PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — AFTER recommending that Sen. Manuel Villar, Jr. be censured over the C-5 road extension funding scandal, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile insinuated that the presidential aspirant had tried to bribe him to “kill” the Senate probe into the issue.
Enrile however clarified it was not a direct bribe attempt.
He said the supposed bribery incident took place last August 29 over lunch in a Japanese restaurant in Makati. It was the height of the investigation into the ethics complaint filed by Sen. Jamby Madrigal against Villar for allegedly inserting another P200 million into the 2008 national budget to fund the C-5 road extension project.
Apparently, Villar vaguely offered Enrile “help.” The Senate head responded by cautioning Villar on his “propensity to use his billions” to avoid facing the charges against him. “Not everyone can be bought. Bribery will be your downfall,” Enrile told Villar.
“I want to tell Senator Villar, being an aspirant to the highest position in the land: I know you have helped a lot of people because you came from a poor family. Now that you are very rich, you are in a better position to help more of the needy among the people,” he said in a press statement.
“But to use your money to bribe people just because you want to kill the investigation instead of facing the charges against you, just like President Estrada did, is the worst disservice you can do to this nation. You are up there in the polls, only second to Senator Noynoy Aquino. The people will see through any attempt to use money to win the Presidency,” he added.
In a chance interview later, Enrile, however, said that there was “no direct bribery” offer from Villar. “Wala. Iyun lang ang sinabi niya sa akin. And I ignored that. And he repeated it. I could not recall all the things that I’ve written there. Ang pagkasabi niya, ‘Baka makakatulong ako sa inyong mga pangangailangan, something to that effect.”
Villar strongly denied that he approached Enrile for any help on the C-5 road probe. “Wala akong hininging tulong at walang ibinigay. No help was asked and none was given. Bakit ako hihingi ng tulong e hindi naman ako guilty at wala naman akong ginawang masama? Lahat ng dokumentong sinubmit at lahat ng nag-testify sa Senado yan ang sinabi,” he said.
Since the C-5 controversy erupted, Villar admitted that he had countless meetings and encounters with Enrile “because I made it a point to greet him and say a few words to him, whether in the session hall or committee rooms or elevator.”
“Sa akin naman kasi walang masamang tinapay. I have always been civil to my colleagues even if we are on opposing sides in an election. But in these meetings with him, I can’t remember offering to help him with anything in exchange for him helping me,” Villar added.
Enrile said that several times during that meeting, Villar interjected: “Manong, baka naman may maitutulong ako sa inyo. Makakatulong naman ako kung may kailangan kayo.” He chose to ignore Villar’s statements, as he became “very uncomfortable” with the situation.
“I told him, ‘Manny, gusto kitang tulungan. What I can promise you is that I will be fair to you. I will not allow the hearings to go beyond the issues referred to the Committee nor for it to be turned into a fishing expedition,’” he said.
“When he repeated his offer, I told him:’Manny, if I help you, don’t worry walang kapalit ‘yon.’ There has been talk that with all of Senator Villar’s billions, he has been giving out money and at times, promises of future favors such as government positions if and when he is elected as President of this country in exchange for support for his candidacy,” Enrile added.