PROFILE: Manuel B. Villar, Jr.

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.

FORTUNE IN NUMBERS. Senator Manuel B. Villar, Jr. (Corbis)

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.


PROFILE: Francis G. Escudero

Escudero has been in the news lately with many senators labeling him as the “dark horse” in the race for Senate President. If elected Senate President he would go down as the youngest in history.

YOUNG TURK. Senator Francis G. Escudero (Corbis)

By Peter Angelo Blaza and Katherine Elona

The political influence of Francis “Chiz” Escudero on this year’s elections is certainly undeniable. After endorsing the mixed “Noy-Bi” presidential ticket of Aquino and Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, Escudero, 40, may just cement his kingmaker reputation by winning the senate presidency.

Escudero has been in the news lately with many senators labeling him as the “dark horse” in the race for Senate President. If elected Senate President he would go down as the youngest in history.

News reports confirmed that talks were being made to convince Escudero to stand in position as Senate President, but Escudero denied this statement.

A little less than a month ago, Escudero said in a press interview that he was still considering the position and said Congress should focus more on proclaiming the president and vice president before thinking about politics in the Senate.

Before the elections, Escudero was asked by Enrile to act as Senate President in case there was a failure of election.

Escudero may get up to seven votes for Senate President, mostly comprising of independent and opposition members not linked with the other bets Villar and Drilon.

Starting young

Escudero earned his undergraduate degree in political science at UP and finished law at the same university in 1993. He later went abroad to finish his masters degree at Georgetown University before returning home in 1996.

Before becoming a lawyer, Escudero was a teaching assistant at the UP Department of Political Science for a year and later became an analyst in the Batangas Development Planning Office.

From 1993 onwards, Escudero practiced law in different firms before establishing his own together with his partners. Currently he is a partner of the Escudero, Marasigan, Sta. Ana, Vallente and Villareal Law Office (EMSAVIL Law).

In 1998, Escudero began his political career by running for Sorsogon first district representative under the National People’s Coalition (NPC).  He was then House Minority Leader from 2004 to 2007.

In 2007, Escudero filed his candidacy for the Senate, which he later won and had one of the highest votes in the senatorial lineup. Escudero was said to have risen in popularity after he played a pivotal role in two out of four impeachment drives against Arroyo.

Broken alliance

Speculations arose that Escudero was seeking the running for the executive office but backed down and said it was not his time to run for a position.

In the midst of the filing of candidacies for the 2010 elections, Escudero considered running for the presidential post as an independent candidate when he decided to severe the 11-year-old tie with NPC owned by San Miguel Corporation Chairperson and CEO Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr., who also ran for President in 1992.

According to news reports, Escudero had a disagreement with Cojuangco when he failed to convince the mogul to bankroll his presidential candidacy during their talks last October.

Escudero denied the allegation and said his move was based on his belief that a president should be unbiased and not be tied to any political party.


PROFILE: Franklin M. Drilon

Drilon admitted in a television interview that he joined different coalitions before but he had never been a member of any political party other than the Liberal Party, which he joined in 2004 and became its president until 2008.

THE BIG MAN RETURNS. Senator-Elect Franklin M. Drilon (Jon Fabrigar)

By Peter Angelo Blaza and Katherine Elona

He was dubbed “The Big Man” in this year’s senatorial elections, running under the slogan: Big Justice – Mahirap Man o Mayaman. Five days after the polls, Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party (LP) was returned to the Senate, placing fourth in the race.

Drilon’s name soon came up as one of the probable LP bets for the post, the other being, former Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan.

According to recent news reports, LP was ushering Drilon,64, as their standard bearer for the senate presidency, with presumed president Benigno Aquino III leading the call.

However, LP will have a difficulty rallying votes as their party consists of only four senators: Drilon, Pangilinan, Teofisto Guingona III and Ralph Recto.

Drilon does not fall short on experience for the said position. He already served as senator from 1995 to 2007, and in 2000, became Senate President after he and Sen. Blas Ople agreed to replace Senate President Marcelo Fernan, who died that year.

After Edsa Dos, Drilon was returned as Senate President, serving from 2001 to 2006.  He is the longest-serving Senate President post-Edsa, serving for a total of 6 years.

Post-Edsa cabinet

Prior to his stint in the Senate, Drilon already had his share of experience in campus politics in college, and in various government agencies.

Drilon has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science degree at the University of the Philippines (UP). He also finished his Bachelor of Laws in the same university in 1969, and placed third at the bar examinations that year.

Drilon later joined the Angara, Abello, Concepcion, Regala and Cruz (ACCRA) Law Offices, one of the country’s premier law firms, and served as its senior associate and later managing partner until he retired in 1986 to enter government service.

He was first appointed by Pres. Corazon Aquino as deputy Minister of Industrial Relations and soon became Labor and Employment Secretary. In 1990, he was appointed Justice Secretary, and a year later became Executive Secretary. He would later be appointed again as Justice Secretary under Pres. Fidel Ramos.

As Justice Secretary, Drilon was known for spearheading the prosecution of influential personalities such as former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was behind a student rape-slay, and Claudio Teehankee Jr., son of a former justice secretary, who was involved in a gun-slay of three people.

In 1995, Drilon ran for a Senate position under the Lakas-Laban coalition and placed fourth. Three years later, he left Lakas-Laban and joined the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), supporting Vice-Pres. Joseph Estrada’s presidential bid. He became senate majority leader the same year and was one of the senators who voted for the Visiting Forces Agreement in 1999.

Shifty alliances

In 2001, he ran for re-election under the People Power Coalition (PPC), which supported incumbent Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Drilon was known to be an Arroyo ally until the Hello Garci Scandal came about in 2005.

Drilon went back to work at the ACCRA Law Offices as senior counsel in 2004. He continued to work there after leaving the Senate in 2007 when his term ended.

During the 2010 campaign period, one of the issues thrown at Drilon were his constantly shifting politician alliances. Drilon admitted in a television interview that he joined different coalitions before but he had never been a member of any political party other than LP, which he joined in 2004 and became its president until 2008.

Another issue Drilon faced was the allegation of graft during the construction of the P8.7 billion Iloilo International Airport. In the same interview, Drilon said he had never earned a single peso from the project, nor was he involved in any of the negotiations made until its completion. He also wondered aloud why this issue was only brought up recently, when the airport had been operational for five years already.


The Senate President

It will eventually be a numbers game for contenders seeking the senate presidency via multi-partisan alliances that are, at best, temporary and unwieldy.

THIRD IN LINE. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism)

The Senate was once dubbed as a training ground for the Presidency; thus, the significance of the esteemed position of Senate President is not lost on the 24-member Senate, who distinctly eye the post that is third in line in the presidential succession.

Senators simply cannot get enough of elections since even as early as last week there have been talks on who will be the next Senate President.

Incumbent Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, 86, has announced his retirement from the said position.

The rules are simple: to lead the congress’s upper chamber, a senator must have at least 13 votes, a simple majority.

However, getting those 13 votes will prove to be a lot tougher now since there will only be 22 senators left after Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III vacates his seat when he is expected to assume the presidency in June (Aquino is currently the presidential frontrunner in the official national election canvassing).

In addition to Aquino’s expected departure, the seat held by Alfredo Lim remains vacant. Lim, elected Senator in 2004, was voted Manila City mayor in 2007.

It will eventually be a numbers game for contenders seeking the senate presidency via multi-partisan alliances that are, at best, temporary and unwieldy.