Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Does it really take One (1) Billion Pesos to run for President in the Philippines?

Senator Manuel Villar, who was Senate President until he was hit with the double insertion controversy, now again calls attention to his financial girth.

In a news report culled from Reuters, a lot is said about Villar's wealth:
Billionaire lawmaker eyes RP presidency
Reuters | 03/01/2009 4:05 PM

(Paragraph 2)
Manuel Villar, 59, has headed both the Senate and the House of Representatives in a political career that has lasted 17 years. His family owns Vista Land & Lifescapes, a real estate firm with assets worth 48 billion pesos ($1 billion).

(Paragraph 5)
Villar is viewed as a formidable candidate because of his ability to fund a costly election campaign that would need at least 2-3 billion pesos ($41-61 million), a huge sum for a country where nearly 50 percent of households live on less than $2 a day.

(Paragraph 6)
"I believe that while a lot of us will be announcing our candidacies, in the end there will just be a few who will remain," Villar said. "If you can't even raise one billion pesos, why even run?"

(Paragraph 10)
The son of a low-ranking government worker and a seafood vendor, Villar set up a construction supply firm that made him a peso millionaire at age 26. He later graduated to selling low-cost houses which swelled his total assets to the billion dollar mark just before the 1997/1998 Asian financial crisis.
As President, Villar says his first priority will be to raise government revenues:
(Paragraph 13)
"The first thing I want to do if I become president is to collect more revenue ... All of the solutions require money, so you start with that first," Villar said while sipping brewed coffee, one his few addictions. He drinks nine cups a day, his aide said.

What the eff is with this mention of coffee being one of his few addictions?  Is this a ploy similar to his TV commercial showing him holding a duck?
(Paragraph 14)
"If you have high revenues, then you can invest in infrastructure, you can invest in agriculture," Villar said, adding widespread corruption in the country would be reduced if wages of government workers were raised.

(Paragraph 15)
Despite being the country's wealthiest legislator, with more than 1 billion pesos in personal assets, Villar is known for his mild manner and simple tastes.

(Paragraph 26)
"With me, what you see is what you get," he said. "With some candidates, you'll have to ask, who's behind you? They say there is one golden rule, he who has the gold rules."
The last paragraph says that if he wins as President, he will be accountable only to himself since he financed all of his campaign expenses.  But perhaps, and this I think will be closer to the truth, he will be accountable only to Cynthia -- the rich wife.

As far as revenue raising is concerned, we have to give it to Villar and allow me to remind you of one such method of revenue raising:
Opposition in disarray as Lacson attacks Villar
By Fel V. Maragay

THE opposition in the Senate lay splintered yesterday over accusations by Senator Panfilo Lacson that Senate President Manuel Villar inserted P200 million in double financing for a road expansion project.

In a privilege speech aired live on radio and TV, Lacson said he was not out to wreck Villar’s plan to run for president in 2010 by exposing irregularities in the national budget.

“I simply followed the narrow trail and it led me to you, Mr. Senate President. But I have no political motive whatsoever. This has nothing to do with your plan to run in 2010 nor with your Senate presidency,” Lacson said.

Before Lacson’s address, Senator Jamby Madrigal urged Villar, an opposition member like herself, to resign as Senate president. Villar ignored her call.

In his address, Lacson also said several senators inserted P4.1 billion worth of infrastructure and other projects under the 2008 national budget, but he questioned a P3.4-billion lump sum for similar projects.

He also urged further investigation to determine who proposed the double insertion and who would benefit from the C-5 road project.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, vice chairman of the Senate finance committee, called for “a manhunt for the criminal missing” lawmaker who inserted the double entry.

But Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, chairman of the finance committee, confirmed that it was Villar who made the insertion but doubted whether he intended to benefit from the act
If Villar becomes the President, instead of having "two roads for the price of one" we will have "twice the price for just one". 

But, then again, why is Villar setting his PR machinery to churn out articles about his supposed billions of pesos?  I hope he doesn't go Eddie Gil on us and propose to pay up the National Debt when he wins.

On another note, and I may be taking the law a bit too literally here, but doesn't the Omnibus Election Code say that candidates for any position are only allowed to spend P5.00 (five pesos) per voter?

Granting that he is running for a national position and estimating the total number of voters to be around 42 million come 2010, this would mean that candidates would only be allowed to spend around P210 million.

Where is he going to spend the rest of his P 2 Billion or P3 Billion?

Another thing we may want to figure out is, whether the money he is now spending for what is obviously pre-campaign period campaigning will be deducted from the P 210 Million campaign expense cap imposed by the Omnibus Election Code?

Will Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago please speak up.

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