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‘Villar intervened in C-5 project for his own benefit’

Senator Manuel Villar Jr. exerted his influence on the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) so that his properties would benefit from the alleged realignment of the controversial C-5 Road Extension in Parañaque and Las Piñas cities. This is according to the report of the Senate committee of the whole seeking Villar’s censure for allegedly earning billions in the government’s C-5 road extension project. The report, which was read by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday, said that Villar violated Section 14, Article VI of the Constitution for intervening in the project of the DPWH for his own pecuniary benefit. “Senator Villar also became directly or indirectly interested financially in such contracts between his corporations and the DPWH, hence violating Section 14, Article VI of the Constitution," a portion of the report read. The constitutional provision states that a senator or congressman should not be “directly or indirectly, be interested financially in any contract with, or in any franchise or special privilege granted by the Government, or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including any government-owned or controlled corporation, or its subsidiary, during his term of office." “He shall not intervene in any matter before any office of the Government for his pecuniary benefit or where he may be called upon to act on account of his office," it added.

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The committee report was finally tackled by the Senate on Monday afternoon after days of delay. Pimentel’s contention Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. questioned Enrile on why the report was the first item on Monday's agenda. "I would like to specifically object to the taking up of this committee report as the first item on the agenda. We have a rule that those first filed will be discussed first. This committee report cannot supervene the resolutions and bills filed ahead of it," Pimentel said. Enrile, head of the committee of the whole that probed Villar, said that under existing rules, a committee report is always in the order of business. "A committee report submitted takes precedence over other things." Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri sided with Enrile, saying they agreed Wednesday last week that the committee report would be the first item on the agenda after the chamber ran out of time to discuss it. Enrile said the committee of the whole conducted 12 adjudicatory hearings and the complainant, Senator Ma Ana Consuelo Madrigal, presented 900 pieces of documentary evidence and testimonies of witnesses. He said that despite the opportunities accorded to Villar to participate in the hearings, the latter refused to do so. The committee’s findings The Senate chief said the committee found Villar, a presidential candidate, guilty of violating Section 12 of the 1987 Constitution and Section 3 (i) in relation to Section 9 of Repbulic Act 6713 or The Code of Conduct of Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and engaging himself in improper and unethical conduct "that adversely reflects upon the Senate." Aside from censuring Villar, the committee wanted the senator to return to the government the P6.22 billion his company allegedly “gained" through illegal means from the construction of the C-5 road extension. Enrile said there is substantial, credible evidence that Villar is a major stockholder of Adelfa Properties Inc, which owns Golden Haven Memorial Park and Azalea Real Estate Corporation (now Britanny Corporation), and was the proponent of Las Piñas-Parañaque Link Road project and the government's C-5 road extension project. He said the road projects were made to pass through the properties of the corporations of Villar following a curved, instead of a straight, alignment. Enrile said the alignment of the C-5 road extension segment of the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway Project had to be changed just to accommodate the alignments of the Las Piñas-Parañaque and C-5 extension projects. Villar's corporations allegedly received road right-of-way compensation and still have unpaid claims. It said the properties of Villar that were acquired were given zonal valuation for different areas, thus increasing the compensation due them. Enrile said Villar failed to avoid a conflict-of-interest situation by not divesting himself of his shareholdings or interest in the mentioned corporations. It added that Villar used his power to satisfy the interest of his corporations. The Senate is still tackling the issue as of posting time. - with reports from Sophia Dedace/ KBK, GMANews.TV