Relieved by Enrile panel finding in C-5 case, says Villar


By HANNAH L. TORREGOZA

Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. yesterday expressed satisfaction over the findings of the Senate Finance Committee that investigated the alleged irregular double entry of P200 million for the C-5 Road Extension project in the 2008 national budget.

Villar, who has been implicated in the controversy by opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson, said he and his family felt relieved after Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, chairman of the Finance Committee, said no evidence of wrongdoing was found or established during Monday’s hearing.

“Ako ay natutuwa sa nangyari kahapon na naestablish na wala tayong kinalaman diyan at wala tayong mali na ginawa doon,” Villar said.

Villar also shrugged off threats by the Senate minority bloc to lodge a complaint against him before the Ethics Committee in connection with the controversy.

The Senate President said he was the aggrieved party and should have been the one to file a complaint against those who tried to destroy him, his credibility, his family, and the Senate’s integrity.

“Napatunayan nga na wala kang kasalanan, bakit pa pahahabain?” Villar said. “Kung tutuusin ninyo, ako dapat ang masama ang loob sa nangyari, pero hindi na lang ako kumikibo dahil ang mahalaga sa akin ngayon ay ang institusyon ng Senado at napakarami pa nating problema sa ating bayan ngayon.”

“Napakarami pong naghihintay kung anong mangyayari sa atin sa krisis na nangyayari sa Amerika,” he said.

Lacson, in an interview, said opposition senators are bent on filing a complaint before the Ethics Committee to question an apparent conflict of interest in the controversy.

“Wala naman sa jurisdiction ng Finance Committee yung conflict of interest. Iyon para sa amin, mga public officials, mas importanteng issue iyon. Pero hindi iyon natalakay simply because wala sa jurisdiction ng Finance Committee,” he said.

“Dapat talakayin yung acts of impropriety sa Ethics Committee. So, kung may mga evidence, kung may mga hard evidence, at may pumapasok na mga ebidensya pointing to conflict of interest, then we will bring the matter before the Ethics Committee of the Senate,” Lacson said.

DBM: Bicameral panel should explain double insertion

By DAVID CAGAHASTIAN

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya said yesterday members of the bicameral committee on the 2008 national budget should explain the P200 million double insertion for the C5 road project that the Senate investigation last Monday revealed.

The head of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said members of the bicameral committee should explain the P200 million insertion, and that Malacanang should not be blamed for it because the Executive branch does not interfere in deliberations on the budget at the bicameral committee level.

“Why shift the blame to Malacanang? It has nothing to do with the insertion. The DBM is not even a member of the bicameral conference committee,” Andaya said.

“We will hold the amount in question until the Senate or the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) can provide us with information explaining to us sufficiently what this additional amount is for,” he said.

Andaya said those responsible for the insertions should “face the music and must not bail out by blaming others for the mistake they committed.”

The Senate investigation on the C-5 extension project confirmed that a duplicate entry of P200 million was inserted in the 2008 national budget at the bicameral committee level.

Although the P200 million double entry for the C5 project was included and passed in the 2008 national budget, the DBM said the amount could not be disbursed, nor could it be classified as savings then spent for purposes that are not included in the 2008 national budget.

“The amount is appropriated specifically for the C-5 extension project and that is where it should be used,” DBM Assistant Secretary Verbo Bonilla said in a statement.

“Even if it is declared as savings, budget rules prevent the amount to be used for other items outside the regular programs in the Appropriations Act,” Bonilla said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers yesterday urged the DBM to release the additional P200 million earmarked for the completion of the C-5 road extension project which is expected to benefit thousands of commuters.

Parañaque City Rep. Eduardo Zialcita, whose district stands to benefit from the opening of the C5-South Luzon Expressway link road, said he sees no reason why the DBM should continue to withhold the funds for the project.

Party-list Representatives Joel Villanueva of Citizens Battle Against Corruption and Mujiv Hataman of Anak Mindanao agreed with Zialcita.

Villanueva cited “public interest” in calling for the “speedy but transparent completion” of the project. (with a report by Edmer F. Panesa) (ManilaBulletin)

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