Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the June 3, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

Is it totally out of character for Senator Manny Villar to use his position for the benefit of his businesses?

Not if Senator Manny Villar is the Speaker Manny Villar that then-Congressman Joker Arroyo accused of violating Art. VI, Sec.12, and Art.11, Sec.16 of the Constitution; the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials and Employees. (Representative Joker Arroyo detailed the charges against Representative Manny Villar in a Privilege Speech delivered on Aug.17, 1998. Copies are available at the Batasan.)

Although the specific violations committed by Speaker Villar are different and more serious, if you ask me, from the ones Senator Villar is accused of today, the essence of the charges remains the same.

Villar, as a congressman and as a senator, in violation of the Constitution and relevant laws, used his position to enrich himself.

To use then Congressman Arroyo’s words, If he (Villar) wants to be a
congressman, then he must not be in business which deals with the government.”

Then, as now, Villar considered himself above his peers. He refused to stand before them to answer the charges against him. Congressman Arroyo thought it an insult.

I made, as I am making now, a formal charge in plenary against the Speaker, What does the Speaker do? He answers it through proxies, press releases. It is an insult to the dignity of the House. When a charge is leveled against the Speaker, formally on a question of collective privilege, therefore, he must answer it.

Ten years ago, Representative Arroyo described Speaker Villar’s proxies as toadies. Today, Senator Arroyo, along with other proxies, croaks for Senator Villar.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano characterized the complaint against Villar as a “political ambush,” a “political rubout.” Senator Arroyo, on his part, implied that the “presidentiables” were a lynch mob.

The presidentiables have converted the Senate session hall into something akin to the town square, reminiscent of the public hangings of the dissenters during medieval times,” he croaked.

So what if the complaint against Villar is politically motivated, intended to destroy his candidacy for president. Skeletons in the closet are fair game in politics. If a candidate has something to hide, he shouldn’t stand for office.

Besides, is it not also playing politics when one cries, “Politically motivated!” to evade having to answer charges?

The fact remains that serious charges have been filed and the Senate has to act on it.

So, to use Representative Arroyo’s words again, “Our duty is clear, there are charges of illegalities, the charges must be heard and answered.”

Senator Cayetano said Senators Panfilo Lacson and Jamby Madrigal should take their case to the Ombudsman.

He added, “This (the trial of Villar) is simply part of their drama and script.”

That was the same view expressed by a Villar proxy when Representative Arroyo delivered his privilege speech.

“If it is true that there are charges, I think the proper venue is the Ombudsman and not in this august body. If the intention is to really go down to the bottom of this and they have evidence, I think the charges should be sent to the Ombudsman, What’s happening now is trial by publicity,
Mr. Speaker, trial by publicity,” said Representative Jose Mari Gonzalez while
interpellating Representtaive Arroyo.

The best response to Senator Cayetano’s remark comes from Representative Arroyo.

“Now a suggestion that we give this elsewhere is an abdication of our independence and of our power to police our own ranks. With this, as somebody said, we are asking our neighbor to discipline our children. If we cannot discipline our own, we have no business disciplining others.”

And he added, “If, as I’ve said again, we have been inviting public officials here, we investigate them, we even humiliate them, we bamboozle them, we even cite them for contempt, within our powers, we detain them. If we cannot investigate our own members, we have no moral ascendancy to investigate others. We cannot tell our neighbors’ children that they are no good if we cannot tell our own children they are no good. That’s all there is to it.”

And so it’s time for Senator Villar to face his peers and answer the charges leveled against him. The Senate and the public deserve answers, not the incessant croaking of toads.