Ping to Manny: See you at ethics panel


BY DENNIS GADIL

SEN. Panfilo Lacson yesterday said Senate President Manuel Villar is liable for conflict of interest in pushing for the C-5 road extension project.

Lacson has accused Villar of sponsoring a law while the latter was still a congressman from Las Piñas that mandated the infusion of billions in government money into two housing finance institutions with which his companies did business.

He said now that the investigation of the Senate finance committee on the double entry mess has unmasked Villar as the one who pushed for the additional P200 million for the road extension under the 2008 budget, the battleground shifts to the ethics committee where evidence can be presented.

But Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago thinks otherwise.

“I disagree that this (conflict of interest issue) is a proper matter for the jurisdiction of the ethics committee because our Senate rules provide that ethics committee exercises jurisdiction only if the language or behavior is so-called un-parliamentary, that is to say that the behavior in this case is offensive to a senator or derogates the Senate as an institution,” she said.

Villar, in an interview, expressed relief that the Senate finance committee found no wrongdoing about the insertion in the 2008 budget.

“Wala tayong mali na ginawa doon. Yun pa naman ang aking unang sinasabi na wala talagang anomalya diyan,” he said.

Villar said he hoped his colleagues would no longer bring the matter to the ethics panel chaired by Pia Cayetano.

Malacañang chided Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno for saying that the Executive branch would benefit from the P200 million insertion.

“The Executive doesn’t know why the P200 million insertion was made… The DBM is not even a member of the bicameral conference committee,” Budget Secretary Rolando G. Andaya Jr. said.

“We will hold the amount in question until the Senate or DPWH can provide us with information explaining to us sufficiently what this additional amount is for,” he added, reiterating that the DBM has not released the second P200 million allocation after it discovered the double entry.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said critics should rise above partisan considerations and refrain from making speculative statements.

“The Palace made it clear from the outset that it will not allow any illegal release of any fund, much less benefit from it.”

Reps. Eduardo Zialcita (Lakas, Parañaque City) and Joel Villanueva (PL-Citizens Battle Against Corruption) urged Malacañang to release the second P200 million so that the C-5 Road extension project that would link South Luzon Expressway to Sucat Road would be finished.

They said it would be unfair to commuters, motorists and the transport sector if the project implementation is held hostage by controversies relative to the allegations of double insertion.

“DBM is duty-bound to implement the national budget. It cannot be selective in its implementation. The money to complete the project should be released without delay. There’s no reason why the funds should be put on hold,” said Zialcita, vice president for recruitment of Lakas-CMD.

Villanueva said public interest should be the prevailing consideration particularly as the project has a big potential impact on the traffic condition in southern Metro Manila cities and municipalities.

“After SLEX, Coastal Road and the old Quirino Highway, which are all congested with traffic, the C-5 extension is only main road in and out of Parañaque, Las Piñas and Cavite,” he said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Peter J.G. Tabingo (Malaya)

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