Plunder raps filed vs Villar over P1.5-B loan


Thursday, October 2, 2008

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Senate President Manuel Villar was charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman for the alleged failure of his family’s bank to pay a P1.5-billion loan with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

In response, Villar’s office said a similar case had been dismissed “for lack of palpable merit” by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2006.

“Clearly, therefore, this case is a rehash, recycled strategy,” read the statement.

Villar’s lawyer Ma. Nalen Rosero-Galang said this was a case of double jeopardy.

“Imagine, a previously dismissed case resurrected to suit the moment,” she said.

“How can a second plunder case be filed anew by a new set of complainants involving the same property?

“We therefore ask: Who are these people? Who are behind them? What are their motives? Even for the sake of argument that there was merit in the second complaint, the farmers should first establish their ownership of the 483-hectare property before the regional trial court.

“Like any other business concern, the Capitol Bank was not spared by the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. As a result, the bank was forced to seek an emergency loan from the BSP in 1998.

“In return, the Capitol Bank assigned to the BSP its receivables and other collaterals in the form of real estate properties. This is in conformity with the BSP requirements and existing applicable laws and regulations.”

A group of farmers from Norzagaray, Bulacan said they charged Senator Villar with plunder in his capacity as stockholder of the family-owned Optimum Development Bank (formerly Capitol Development Bank).

Their lawyers said Senator Villar was charged with plunder because the BSP loan to the bank “involved public funds which was more than P50 million and that the securing of the unpaid loan was done through a series of loans and transactions.”

Named co-respondent was Villar’s wife, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, ODB president.

Others charged were Anacordita Magno, ODB first vice president; Arturo de los Santos, ODB executive vice president; and Andres Rustia, BSP Department of Loans and Credit, and Asset Management Department managing director.

In their complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman last Sept. 26, the farmers said that Representative Villar and Magno – in their capacity as bank executives – managed to secure a loan from the BSP amounting to almost P1.5 billion – P1.17 billion on April 22, 1998 and P332 million on April 24, 1998.

Based on the promissory notes signed by Rep. Villar and Magno, they promised to pay their loan after six months at an interest rate of 14.957 percent per annum, according to the complaint.

However, the complaint said the bank failed to pay the loan and a deed of real estate mortgage on a 485-hectare agricultural land in Norzagaray, Bulacan was entered into by the bank and Manila Brickworks, Inc., represented by De los Santos, in favor of the BSP, represented by Rustia.

“Records show that Lots 1-9 titles of the real estate mortgage were issued through the relocation plan of Lots 1-9 Sc-11202-D as surveyed for Palmera Homes, Inc. dated April 27, 1995. Palmera Homes is one of the many subdivisions owned by Senator Villar and his wife, Cynthia,” read the complaint.

The farmers are disputing ownership of the 484-hectare land before the Malolos Regional Trial Court.

“But it was only in 2007 that the complainant-farmers learned about the so-called nine transfer certificate of titles (TCT) covering the 484 hectares of land which is now being claimed by the BSP as their property after the foreclosure proceedings it conducted against the CDB,” the farmers said in a statement.

“The complainant-farmer learned about the BSP’s claim when they filed before the Malolos RTC a reconstitution of their land titles after the records of land titles in Norzagaray were burned in a fire that destroyed the building which houses the Registry of Deeds.”

In the case before the Bulacan RTC, the farmers questioned the TCTs in the BSP’s possession since the date of issuance of the sales patent on July 17, 1944 and the date of issuance of the original certificate title on July 25, 1944 “took place when there was no civil government in the Philippines,” which was then under Japanese occupation.

At the Senate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Nacionalista Party secretary-general, said they would like the proper committees to handle the investigation into the charges against Villar.

“I think all the businesses of Senator Villar are declared and they are easy to see,” he said.

“But he will not be the only one to answer all the cases against him but his companies as well.”

‘Palace can’t wash its hands’

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said yesterday Malacañang could not wash its hands of the issue of double funding for the C-5 Road extension project since it was responsible for the disbursement of government funds.

“When the first appropriation was released out of the two funds for the same project, they said the other one was put on hold, meaning savings,” he said.

“Who uses savings? The one who holds the money. Maybe (we should) ask the President to assure the people she’ll not misuse the money for purposes for which it was not intended.”

Former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno said the funds could even be used for the 2010 national elections.

“Like what they did in public works in the 2008 budget, P17 billion was added by the congressmen and senators, while P9 billion was cut from foreign-assisted projects,” he said.

“You can release that in the last quarter of 2009 in time for the first quarter of 2010,” he said.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said she would file a bill to promote transparency and accountability in passing the budget.

“In 2009, President Arroyo may release these P11.5-billion insertions,” she said.

“By 2010, each project may continue to be implemented. Hence, I strongly suspect that most of these secret projects are going to be used by incumbent legislators for the 2010 elections.”

At Malacañang, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza and Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. debunked claims that the Palace could benefit from the double allocation, since the P200 million added on could become part of President Arroyo’s discretionary funds.

Andaya said the controversy should be kept in the Senate and that the charge that Mrs. Arroyo would use the savings for other purposes was pure speculation and an attempt to muddle the issue.

“While the search for truth on the C-5 issue touches on aspects of budget execution, it is, however, unfair to make the Office of the President part of collateral damage of an intra-chamber dispute,” he said.

Andaya said DBM did not release the P200 million after discovering the double allocation.

Malacañang could not use the “impounded” P200 million for political gains, he added.

Those responsible “should face the music and must not bail out by blaming others for the mistake they committed,” Andaya said. – Edu Punay, Aurea Calica (PStar)

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