MANILA -- Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile finally presented Monday a committee report that seeks to censure Senator Manny Villar for alleged "improper and unethical conduct" over the controversial C-5 road extension project.
Enrile, head of the Committee of the Whole tasked to investigate the alleged anomalous C-5 road extension project linking Las Piñas and Parañaque City, said Villar should be censured for damaging the integrity of the Senate.
He based the recommendation on Section 14, Article 4 of the Constitution and Republic Act (RA) 6713, otherwise known as The Code of Conduct of Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
The Senate President defended the findings of the panel during Monday's afternoon session despite opposition from the minority bloc spearheaded by senators and key Villar allies, Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr. and Allan Peter Cayetano.
The 84-page report also demanded Villar to return to the public coffers the P6.22 billion, which he allegedly illegally obtained through the realignment of the C-5 road project in the interest of fairness, public accountability.
"For the benefit of his corporations, Senator Villar made the Filipinos suffer the total amount of P6.226,070,427," Enrile stated in his report.
Enrile added that Villar also violated Section 12, Article IV of the Constitution by failing to notify the Senate of a "potential conflict of interest" when he proposed an amendment to the 2008 national budget by appropriating P400 million, including P200 million approved by the finance committee then headed by the senator, for the project.
"Senator Villar failed to avoid this conflict of interest situation by not divesting himself of his shareholdings or interest in Adelfa Properties Inc., Golden Haven Memorial Park Inc., and Brittany Corp," Enrile said.
"Evidently, these acts of respondent Senator Villar were committed while he was a member of the Senate," he explained in his report.
The Senate President made the report after 12 adjudicatory hearings of the Committee of the Whole he himself chaired with Senator Jamby Madrigal as complainant.
Villar never attended all the hearings, including eight inquiries, which were conducted by the Senate committee on ethics headed by Senator Panfilo Lacson that first handled the ethics complaints against Villar, who is running for president in the May 10 elections.
The committee report has finally reached the plenary through the signatures of majority composed of 12 senators -- Kiko Pangilinan, Madrigal, Enrile, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Lacson, Edgardo Angara, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, Mar Roxas, Chiz Escudero, Richard Gordon, and Rodolfo Biazon.
After Enrile's presentation of the committee report, Senator Cayetano presented the minority bloc's own Resolution 1472, which was also signed by 12 senators, clearing Villar of the accusations.
The presentation of the minority's resolution turned into a lengthy heated interpellation and debates as senators reacted when Cayetano named the presidentiables from the Senate.
When asked by Enrile if Villar has intention to defend himself, Cayetano said he can't answer for Villar, although reiterating the previous stand of the presidentiable not to submit himself in the investigation as "he won't get a fair trial."
Enrile was supported by Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada who urged Villar to defend himself in the Senate and not in the media or in any forum.
Senator Madrigal, who called Villar a coward, also urged the presidentiable to face the Senate inquiries.
Their call was backed by Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, who also urged Villar to face the C-5 controversy hearing before the Senate.
"Face it up in the Senate. Don't avoid it. Don't explain to the media. Face it in the Senate," said Ocampo.
For her part, Akbayan Representative Risa Baraquiel-Hontiveros said Villar's refusal to attend Senate hearings is "conduct unbecoming for a senator and a presidentiable."
"How can he say that he has conviction when he cannot defend his name in the proper venue?" Hontiveros said.
In defense of Villar, however, Pimentel said: "There are a thousand and one reasons why a person may not want to submit himself to a proceeding which he questioned from the very beginning." (AH/Angela Casauay/PNA/Sunnex)