates Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Manuel “Mar” Roxas II are elated that Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. has finally shown his “true colors.”

Aquino and Roxas were referring to Ampatuan’s admission that he was backing the presidential bid of Nacionalista Party Manuel “Manny” Villar and one of his senatorial candidates Gilbert Remulla (a brother-in-law of Ampatuan counsel Sigfrid Fortun).

Ampatuan proudly wore orange and purple baller IDs of Villar and Remulla respectively.

Aquino said Ampatuan and Villar probably understood each other more.

Roxas said the alliance between one of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s most loyal allies and Villar was another proof of the “Villaroyo” conspiracy.

“It speaks for itself, volumes in fact,” he said referring to Ampatuan who was being charged for the murder of 57 individuals last November in his home turf of Maguindanao.

LP senatorial bet Dr. Martin Bautista sounded off his concerns on the impact of Ampatuan’s support for Villar on his multiple murder case.

“If Villar becomes president, how will this arrangement affect the ongoing investigation of the Maguindanao massacre? Does this mean the victims will be deprived of justice?” he said.

Meanwhile, Villar has started to distance himself from Ampatuan.

He said he had no control over the distribution of his campaign materials, including the orange wristbands.

“I don’t give out baller IDs,” Villar said Friday, in an ambush interview in Dagupan City.

The senator said it was unfair to blame him for something he was not involved in. “They are trying to make a big issue out of it.”

“I haven’t talked to anyone of them,” Villar said, referring to members of the powerful Ampatuan clan implicated in the Maguindanao massacre. “We haven’t talked … and I have no plans of talking with them.”

He said the rival LP had just found another issue to divert attention from the continued exodus of former economic managers of President Arroyo to the NP camp.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The man who turned his back on Villar

By Aries Rufo, | 04/12/2010 1:16 PM


He narrated that when his superiors sensed that he would not be a party to corruption, they schemed to demoralize him in the hope that he would soon quit. He was transferred to the group’s non-core businesses.

He wrote that he was eventually blamed for bungled operations and given orders difficult to implement. Then he was told that he had no more future in Villar’s company.

Out of frustration, Mendoza said that if they really wanted him to resign, they would have to pay him P25 million.

On May 22, 2009, Mendoza got a notice of termination “for serious misconduct, gross and habitual neglect of duties and willful breach of the trust and confidence by the Company.”

It said Mendoza lost company’s trust and confidence when he threatened during the performance appraisal meeting that he “will bring down the Company” with him.

Mendoza also warned Villar’s senior officers that he “knew something about the company’s boss (referring to Villar)” which they said was tantamount to blackmail. They said Mendoza threatened to provide documents to Villar’s political enemies and was asking P25 million in exchange for his cooperation.

For the money

Mendoza wrote in his complaint that he stayed as a lawyer for Villar’s companies for 5 years largely because of the compensation from his job. He was getting P100,000 for his legal services.

He was only getting P25,000 a month in his previous job as a lawyer handling pro-bono cases at the Chavez Miranda Aseoche Law Office.

But while former Solicitor General Frank Chavez inspired him at the law firm to champion the poor and condemn corruption, he decided to accept the offer from Villar’s company to serve as in-house counsel. He was about to get married and the fat pay check was inviting.

He wrote that the career move “would expose him not only to a life of luxury but also to a life of corruption within and (outside) his workplace and the very principles and morals he possessed would be put to a test.”

He pondered: “Would he choose a life of comfort in exchange for his principles? Would he just keep quiet about the corruption he just discovered? Does Senator Villar know about the policy of corruption of his senior officers?”

Personality problems

In an interview, Mendoza’s former boss Nalen Rosario-Galang said his allegations are all lies.

She explained that Mendoza has a problem with authority since he could not get along with superiors and colleagues. She also said he has illusions of grandeur.

“I did not see that (personality problem) when I hired him. I thought he was okay,” Galang said.

Galang said she asked around and found out that Mendoza had the same personality problems with his former employers.

Chavez, in a separate interview, debunked Galang’s claim on Mendoza behavior at work.
He said Mendoza was a team player. “I had no problems with him.”

Galang wondered why it took Mendoza five years to come out with his supposed expose, saying “this was contrary to human nature.” When asked why it took her five years to terminate Mendoza, Galang said she pitied Mendoza.

She acknowledged that Mendoza as a lawyer is effective. “He could have been second in command.”

Galang said she is preparing disbarment proceedings against Mendoza for violating the legal ethics of confidentiality between a lawyer and a client.

When asked why she will pursue a case against Mendoza only now, she said she had not wanted to dignify Mendoza’s allegations.

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How Villar built business empire with deceit, corruption: ex-lawyer

Written by Aries Rufo
Monday, 12 April 2010
First Part of above series.

Pandora’s box of testimony

The Norzagaray land case is just one of the many legal cases faced by Villar’s real estate empire, which was spawned by the production and sale of affordable houses.

Interviews with different sources and documents show his companies have been fending off legal disputes, mostly land grabbing cases, like the Norzagaray case.

In 2004, Villar hired Atty. Restituto Mendoza to handle problematic raw land cases for Household Development Corp., one of the firms under his real estate empire.

Mendoza has a pending complaint before the National Labor Relations Commission for illegal dismissal. Named respondents were Villar, his flagship real estate firm Vista Land and Lifescapes Inc., Casa Regalia, Adelfa Properties and lawyers and officers of the companies. Newsbreak obtained a copy of the complaint, including other documents.

In the labor case, Mendoza opened the Pandora’s box of irregularities of Villar’s businesses, practices and ethics. It was a tell-all testimony, bordering on violating the lawyer-client privilege, as he accused Villar of bribery, corruption, deceit and fraud in rebuilding his empire from bankruptcy.

Mendoza charged Villar on the ground that he is well aware of the practices of the firms' senior officers—from paying off government officials and judges to faking titles—to skirt potential legal issues. Mendoza said Villar is a hands-on manager, supposedly even concerned about where to put trash cans in the subdivision projects.

Newsbreak sought to corroborate Mendoza’s serious allegations, which included duping another land developer, Ayala Land, and an alleged attempt to bribe Customs officials to release an undervalued crane imported by his company, MGS Corp. We found some corroborative documents and information to back up Mendoza’s claims.

Ayala Land, which got questionable titles as in exchange for a previous P300 million loan from a Villar firm, has yet to reply to our query as of this posting. Customs officials, on the other hand, provided data of the botched importation.

Violation of lawyer-client relationship
Villar’s chief legal officer, Ma. Nalen Rosero-Galang, who has been countering the land grabbing complaints hurled against Villar since the campaign began, dismissed Mendoza’s stories and narration as “all lies.” In an interview with Newsbreak, Galang said she is “shocked of Mendoza’s allegations.”

Galang pointed out that Mendoza took five years to come out and expose the unethical practices of Villar’s businesses.

“I would have wanted to ignore him so as not to dignify his claims,” Galang said in an interview. Besides, she added that Mendoza’s claims would not have been admissible in court since “it violates the lawyer-client relationship.”

“Actually I pity him, since no one would want to hire him as a lawyer after this,” she added.

We also sought to interview Mendoza, but he begged off, saying his complaint would suffice. Mendoza was dismissed in May last year and filed his complaint in August.

The C-5 controversy

In his complaint, Mendoza mentioned some of the properties that benefitted from the controversial C5 road extenstion project. The road traversed through 50-52 hectares of Villar’s property holdings.

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Villar firm faked titles through 'layering': ex-lawyer

Written by Aries Rufo
Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Second of 3 parts

MANILA, Philippines – A case involving parcels of land where a property developed by one of the real estate companies of presidential aspirant Manuel Villar Jr. now stand is an example of how layering and faked documents were employed to acquire properties.

The land case, which involves contested properties in Cavite, was cited by dismissed lawyer Restituto Mendoza in a complaint he filed before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). He used to be the in-house counsel of Adelfa Properties, one of the real estate properties in the Villar Group.

The labor complaint, which Newsbreak obtained, turned out to be a tell-all testimony on the legal practices of some real estate companies that spawned the much-touted wealth of Villar. (Newsbreak counter-checked Mendoza’s claims in the labor complaint against other documents and interviews. Newsbreak also attended 2 hearings of the labor case at the NLRC.)

This case, Mendoza wrote in his complaint, illustrates the reach of Villar’s and his men’s tentacles of corruption to get their way. “It was in this case where complainant (Mendoza) witnessed the brazen corruption of Senator Villar’s senior officers,” Mendoza said in his complaint.

This is the particular case where he “never felt guiltier,” and was a reason why he turned his back on Villar.

x x x

Fictitious documents

While the legal defense was being prepared, one of Villar’s senior officers, engineer Mommar Santos, “wasted no time in talking to LMB officials on how Adelfa could secure the reversal of their previous decision in favor of Adiao,” Mendoza explained in his complaint filed at the labor department.

Santos is a known fixture and fixer at LMB, according to LMB officials interviewed by Newsbreak who requested for anonymity for fear of losing their jobs. Two of the LMB officials told Newsbreak that Santos tried to offer them bribes in relation to the Imus Estate land case.

Mendoza said he was instructed by Santos to file motion for reinvestigation. Mendoza obeyed, submitting documents provided by Santos, such as sales certificate, letter authorizing registration and letter from the Director of Lands to support Adelfa Properties’ claims.

At that time, Mendoza said he was “amazed at the resourcefulness of Mommar (Santos) because in a short time, he was able to secure the documentary evidence.”

He would later find out that the documents were fictitious, “as would be later on admitted to him by Mommar.”

In contrast with Adelfa Properties, which provided original documents, Mendoza pointed out that Adiao could not produce original documents to back up his claim.

In his labor complaint, Mendoza said (Mommar) Santos would later admit to him that the Adelfa Properties documents were all falsified with the help of LMB officials.

“The falsified sales certificate indicates the applicant-awardee as Villanueva and used dates prior to the ones existing in favor of Adiao. Worse, complainant (Mendoza) was also told that the existing documents initially found in the name of Adiao were pulled off from the records to make it appear that only the falsified records were existing,” Mendoza narrated.

The surveyor’s findings went in Villar’s favor.

P7 million settlement

LMB officials that Newsbreak interviewed could only shake their heads that a surveyor’s finding in favor of the Villar group on the Imus friar land estate could overturn that of a 5-man committee composed of lawyers.

They heard money exchange hands, but could not corroborate it with other evidence or testimony.

In documents supporting his labor complaint, Mendoza noted that concerned LMB officials received money for a favorable ruling. “Here, I witnessed the brazen power of corruption when Mommar (Santos), the senior engineer handling the case with me, immediately met with the officers at LMB, including the hearing officer to devise a way to counter the previous ruling. Upon the advise of the LMB officials, the company presented falsified mother titles, sales certificate and other documents that would establish that the title of Villanueva is validly issued when in truth it was not,” Mendoza wrote in his labor complaint.

Mendoza said he would also find out that Adiao’s heirs were paid P7 million in bribe money as settlement for the Imus Estate case. The settlement money was a drop in the bucket as it salvaged what could have been a P300 million reinstated debt of Villar to Ayala Land, Mendoza said.

It was at this point that Mendoza said he struggled internally, whether he was winning his cases or through “lakad,” or under the table negotiation.

Eventually, he had a falling out with his superiors, then he was dismissed. -

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Saturday, April 3, 2010


IN respect of his goals in life, ambitious is the one single word that best describes the personality type of Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Manny Villar. His life is an absorbing tale of grit and determination, of goals set and achieved, of a long and seemingly endless single-minded quest for money and personal achievement.

Manny Villar comes from a middle class family. His claim that they were poor has been proven as totally baseless. It is nothing more than a ploy to court the sympathy – and snag the votes – of those who belong to the ranks of what are euphemistically called the "underprivileged" or the "less fortunate". All nine siblings never enrolled in public schools but studied in private schools. How poor is that?

His story begins with the all-too-familiar account of a young man assiduously trying to finish his education, gaining employment, setting up a business, and trying to clamber up the social ladder. Except that his story takes on a decidedly pleasant twist – by design or by a happy accident of fate, he marries into a wealthy, land owning Las Piñas family that also happens to wield political power and could well be the longest-lasting political dynasty in the country.

It is not clear whether Manny dreamed of becoming a political somebody from the very start. It appears, however, that his marriage to the former Cynthia Aguilar became his ticket into the rarefied world of politics, eventually launching a political career and affording him a shot to national prominence.

Villar’s rise in politics started in 1992 when he won as Congressman of Muntinlupa-Las Piñas. Through astute political maneuvering and probably aided by financial clout, he became Speaker of the House in 1998, in the process thwarting the rival bid of then Makati Congressman Joker Arroyo.

Joker later became a close ally of Villar. Before that however, the Makati solon denounced Villar on the floor of Congress, accusing him of three serious infractions of the law in connection with the loans that Villar, while serving as a member of Congress, obtained from government financing institutions to fund his real estate business.

Arroyo said Villar violated Article XI, Section of the Constitution (that deals with matters involving conflict of interest), Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials, and Republic Act 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

There are other equally grave accusations hurled against the standard bearer of the Nacionalista Party, virtually all of them involving land issues, in which he is supposed to have used his power and influence as a public official.

The most serious among them is the alleged double insertion of P200 million in the public works budget for the C-5 Road extension project, which was reportedly rerouted so that it would pass along the subdivisions of his real estate firms. The controversy resulted in his ouster as Senate president. The result of the Senate investigation of the allegations against Villar declared him guilty and even ordered him to reimburse the P6.2 billion of government money that was said to have been wasted because of the rerouting.

Recently, more than a hundred Dumagat tribesmen from Norzagaray, Bulacan held successive rallies before the Department of Agrarian Reform, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and Office of the Ombudsman to denounce Villar and his wife, Congresswoman Cynthia. This is an alleged land grabbing case that was the subject of an earlier column, which elicited no rebuttal from the NP or Villar camps.

The Dumagats claim studied inaction on the part of government agencies handling the graft and plunder charges they filed against the senator in 2008. A separate case had been filed against Rep. Villar before the Office of the City Prosecutor of San Jose del Monte for alleged swindling.

Villar is also involved in another land dispute where one of his firms, Crown Asia, is accused of land grabbing. This has to do with a 2.18 hectare property in San Pedro, Laguna sequestered by the Presidential Commission and is said to be owned by the government.

Crown Asia’s claim is being contested by residents and settlers in the area, who said the Calamba City Register of Deeds has no record of the title and Deed of Absolute Sale that Crown Asia presented to prove its claim. It appears that the Supreme Court has declared the land as sequestered property, ownership of which is expected to be formally transferred by the Sandiganbayan to the government anytime soon. The residents are saying that once the transfer to the government is effected, they expect to be given pre-emptive rights to buy and own the property.

What all these indicate is that in his dealings and actions, whether in business, sports, gambling or in politics, clearly Manny Villar will spare nothing to get what he wants. What happens if, despite all his efforts, he still doesn’t get what he wants?

Unfortunately for him, many of his land deals seem to be tainted with controversy, some bordering on dishonesty. In this regard, Senators Jamby Madrigal and Panfilo Lacson had accused him of graft.

Former President Joseph Estrada says that Villar attempted to bribe him. Three of Villar’s colleagues in the Senate – Dick Gordon, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Madrigal also aired similar accusations. All these supposed bribery attempts are heavily loaded with political undertones and could well be aimed at countering Vilar’s overweening political ambitions.

In aiming for the presidency, he is like a man possessed who will employ all means, including spending a scandalous amount, estimated at more than P2 billion as of this month, to fuel his relentless drive to capture Malacañang.

Truly, Manny Villar is turning out be a man with a monomaniacal mind.

Personally, I am uneasy with monomaniacs whether in business, sports or politics.

The reality is that he just might become president. And that is scary. What if, should he become our president, he is tempted (as all our presidents have been), to become our president for life? Then, he would be one-up on GMA.

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