Thursday, May 14, 2009

Senator Villar closer to senate trial for double entry, but may just get slap on the wrist

Despite the filibustering of Senators Aquilino Pimentel and Alan Peter Cayetano, the Senate committe of the whole presided by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile succeeded in pushing through with the preliminary inquiry into the complaint filed by Senator Jamby Madrigal.

I heard the whole thing on DZMM and I was electrified by the way Senator Enrile forcefully rebutted all the points raised by Pimentel and Cayetano.

Lawyer Ernesto Francisco, counsel of Madrigal, was eventually able to present the complaint before the body. After answering questions from the members, committee chairman Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile declared the completion of the initial inquiry.

According to Francisco, the whole C-5 project was diverted to go through properties of Villar and had even been extended by around 3 or 4 kilometers. This added several billions of pesos, Villar's companies were paid for the property acquisition needed for the project, and all the while, Villar was orchestrating the whole thing.

The charge is that by use of his influence as a Senator he was able to corner a land deal with the government.

Enrile then directed the committee general counsel and special counsel prepare and submit a report on the result of the preliminary inquiry on Saturday. Another hearing on the double insertion charges against Villar is scheduled on Monday next week.

The report may contain a recommendation on whether or not the committee should go into an adjudicatory hearing or a trial hearing.

The next hearing, if I am not mistaken, members of the committee of the whole will vote to accept or reject the report submitted by the committee general counsel and special counsel. If the report recommends an adjudicatory hearing and the members of the committee of the whole vote to accept the recommendations of the report submitted, the committee of the whole will go into trial.

No matter what will happen during the trial, it will eventually terminate in voting for whatever motion is submitted for approval to the body. It will be a numbers game.

The motions may include declaring Villar either innocent or guilty of the charges.

In case Villar is found guilty, a two thirds vote will be needed to either suspend him or expell him. This means 15 out of 23 senators have to agree to either suspend or expel Villar.

Early guesses right now indicate that a two thirds vote may not be reached.

Definitely, the six minority members of the upper chamber will not vote for a motion to suspend or expel villar. These are Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Senator Pia Cayetano, Senator Kiko Pangilinan, Senator Joke Arroyo, Senator Manny Villar.

This leaves 17 senators but among these senators, you have to account for Senator Antonio Trillanes (who cannot vote because he is in jail), Senator Jamby Madrial (who has inhibited herself because she is the accuser in this case), and Senator Ping Lacson (who like Jamby, has accused Villar).

This leaves 14 senators, already less than the number needed to suspend or expel Villar.

Possible swing votes among the remaining senators who could possible still vote for suspension or expulsion might be whittled down even further. Swing votes might come from Senator Edgardo Angara, Senator Loren Legarda, and Senator Noynoy Aquino.

This leaves jus 11 Senators and of the 11 remaining, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago may not even vote. So, in reality, only 10 senators could possibly vote for Villar's suspension or expulsion.

After all the sound and fury about money lost and corruption perpetrated, Villar may just receive a severe reprimand and perhaps more embarasment.

But as it is, Villar has already been thoroughly shamed. The question is, will this have any effect at all on his plans to run for President in 2010?

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