By Peter Angelo Blaza and Katherine Elona
For someone who has relied on numbers to make his mark in life, Manuel “Manny” B. Villar, Jr., is once again making sure the numbers are on his side as he may possibly return to the post he resigned from two years ago.
He ranked third in the partial count of the recently concluded presidential race. Now this senator may set his sights in a second battle for the senate presidency.
Currently Villar, 60, has the upper hand in terms of Senate supporters. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago—who was re-elected in May as a guest candidate of the Nacionalista Party (NP)—said in an interview Villar has about 12 senators rooting for his candidacy for the Senate leadership.
Aside from Santiago, other known Villar supporters are Joker Arroyo, Cayetano siblings, Alan Peter and Pia Juliana, Edgardo Angara, Gregorio Honasan, Loren Legarda (his own running-mate), and Juan Miguel Zubiri, the current Majority Leader. Newly elected senators most likely to join Villar’s ranks are Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., Manuel “Lito” Lapid and Ferdinand “Bong-Bong” Marcos, Jr.
‘Sipag’ at ‘tiyaga’
Villar earned his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Business Administration at UP in 1973. Shortly after graduation, Villar worked as an auditor for a private firm Sycip Gorres Velayo & Co. for a year before leaving to start his own business delivering seafood to Makati restaurants in 1972.
Shortly after opening, Villar’s business folded and he returned to the corporate world as a financial analyst of the Private Development Corporation of the Philippines for three years before trying his luck again in the business sector.
With a capital of P10,000, Villar purchased two reconditioned trucks and started his sand and gravel business in Las Piñas.
Villar’s business boomed over the years brought by the success of his flagship firm C&P Homes, which catered to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). In 2005, the company was listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange.
As years went by, Villar expanded his company by branching into other businesses and established sub firms like Household Development Corp., Palmera Homes, Inc., Brittany Corp., Adelfa Properties, Inc., Fine Properties, Inc., M.B. Villar Co. Inc., Macy’s Inc., Golden Haven Memorial Park, Inc., Crown Asia, Camella Homes, and Fine Properties, Inc.
Villar started his political career in 1992 when he ran for Las Piñas-Muntinlupa lone district representative under LAKAS-NUCD. He served for three terms until 2001, authoring laws that benefited his district through infrastructure and tourism projects. He also pushed the creation of a separate Las Piñas House district, as well as Las Piñas’s cityhood.
Leader in the House
During his term under the Ramos Administration, Villar was known for his advocacies marshalling economic reform measures such as the New Foreign Investments Act and the restructuring of the Central Bank of the Philippines.
In 1998, Villar became Speaker of the House, succeeding then-Rep. Jose De Venecia Jr. when the latter unsuccessfully ran for President. He beat out possible contenders Makati City Rep. Joker Arroyo and Rizal Rep. Gilberto Duavit, Jr.
Villar then spearheaded the impeachment of Pres. Joseph Estrada in 2000 by railroading the articles of impeachment, transferring them immediately to the Senate.
In 2001, Villar entered the senatorial race and won the seat as an independent candidate running under PPC, but in 2003 became an NP member.
He was elected became Senate President in 2006, but stepped down in 2008 after he lost the confidence of his senate colleagues due to a number of issues.
In the recently concluded election, Villar ran for president under NP, but lost due to the tide of issues passed against him in the latter part of the campaign period.
‘C-5’ at ‘taga’
During his campaign for presidency, Villar has been on the hotbed of controversies ever since his announcement in 2008. The most popular issue against the senator was the C-5 Road (Circumferential Road 5) Extension controversy.
According to the Senate Committee of the Whole report, Villar influenced the Department of Public Works and Highways so that the C-5 Road Extension would pass through his real estate properties, thereby raising the value of his own lands and acquire an overpriced right-of-way.
According to reports, the rerouted project made the government drop off its originally planned extension via the Manila-Cavite Expressway Project in lieu of the new project, even though billions of pesos has already been spent in right of way compensation to the earlier project.
In 2008, Villar was also accused of double insertion when the P200 million C-5 Road Extension project was again inserted in the annual budget. Villar answered the complaint and said it was not a double insertion but a new construction for a flyover connecting the other end of the Las Piñas-Parañaque Link Road to the Coastal Road.
Pressure on PSE?
In a recent press conference, Estrada alleged that Villar of using his senate president position to gain money. Estrada, PMP presidential candidate who is placing second in the latest canvassing, claimed that then-Senate President Villar pressured the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) to lift the ban on selling share holdings of Vista Land and Lifescapes (Villar’s companies) within six months after its initial public offering.
Enrile, who won re-election under PMP and replaced Villar as Senate President in 2008, added that Villar and his companies earned P26 billion after selling Vista Land shares.
Villar denied the allegations, saying that there was nothing wrong or unethical in his appearance at the PSE.
Other controversies surrounding Villar and his businesses were land-grabbing from the poor and overpricing of supposedly low-cost housing projects.
According to news reports, Villar had allegedly amassed many lands through underhanded tactics and extralegal means. A lawyer interviewed by a broadcasting network said Villar usurped his power in Congress and acquired lands meant for low-cost housing projects. Among the areas meant for the low cost housing projects were in Norzagaray, Bulacan; Imus, Cavite and the Portofino project in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.