Senator Panfilo Lacson has, from the very beginning, been quick to deny that there is no politics behind his exposé behind the C-5 Road Extension project, a major headache for Senate President Manny Villar, who is running for President in 2010.
But frankly speaking, who would believe that there is no politics behind it? The whole exposé has 2010 written all over it.
While Villar has only been trailing in recent surveys, his machinery is very much formidably in place — and his fellow presidentiables are intimidated by that, if not already trembling in fear.
For crying out loud, he has been preparing for the presidency the moment he transmitted Erap’s impeachment to the Senate in 2000. He has been preparing for Malacañang from the very moment he branded himself as Mr. Sipag at Tiyaga when he made his first bid for the Senate in 2001.
He arguably has the biggest war chest as well, thanks to his real estate businesses. He has had political ads — disguised as advocacies — all over the airwaves. His Sipag at Tiyaga livelihood fairs are in full swing at Starmalls, which he also owns.
His turning balimbing aside (which he did twice), the Senate President has no serious corruption issue and his name has been without serious blemish for the past eight years, which is why his critics and enemies want to bring him down.
Dirty tricks are nothing new for Villar and other candidates, and he has said that himself. I am reminded of an incident last year when I was covering at the Palace. A box of mugs had arrived for us Malacanang reporters, which were purportedly from Villar. The exact words written on the mugs escape my memory, but in essence the message read: “I will have coffee with you in Malacanang in 2010.”
Some palace reporters have suspected that another presidentiable was behind that prank.
Like many previous exposés, the C-5 extension project is of course, free publicity for senators and incidentally, other presidentiables, starting with Lacson himself.
Add to this the fact that other lawmakers who signed the resolution calling for an investigation are presidentiables themselves: Senators Mar Roxas, Loren Legarda, and Richard Gordon (yes, even he has been making the moves since 2007). Who wouldn’t want the free publicity, especially that the papers and TV news are carrying it as the headline story?
Lawmakers have mastered how to play to the camera, especially if there are marathon coverages, especially if it includes live coverages on 24 Oras, TV Patrol, or the ABS-CBN News Channel. Senator Joker Arroyo hit bull’s eye when he said that the session was quickly adjourned when ANC’s crew finished its live coverage (By the way, the same phenomenon happens at the House of Representatives).
Still, those calling for an investigation have made a good point –Villar has been defensive. Sure, Villar has played to the cameras by quoting his rags-to-riches background as a reply to Lacson and is said to be only replying precisely because he doesn’t want his hard-earned name stained. But his words and body language are said to be saying otherwise: he is being defensive.
Lacson also raised an important question: Who among the senators has personal and financial interests in the development of the extension of C5 Road, now renamed Carlos P. Garcia Ave from SLEX to Sucat Road in Parañaque City? Well, go to Sucat and one would see many projects by Villar’s real estate firm. I suddenly wonder if the finished construction of the Daang Hari Road in Las Pinas and Cavite, which are lined with many Villar projects, have the same story to tell.
If Villar were not hiding anything, then he should be open to a Senate inquiry. Perhaps, he himself will have a taste of witch hunting, a skill that some lawmakers seem to have mastered. It is for this reason that Villar will not do just that.
And of course, would there be any new legislation after the investigation? Can we expect this exposé to go anywhere?
2010 aside, let’s also not forget that the controversy is also the perfect opportunity for anti-Villar (pro-Pimentel) senators to stage a coup. And revenge for Lacson, who has been called by Villar as a non-performing senator, following his first salvo. It’s become a personal fight between Lacson and Villar.
The more important question now is whether funds have actually been disbursed and spent, given the double insertion. Malacanang and the Department of Budget and Management have so far been successful at distancing itself from the controvery. Still, they are not off the hook. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago raised the possibility that the insertion could have been done during the printing of the national budget.
Well, an investigation really is in order.
This is the type of controversy that would make any presidentiable’s botox treatments fail.