by Lito Banayo
Joker Arroyo, the senator from Makati and Bicolano town-mate of SEC Commissioner Manny Gaite (the guy who gave half a million pesos of his own money to the brother of Jun Lozada, because Jun was running low on funds in Hongkong, before he decided to come home and tell the sordid truth about the ZTE-NBN scandal) stood on the Senate floor to defend his colleague Manuel Villar Jr. on the C-5 stink. Few of his peers bothered to listen to Joker as he bewailed the “unfair” treatment given his Wednesday Club confrere. Even ANC switched him off after a few paragraphs. Who cares to listen to Joker?
Yet, the man won in 2001 because he said “this country cannot have a thief for president”, and shouted “Ubusin ang mga corrupt!” After becoming one of the staunch defenders of the Arroyos (no relation) in the Senate, he sought re-election in 2007, and fooled enough voters to re-elect him, this time crying, “Pag bad ka, lagot ka!”. So why do few listen to Joker Arroyo these days, he who used to be regarded as a crusader against corruption? Let me quote from a privilege speech Rep. Joker Arroyo of the City of Makati and know why he has become absolutely incredible. The privilege speech was delivered August of 1998:
“I rise on a question of collective privilege on a constitutional issue that affects the integrity of the House and it is very ripe to continue existing.
“In the course of the fight for the speakership, Rep. Agapito Aquino, chairman of the reform bloc, raised questions regarding the fitness of Rep. Villar to seek the speakership. Rep. Villar chose not to answer the charges but he was overwhelmingly elected Speaker by this House. Successful election, however, does not answer the questions nor lay to rest charges of wrongdoing, not in (a) government of laws.
“We had a colleague; we still have a colleague in the person of Congressman Jalosjos. He was elected by his district but that did not erase his conviction. So, drawing a parallel election does not wipe out the offense.
“The questions raised, nay, the charges against Speaker Villar are constitutional in character. And our duty as members of the legislature is peremptory and clear. We took oath to support and defend the Constitution and uphold the laws. The Constitution has been violated, laws have been broken. If we are to continue in the capacity of public officials, if this Chamber is to continue in its very character as legislature, an indispensable pillar in the system of checks and balances, then we must come to the Constitution’ s defense and the vindication of the laws.
“I hesitated long and pondered hard whether to raise these questions for fear of being accused of sour-graping and being a poor sport. But this has nothing to do with sports. Our duty is clear, there are charges of illegalities; the charges must be heard and answered. I am reminded of the case of Speaker Newt Gingrich of the United States House of Representatives. He was investigated by the United States House of Representatives for I think collecting some fees of books he wrote while Speaker (I am not too sure of the facts). But one thing I am sure of is this; the House after hearing censured its own Speaker and penalized him with a penalty was meted out. In other words, there are precedents and we must not hesitate to do our duty. (Incidentally, the Newt Gingrich censure and fine is one of the precedents for the Enrile committee report signed by 12 senators which Villar’s tribe disputes).
“Article XI of the Constitution is titled “Accountability of Public Officers” it proscribes in Section 16 that:
“No loan, guaranty, or other form of financial accommodation for any business purpose may be granted, directly or indirectly, by any government or controlled bank or financial institution to the President, the Vice President, the Members of the Cabinet, the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Constitutional Commission, the Ombudsman, or to any firm or entity in which they have controlling interest, during their term.”
“Charge I. Low cost housing is totally dependent on government agencies such as PAG-IBIG, National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC), SSS, GSIS, and other government financial institutions.
“Speaker Villar and the companies of which he is President or Chairman, or where he has a controlling interest, are the biggest low-cost housing developers in the country. To be more specific, it is the Camella and Palmera Homes and its principal subsidiaries, the Household Development Corporation and Palmera and Communities Philippines.
“In violation of the constitutional injunction, these companies were given financial accommodations by government banks or financial institutions, among them, PAG-IBIG and the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation among others, during Speaker Villar’s term as Representative from 1992 to 1998 to finance their business purposes.
“Charge II. Representative Villar, from 1992 to 1998 did not divest himself of his interests in, nor did he sever his connections with, the companies aforestated. They obtained financial accommodations from the above government financial institutions while he was a Member of Congress. Since he did not, therefore, such companies were forbidden from entering into such financial arrangements. (In the C-5 issue, the SCOW report also took note of the fact that Villar and his wife did not divest themselves of ownership in the property firms that benefitted from the Las Pinas-Paranaque Road that was initiated, pushed and funded by Sen. Villar).
“Because of our Constitution, Republic Act No. 6713 known as the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials” states in Section 9:
“Divestment. – A public official or employee should avoid conflicts of interest at all times. When a conflict of interest arises, he shall resign from his position in any private business enterprise within thirty (30) days from his assumption of office and/or divest himself of his shareholdings or interest within sixty (60) days from such assumption.. .”
“Charge III. Nor has Speaker Villar, up to now, I am saying up to now, divested himself of his interests in, nor has he severed his connections with, the companies aforestated. Speaker Villar is in no hurry to divest because he has declared that he is under no obligation to do so. A continuing violation.
“Charge IV. Speaker Villar controls the Capitol Bank. Mrs. (Cynthia) Villar is the chief executive officer. The Capitol Bank received loans, financial accommodations and guarantees from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas from 1992 to 1998 while he was a Representative. That is constitutionally forbidden.
“To sum it up, the constitutional prohibition is very simple. If a Representative has a controlling interest in a firm or entity, that firm or entity cannot be extended a loan, a guaranty, or a financial accommodation for any business purpose from any government financial institution. If that firm or entity would like to obtain a loan, a guaranty or a financial accommodation from a government financial institution, that firm or entity must first relieve itself of the controlling interest of the Representative.
‘It is my humble submission that Speaker Villar did not do either.
“Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, provides in Section 6 therefore as follows:
“Sec. 6. Prohibition on Members of Congress. – It shall be unlawful hereafter for any Member of the Congress during the term for which he has been elected, to acquire or to receive any personal or pecuniary interest in any specific business enterprise which will be directly and particularly favored or benefited by any law or resolution authored by him previously approved or adopted by the Congress during the same term.
The provision of this section shall apply to any other public officer who recommended that initiation in Congress of the enactment or adoption of any law or resolution, and acquires any such interest during his incumbency.”
“In other words, even if he was not the principal author, if he did ask or initiated the enactment of such a law, he is covered by the prohibition.
“Simply put, during our term of office, each one of us, it shall be unlawful for us to author any law or resolution that would benefit or favor us. The above prohibition shall apply even to that representative who just recommended, not even authored, the enactment of such law that benefited him.
(To be continued on Thursday)