Senator Panfilo Lacson yesterday said that if Senator Manny Villar refuses to defend himself at a Senate investigation into the charge that he was behind the P200 million double funding in Congress of the C-5 extension road, “That is his look out and that is very dangerous on his part.”
It is well and good if Villar wants to bring his case before the people, but if he walks out on the Senate investigation, he said, “The implication is that he is effectively waving his right to defend himself,” said Lacson, who was in Bacolod for a public hearing on his proposed bill on instituting reforms in real property valuation and assessment in the Philippines
“If we only see all the evidence as presented by the complainant, Senator Jamby Madrigal, we, as jurors of the committee of the whole, hearing the case will only rely on what’s coming from the complainant or the prosecution,” he said.
“I wonder why he (Villar) doesn’t want to face us with the gravity of the accusations of corruption. As a senator he should be a statesman and stand up and defend himself,” Lacson added.
He also said a preliminary inquiry on the case was held Thursday and on Monday the Senate committee will decide whether there is substantial credible evidence against the respondents.
Lacson said there is no reason for him to inhibit himself from the hearing as suggested by the Villar camp.
“They are creating the impression that I am the accuser, I am not the accuser, it is Senator Madrigal,” he said.
“My only role in this issue is because I was the one who brought up the issue of double insertion in the General Appropriations Act of 2008 because I saw that the same stretch of road was allocated P200 million twice so it was redundant and anomalous to say the lease,” he said
Lacson said he inquired from the Budget and Management Secretary about the double insertion during the budget deliberations and he said it was an insertion of the legislators.
“I was not the one who identified Villar as the one responsible for the insertion, it was Senator (Juan Ponce) Enrile who was finance chairman at the time,” Lacson added.
“They are trying to influence the minds of the public that being chair of the committee on ethics of the senate, I am the accuser and the judge,” Lacson said.
As to the argument that the hearing will be biased because its members include senators who plan to run for president in 2010, Lacson said there are only four or five senators being mentioned to be entertaining some presidential ambition.
It is unfair to accuse the remaining 17 or 18 senators of being unfair, he said.
Villar should be man enough to face his peers in a complaint that has been filed against him, Lacson said.
As to the Villar camp’s walkout from a Senate hearing Thursday, Lacson said “It was just a matter of time before the walkout. They were all the time contemplating a walkout, they were just looking for the proper timing.”
They were objecting to the amended rules but their intention is really to delay the proceedings since they do not want the process to reach the presentation of evidence because the evidence is “damming”, Lacson said.
The accusation that the Senate wanted a “kangaroo court” is “unethical and unparliamentary,” he added.
Meanwhile, Lacson said he intends to run for president in 2010 as an independent, but he is forming possible coalitions with two or three groups.
“Right now I am relying on my own organizations,” he said.
Lacson said “Too may opposition presidential bets in 2010 may allow the administration again to get away with victory, but nobody can force anyone to subsume himself or herself under a particular party or candidate.”
Right now there are ongoing coalition talks among different opposition groups, he said.
Lacson said he has not chosen a runningmate yet but everything will fall into place.
The senator said he does not believe the people will allow a no-election scenario in 2010.
“The number one problem of this country is government, but the solution is also government,” he said, in stressing the need to elect the right leader for the country.
He pointed out that he is a strong advocate against corruption, and pointed out that the World Bank said that in infrastructure projects in the Philippines, 20 percent is lost to corruption.
So, in 2008, he said, P245 billion was lost in the budget and 40 percent of the country’s revenues were not collected.
“If we save all that money we could deliver all the basic services needed,” Lacson also said.*CPG